Linn working at the library in 1972
Over the last year you’ve had a chance to read letters about Louie’s life. He wrote several dozen letters, the last one about when he married the girl of his dreams. There aren’t many stories about his married life with Grace. There’s a reason. It wasn’t an easy life. Louie spent many of his days deep in a bottle of whiskey.
Fortunately for me, my brothers, and all of our children, he came out of that stupor in the late eighties, in time to write his story and share in the joy of his grand children. We loved having Louie back with us. He loved us, enjoyed a good laugh, several stories, and we returned the love.
The decades in between were difficult. I mostly lost touch with him. Judy only met him once or twice, and the experiences left her wondering. My youngest brothers were too little to catch on to what was really happening, but Linn was seventeen when he decided to unwind the wondering. So this kid got on his motor cycle and rode to meet his father.
I’m in awe of my younger brother and his letter, written when he was only seventeen, is the best example of why. I can’t come up with anything more than to throw you into reading Linn’s thoughts from forty years ago.
Note: Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors are from the original.
It was hot that day. The bugs had made it nearly impossible to see through the windshield on my motorcycle. I have spent most of the day dodging the dead rabbits splattered all over the Wyoming highway. Rock Springs was just a few miles ahead and I was very ready to find a motel and a long hot shower.
Jim and Uganda friend at the NDCUL office.
Jim worked for the North Dakota Credit Union League for several years. A highlight of those years was when the League partnered with an NGO out of Uganda. A group of people came over from Uganda to observe credit union operations in rural America, attempting to learn how to set up credit unions back home. The group toured North Dakota with Jim hosting them on several jaunts to local credit unions.
I had a brief opportunity to meet the group. The most striking thing about them was their blackness. As a Jamestown kid who hadn’t traveled much, these men were absolutely exotic. Perhaps they were to Jim as well. The clue was the name he gave to his new home, specifically the newly finished basement with a pool table. Dar Es Salaam.
In the letter Jim describes how the house was actually a sort of “mother-in-law” apartment for the place next door. That actually was a problem when it was time to sell the house. That’s a story for another day. For now, let’s just say it’s complicated.
The house at 910 2nd PL NE was built in 1952 for Fredricks Koepplen who was the mother of Ida Krein, her husband Lloyd was the owner of Lloyds Motors, Jamestown. Kreins lived next door to the west. There was a connecting sidewalk between the two. Mrs. Koepplen lived by herself in the house until late 1969. When she could no longer care for herself her daughter and son-on-law moved her into their home and put her house up for sale. When I first looked at the house and the interior I knew it was pretty much what I had been looking for. Continue reading
Here is another drinking story. The last day of school in the tenth grade, I brought a backpack with me with all my camping gear. John Labriola, Rick Barnes and Mark Ryan were going backpacking on Mount Evans for three days as soon as school got out. We drove up to Camp Rock, which is on the east side of Mount Evans in the Elk Management area. There are lots of backpacking trails there. We hiked up to Beaver Meadows and set up camp. We spent the afternoon playing around on the rocks climbing and swimming in the beaver ponds. Wow, was that ever cold. I didn’t know a penis could shrink so small!
John brought along a quart bottle of Vodka that his neighbor bought for him. We all drank until the bottle was gone. Mark and I drank the most. We were so plastered that we wandered off into the meadows and fell down. We were so drunk that we couldn’t even stand up to pee. We would just roll over and get up on our knees and pee, than fall down again. We lay there and laughed and talked for a while. John and Rick finally found us and dragged us back to camp.
During the night, Mark got sick and threw up a couple of times. I spent a lot of the next few years backpacking up on Mount Evans. I never drank that much up there again though. I look back on it all now and think that I had a problem with alcohol.
Mount Evans and Summit Lake
Jim’s House – Spring of 1971
I had gone off to college and left Jim living in a great apartment. The apartment had a working fireplace and a wonderful view of the city from atop a hill. I have many wonderful memories of that apartment.
One day when I was home from college for a weekend Jim announced that he was seriously looking at a house. He had tried to buy the apartment house he was living in, a duplex on the hillside, but that deal fell through for whatever reason. With the unbridled knowledge of a nineteen year old “man” I suggested to Jim that moving to that little house by the railroad tracks would be tantamount to disaster.
Fortunately, Jim did not listen to my wisdom. The house was plain and quite unadorned when he moved in. The accompanying photo doesn’t do it justice. By the time Jim moved out in 2007 there were far more trees, bushes, landscaping, flowers, and a large garage. He made the place his own far more than any apartment would have ever been. In his letter below, Jim relates how quickly he made the decision to buy the house.
Sometimes you decide something before knowing there’s a choice. These kind of events have happened to me enough times to doubt the existence of “free will.” When Judy and I bought the house we’re in now we did not make a conscious decision. We looked at each other and agreed, wordlessly, that this was the place. That was over thirty-five years ago and we’re still in the same house. Jim saw this little house on the cul-de-sac and apparently found the decision already settled. It was the right choice for him, too, as he was in that house for almost thirty-five years.
In 1970 (I was 46) the thought occured to me that all these years I had been paying rent. First on furnished rooms then on apartments. There wasn’t a solitary thing to account for all that money spent other than the fact that I had a roof over my head and a place to sleep. Continue reading
Henry’s shop, with the 1953 Chevy he drove to Alaska.
Henry was possibly my favorite uncle. He always had ideas and aspirations, and his politics were a little strange. For some reason my memory of him has always been linked with the John Birch Society.
Most memorable was his ability to do (almost) whatever he wanted. Build a house. Experiment with an Oldsmobile Diesel engine. Tear down a grain elevator. Build a wooden bull, pagoda or castle. Or drive to Alaska on a whim.
The attached letter describes his trip and his impressions. It’s not clear to whom the letter is addressed, but it would be fun to know! Henry had a huge shop, with dozens of fascinating projects, including many of those I mentioned above. In the back of the shop were a couple of identical 1953 Chevrolet sedans. One of them is the car he took on this trip.
A question for the family … Did Ray go on this trip with Henry? My memory says yes, but there’s no mention of him in this letter.
One day in August I started to drive north from my home in Pettibone, North Dakota. No particular destination in mind, I just planned to see what the country looked like farther north. I had a good old car and some money for gas so thought I could just as well make use of it.