Jim opens this letter by telling us about the photos he had sent to his mother, and how his step-father had been sending pictures for years. There must have been at least a dozen or more of those pictures, but none of them made it to me. Jim’s photo albums have only a handful of pictures of Jim as a child.
In this letter Jim describes his change from a lost and lonely WWII veteran to the family member who finally came home. Now he belonged. The farm was the root of Jim’s life. His love of the farm and his parents was clear to me, even when I was a rambunctious teenager. This letter cements that feeling.
I wish there were photos of those reunions.
The attached photo is from the pages of Jim’s album that focuses on the middle fifties, at least six years after the homecoming. Jim (partially obscured) and his mother are in the back row, far right. Einar is in the back row, framed by the window. I can only guess at who the others are, but the “matriarch” in the center, wearing a black dress, is probably Grandma Cora. I’d love to hear stories from each of those people. The young people look happy and playful; the old men look like their stories are a little more serious.
(Click on the photo for a closer view.)
After the third day of my arrival at the Steads, Mother and Einar returned from Inkster. They didn’t stop at their farm but drove straight here. During the past few years we had been writing to each other and enclosing pictures. Not only that, long before I knew I was adopted Dad had been sending pictures from my earliest years so she was somewhat prepared for this meeting as was I. Nervousness overtook me when their pickup truck drove in to the yard amidst barking dogs and suddenly …
Jim driving Bob Stead’s pontoon on Lake Metigoshe- about 1971
In a later letter Jim will describe the cabin Bob Stead had at Lake Metigoshe. That’s the place Jim and I went many times to celebrate the coming of summer, the height of summer, and the end of summer. Bob was rarely there, he was always off on a business deal. Every now and then he’d be at the lake for the same weekend as Jim and me. When that happened, he would take us on a pontoon boat ride around the late. Metigoshe is an incredibly complicated lake, much like the family Jim was getting introduced to.
Bob and Vivian Stead were very successful in their farming and ranching ventures … they had a large herd of white faced Hereford cattle … over two hundred head of sheep. They also raised grain crops wheat, barley, oats, millet, and some flax. I found out later that Bob also had interests in oils wells and a gold mine!
Einar, Eleanor, Jim in 1953
Trepidation. That’s the only word that comes to mind when I read this story. In 1949 as a young man, Jim drove halfway across the country to meet a mother he didn’t know, gather with a family he may have known the names of, and maybe even start life anew in a strange part of the country. Maybe I’m projecting my emotions his way, but I get really nervous just reading this letter. There are too many unknowns here. Is it the image of pulling into a farm driveway only to be greeted by a herd of barking dogs? Or is it the strange feeling of seeing someone part the kitchen curtains, furtively glance out, and then send out the man of the house?
As a young man barely twenty-one years old, he had already spent years at war in the South Pacific. Could that have prepared him for meeting his mother, aunts and uncles, and who knows how many cousins? How raw could his emotions have been, so soon after losing his step father?
Jim never was one for much drama, but this comes across as high drama. Maybe you can feel the emotions between the lines as he tells the story.
Westhope (ND) was the closet town to my mother’s and Einars farm so I went there to ask directions. I mispronounced “Einars” first name and that branded me as a stranger in their midst! But I was given directions to drive west out of town (gravel) 8 miles then two miles south and I would discover the farm. All sorts of thoughts were whirling thru my head along with the exciting prospects of meeting my mother and her husband for the first time!