I thought again of prairie fields
And remembered warm summer suns.
I felt the wind that blew back then
And played with my family again.
The big front yard, the pasture gate
Sweet memories swirl around me.
I hold the thoughts tighter now
I’m scared that I won’t remember.
Baseball games at reunion parks
Our families played there together.
The children ran, while old folks looked
And the winners called for their treasures.
We grew older then and some moved on
Black and white pictures replaced the elders.
The family picnics are much smaller now,
I’m missing so many aunts and uncles.
To return once more to yesteryear
Will have to wait for awhile.
I have dreams to share and kids to hug
Before I walk my final mile.
I had originally written this as a Christmas Letter to my family. It talks about when I was young and what I remembered best about the Holiday.
I Hope your Holiday is as special as I know mine will be!
– Recollections of Christmas Eve, Abt. 1958 – Cuba, North Dakota
Of course it was Christmas Day that included a holiday feast with ham, turkey and all the trimmings, but it was the Christmas Eve meal that would become our family’s favorite tradition. My parents loved oyster stew and crackers, and would served it as our family’s “pre-gift” Holiday Eve treat. Unfortunately, my brother Eugene and I wouldn’t eat it. To placate us, the youngest of the six children, they would serve a second type of soup, Campbell’s chicken noodle. Even though we had different soups, we all shared the other part of the menu, the little round oyster crackers.
Other holiday meals included richer foods, but the sights and smells of the chicken and oyster soups along with the crackle of the cellophane bag containing those crackers, remain in my memory.
The soups were served at our table in…
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This weeks challenge
Pick your favorite song and use the title for the title of your story. No, you are not to write a story about how you like the song.
Get rid of adverbs outside of your dialogue.
No word count limit this week.
Digging To China
–The Sunshine Fix
“Right after breakfast we’re gonna start digging!” Jim said from under our blanket. “The sooner we start the better; China is a long way down.”
“…You know, the world will be upside down when we get there.” I declared.
“I hope mom made cornbread for breakfast, I’m hungry.” Obviously Gene was not as excited about the project as Jim and I. We were going to have to drag the youngest of us out of bed-again. We dressed and ran down the stairs
“Morning mom…” We called.
“Did you make me cornbread?” Gene still had only one thing on his mind!
“How far is China” I asked. “and, where did Dad leave the shovels?”
“Sit down and eat your breakfast” Mom said. “China is far enough away that you will need energy to get there and why do you need shovels?” My mother may not have heard us plotting our morning, but the words “china’” and “shovel” could only add up to a digging project!
“What type of adventure are you boys planning?” As far as mom was concerned, deep holes out in the pasture were acceptable. They required digging and lifting – two items guaranteed to keep boys occupied and tired! That was always good.
“Mom, how far down should we go, before we turn ourselves upside down?” I asked.
She looked at me to see if I had hit my head on something during the night. Satisfied I was not injured mom said. “You boys make sure to wear your jackets, it’s been chilly out lately.” “…And if you are going to be digging, make sure you do it on the side of the pasture, by the tree and your fort.”
“Can you pack us a lunch?” Gene was warming to the plan.
“Let’s get started.” Jim and I yelled!
Another day had begun on the farm.
“Grab that nail, set with tap
Hammer it down, just like that.”
Prairie work song – Clarence Holm
They stood as sentries of the prairie! Tin clad collectives, towering over the glacier scraped wheat fields of Dakota. Each one decorated with a city name, reflecting a community’s pride and showcasing the prosperity of the area farms.
From the exterior you would be hard pressed to guess that thousands of board feet of lumber were used for these wood cribbed structures. Each wall was made by laying lumber flat, one atop another. The base was constructed using 2X10s and then would progressively slim the walls by switching to 2X8s, than 2X6s and finally 2X4s near the top. Above the storage line a frame building (cupola) was constructed to house the mechanical top of the elevator.
They were purpose built structures. Tall nested bins, surrounding the steel legs of a gravity driven storage system, designed to move bushels of grain from the boot to the header in the cupola. The grain was dispersed at the header by the elevator manager to designated bins. This header (looked like a giant tin octopus) was accessed by a series of vertical ladders or when working – a rope powered “man lift”. The grain was lifted up through the legs by a continuous belt, holding tin buckets which scooped the grain from the bottom of the elevator.
The elevator manager could store grain based on type, quality, moisture content or any of a more than a dozen criteria. Grain was constantly in motion throughout the system as it was moved from dryers, to cleaners and back to storage on its way to market.
The elevator co-op that we brought our grain to was in Cuba, North Dakota and was owned by the Miller Elevator Association. It stood alone on the prairie, next to a spur line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The town at one time boasted a mercantile, a school, a small grocery and a lumber and implement dealer. All but the elevator eventually closed due to the dwindling farm population and the competition from the bigger cities.
As a young man, my father was part of the crew hired to build that elevator (about 1940). He reported to work daily with his 16 ounce hammer and crosscut handsaw to pound the 16 penny nails holding the cribs together. My father was proud to be part of building the 125 foot tall structure, which rose high above the prairie. It was with pride that he was able to say that he “tinned the top of the elevator”. (Tinning refers to the corrugated steel used to cover the entire building.) As a young child I was in awe that my father had ever been that high in the air and couldn’t imagine anything that could have been bigger.
In 1972 I carried on the family tradition as I worked on one of the last cribbed granaries constructed in the United States at Luverne, ND. (Cribbing was later replaced with steel and concrete) The one I worked on exceeded 140 feet and took about 6 months to build. By that time hand saws were replaced by powered circular saws, but the 16lb nails were still driven by an arm powered cribbing ax. I learned to set the nail with a tap and drive it home in one single swing of the ax. It was tedious and boring work and I constantly sang a song to myself to set my nail timing. “Grab that nail, set with tap. Hammer it down, just like that.” For some reason Peter, Paul and Mary never made a recording of my work song!
I too learned to “walk the top of the crib walls” and hung over the side to “set the tin”. When it came time to tin the top, I had a rope tied around my stomach as I went on the roof to put on the highest pieces of tin. (I still can’t believe I didn’t kill someone when I found out no one was actually holding the rope I wore around my waist. They figured they had told me to be careful!)
Over forty years later both buildings still stand, although my father is now gone. I am proud to tell both of our stories.
I very rarely get back to Luverne, ND but when I do again, I hope I have my grandchildren with me so I can point to the top of the building and say “I did that”.
Earlier this week my wife and I received an early morning Skype from my daughter who is currently attending a Peace Workshop in Oslo, Norway.
This week she had a break, so she joined a student tour that included the city of Bergen, Norway. As she followed the tour along, they came across an old Castle in which was located The Rosenkrantz Tower. As my wife’s maiden name is Rosencrans she was pretty excited. My daughter knew from my family tree research (which goes back to 1270 A.D.) that Rosenkrantz was the original spelling of my wife’s family name. There were other variations too, including Rosenkrans, Rosecrans, Rosencrantz and many others – but all were part of the same family tree.
My daughter said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were related to the person who built the castle.”
As an amateur genealogist I have researched my wife’s family history and I have documented it through over 20 generations. So when she asked that question, I immediately pulled up a Wikipedia article on the Rosenkrantz Tower and found that it was built for Eric Rosenkrantz in about 1520. I checked my database and found Three Eric Rosenkrantz, one of which lived in Norway at that same time. This Eric Rosenkrantz was also the great great great great grandfather of Harmon Hendrick Rosenkrans, who sailed across the Atlantic in 1650 (30 years after Plymouth Rock) and joined others in establishing New Amsterdam AKA (New York, New York).
So after a little more checking I was able to tell my daughter (with a high degree of certainty) that the Rosenkrantz Tower was indeed built by her 14th great grandfather.
My daughter’s tour group took a break to do some shopping and she took the opportunity to go back to the Castle to see if she could get a tour. When she told the receptionist that she was a descendant of Eric Rosencrantz, the receptionist was thrilled as this was the first time to her knowledge that a real descendant had visited the Tower and arraigned for her to get a tour of the entire building.
In the thousands of hours that I have devoted to the study of my family tree I have come across many interesting things, but being able to verify that a random sighting of a castle during a European tour was connected by blood to my daughter, gave me the ability to allow my daughter the thrill of a lifetime. For her, History came alive and she was able to enjoy a lesson in her heritage.
I have been posting to this blog for over a year now. I have posted photos, short stories of family memories, various forms of poetry, and some things I would just term as miscellaneous. The only thing they all have in common is that I have been mainly in the “send mode” and have been broadcasting bits and pieces of me since this blog started.
I’ve been so busy sending when what I would really like to be doing is receiving information.
For over 25 years I have been gathering genealogy data on my family history. I can tell you birthdates, marriage dates, spouse’s names, children’s names, places of birth, battle grounds, cemetery locations and all sorts of information that would amaze you. But what I really wanted to know is the why.
Why did my great, great, grandparents leave their homeland? Did anyone get left behind? Were they driven away or was it a grand adventure.
With the posts that I have already created as a background, I am going to try to ask some questions about specific cities, countries or events that someone else might have some information on.
For instance, one branch of my family is from Sweden. In 1855, my great, great, grandparents (Anders Eriksson) and his wife (Inga Stina Jean Pettersdottor Holm) left Eggvena Parish in Herrljunga, Älvsborg, Sweden with their first child (Anders Petter Andersson) to start a new life in America. Why they chose to come to follow his brother to Carver County in Minnesota is a mystery as this was new territory just opened for settlement.
They were easily among the first group of Swedes to leave and get a new start in the Midwest.
Why did they leave Eggvena? What happened to their parents? Were any brothers and sisters left behind? What happened to their first child? Did he die in the move?
I am looking to share information about what happened to our family if anyone has information on Eggvena and what their life would have been had they stayed.
Information on contacts with historians, genealogists, or historical societies would be welcome. I am interested in what life was like for them before they left and how many followed them.
Now I started the first part of the story, does anyone have something to add?
– Clarence Holm
You may have noticed the new header on my blog. It is another one of the pictures held by the Carver County Historical Society of my Great Grandfather’s Farm in Barnes County, ND. It’s nice picture of the seven threshing crews cutting grain circa 1900.
John Erickson Holm owned as many of 6 sections of land along with a Mercantile Store in Cuba, ND and farmed a few more for his cousin John Anderson. A section of land is equal to 640 acres or one square mile. All of this was accomplished with a combination of horse and manpower. His strategy was to plant till harvest began and harvest through fall and winter.
Pictured are the sons and hired help harvesting the land. My great grandmother wrote to one of her cousins “I am so glad we were able to build a bunk house, so those smelly smoking boys are out of the house!” Great Grandpa and his boys were well known for working hard, smoking and drinking a beer or two. He was also proud of the fact that he had made enough money to marry off his girls and give each child a section of land to start their life.
– Clarence Holm
I posted a picture yesterday of two of my Aunts holding my father as a baby. All three plus their younger siblings have passed away. This picture is such a wonderful reminder of them. That is why sharing this with family and friends brings me such pleasure.
I spend so much time collecting and sharing genealogy, I do it as a way of keeping people I love with me. I look at the picture of my father and his sisters and they speak to me. The older girl seems to be holding her little brother so tightly as to protect him from the world. The other, the second oldest, is close, but is holding back a little bit, perhaps unsure of what this little boy is going to do to her position in the family.
Both girls are beautifully clothed, with their hair up in bows. What is unseen is the fact that these children live on a farm in North Dakota, miles from the nearest city – No running water, bath water warmed on a stove. Their mother, my grandmother took great care in getting them ready for this picture.
That tenderness my grandmother shows through this picture. It’s could be easy for me to remember only her as working in the garden, pulling weeds or yelling at us for chasing and bothering the cattle in the pasture. She had a tough life, her father along with three sibling died before she was five. Her mother remarried a widower who had 5 children from the previous marriage and then 10 more before dying in childbirth with the 11th. My Grandmother helped raise them all.
She could have been excused for harboring some resentment because of a tough life – but she didn’t.
As the eldest boy, my father worked hard on the farm and I would like to think I have inherited some of his North Dakotan stoicism allowing me to accept that hard work is part of life.
But mainly I would like these people to know that through and because of them I am able to see beauty in so many parts of my life.
Yesterday I received a postcard from the Carver County Historical Society of Carver County, Minnesota announcing a rebuild of their website along with news of the addition of fully indexed online library of 15,000 photographs held by the society. I was excited because my family has a long history with the county.
My paternal family had immigrated to Minnesota from Sweden in 1850 making them one of the earliest settlers of the territory. My Great Grandfather was born in Carver County and grew up to be one of the original members of the town council of Cologne, MN. His first born son was born in Carver County and moved with him as he homesteaded in Cuba, North Dakota, in 1886. My grandfather was raised in North Dakota, was married and raised a family on the prairie. My father was born near that farm in 1917. I was raised on that same farm (Now owned by one of my cousins) and lived in North Dakota until 1990 when I coincidentally moved to a small town near Carver County too start a career in Insurance.
I knew my family had relatives in the area, but knew nothing about the county or the people in it. I became interested in my family tree and began a 25 yearlong investigation of my family’s history with one of the first steps beginning with research at the Historical societies in the area. Thousands of hours were spent pouring over microfiche and index cards that contained newspaper information that had been indexed and computerized.
So, while I was very happy to hear about the new service, I was not expecting too much in the way of new information. You see I had been associated with the society for nearly 20 years during which time I had researched well of 40,000 individuals associated with my family, mostly in and around Minnesota and North Dakota and thought I had mined the source completely dry.
Imagine my surprise to enter my family name into a search engine only to discover a long lost photo of my father as a baby being held by his older sisters taken nearly 100 years ago. I can only surmise that my Great Grandparents had sent a copy of the picture to one of the cousins who still lived in Carver County many years ago.
Obviously I have ordered a duplicate of the photo to share with my brothers and sisters. I am sure they will cherish the photo as much as I.
I maintain a membership in a number of historical societies and have always been amazed at the dedication and sacrifice displayed by their memberships to maintain, catalog and display our history. Over the next few years I will be retiring from my insurance business and am looking forward to many hours of volunteering at the society to repay those people who have given me so much.
(Originally sent to family 2001)
Last week, I had sent out an email to let people know that I was taking a long Memorial Holiday. I was hoping to complete some chores that had been plaguing me for some time. If fact, I am happy to report that I did manage to complete the bathroom remodeling project that I started on the last Fourth of July. If I ever decide to strip a bathroom down to the studs and floor joists again, I hope someone will realize I have gone crazy and I need to be put me out of my misery.
Another small project I needed to get finished was some tree trimming! Nothing to high in the air, but still, ladders were involved. I had purchased a small electric chain saw and felt that I could handle the job.
All was going well until I decided to trim…
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