A childhood tale of summer fun and car bombings

Note: I’m currently working on the post regarding the Worm and the Water Cooler (which must sound strange if you don’t follow this blog – for context, see this post). In any case, I was nearly done when I realized it required another illustration. It takes me a good, oh, I don’t know… day or two just to draw a face. So the chances of posting this week were looking pretty slim.
I decided to pull one from the vaults. This is a post from June 3, 2015 — my first year blogging. In fact, this was my 10th post and I think I had all of 10 followers. (Pretty sure they were all family.) It includes a recipe because I did that back then. Hope you enjoy it.

My Glorious Summer of ’76

Growing up in the 70s was great. I’m not even talking about the movies and music from that era, though we had some fine ones, have to admit.

What I’m talking about is the total lack of parental supervision. Even if a parent stayed home, they pretty much left us to our own devices.

It was great.Kids-jumping-and-playing-outside-940x600

Brother and I had it even better, as our older siblings had already moved out. Meaning total lack of supervision, baby!

Frankly, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the whole place down.

We came close, though…  Continue reading “A childhood tale of summer fun and car bombings”

Hey You, Thanks

Soon after Husband and I married, my mother-in-law sent me a letter. Sort of a “welcome to the family” kind of letter.

In it, she admitted how she never had a particularly good relationship with her own mother-in-law. She always felt a little uncomfortable around her and never knew what to call her.

But it would not be that way between us, she wrote. And it didn’t matter to her in the least what I called her. “You can call me Roberta or Bobbi or Mom or ‘Hey You!’ if you want.”

Naturally, the letter I wrote back was addressed to “Hey You.”

And that’s how it stayed. Any letters we wrote, birthday cards we sent, gifts we gave each other. She was Hey You and I was What’s-Her-Name.

wedding family

Over this last weekend, my mother-in-law passed away. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, she’d been declining in health over the last year. The last time I saw her was in the summer and she didn’t know who I was.

I wasn’t even What’s Her Name. More like a “Who’s She?”

It didn’t bother me. Partly because I’d gone through it with my own Mom, but mostly because our relationship was above that. Even if she didn’t remember me at that moment, I knew her and remembered how she had accepted me into her family. How comfortable she made me feel.

That was the kind of person she was. She never made demands on people, insisted on her own way, was arrogant or rude. She endured all things.

And from what I know of her, she’d really hate my writing about her like this. Like, really hate it a lot. It’s embarrassing and unnecessary, she’d say.

And chances are good that if there’s WiFi in heaven, she really is reading this because she followed this blog.

So right about now she’ll be saying, “Oh Lord, why’d she have to write something like that?!” And then almost immediately she’ll smile, give that throaty chuckle of hers and say, “Oh, I don’t know…” Because she wouldn’t want me to feel bad.

Listen, I’m sorry to embarrass you so, but I wanted to write you one last letter. Okay?

Dear Hey You,

Thanks for everything. Of all the mother-in-laws in the world, you were the best.

Love always,
What’s-Her-Name

Dinner for Eight — Our Thanksgiving with the Professor

Many Thanksgivings ago, back when we lived in an old green house in central Nebraska, we were invited to an elderly professor’s home for dinner.

thanksgiving table

He was a widower, tall and lean, with thick, white hair and a gentle, noble demeanor that all elderly professors should have, if they can possibly do so.

We were joined by five others: a truck driver, a convenience store clerk, a school secretary, a dental hygienist, and one of the professor’s former students who was currently “between jobs.”

You might say we were a rag-tag bunch, but I won’t because I was part of it. Rather, I choose to believe we were an eclectic group of wise and witty conversationalists. A regular Algonquin Round Table, Nebraska-style.

The school secretary and unemployed student loved movies. They recommended Double Impact highly, but Child’s Play 3 was a disappointment. The truck driver admired the layout of our host’s home. The dental hygienist commented on the color of the drapes (mauve). The convenience store clerk had many opinions that he was only too happy to share, mostly with regards to Thanksgiving being a complete sham. (There’s always one in the crowd.) Husband played the role of devil’s advocate with aplomb, pointing out that whatever the original Thanksgiving was, at least now there’s gravy.

I delighted in the homemade cranberry sauce.

“It’s made with brandy,” the elderly professor said.

“That’s brilliant,” I declared. And it was.

I’ve been thinking about that Thanksgiving so many years ago. Imagining this kind man striking up conversations with people and upon hearing they had no plans for Thanksgiving, saying, “Well now, that won’t do! Stop by my place at four for cocktails, dinner’s at five. Here’s my card. Cheerio!”

Okay, maybe he didn’t say Cheerio.

Anyway, the idea is a lovely one and beings how Husband and I had no plans this year, I threw out the idea of following in the path of our kind, elderly professor. And we probably would have, but we found out the town in which we live has its own version. A community-wide Thanksgiving dinner that apparently is quite the to-do.

little fa

It started several years ago with the idea of it being for low-income and elderly people, but over the years it grew to include just about everyone, from all walks of life, all getting together to celebrate the day. And so many people want to help out, they actually have to turn volunteers away.

Fortunately we got our names in early; I think we have dish duty. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Back to our elderly professor: being the kind man he was, he shared his recipe with me.

You only use three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and a small amount of liquid which can be water, juice, or in our kindly professor’s case, brandy.

The amounts are as follows,

  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup liquid

Kindly Professor made his on the stovetop (cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens), but I’ve seen recipes that bake it (one hour at 325 degrees, giving it a stir every 15 minutes or so).

I’ve played around with the recipe because that’s what I do, and I like to add about 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and an apple. You could add raisins if you feel so moved, but if your family is anything like mine, it’s best you don’t.

Another note: in place of the brandy, I’ve used red wine and once did Bailey’s Irish Cream. I like the brandy version best, but if you’d rather not use alcohol, orange juice is an excellent option.

Final note: the fresh cranberries I used were Minnesota grown. Meaning I now live in an area with bogs, as that is where cranberries grow.

Mind. Blown.

fresh cranberries
Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🦃

P.S. Per Susie’s request, here’s a picture of a cranberry bog in Walker, Minnesota:

Cranberry bog Walker Mn

Right before harvest, the area is flooded and the cranberries float, then the harvesters wade in and collect the berries. According to what I read, cranberries are native to Minnesota, but most of the cranberries grown commercially are from Wisconsin.

 

Praying for Snow

A few days ago we had our first real, honest-to-goodness snowstorm. It’s Dog’s first and she’s not sure what to make of it.

A change of scenery

I, on the other hand, love it.

I also love the gray skies and the way my phone claimed it was -4° when I woke up yesterday.

Screenshot_20181113-053944

Mind over matter, folks. Mind over matter.

I’ve always loved snow so this desert gal is glad to be back in it. The -4 and dropping?

Hey, I can handle it. As long as I have my LL Bean boots and down coat, I’ve got this.

boots ll bean

I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re crazy. Moving from Phoenix, AZ to central Minnesota was the first clue, but when a grown woman tromps around in the snow and giggles?

Yeah, she’s a nut-job.

But then I’ve always been a little crazy when it comes to snow. Like, for instance, the time when I prayed for it.

I was an innocent preteen, back when there were such things, and we were headed to South Dakota in early October to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. We usually visited them in June or July, on account of school, but I was a good student and my teachers gave me plenty of work to keep me occupied for the entire 10-day trip. (I finished it in two.)

When my parents announced the trip, I was beyond thrilled. For the first time in my life, I might see snow!

Okay, let’s back up. I’d seen snow before, but I’d never been in it. Never felt it upon my face. In the winter Dad might drive us a couple hours north of Phoenix, point out the window and say, “Look guys, there’s snow.” That was about it.

Twelve years old and never built a snowman.

But now, in South Dakota, in early October? Will it snow?

“It’s too early for that,” Dad said.

Mom agreed. “It never snows this early.”

Never? Never ever?

“Well, it’s highly unlikely.”

So there’s a possibility?

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

Too late.

But I wasn’t leaving it all to chance. Every night, I made my requests known unto the Lord.

Please, oh please, oh pleeeease, let it snow! I don’t need a lot, just enough for a snowman. That’s all. All I want is to feel it on my face and build a snowman. That’s it. Please?!

Every night, over and over. (I was a strange 12-year-old.)

We left Phoenix on October 2. Two days later we were at a motel in Nebraska, right at the border to South Dakota. It was morning, our last day of travel, maybe three hours from my grandparent’s house. Dad took our luggage to the car.

He walked back in. “It’s snowing,” he said. Not happily.

What?!”

I zoomed past him.

“Christi, get your shoes on!”

“Prayer works!” I cried.

Alleluia and praise be!
This is the snow that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

My South Dakota relatives were not amused. It was one thing to deal with an early snowfall, but to find out your young relation had prayed for it? Hoo-boy, that didn’t sit well.

Even so, two of my uncles and one cousin aided me in my quest for a snowman. Despite everyone’s belief there wasn’t enough snow.

O ye of little faith. I knew better.

I had prayed for “just enough” snow and that’s what we had. Along with a lovely coating of leaves for rustic charm.

Uncle Bobby loaned his hat, Uncle Richard fashioned a pipe from a stick, Cousin Sheila found some fallen apples for the eyes and nose.

Me with snowman

My first snowman.

You know, it’s funny. As much as I love this picture and the flood of memories it gives me, I don’t really believe it was divine intervention that created that snowstorm.

Had it happened today, my dad would have checked his weather app before we left Phoenix and would have known all about the storm. And he probably would have stopped off at a gas station to buy his silly daughter gloves because she forgot to pack them.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe in prayer and I pray daily.

Well, mostly daily. Sometimes I forget. (Hey, I’m human.)

I think far too often we confuse God with Santa Claus:

If I’m a good girl and I pray really hard, God will give me what I want.”

Sorry. Doesn’t work like that.

I read something recently that said prayer is about making yourself open to a relationship with God.

Which, when you think about it, is a whole lot more scary and probably why I “forget” to do it.

Like I said, I’m human.

In any case, that’s my take on the situation. Maybe you have different views and that’s okay. There’s room enough for all here.

But right now there’s a layer of snow in my backyard with more to come, that’s for sure. And while I have no plans of building any snowmen, I remember a time when I did. With complete confidence it was God who made it possible.

And who knows? Maybe that 12-year-old girl had it right.

I mean, just look at the joy on her face.

me with snowman up close

Are you going to tell her otherwise?

Cookin’ With Grandma

Note: Beings how this is the week I’m moving, I figured rerunning an old post was understandable. With any luck, we should be up and running new material next week. Until then, I hope you enjoy this little visit with Grandma…

My grandmother was one of those “pinch of this, dash of that” cooks. She never used a recipe, even for baking, making things difficult for someone hoping to recreate a dish.

Such as my mom, who was always trying to find something of grandma’s she could make. One time in frustration she asked Grandma to write a recipe down in detail. “Don’t leave out a thing,” she said.

This is what Grandma gave her:

Open cabinet door. Take out your oblong glass cake pan.
Next, roll out graham crackers. Put layer in bottom of pan.
Thicken a quart of rhubarb sauce and pour over crumbs and cool good.
Take a tub of Cool Whip, add small marshmallows and put on top of rhubarb. Next mix up a box of instant vanilla pudding and then put that on top. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top. Then when cooled good you can eat it.

Notice how Grandma mastered the art of crystal clear confusion?

I decided we needed to chat.

Beings how she was called to that great heavenly kitchen in the sky some 25 years ago, this proved tricky. Once again, my imagination didn’t let me down.

Me: Grandma! Oh my gosh, it’s so good to see you! (We hug.) How have you been?

Grandma: Where am I?

Me: In my blog.

Grandma: Your what?

Me: Never mind. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Grandma: You got readers?

Me: I like to think so, yes.

Grandma: (She looks around) There’s no one here, dear.

Me: Well, they’re kind of… never mind Grandma. Listen, I was hoping you could help me with this recipe of yours. The rhubarb one you gave Mom? I was thinking if we made it together, I could show my readers how it’s done.

Grandma: The readers who ain’t here, you mean.

Me: Let it go, Grandma. Now, I’ve already done the first part, see? I opened the cabinet door.

Grandma: Uh-huh.

Me: And then you write: take out your oblong glass cake pan. What size pan would that be, Grandma?

Grandma: I don’t know. Whatever size my oblong cake pan is.

Me: Right… so… would you say that was 13 by 9? Or 11 by 7? Personally, I like 11 by 7.

Grandma: (Shrugs) I don’t measure it. I just use it.

Me: Let’s say it’s an 11 by 7.

aprons 2Grandma: Fine by me. (Looks around) Where are your aprons? If I’m gonna cook, I need an apron.

Me: Wow, Grandma, you haven’t changed a bit. As it so happens, I have a few of your aprons over here. See? I made a little display of them.

Grandma: (Puts one on) Alrighty, now where do you keep your rhubarb? I hoped you canned plenty. Oh, and you better take the Cool Whip out of the freezer.

Me: Okay, first up, no one does canning anymore Grandma. And I can’t grow rhubarb in Phoenix.

Grandma: Kinda hard to make rhubarb dessert with no rhubarb.

Me: No, it’s okay! See? I bought frozen. Also, I was hoping we could use real whipped cream? It’s so much better than Cool Whip, and my readers have come to expect quality from me.

Grandma: Again, the readers who ain’t here.

MeGrandma

Grandma: Fine, only I ain’t gonna whip no cream. You gotta do that.

Me: I’m way ahead of you, Grandma. I’ve got the beaters right here. I’ll whip this baby up in no time.

Grandma: Okay, you do that. Now, let’s see… I’ll do the crust… Hmm… coulda swore I put nuts in this.

Me: WHAT’D YA SAY, GRANDMA? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE BEATERS!

Grandma: I SAID I FORGOT TO WRITE DOWN NUTS – I USUALLY PUT NUTS IN THE CRUST!

Me: THAT’S OKAY! I GOT NUTS!

Grandma: GOOD! WHERE DO YOU YOU KEEP YOUR… oh land’s sake, I’ll just find it myself.

Me: WHAT’D YA SAY, GRANDMA?!

Grandma: I SAID NEVER MIND!

Me: OKAY!

(Three minutes pass)

Me: Okay, Grandma, I finished the whipped cream. Now about that rhubarb. How do you make that?

Grandma: Hmm? Oh, that’s done. It’s in the fridge.

Me: Wait… what?

Grandma: And here’s the pudding. I made that too.

Me: Grandma! I wanted to see how you did everything!

Grandma: Time and dessert wait for no man.

Me: What’s that supposed to mean?

Grandma: This goes a lot faster if you use Cool Whip.

Me: Grandma!

Grandma: There, that’s done (hands me the finished dessert). Now, what are you planning for dinner?

Me: I didn’t even get a picture…

Grandma: How about bean soup? You got bacon, don’t you? And beans? Tell me you got beans.

Me: (sighs) Yeah, I got beans. I love you, Grandma.

Grandma: I love you too, sweetie. Now scootch yourself outta here and let me cook. And where’s your mop? Floor’s a bit dirty over here…

R.I.P. Fluffy, Bear of Noble Mien

Moving across country is not for the softhearted.

One must be willing to part with unnecessary items. Purge the dross. Winnow possessions to the basic few.

It is no time for sentiment.

Therefore, it is with heavy heart that I must say farewell to thee, Fluffy Bear. Steadfast Teddy these past 45 years.

Give or take a year.

Fluffy

Ah, how well I remember when you entered my life.

I, a sorrowful lass who lost her previous bear due to an unfortunate intake of far too much candy, and his subsequent visit to the washing machine.

Alas, poor Herman. Loved so dearly, gone so soon.

Then one sunny day, you entered my life after the family collected enough proof of purchase labels from a certain brand of toilet paper.

Our lavatory supplies were covered for the remainder of the year.

Your label read, “made of 100% fluffy synthetic fiber.” Hence your name. Fluffy.

Our early years were carefree and bright. Remember the times you watched me standing on the seat of the backyard swing, singing at the top of my lungs?

I’M ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD LOOKIN’
DOWN ON CREATION!

You were so kind, never pointing out my sour notes.

Later you donned your dapper attire, looking oh-so-noble in my niece’s cast-off baby jacket.

Perhaps other bears would object to the wearing of pink, but not you. You were comfortable in your skin.

And later when your nose fell off? Or your tongue? Oh, how many times they fell off! But each time you withstood the needle with such stoic silence.

It was admirable.

Sadly, all things must come to an end. And so it is with you, dear Fluffy. It is time we bring this relationship to a close.

Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…

Fluffy trashed

Don’t look at me like that, Fluffy. It’s for your own good. Do you know how cold it gets in Minnesota? You’d hate it there.

And that hole in your back? It’s not getting any smaller, you know. Why, the move alone might do you in. Never mind the cold.

Fluffy, no! Turn those orange plastic eyes away from me!

Be reasonable, Fluffy! I’m 50… um… some-odd-years-old. A 50-some-odd-years-old woman doesn’t keep a teddy bear.

It just won’t do!

You never know. You might like the landfill. Think of all the other toys you’ll meet.

Discarded dolls… unwanted G.I. Joes… unloved teddy bears…

Gah! I’m sorry Fluffy, please forgive me!

*rescues from trash*
*hugs tightly*
*weeps softly*

Come to Minnesota! We’ll keep each other warm! I’m sorry I ever considered parting; what was I thinking?

You and me, Fluffy. From now until the end of time, that is my promise.

Here’s your travel bed — my dresser’s top drawer…

Fluffy in transit

*waves back*

See you in Minnesota, Fluffy. ❤️

A Pink Suit, Marching Band, and Soggy Cereal

At this moment I’m in Minnesota house-hunting.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime, to keep you all amused and this blog on a regular schedule, Husband gave me permission to share a few more pictures from his youth.

Whatta guy!

First up, the pink suit…

Husband in the 70s

There are a few things Husband wants you to know:

  1. The suit is not pink. He claims it’s maroon. (It looks pink to me)
  2. This was the trend, everyone wore suits like this. (Okaaay)
  3. This was conservative compared to his friend’s suit. (Now THAT I want to see)

When I asked him what his date wore, he said he wore this to the end of the year band banquet and he didn’t have a date.

That sounds about right.

Remember when I showed you his band uniform?

Husband in band uniform

Of course you do. How could you forget?

I’m not sure what I find more appealing. Is it the tall furry hat? The way the sunlight twinkles on the visor? Or maybe it’s the shirt itself, bringing to mind the Matterhorn workers at Disneyland.

In any case, Husband informs me that the ensemble was actually the updated uniform.

So what was the old uniform like? So glad you asked.

hsbandoldNow I don’t know about you, but I rather like this uniform and see no reason for it to be updated.

I like the color scheme (black and gold, his school colors), the enormous letter in case he forgot what school he went to (Maryvale High), and I especially love the hat!

But you know what I love best about this uniform?

It reminds me of Commodore Condello’s Salt River Navy Band!

Commodore Condello's Salt River Navy BandFor those of you who didn’t spend your childhood in Arizona during the 70s, you have my sympathy. Reason being, you missed this wonderful group performing for the Wallace and Ladmo show.

If you never heard of Wallace and Ladmo — again, my heart goes out to you — you missed something pretty dang special. They were the children’s show to beat all children shows, going over 35 years presenting cartoons, skits, musical sketches and lots of snarky humor to the children of Phoenix.

It was glorious.

One of their bits was this band, and I had one serious crush on Commodore Condello, let me tell you.

And now that I think about it, Husband looks remarkably like him in that band uniform. In fact, had Husband wore his band hat to the banquet? And I was just a wee bit older and actually knew him?

I totally would have been his date.

Just for fun, this was my favorite song from the show:

I don’t think there was a kid at my school who didn’t know every word to Soggy Cereal.

Sigh

I’m gonna miss this city.

Packing for the Move, Making Progress…

Until I hit the photo albums and, like a damned fool, I open one…

This is a picture of my dad with two Army buddies. Written on the back:

Swimming at Kamakura Beach
July, 1946

Swimming at Kamakua

My dad is the one on the left, but the other two? No idea.

As many stories as he told us about his childhood and family history, of his Army days he spoke very little.

Army photo

I should have posted these on Memorial Day.

Moving on, here’s a photo of me as a baby, making five generations of my mom’s family:

Five Generations

On the far left is my grandmother, next to her is her father, and seated is his mother, my great-great-grandmother, Kate Goodroad.

There are three things I want to point out about this photo:

  1. My mother’s dress. It’s lovely, don’t you think? She rarely wore dresses, so I’m thinking this was taken after church and given my age, we must have still been living in South Dakota.
  2. The photo on the wall behind my mom — doesn’t it look like two cats? Did my great-great-grandmother like cats? Did she have cats? (I think I would have liked her.)
  3. Look closely at the chair great-great-grandmother is sitting on. Specifically, the back and arm rests. See the dish towels? Every old person on my mom’s side of the family used dishtowels as chair protectors. It was the Goodroad/Jurgens way.

Several months after that photo was taken, my family moved to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, where we had a dog named Foxy.

Here’s a picture of Foxy in his doghouse:

Me by doghouse

I should point out that Foxy was black, so all you can see is his tongue.

Also in Phoenix, we had an above-ground pool:

Me with pool float

I sure seem happy, don’t I?

And look at my brother Dean, standing behind me. He kind of looks like he’s planning something.

I wonder what?

Me with Dean

What happened next, Dean?! Huh? WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?!

Oh, look! We have pictures from Husband’s childhood, too!

Here’s Husband with his trumpet, looking oh so cool and jazzy:

Husband and his trumpet

Do you think they planned this photo, or was it just happy coincidence the shadow landed as it did?

Also, I feel it should be pointed out, had Husband put more effort into his playing? Let’s say, practiced day and night? This would have made a mighty fine album cover.

Just sayin’.

Even so, I’m happy to report he played in his high school band.

Lucky for you, he gave me permission to post his band picture. His exact words: “Oh, I don’t care.”

Funny. Seems like he’d care.

Husband in band uniform

Cute guy.

Funny hat, but cute guy.

I’m going back to my packing now. Wish me luck.

Thoughts on the Simple Life and the Good Old Days of Bad Roads

Hate to say it, but I’m running behind. I’m behind in my to-do list, behind in my reading list, both books and blogs (sorry, blogging buddies). I’m even behind in my listening (You should see the number of podcasts backed up in the queue).

This is unusual for me, I need you to know that. Normally my to-do lists end their days with nary a check missing.

Despite this busyness, however, I’m still finding time to read through my family’s Pioneer Memoirs and I remain dedicated to bringing you snippets now and then. Partly because my invented deadline of Wednesdays for my blog posting has seeped into my brain with such ferocity that if I should be 98 and on my deathbed, I dearly hope it’s a Tuesday.

Along with that, reading these Pioneer Memoirs reminds me that however busy my life is at the moment, when all is said and done, I’ve got it pretty good.

On a previous post, one of the comments made mention of how wonderful it was to hear of those simpler times. I agreed at first, but then got to thinking. I wonder if it’s true? What I mean is, did they think their life was simple?

Somehow I doubt it.

Consider when Thoreau moaned on and on about all those men living desperate lives, yada, yada, yada.  That was pre-Civil War! No freeways, no rush hour traffic, no commercial television or Russians in your Facebook.

Makes you wonder what old Henry had to complain about, am I right?

Following this logic, perhaps one day people will look back on 2018 as a simpler time. Just as I might look back on this time and think, “Eh, I wasn’t so busy.”

In any case, the last two weeks I brought you tales spun by my Great-Aunt Clara. Today’s story comes from her father, my Great-Grandfather, Abraham Jacobson.

Old Abe came to the United States in 1848, when he was 12 years old. As you’ll see below, he and his “trusty legs” were rarely idle. He graduated from college, became a Lutheran minister, traveled to Quebec to help newly arrived immigrants, served churches in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, found some time for farming, and eventually ran for public office.

This particular tale tells us of when he traveled from Decorah, Iowa (in the northeastern part of the State), into the newly formed Dakota territories… by foot. It was a story my dad used to tell us kids, as it was a bit of family pride that our relation was the first Lutheran minister in the Dakotas. (If that should ever come up in a trivia contest, now you know.)

The following was written in 1908, two years before he passed away at the age of 74. I hope you find it a pleasant diversion from your busy day…

In the vast domain of the Northwest there may still be found places where roads are poor, but the ease and facility of present-day travel cannot be compared with conditions fifty years ago.

In the summer of 1850, when I was a boy of fourteen, my trusty legs carried me across the state of Wisconsin from the vicinity of Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien, a distance of more than two hundred miles. This journey was made in company with a large caravan of emigrants who were to settle in Iowa. The day’s journey was short and the roads were good, so the four week trip was an enjoyable one, though it was strenuous enough for many of the older people.

In the eleven years that followed, among many varied experiences, I was ordained into the ministry and served a congregation in Chicago. Circumstances so shaped themselves that a journey to the then new Dakota Territory seemed to me a duty, from a religious point of view. A keen desire for recreation for both mind and body was also an impelling factor in my determination to undertake the trip. An opportunity for the realization of this wish soon presented itself.

In October, 1861, a small party of eight people in Decorah were in readiness to make the trip westward to Dakota. The company had four yoke of oxen and four wagons. Three of these wagons had just been driven in from Dakota by settlers who came to meet some newly-arrived relatives from Norway.

Our wagon was constructed in a practical manner, in true prairie schooner style. The arched bows were covered with canvas and, as an extra precaution, were again covered with oilcloth, so that we were well protected against both wind and rain. We were amply provided with provisions and cooking utensils, and this later proved to have been a wise forethought.

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The first event that occurred on our trip, and which yet remains vivid in my memory, happened near Calmar. Along the main highway to McGregor came a man with a yoke of oxen hauling a load of wheat. A little boy, who was a cripple, sat on top of the load. The weather was warm and the road dry and dusty. The poor draft cattle were undoubtedly both tired and thirsty,  for their tongues protruded far from their throats.

Near the road there was a depression full of water, apparently a little pond, but in reality a so-called “sinkhole,” the opening in the bottom of which was partly closed by a deposit of clay which had been washed in from the road. As soon as the oxen saw the water they became entirely unmanageable, and down into the hole they rushed pell-mell, with the wagon and the whole load. The sides of the bank were steep and the heavy load shoved the wagon so far down that the water reached to the boy’s waist. Fortunately some of us were nearby.

We brought the boy back to dry land, unyoked the oxen, and finally helped the poor man to get the wheat and the wagon out of the water. The man, whose home was near St. Ansgar, was on his way to market his wheat and had taken his ailing boy along to consult a doctor. Now they had to spread the wheat upon the ground and let it dry before they could continue their journey.

To be continued…

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Here’s Abraham with his wife, Nicolina, and their 11 children.
Talk about busy!