Pa Ingalls and keeping a good perspective

This will be short.

I told Kristina earlier this week, I think the creative muse that lives in my  head has  started to dry up.

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Google image

In the grip of Old Man Winter

 

 

Eight weeks ago while we were still in the grip of Old Man Winter,  I picked up  The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I  wanted to get my bearings and re-calibrate my winter “can do” attitude.  Figured that was as good a place to start as any.

Anyway, at  one point in the story, Laura’s family had just run out of kerosene (for lighting), the wheat was running out,  potatoes were running out, and it was still another two months until the supply train would be able to get to town….

 

“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of light,” Ma considered.  “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”

 “That’s so, said Pa.  “These times are too progressive.  Everything has changed too fast.  Railroads and telegraphs and kerosene and coal stoves- they’re good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”

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Pa said those words 140 years ago and  they are still relevant.

My problem  (it’s not really a problem) is I am also a student of history.

In my mind’s eye, I filter current events through a 200 year lens.

(We just watched a couple of documentaries on the Irish potato famine for example…..wow, if that didn’t stir up a feeling of thankfulness.)

I am living in a time of unparalleled prosperity, the current political climate not withstanding.  There are kind, selfless people all over the place.   

(Make sure you click that link)

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Would love to hear your thoughts…

Or….

Tell me about this past winter and how you fared.

If you know me, you know I love detail.

Take care.  DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Twice Now

It has been a very productive winter for me as I’ve had the time to work on  family history.  It’s an interest I’ve had for years that comes and goes.  I’ve had individual folders with old family pictures, notes  from conversations from people now passed, two different family trees books I am descended from…a lot of information that begs to be organized.   Last Fall, I happened to run into Diane at a local picnic for a tour group in the area from Ostfriesland.  (Part of northern Germany.) By the end of our conversation, Diane had offered to help me work on our family tree.  She had the time, the know how and I jumped at her offer.

She reached out to me this past January and asked if I was ready to get started.  I gave her some names and she started setting up a family tree.  I didn’t hear anything for several weeks, and discovered in the meantime  that since my wife had taken a DNA test there was a free ancestry account already in existence in our name. So while I was waiting for Diane’s results, I started doing some work on my own…adding pictures, uploaded stories, using the search tools in the local newspaper archives.   It has been a great way to break up some of the time these past few months.

Night before last Diane wrote me a note.  I’d given her a link to the family tree I’ve been working on,  this is a portion of what she said:

“I can tell you that your instincts, Doug as a genealogist and family history keeper are excellent.”

That is the 2nd time someone as given me unsolicited affirmation about that area of my life. (lover of history.)

The first time was in 2009.  I’d shared a link to a history blog I was working on with one of my favorite authors.  Andrea Seu Peterson.

She wrote me back and said : “You may want to call yourself a contractor, but I think you’re a historian. “

I hesitate to share those two affirmations and yet, I believe there is a place in our lives for personal affirmation.  God knows there is enough negativity most of us battle with that goes on in our private thought life.  So, when  a few words of genuine affirmation makes it into my life, I celebrate. :-).

So there you go.

I am a voracious reader, especially when I get on a topic that interests me.  Heck, I grew up in a home where World Encyclopedias were on a bookshelf in our bathroom.

So for me, to receive two unsolicited affirmations  affirming my work in the area of history,  does as much for me as getting a piece of paper telling me I have a Masters degree.

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I’d never seen any of the following pictures before…(except the one of grandma on the boat.  I’ve share that one before.)

Picture of my grandmother (little girl on the left)  She was 13 years old.

My grandma, front row second from left.  Getting together with  her friends right before emigrating to America. March 1929.  She was 23.

Grandma on ship March 1929 coming to America

1949 Picture from my grandmother on her first visit  back to Germany since she immigrated. 

(She is in the center)

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Twenty years had passed…She’d gotten married to an Iowa farm boy.  She’ had three children.  Her father had passed away while she was gone.  She’d endured the Great Depression in America, experienced WW 2 as a German living in America.    I think of the emotions she must have been feeling at that moment.

I miss her.

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I need to get moving.

Thanks for tagging along.

Take care.  DM

Winter Sketches

I have two stories that rumble around in my head  each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.

First story

(And you may have heard this one before).

Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train  that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929.   The train derailed and “turned turtle”  (went over on it’s back)  when it hit a hard snow drift.  One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours.   Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”

Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:

 

Second story

You may have heard this one before too,  that can happen around here.  😉

Back in 2011 I  stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891.  She wrote a series  poems called “Sketches Of My Life.”  One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831.  They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)

“Our salt was in a gum,

And was standing on the loft,

But met with a bad accident,

when the cover got shoved off.

I had some in a box,

That was standing down below,

Not enough to last till spring,

And we knew not where to go…

Elsie asks  a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell?  He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in.  He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.” 

She goes home,  and tells her children the situation.

When I got home, I told my children

What the man had said,

Then William said, I’ll go myself,

And take that big old sled.

“Mother do not be uneasy,

None but lazy people freeze,

Because they will not exercise,

They are so fond of ease.

There is no fear for me Mother,

I will jump and kick the sled,

I will keep myself in exercise

Run, and kick the wagon bed….

Their team was good and active,

All four year olds and strong….

The account goes on…

Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for  roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).

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This week, just to make sure I was on my game  because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.

I decided to reread a portion of  novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It was perfect!

It was just what the Dr ordered!

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Pause.

I am torn.

Torn because I love winter.

I love winter storms.

I love being snowed in.

I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.

Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache.  (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them).   The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear.  Fellow lovers of winter weather  seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.

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I grew up on a farm.

On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold.  Sometimes just the opposite.  Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did)  the cows still need milking, haying,  might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂

So here I am now in the year 2019.

All of our children are grown.  No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.

Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness.   I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow,  Cozy.  My larder is full.  The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail.  The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.

I  feel better.   Now you know.

I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom  about this past weeks weather.  She asked me what I thought about it.  I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.

She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”

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Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:

Got to run.  Need  to go to the bank before they close.   Take care. DM

 

The Persuader

A couple of Sundays ago a tour group from  Northern Germany was in our area.  The expressed purpose of the tour was to connect with long lost cousins who had immigrated to our area from about 1880 into the early 1920’s. My great grandfather and my grandmother, both on my dad’s side had done that very thing,  ( immigrated from Ostfriesland) so I asked  dad if he was interested  in attending a meet and greet  that Sunday.

Picture of my grandma on the deck of the Dresden  immigrating to America in 1929.  (She is 2nd from the right)

As we walked up to the pavilion, half a dozen older ladies that I didn’t know and a guy I did were sitting on a rock wall.  The German tour group hadn’t arrived yet so we stopped to talk.  Turned out the ladies were all 1st cousins to each other. The Barker clan.

I mentioned I’d worked with a John Barker back when I was 16. He was framing a house for my dad.  Turned out John was their uncle, one of ten brothers.

(Can you imagine???? One of ten???!!!!)

The wheels in my head began to spin.

I wasn’t sure how much to say about old John B.

These were all ladies, and John was long gone.

I remembered his thick German accent, his bib overalls, his big belly…He had a short temper and an infatuation with a word that started with “f”.   He lived on an acreage on the edge of town.  I graduated with his daughter Kristi.

His wife had the sweetest disposition.

It was always a mystery to me why in the world she’d married him.

I ended up telling them the following two snippets of information:

First one had to do with the  German word for sledge hammer that John had taught me. He called it the  “uben-schlogger”. 

Right away, one of the ladies (Barbara)  got excited, grabbed her German/ English  dictionary and tried to look up “Uben-schlogger.”  I knelt down beside her.  We found something close, but  weren’t quite sure.

Another snippet  I told them was about time John was roofing a big barn.

His helper was nervous.  Didn’t know if he could do it.  John, in his thick accent barked:

“Get up on the roof!  I command you!” 

You would have thought I was a rock star.  Everybody sitting on that rock wall was soaking up every morsel of those details of good old uncle John.  One of them (Denise)  was writing everything down in a spiral notepad.  She “couldn’t wait” to get back home to Texas  and share these stories with her sisters.

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The next Monday @ work, I was telling Jason about my encounter with John’s nieces.  He looked at me and said,  “John was not the one who told you about the Uben – schlogger…and besides, it’s not pronounced Uben -schlogger…it’s Uben schweiger” (the persuader).  We learned it from Thomas.” (Another young German who worked with Jason and I back in the early 1990’s)

I told him I liked my word better. 🙂

We had a good laugh.

There I was, a lover of local history,  blending stories.  Something funny and not quite right about all of it at the same time.

In the end, I was able to track down Denise on Facebook.  Sent her a message, told her the story. Just in the nick of time she said. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to her sisters yet.

Early picture of me showing off with an uben schweiger:

The goal is to touch your nose with the sledge while keeping your forearm straight.

 

My cabin in the woods

In 2011 one of my regular customers asked me to help build  a new loafing shed for his dairy set up.  The first phase of the project  was for him to tear down an old limestone barn, dating from the 1800’s.  Wish I would have taken a picture.

There is something about old limestone buildings that stirs something in me.  I asked him what he was going to do with the old stone…long story short.  He gave it to me.  13  dump truck loads worth.  The only investment I had, was my time and the fuel it took to haul it home….

So this pile of limestone has been sitting there patiently waiting for me to do something with it…

That something has finally begun to stir…

We have a quiet spot out in the windbreak that looks north… In June, the wild black raspberries make an appearance.

One of my favorite places.

It is very easy to slough off the clamor when I’m out there.

I’m thinking I’ll just run a garden hose and a drop chord out there for some basic creature comforts…Murphy bed, barn beam interior, small loft.  16 ft by 20 ft tops/ with a small front porch like this….

 

I plan to do this on the cheap, using all recycled materials.

Want to help?

Think… Thoreau/ Walden/ tiny house…

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Stoke’n the fire

There is a fire that burns most days, way down in the depths of my soul.

Not just figuratively, mind you, but literally.

This morning as I was going over my notes for a series of speaking engagements this weekend on local history, I  could  literally feel the burner kick in…..

On the gas water heater and furnace that heats our house, you can hear both of them when they get ready to fire up. There is a distinct sound as the igniter kicks in….then after the flame lights/ the fan kicks in…..

 

That fire (passion) burns 85 % of the time when I am at work.

It also burns on days like today, when I’m talking somewhere.

Not even sure why I’m telling you this…. 🙂

I’m speaking this morning @ 10:30 and again @ 1:45.  I will let you know how it goes.

Can you see the fire in this guys eyes?

Photo compliments of google

Pay Dirt

 

Couple of years ago, my aunt Rosie gave me a a cardboard box filled with hundreds of 35 mm slides her aunt Annie had taken before she died.  The pictures are mostly from Germany, Ibiza and  who knows where else  ???  A handful are from her trips to America in the early and mid 1960’s.

If you’ve ever spent any time holding old slides up to the light, looking at images of old buildings, and people you don’t know, until your neck hurts, and your brain starts shutting down, then you’ll have an idea what I was feeling last night  until……

Until I hit pay dirt.

Bingo…I saw  some familiar faces.

Even found a few  new ones with me in them.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

rockn-the-lederhosen

Rock’n the Lederhosen

(That’s my mom on the left, then me, my brother and cousin Carol.  I can still feel those stiff leather lederhosen chafing against my legs. )

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Picture of my dad picking ear corn 

Doing the math, dad would have been about 37 here…about the same age as my eldest daughter. That is just surreal. 🙂

Butch and Feedie

Butch and Fede  

These guys are my grandparents two farm dogs.   My aunt Rosie said this about Butch and Fede  when I posted this on Facebook last night:

“If either of them heard the word “Pickup” ; they would be there before we would… was funny… Butch was a b’day gift to Johnny for his birthday one year and Fede just happened to come around the farm and we adopted him”

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Re-thatching a  house roof in the old country

I have no idea where that house is or who is on the roof.  Not sure if Annie took that picture because there was a family connection or just because it was a scenic shot.  It doesn’t matter.  😉  It made the cut.

Good thing I didn’t just pitch the box.  You can’t tell who or where 95% of the pictures were taken..it’s that 5% that makes it all worth while.

I’ll close with one more.  If you’re a long time reader, you may have seen it before:

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That’s me on the left, Aunt Annie and my brother Steve.  Same trip to America…1961?  Out on Grandpa and Grandma’s farm house porch.   Looks like they were still trying to dress me up.  Probably the last time I wore a bow-tie.