Roots

I just received my results from Ancestry DNA. The results confirmed the research I’ve completed over the last 20 years that I am officially a displaced European “Mutt”!

Clarence DNA

For nearly two centuries, my genes were created by a indiscriminate breeding of the cast-off population of Scandinavia and Germany.  That my ancestors ended up in the Midwest portion of America by choice or a lack of direction is still under review. What is known is that all arrived seeking a better life for themselves or their family, not unlike the current crop of immigrant settling around us now.

My family history includes stories of young men and woman escaping war and famine. Some came for opportunities not available in their crowded homeland. Some were following their dreams, while others arrived because they drew the short straw! Whatever happened that made them take to the sea in the mid-eighteen hundreds, they all ended up as farmers and shopkeepers on the dusty plains of Dakota.

Together they survived because of a rugged independence imbued on them by the conditions they chose to settle in. They were a stubborn, some would say obstinate, people who made the best of their situation. (Who else would think that rotted cabbage and dried up whitefish (Sauerkraut and Lutefisk) could be cherished as the makings of a holiday treat?)

The fact that I still live happily in the rural midwest could be considered a testiment or a curse of the genes that shaped my being.

-CJ Holm

Lessons I Learned On A North Dakota Farm

Image ©2017 Clarence Holm

  • Never dig an outhouse hole deeper than what you can climb out of.
  • The fluffiest cats were always skunks.
  • Grabbing an electric fence in never fun, despite what your older brothers tell you.
  • The facts belong to whichever sibling is telling the story.
  • To judge a man, look into his friends eyes.
  • It is never good to take a bath in the same water as the youngest child.
  • Brakes on a John Deere only work if you can reach them.
  • The best neighbors come when you holler.
  • A man plows straightest when he looks at where he is going.
  • When your hands are full, it is harder to pick a fight.
             – Clarence Holm

Dad

Dusty gravel roads
Near swaths of ripening wheat
-Father’s furrowed brow

                              -Clarence Holm

I think of my father, especially when I am trying to solve a problem that requires some patience. When all seems lost, I think back to my days on the farm, remembering the endless chores and the way my father attacked them day after day after day. Dad’s stoic acceptance of running a small farm with old equipment held together with bailing wire and cardboard gaskets, in a weather cycle that didn’t produce enough rain to parch the sandy soil, taught me that even in a losing effort there are battles to be won.

Though our family gardens were doomed to be raided by the neighbor’s pigs and the Massey Harris combine and the old John Deere tractor were unwilling farm servants, dad always found ways to persevere. Even when most sane men would throw in the towel, his stubborn Midwestern will would drive him through the crisis.

I remember lots of happy times too. Noon-time meals with the entire family sitting down to meat and potatoes, covered in gravy served with Mom’s fresh white bread on a plate in the middle of the table. I loved hearing his lunch time dreams of tomorrow, when the next harvest would run over our bins.

I remember him during those times of joy and sadness and wish I could stand near him again to walk in those fields of Dakota. Even though Dad rests in peace, I just wanted to say just one more time, Happy Fathers’ Day dad; I love you this much.

The Collective

friday-fiction

Tony awoke with a stiff back. Someone had left the window open and the cold breeze had been blowing on him all night. While there were blankets neatly piled on the chair, they had apparently just thrown him on the bed after bringing him from the party.

As he lay on the cold bed, he waited for the liquor sinews to release his thoughts. Last night’s words rang back and forth in his head. “It’s over!”

“It’s over,” he thought again. “What were they talking about?”

He tried to lift his hands to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Something was holding them back; he realized he was restrained face down, with his arms and legs bound to the bed frame. Twisting his head he could  only see the white walls of the room and the stainless steel bars of the bed.

It dawned on him that he might not be alone. “What’s going on?” Tony rasped. “What is happening to me?”

A voice behind him responded. “You didn’t return at the appointed time! With so many waiting their turn, did you really believe the guardians would just let you stay?” “You bargained for and were granted the most precious gift of all… Time. Now despite your futile attempt to extend the bargain, your time is over!”

“Over, it’s over!” Those words triggered memories of a ceremony he had tried to forget for the last two years. Stark images of a darkened altar flooded back to him. Memories of the Temporal Guardian standing before his select group of Travelers, holding the ceremonial wine chalice in front of the golden pendulum which swang back and forth. Its movement and eerie swooshing reminded all of the meter of life’s paradox.

Behind the Travelers, stood the Collective who chanted their single message: “Tricks, ticks, and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.” In response we, the Travelers said. “While pinching and prodding may reduce life’s toil, the end arrives just as soon.”

“In us, with us, time must run its course” the Temporal Guardian exclaimed! “Those who challenge life’s repose must travel a final course.” “Travelers of the Tempus Optimum, drink from the chalice of your dreams. Journey sans the years of wear and port the earthy strife of stage” With that I drank deeply from the Chalice and received its’ golden spirit.

My head was clear as I lie here now, face down in the sunlight. “The time is over” the voice behind me said. “Return the golden spirit and join with the collective, to allow another their travel phase, to gain a time perspective.”

With those words the bindings fell clear and I sighed and united with the Collective.

-Clarence Holm

https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/friday-fiction-with-ronovan-writes-prompt-challenge-9/

Prompt For Ronovan’s Friday Fiction Challenge #6

Challenge This Week: Write about a family gathering. No Word Count limit this week, just no book lengths please.

Sunday Papers Spread Across Saturday’s Floor

Sundays are special!  We considered them a day of rest from the normal farm chores, other than milking and tending the animals. Sundays included driving to Fingal for the parish service and returning home to sit down to a meal. Mom and my sister worked long hours preparing the best meal of the week. Next Sunday was going to be extra special. Our parish priest, Father Koehler, would be coming to our farm to spend the day.

Father Koehler’s house keeper told us that he was coming. That simple statement ignited frenzy in my family’s world. There was no greater honor, than hosting the priest for a meal. A Sunday Dinner was more than mom could have imagined.

Everything would have to be perfect. We would be eating in the dining room, with the table fully extended. We brought Great Grandma’s white linen table-cloth out of the cedar chest and ironed it to perfection. The family polished the silver along with a laundry list of chores given to every member. No detail of the preparation was left to chance.

The boys washed windows, dusted lights, and polished wooden furniture. Dad caught, dispatched, plucked, and butchered three spring chickens. We dug fresh potatoes, snapped string beans, and brought canned red beets out of the cellar. Everything had to be perfect!

Saturday arrived with one last major project to be completed. The linoleum covered kitchen floor. For those not familiar with that old floor covering, it was a hard brittle surface that showed scuffs and always needed a fresh coat of wax to avoid looking dull. It was a three-hour chore that no self-respecting woman would omit. So just after lunch mom put water on the stove to heat (We had no indoor plumbing) and moved the kitchen table and chairs to the hall.

With hot water, lye based soap, and back-breaking strokes mom scrubbed and waxed the floor. To protect her work she spread newspapers all over the linoleum to keep dirty foot prints at bay. God help the man who would accidentally blunder off the newspapers and leave a track.

The day of Father Koehler’s visit had arrived. Mom’s day of rest began at sun up, with fresh pies in the oven and white bread rising on the mantle. Dad and the older boys went to milk the cows and feed the animals. An hour before mass, we did our final clean up and put on our Sunday Go-to-Meeting clothing. With the meal set to low, all eight of us loaded into Buick. We drove the five miles to church where we march down the aisle to our pew. We stood taller knowing that so many in the church knew that Father Koehler was coming to our farm after church today.

After church we hurried home to set the table and make sure the meal was ready.  Eager to be out-of-the-way, we boys waited outside for Father Koehler arrival. Our mouths watered just thinking of the food inside. We also knew that after the meal, we would clear the table to make room for the Royal Rummy Game and the piles of pennies we would bet.

Father Koehler spent the entire afternoon and most of the night laughing, talking and playing cards. By the end of the evening he had successfully cleaned out our penny supply and deposited them into his coin bag. He laughed as he thanked us for the donation to his cause that he stuffed in his jacket. It was his standard joke; everyone knew he used the money to fund the summer bible school.

Our family waved goodbye as father’s car drove down the prairie road back to Fingal.

Life on the farm was hard, but pleasant recollections stand out the best. Good food and good times are always the best memories.

-Clarence Holm

 

https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/friday-fiction-with-ronovan-writes-prompt-challenge-6/

 

Small Town Living (Fiction)

(Flash fiction character introduction)

smokersa

Boudoir Elite

In 1965 they were the city’s true blood establishment, past faded winners of local beauty pageants, and now resplendent in their disdain of all things deemed inferior! They were the old vipers who use to meet at the coffee shop for their morning swig of caffeinated venom? They had hair that was teased into a bouffant and doused in spray lacquer. Their blood-red lipstick smeared on their coffee cup and their crooked smiles.

Smoke drifted from their mentholated Kools that seemed permanently stuck between yellowed fingers. The only thing that smells worse than the stinging smoke lingering around them, was the fetid bath waters they soaked in.

Their only purpose in life was to make sure they had it all. Unfortunately with no understanding, much less an appreciation of the effort required to produce anything, they could only consume. They were like the sows in the pen, mindlessly eating anything in their trough and defecating on anything else.

To someone willing to patronize and feed them, they were the perfect tools of destruction. All one had to do was to heard them in a direction and watch them devour the designated target. Yvonne Gregoire, wife to the mayor and President of Cities Fine Arts Council, knew precisely how to drive this sounder of swine.

-Clarence Holm

A flash fiction exercise in character development, comments or suggestions are welcome.

(Any resemblance to real people is coincidental and certainly not caused by a slightly vindictive memory.)