Feeling at Home at Bev’s Place

First, an update from last Friday’s post: The chocolate cake was a hit. (Was there any doubt?)

Second, as to our haphazard posting: If I ever get back on a regular writing schedule, it will be a miracle. (Hang tight, folks. We’ll get there eventually.)

Third, as to our housing situation: We signed the papers on Monday; it’s officially ours. (Yippee!)

mid-century home

I don’t know how well you can see her, but in front of the house by the two small shrubs we have a metal lawn decoration of a girl holding a flower pot.

She came with us from Phoenix. My kids were in grade school when we found her in a thrift shop, so we’ve had her quite some time. Over the years she took on a fine reddish-brown patina. As you can see, she fits right in with our Minnesota home.

I wonder how long before that’s true for me? When will this truly feel like our home?

At times it feels like we’re staying in a vacation rental, mostly when we walk to the river or stroll along the nearby golf course.

Other times it feels like we’re staying in the home of an elderly relative.

(There was a time when the sight of arm rails and assists would have bothered me. But after having undergone a couple difficult surgeries, I look at them now and think, “What a great idea!”)

Husband and I seem to have a knack for buying the homes of old ladies. Our first was in Nebraska from a woman named Willametta (great name, don’t you think?). The second was Eva’s home in Phoenix.

And now it’s Beverly’s home. Or Bev, as the neighbors say.

As I said last week, we know a few things about her. She collected recipes, enjoyed reading, worked at a school, enjoyed her sunroom and yard.

I found this picture posted on an online tribute to her (she passed away in March):

Beverly on porch

One of the many comments posted: “What a kind and classy lady.”

She does look rather classy, don’t you think?

Jerry, our new neighbor, said she had funny little sayings she’d repeat, perfect for whatever you were talking about. Jerry’s wife, Patricia, said no one could tell a story better than Bev.

“She’d make you laugh so hard you’d cry!”

I wish I could have met her. I’m certain we’d be friends.

Look what I found in the backyard, next to her cute little shed:

Peace

I have a hunch — just a hunch, mind you — that a grandchild painted it and gave it to her.

Walking through the home, it’s easy to feel the love and care that went into it. For over 50 years this was their home. Children were raised here, meals served, laughter shared and tears shed.

Someone asked me if I can feel her here. Meaning Beverly.

I don’t put much stock into the idea of ghosts, but I know others do so usually I say, “Well, she didn’t die here, you know. She died in a nursing home.” Thinking that will explain my lack of haunts.

It doesn’t of course. They point out “her spirit will inhabit the place she loved most.”

Now were it me? Were I a ghost?

Seems to me I’d travel. See the world. Hang out in Paris for a bit. Head over to Venice for a ride in a gondola. Spend some time in Egypt studying the pyramids… But like I said, maybe that’s just me.

Now should Bev drop by, maybe to check on things? I’ll show her how the Peace Rock is in its place and I’m doing my best to keep the yard and flowers looking nice.

I might also ask her a few questions.

Like, what did she put in the odd little space by the dining room table? Why are there seven outlets in the small sunroom, but only two in each bedroom? And why the five small nails under one of the bedroom windows?

But mostly: what the heck is the plastic hook above the basement light switch for?

light switch

Was it a key? A key to what?!

Augh, I may never know. If any of you have a guess, I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, in case you’re curious, here’s the nitty-gritty on making Bev’s chocolate cake mentioned last week:

Bev’s Rocky Road Cake

Ingredients:

  • One package Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 4 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 jar hot fudge topping

Mix the cake according to package directions except replace the water with coffee (this is optional; you don’t really taste the coffee, but it adds a nice depth to the flavor). Spread into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and immediately top with mini-marshmallows and sprinkle with nuts. Heat the hot fudge topping in the microwave according to directions on jar, drizzle over the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

chocolate cake

Thanks, Bev!

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.

A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post

IMG_20180424_201733414

In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,
Nanna

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

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.

A Good Long Walk, Pioneer Style. Plus, an Announcement

Picking up where we left off last week, our caravan of Norwegians traveling from Decorah, Iowa, into the Dakota territories in 1861, had little in the way of drama on their trip. Nothing worthy of a movie. No Donner party mishap to report.

Shame, that.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 1.41.54 PM

And yet this next part of the tale is without a doubt my favorite, for it gives us the picture of old Great-Grandpa ambling ahead of the ox-pulled wagon, reading a book under the shade of an umbrella.

I can’t remember how old I was when my dad told me about it, but I remember the warm feeling it gave me. It gave me an awareness – an explanation for who I was. These are your people, the story said. This man who walks in solitude and brings a book to bide his time? Yes. It explains everything.

Along with this we hear of more practical matters, such as how they parked their wagons for the night, and later crossed the Sioux River on a ferry. You read this tale long enough, and you’ll have all the instructions you need to make the trip yourself.

Here it is in his own words (as published in 1907):

The course to the west which we were now to cover consisted of long stretches of naked prairie, with great distances between places where water and fuel could be found. We had to carry these supplies with us in our wagons so that at night we would be sure to have these necessities. Every evening the wagons were placed in a square, the oxen were turned loose to graze, and a fireplace, with a wall encircling it, was spaded out. Here we made our fire.

Before we went to rest the oxen were tied to the wagons, and at the earliest break of day they were again let loose so that they might both feed and slake their thirst in the dew-laden grass. In rainy weather we found it advisable to remain in camp; otherwise the chafing of the yokes on the necks of the animals caused sores to develop.

As a protection against wind and rain, I had provided a small tent under which we could cook and braise to our heart’s content. The varieties of food might not have been many, but oh, how delicious they were to our keen appetites!

The day’s journey was short, averaging perhaps fifteen miles. With an umbrella in hand and a book in my pocket, I would go ahead of the caravan as a advance guard, and when I was a mile or so in front of it, I would sit down in the shade of my umbrella to read until it (the caravan) caught up with me again. The long evenings of early fall were utilized for reading within the wagon by light of a stearin candle.

At last we reached Sioux City, near the point of influx of the Big Sioux River into the Missouri. The Big Sioux forms the boundary line between Iowa and Dakota. Across it we were transported by means of a ferry, and although the boat was a primitive one, the passage was very ingeniously accomplished.

First a cable was stretched across the river. The flat-bottomed ferry had a wide keel and at each end of the ferry this was made fast to the cable with a hawser. When the crossing was being made, the hawser at the front was shortened, placing the ferry aslant with the stream, so that the force of the current against the keel moved the craft across. For the return trip it was necessary only to reverse the arrangement of the hawsers. The adjustment of the lengths of the hawsers was all that was needed in the operation, the rest being accomplished by the stream itself.

After a three weeks’ journey we arrived at Vermillion, which, by the route we traveled, was approximately three hundred miles from Decorah. I had walked, not ridden, every inch of the way.

I hope you’ve been enjoying these last few weeks of my Great-Grandpa’s tale. I may from time to time present a few more interesting nuggets, as the mood strikes me or the need arises.

For now though, I have an announcement to make: We’re moving. As in, Husband and I are packing our belongings, selling the homestead, trekking across country to a new locale. (Though unlike Great-Grandpa, we’ll be driving.)

This is why I’ve been so busy lately, and why I’ve been so dreadfully behind in responding to comments on this blog or keeping up with my fellow bloggers.

Again, terribly sorry.

It seems packing up 17 years of living and laughing and loving doesn’t happen overnight. We had to tell family and friends, break it to the kiddos (they’re staying in Phoenix), get the house ready to sell, and sort through our own complicated emotions. Emotions containing fear, sadness, excitement, longing… everything all at once.

Yet whatever fear or sadness we felt were never outmatched by the overwhelming sense that this move is right. However nuts it may sound to anyone else, we believe we’re on the right path.

Where are we moving, you ask? Believe it or not, Minnesota!

From extreme heat to extreme cold. No half measures for us.

e223bc53a9eb36de358f18f3995b1dbd.jpg

I’ll let you in on more details in the weeks to come, as we still have to sort out moving details, as well as a place to rent until we (hopefully) find a home of our own.

In the meantime, through all of this, I’ll think of a man walking in solitude, biding his time by reading a book. Did he experience fear or sadness on his trip? Possibly. Mostly, I think he felt his path was right.

Visitors to the Parsonage: Goatmen, Drunkards, and Convicts

In our last episode of Feeding of Folly, the blogger hinted she was “busy,” and therefore would have difficulty posting on a regular basis.

“Busy with what?” readers demanded.

She didn’t say. The only morsel she offered was that for the next few weeks, she would be supplementing her blog posts with found writings from her Great-Aunt and Great-Grandfather. (Leaving readers with the profound hope that not only will Great-Aunt Clara be a good storyteller, she’ll also know the proper use of a semicolon.)

First, by way of introduction, here is the short bio for Clara that appears in Pioneer Memoirs:

Clara Jacobson (1863-1949), eldest child of Abraham and Nicoline Jacobson, studied at Monona Academy, Decorah Institute, and Valder College. She taught both public and parochial school for many years in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. She wrote a great many accounts of the pioneer days and her work appeared in Norwegian-American journals and newspapers.

The passage below is an excerpt from “Minder fra Perry Prestegard” — Memories from Perry Parsonage. It first appeared in print in 1911 in the Norwegian-American journal Symra. Clara’s father, Abraham, served a congregation in Dane County, Wisconsin from 1868-1878.

Here, Clara describes a few of the guests her family entertained at the parsonage. (I have to say, I rather like these people. Their guests, too.)

In those days the parsonage was a stopping place for itinerant people of various kinds. Father and Mother never asked any pay for keeping them, and it was in exceptional cases that anything was offered for their trouble.

Many queer personages visited the minister. Among others may be named Gjeitemand (the goat man). He had gotten this name because he had brought goats with him from Norway. These he sold to Americans, but after a while they returned to their former owner, who sold them again. He loved to tell local stories, but when they did not receive the desired appreciation his visits ceased.

Jonsebergen was also a well-known figure. He was very fond of strong liquor, but as he lived far from town he could not get it easily when the longing came over him.

Mr. Dahle, who kept the store, always had spirits on hand, together with various patent medicines, but he only sold them for medicinal purposes. Once when Jonsebergen was somewhat drunk, he went to the store to get liquor, but Dahle would not sell him any.

What did he do then? Yes, he actually came to the minister and asked him to write a testimony saying, Let Jonsebergen get a pint of whiskey. “The pastor in Valdres wrote this for me,” he added.

“No,” Father said. “If I were to write, I would have to say, ‘Do not let Jonesbergen get any whiskey.’”

Jonsebergen left, stumbling along. Later he said to his friends, “What in the world was the matter with me that I should think of going to the minister when I was drunk?”

Haavelsongutten, who was well known among people from Valdres, Norway, also visited the parsonage. He had a bad record, for he had served a prison sentence at Christiania (Oslo) for his misdeeds. When he was released he left for America.

He had acquired a citified speech and did not use his native dialect when he visited the minister. He spoke of the “institution,” and Father understood that by this he meant the prison. Once he told Father that his daughter was married to a cavalry officer in Christiania. When Father could not conceal his surprise, he said in his stiffest book language, “Do you not know, pastor, that a black sow can have white pigs?”

Here is a picture of the whole Jacobson clan: Mom, Dad, and all 11 (eleven!) children:

IMG_20180424_201733414

Great-Aunt Clara is the woman seated on the far right. The young child leaning into her is my Grandmother.

Tune in next week when Great-Aunt Clara tells of more visitors, including a schoolteacher of whom a farmer says, “We might just as well have a cow to teach school as this Berentsen.”

My Infamous Relative Revealed! Plus, Some Thoughts on Family Pride

This is it, folks, it’s time for our Big Reveal! The moment we throw open our family closet and shine a light on that bullet-ridden skeleton we’ve got hiding in there.

Just who is this infamous relative we referred to and oh-so-cleverly illustrated in last week’s post? I’ll tell you!

Only first, let’s give a shout-out to the fine folk who responded so readily with the right answer:

Andrew from Andrew’s View of the Week
Delphini from My Window
Husband of Anne from Jupp Kappius, and,
My sister-in-law, Laurie

There are a few things I’d like to point out:

  • First, the instructions said to put the initial of the last name in the comments, and that’s exactly what sis-in-law Laurie did. Just the letter. Exactly what was required; no more, no less. That, my friends, is the mark of a solid ‘B’ student. (Love ya Laurie!)
  • Next, it was only after the first few comments rolled in that I realized how incredibly lame my instructions were. All I said was to put his initial in the comments to prove you know the answer. Meaning all anyone had to do was read the first response (that would be Andrew’s), add the letter to their own comment and claim they knew all along.
  • Lastly, no one did that! Making the Feeding on Folly community a collection of the most honest, trustworthy souls I know!

Truly. You guys are the best.

Either you admitted you researched it, as Diane from LadiesWhoLunchReviews,etc did, or that you had no clue until you saw the letter, as Matilda from matildanovak.com did. Others said that even with the letter, they still had no idea (Oh Roo, silly Roo). I mean, they could have said “Oh, that must be Q,” and never let on they didn’t know!

Wow, people. Just… wow.

It just goes to show, you are everything my notorious relative was not. And may I say, I’m honored to share this little corner of the internet with you.

*sniffle*

Okay, now on with the Big Reveal: My infamous relative is none other than…

Vidkun Quisling!

I think my illustration is pretty spot-on, don’t you?

I won’t tell his whole story here (you can read his Wikipedia page for that), suffice it to say he sold out his country to the Nazis. But it’s not merely that he was a traitor, for even traitors can have their good points.

What made Quisling a… well, a quisling, is that he acted in his own self-interest. He wasn’t a Nazi; he didn’t buy into their ideology or hold to their plans. He merely went with the team that promised him the highest rank.

The jerk.

Now I’d like to point out — not that it matters, but I’ll point it out just the same — that I’m not an actual descendant of his. Despite having two wives, he didn’t have any children. So there’s that.

My dad was 17 years old when Norway was invaded by the Germans. I’m not sure how quickly the details of the invasion spread or how early Vidkun’s involvement was known, but my dad remembered the effect it had on his family.

In particular his Aunt Clara, for Aunt Clara was proud of her family and their relations. Just to be distant cousins to the Quislings was an honor, as they were a prominent family and several were in service to the King.

It’s interesting, is it not, how quickly our pride can turn to shame? How the actions of one individual can spread over the ocean, all the way to a small town in Iowa, into the heart of a white-haired spinster whose only crime was in boasting of her family’s royal connections?

But that’s the danger in boasting. It can so quickly turn against you.

Roo asked me in her comment last week how I felt about being related to this jerk Quisling.

I admit a part of me gets a kick out of telling people, partly for the shock value, but mainly because it’s a great story. And given the number of years that have passed, there’s no cause for shame. As Claudette pointed out in her comment, he’s not me. His actions do not reflect on me in any way.

And this is where I find Quisling’s role in my family tree an important one, for he forces me to stay humble.

Look at it this way: if I say the bad branches in my tree do not reflect on me, then I must say the good branches don’t either. Any successes my ancestors achieved, any noble or generous acts they may have accomplished, have no bearing on me. I can be judged by my actions alone, no one else’s.

This book I found in a forgotten cabinet, Pioneer Memoirs, has been an entertaining read for me. As it happens, Aunt Clara wrote periodically for her local newspaper, and her father, my great-Grandfather, had some of his experiences published as well. A few of their pieces are included in the book, and I plan on sharing some snippets with you in the weeks to come.

My reason for doing so is twofold:

  1. They’re great stories, and I’m all in favor of Story.
  2. The next two months or so are going to be crazy busy for me with many changes afoot, and this blog may very well suffer for it. Either I let it drift to the wayside, repost old articles, or let Aunt Clara and Great-Grandad tell their tales.

My pledge to you is that I’ll do my very best to avoid any family boasting. My request of you is that if I should slip up, you call me out on it.

All you need do is leave one comment: Remember Q.