POSTNOTE July 24, noon: This morning, some unknown kids said “hi grandpa”, passably respectably, as I passed their gaggle during my walk at the health center. They appeared to be about 8th grade, part of a group that had been doing what I call ‘wind sprints’. I was about two miles into the walk, and didn’t say anything in response, but had only hours before completed the blog which appears below. The kids and I are in different “time zones”, of course. What they don’t know is that they’re all in training for their own years ahead!
Just now, came an e-notice that a work colleague of mine just died at 86. Time passes….
July 10-12 two of my daughters and I took a ‘whirlwind’ trip to my ‘hometown’ of North Dakota. It was a great trip, from which I’m still recovering (thus the quote marks around “vacation”).
Below is a sketch map for perspective. Here is my personal narrative of three long, wonderful days: dick july 10 12 2023
How does an 83-year old cover the first 25 years of his life in a few words? Here goes.
Years ago, when I was 16, May, 1956, I remember Eric Sevareid writing an essay, “You Can Go Home Again”, for Colliers Magazine. It is summarized here. I was especially attracted to the article then, because a couple of years earlier we lived a few miles from his home town of Velva ND – the place he was writing about.
I can’t match Sevareid, who was legendary in his time, but so be it. I pick two vignettes from my early youth, which I revisited on July 10.
On the way west, we stopped at the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown – a tourist staple since about 1960. In the surrounding ‘village’ is an old building which I asked the girls to notice:
Down the road, 7 miles west on I-94, is Eldridge, where that General Store used to be, and a short way down the road was where we’d lived 1943-45. The next day, at the ND History Museum in Bismarck, I showed the girls a photo I’d taken of the same store in 1991, when Dad and I were revisiting old sites. Then. the abandoned store was still in Eldridge.
Places like these bring memories for folks like me. As noted, we lived in Eldridge 1943-45. I celebrated my 4th and 5th birthdays there.
Probably around my 5th birthday we lived in a little house maybe a block walk from this store, and we went to a birthday party – maybe my own – upstairs in the store.
I must have been having a bit too much fun, and forgot that nature was calling, and didn’t quite make it home when I messed in my pants – one of the earliest and most traumatic experiences of my life…at least I’ve never forgotten it, all these years! Not one of my finest moments!
A little earlier, July 10, we drove by the former farm owned by my mothers family for over 100 years. Lauri took an intriguing photo of the barn roof – amazingly still standing.
I think I verbalized the back story of this barn roof with the girls. Here it is.
The barn was built in 1916, and the barn roof in 1949, when I was 9 years old.
We were visiting the farm at the end of July, 1949, likely celebrating my Mom’s 40th birthday which had been a week or so earlier.
We were sound asleep, late at night, when one of those occasional horrific Dakota straight line windstorms came up and caused much damage. We were all at the farm, in the house maybe 200 feet from the barn, most of us upstairs, awake and terrified – 11 of us in all, 6 adults, five little kids. I vividly remember the rain coming in through the window sill, as if a faucet had been turned on. In the morning, we were fine, but barn roof was gone.
Authorities can differ on how it was that we survived. There would be the “Hail Mary” contingent, since lots of prayers were said by the elders; possibly there was also significant help from the hedge to the south of the house which deflected the wind a bit.
Whatever the case, we survived, and all of us were out there surveying the damage the next day.
Grandpa, story is, had just let the barn insurance lapse, so the loss was uninsured. He found a barn to the east of LaMoure that had roof beams that he liked, and the family crew, including my Dad for much of the next month, built the replacement beams one by one, in a form on the hayloft floor. Dad always had a lot of pride in their work on that roof, and it still stands today.
Here are some other photos from the trip: ND 2023 Trip Photos Jul 10 12 2023
All of our lives are a succession of stories. If you are interested, here are some memories of my growing up as a teacher’s kid in tiny towns in North Dakota: Bernard Dick School Memories
Thanks for hearing two of mine.