The house in Steele where Grace boarded.
The one thing that jumps out from this letter is the comment about going to school twenty-three miles from the farm. That was so far away Grace rented a room to stay in town during the week. In today’s world, in fact in my world of high school, 23 miles was not a big deal. How many of us think nothing of going out for dinner or to a concert that far away, and drive home in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter? Many of you commute farther than that every day. Transportation has improved a lot since 1936.
My first two years of high school I went in Steele. We lived about 23 miles from there, so I stayed there during the week. In my freshman year I roomed with Ruth Marston and shared a room with a girl from Dawson who was a year older than me.
Some of Grandma’s chickens
This was one of Grandma’s favorite stories. She was very proud to have pulled one over on the big car dealer in the county seat.
There’s a picture of the car, along with Fanny, in a recent post called “The Kids Travel to Nebraska.” There are actually a couple of pictures of family members with that car. I take that as a celebration of a good car and a good deal. The family drove a lot of Chevy’s and other GM cars from then on.
In 1939 Mama + Papa bought a ’37 Chevie from Mr Bertleson, the Chevrolet dealer in Steele. In the spring Mama had bought a thousand leghorn roosters to raise for fryers. Continue reading
How many of you have heard the old folks telling the story about walking to school, uphill, both ways, into the wind, and it was snowing? This is that story. The real one. She doesn’t mention the stones they had heated on the cook stove and put at their feet to ward off the winter chill.
Compare this experience to today’s children driven to school in the SUV with booster chairs, air bags, seat belts and air conditioning. This is where the grumpy old man starts talking about how pampered the youngsters are today. If the pace of change continues the way it has since Grace went to school in the thirties and forties, life will be pretty exciting at the end of this century. I’d love to be there to see it!
There are little things that keep popping up in my memory like “picking crocus out in the pasture behind the school house.” One spring there was so many blooming + the teacher let us all go out and pick them. They were a welcome sign of spring.
Melvin in his Navy uniform
There are a lot of under currents hinted at in this letter. Grace was only ten when war was declared after Pearl Harbor. After reading Jim and Lucy’s letters about the war, this experience seems almost indifferent.
Fanny must have had an incredibly difficult time when, soon after losing her husband, her two sons were drafted and left for the military. The oldest daughter had just left for school in Fargo. Now she was alone on the farm with one young daughter. What a challenge! This gives me a clue as to why my grandmother was such a tough old gal who could handle anything. She had lived through the hard times.
This letter seems short, but the stories between the lines are harrowing.
We made the trip to Nebraska in 1941 not the summer of ’40 as I said yesterday. Esther graduated from Hi School in ’41 and turned down a job in Steele so she could go on the trip. She went to school in Fargo in the fall.
War was declared on Dec 7, 1941. I don’t know how soon but I know that Henry + Melvin both got drafted and had to go for induction physicals at the same time so Mom had to take care of all the cattle + everything alone. Luckily …
How many kids have been able to take the greatest road trip ever? Mine was the vacation Jim and I took to the west coast in 1968. This one sounds like just as much fun. Four kids, a relatively new car, and the chance to see new territory.
Fanny with the 1937 Chevy they probably drove to Nebraska
In the summer after papa passed away Mama let us four kids take the car on a trip to Nebraska. We got acquainted with uncles + cousins who all lived around Sioux City, Nebr. Actually, they were around the little town of Waterbury. Uncle Hugo’s family were the ones I always remembered most. Especially Clarence as we corresponded for quite a while afterward. Continue reading
Henry with a Hereford bull
There are limits to any method of writing a story. The format Grace and the others used to record their stories for me focused on making it easy for her to get the stories on paper. It worked marvelously. Thanks to this project we all have well over a hundred stories from that generation. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
Can you forgive me if I ask for more? The story about Henry moving the bull from one pasture to another was one of Fanny’s favorites. When she told the story it took more than Grace’s five sentences. Far more. All I remember of the story now is that it was long, involved, and full of detail that Grace didn’t have room to share. Wouldn’t it be fun to have more of those details?
The photo of Henry and a bull gives some detail about the North Dakota prairie. There are no buildings in the picture, not a road in sight, not even a dirt cow path! The vegetation looks lush, but maybe a little dry? The bushes in the background are suspect, what are they? Berries? My mother was big on chokecherry jam, maybe those are chokecherry bushes? There are wooden fence posts. Herny’s carrying a holster belt, too. Is that a Bowie knife? He looks pretty well dressed for moving cattle. How many stories are hidden behind this picture?
This is what we have, in Grace’s handwriting and her words. Our imagination can fill in the rest.
Grace’s two brothers were masters of making something useful out of nothing. I got to know Henry quite well, as they lived in the next county over. To his dying day, Henry’s shop was home to some incredible projects made from other peoples’ cast-offs. Apparently, the tradition started early. There’s a lot more to say about Henry in future posts.
Driving thru N D today, August 29, 1992 brings up memories of Henry & Melvin making hay for the cows. They used old car chassis to make jitneys to pull the hay rakes with. They also used them with the hay buckets to push the hay into piles and load the truck with. I think they mowed with the tractor. One year we got a nice new red Farmall tractor. One time when they were mowing in a meadow there was a lots of flame lilies growing + of course got mowed down so Mel brought home a couple buckets full.