Judy (R) Christmas 1959
Lucy had lost her first daughter, then her husband. Now it was time for little Judy to leave the house for school. Like most mothers she probably had mixed feelings about letting a child head out the door to go to school that first day. There’s pride in knowing that your daughter has learned how to handle leaving the house. There’s fear, knowing that so many dangers lurk just down the street. Lucy knew all too well what could happen if she took her eyes off her Judy, even to let her go to school.
On top of that, Judy gave Lucy a glimpse of independence and strength. Again, those conflicts reared up. My daughter is powerful and intelligent. She doesn’t need her mom. Lucy doesn’t say what she did after watching Judy skip down the street to school. She didn’t have to. We know.
That story repeated itself many times since that late summer morning in 1958. Riding the city bus downtown to the clinic. Heading off to the big dance with that new college boy. Moving to Rochester where the doctors had told her to go home and make arrangements for her ailing first daughter. You can look at any event in life as a disaster in progress; or see it as a potential success unfolding in front of you. Lucy always picked the positive view. That’s a tough example to live up to. I’ll keep trying.
My daughter was truly the light of my life. I loved her so. She was about to start school. I took her the first day to enroll her. The second day I wanted to walk to the corner and see that she arrived safely at which time she said “Mothers do not walk their children to school.” I stood inside the house and watched her leave Mom behind.
There was a time in my life when every boy in the class had a job delivering newspapers. It was an easy way for kids to make money and there were plenty of papers being printed.
My first job was selling papers on the street. I shake my head today thinking about this job. One of my grade school friends must have talked me into this. We’d pick up a stack of papers at the bus station, probably Fargo Forums or Minneapolis Tribunes. There’s even the possibility that my papers were Grit. Then it’s out to the street to sell them to people walking by.
I’ve read stories about kids in big cities selling papers. It was a tough job. It must have been too tough for me, because I didn’t last more than one or two days. My visual memories include dark streets and men rushing by in dark top coats. Then there was the bus station. Are there any nice bus stations in this country? Not in Jamestown,ND in the fifties.
Sales has never been my forte. I keep trying, but there are far more failures than successes. After that failure, I moved on to delivering papers to houses in the neighborhood. Maybe I was a little lazy, but the prospect of delivering papers every single evening didn’t seem like a good thing to me. Instead of the daily Jamestown Sun, I picked the Minneapolis Tribune, a Sunday only route.
Similar to the Piper PA11 Jim describes in this letter. (Photo credit below)
Jim loved to fly. I don’t.
From many of Jim’s prior letters you’ve learned that Jim didn’t usually share much about his early life before writing these letters. There was one exception. Crop spraying with Ben. Nothing in Jim’s life beat that flight.
In twentieth-century North Dakota most people were familiar with crop spraying. Now that I live in the city, infrequently getting into the country, I don’t see many of those little aircraft. Even in the country it’s hard to spot them. They fly low. They fly fast. They hide behind the barn, behind the trees. They swoop, as Jim says. I love watching them.
Don’t make me ride in one.
Every now and then when I was in high school Jim would let me tag along with him and Don Cooper on a flight somewhere for Credit Union business. They’d rent a small plane from Ben (the same Ben in the story below) and we’d be off to Devils Lake or Fargo. Once in a great while they’d let me sit in front and even try to fly in a straight line. (I couldn’t.)
They’d let me fly in front because their experience with me in the back seat was uncomfortable at best. Airsickness in a tiny plane, especially while wearing a furry winter jacket, is not a pleasant thing. The owner had to hose down the interior.
I have to swallow hard just writing about that experience. Let’s get back to Jim’s story. He loved flying.
Most everyone is familiar with serial crop spraying. How many times have you driven along a highway on a summers day and suddenly seen that small plane swooping down so low on a field that it seems the aircrafts wheels must be brushing the tops of the grain. This is a daring, often dangerous way to make a living. Continue reading
Eric, Grace and Linn by the flower garden at the Pink House by the river.
Gardening has been a favorite pastime for me since we’ve lived in this house. I don’t mean vegetable gardening, those I can get from the farmer’s market or from the store. I mean flowers. Stepping onto the back deck on a warm early summer morning to see flowers reaching for the sun … that’s a good morning. In some of Grace’s and Louie’s letters you’ve seen the Pink House’s yard several times. It’s in this picture, too.
My last summer in that house was in 1958, I was only eight, but the memory of flowers all over the yard sticks with me. All summer long it was a riot of color, with so many flowers. My favorite were the “Tiger Lilies” that seemed to volunteer everywhere in the yard. OK, so maybe they didn’t volunteer, but to an eight year old kid, they just seemed to show up. I loved them, especially the little seed bulbs that grew at the base of each leaf.
My little back yard continues to be that bright spot Grace writes about. Most of the flowers are perennial, so they almost do “volunteer.” For all their beauty, they don’t match the memories of the house along the river.
July 29, 1991
My love of flowers began when I was just a little girl. They were such a bright spot in an otherwise rather dreary and desolate country. Mama always had some flowers planted even though it was extra work to carry water for them. She had window boxes on the south windows with portulaca in them. They did so well in that sandy soil and hot summer sun. Bachelor Buttons, Zinnias + Cosmos were all fairly easy to grow so usually there was some of those in the garden or by the house.
Ted, Janis, Guy, Linn, Eric – Melvin & Iris
One year at Christmas in the middle 1950s all the Luehr’s came to Grandma’s house for a “reunion.” I think there were a couple of these, with the last one somewhere in the 1980’s. All the cousins, aunts and uncles came to Grandma’s house … the Pink House.
The big thing that makes this Christmas memorable was that Santa showed up. Keep in mind that there were nearly a dozen kids in that little house. All of the kids were in the living room doing something, maybe watching TV or playing games. Who knows where the adults were. We didn’t care.