Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Vrolijk Kerstfeest!" - Merry Christmas from Govert, South Dakota!

"Merry Christmas" from Kate VanderBoom in Colorado and "Vrolijk Kerstfeest" from Hans van der Boom* of Hoogvliet, The Netherlands! This blog posting is a collaboration between cousins, Hans and Kate.


Govert Van der Boom wasn't always a big fish living in the small pond of Govert, South Dakota. He wasn't always the founder of a town, the owner of the mercantile, the land locator, the postmaster, the notary, the U.S. Commissioner, civic booster, and sales representative for International Harvester, husband to Emma, father to Virgil, Gordon, and Roger. He wasn't always the man after whom a town and a newspaper were named. Once, back in 1909, Govert filed a claim on 160 acres of prairie land, just like every other homesteader in Harding County, South Dakota.

After filing a claim to enter his homestead in August 1909, Govert remained in Govert, South Dakota, the town named after him, for a total of 19 Christmases. Govert and his partner, Howard Jacobs, were not alone in the 36 square miles of the township but, in 1909, they might as well have been. Only 12 other men and one woman had been known to make homestead entry in the township since 1903, and most of them were long gone by 1909.

Those first three Christmases in Harding County may have been shared with other homesteaders. Otherwise the bachelor partners would have returned to the homes of their parents, where their families gathered, Govert Van der Boom to Platte, South Dakota, and Howard Jacobs to Wessington Springs. Govert spent his fourth Christmas as a homesteader with his new wife, Emma, a homesteader in Butte County just south of the county line from Govert township; they were married 3 November 1912.

Govert Van der Boom's Christmas tradition was Dutch. Born in Holland, Govert came to America at the age of seven and grew up in his big Dutch family of 10, in Platte, South Dakota. The van der Booms attended the Platte Dutch Reformed Church and, together with the other Dutch families in Platte, perpetuated Dutch customs and traditions, and the Dutch language. Govert Van der Boom never lost his Dutch accent.

This man who never lost his Dutch accent thought in two languages. For those Christmases shared with his American-born wife and his new friends on the prairie ... while everyone around him was singing "Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright" ... the Dutch words must have filled his memory and curled around his tongue. The words Govert Van der Boom hummed to himself followed the same tune ... Stille nacht, Heilige nacht.

Stille nacht, Heilige nacht,
Davids zoon lang verwacht.
Die miljoenen eens zaligen zal,
Wordt geboren in Bethlehems stal.
Hij, der schepselen heer,
Hij, der schepselen heer.

Although "Silent Night" long ago became one of the common songs that bound early settlers regardless of their faith, in a way similar to "Amazing Grace", neither song appeared in the Dutch Psalmbook. My cousin, Hans van der Boom, knows about these things because he is an historian, heart, mind and soul, and he is Dutch-born. Hans tells us that in the practice of their faith, our Dutch ancestors ... yours, too, if you have Dutch ancestry ... were strict and righteous, and they professed their faith in a deep and intense way.

All of our immigrants brought their traditions and customs ... and their music ... with them aboard the ship. With the dilution of tradition through the passing generations in America, sometimes we forget this. Hans will help us remember the Dutch Christmas music the van der Booms brought to America.

The remainder of this blog posting is in the words of Hans van der Boom. Here's Hans:

"Silent Night" seems to be considered an appropriate song for the stricter religions, which surprised me a little [writes Hans]. I thought the song to be much younger, but the English translation seems to date from 1863, and the original lyric is from 1818.

The Dutch Psalmbook contains only the 150 approved Psalms. The real stuff in our ancestors' psalm books that pertains to Christmas and can be sung are the Psalms; those that pertain to Christmas are Psalm 89, 98, 111 and 118. Traditionally the psalms were not accompanied by an organ or other musical instrument. Govert Van der Boom's Dutch ancestors would have been led by a "voorzanger", a pre-singer who first sang the hymn as example. 

A psalm considered "christmasy" is "Ere zij God" (Honour unto God). This is a simple song, based on the Bible book of Luke 2:1-20, in which the Christmas story is told.

Ere zij God
Ere zij God
In de hoge, in de hoge, in de hoge
Vrede op aarde, vrede op aarde
In de mensen een welbehagen.
Ere zij God in de hoge
Ere zij God in de hoge
Vrede op aarde, vrede op aarde
Vrede op aarde, vrede op aarde
In de mensen, in de mensen een welbehagen
In de mensen een welbehagen, een welbehagen
Ere zij God
Ere zij God
In de hoge, in de hoge, in de hoge
Vrede op aarde, vrede op aarde
In de mensen een welbehagen.
Amen, amen.

Glory to God! (2X) In the highest! (3X)
Peace on the earth, peace on the earth to the people who have God's favor.
Glory to God in the highest! (2X) Peace on the earth. (4X)
To the people, to the people who have God's favor.
To the people who have God's favor, who have God's favor!
Glory to God! Glory to God! In the highest! In the highest! In the highest!
Peace on the earth, peace on the earth to the people who have God's favor.
Amen, amen.

I've read that the words to "Ere zij God" come straight from the Bible, the angels' "song" in Luke 2. A popular Dutch carol, it's also very popular in Christian Reformed churches in Canada where it's often used as the closing song of Christmas day services. Another, rather archaic, one is "Komt allen tezamen" (Adeste Fideles), originally a mid-18th century Catholic song with the English text, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", introduced in 1841 by Frederick Oakely.

Another with a Catholic origin, although our ancestors probably didn't know that, is: "De herdertjes lagen bij nachte". I think this is typically Dutch, and probably dates from the 17th century.

De herdertjes lagen bij nachte
Zij lagen bij nacht in het veld
Zij hielden vol trouwe de wachte
Zij hadden hun schaapjes geteld
Daar hoorden zij 'd engelen zingen
Hun liederen vloeiend en klaar
De herders naar Bethlehem gingen
't liep tegen het nieuwe jaar

There seems to be an English translation (which follows), but it is set to another melody. Wouldn't that have been fun? People from different countries essentially singing the same song but getting totally confused because the music is different! The English version is 17th century, too, appearing in print the first time in Brady's Psalter in 1702.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,
And glory shone around.

Probably the oldest one is "Nu zijt wellekome", even more archaic than the rest and dating from Medieval time, probably the 14th or 15th century (Gregorian), but with the oldest known music version dating from the 16th century. Kyrieleis means "Have Mercy Oh Lord".

Nu zijt wellekome Jesu, lieve Heer,
Gij komt van alzo hoge, van alzo veer.
Nu zijt wellekome van de hoge hemel neer.
Hier al in dit aardrijk zijt Gij gezien nooit meer.
Kyrieleis.

This modern English translation dates to 2005:

Jesus, You are welcome here with us today.
You came to earth from heaven on Christmas day.
Jesus, You are welcome now to stay with us again.
In our sinful hearts, give us mercy, come and reign.
Kyrieleis.

What Hans tells us about traditional Dutch Christmas music also explains why Govert Van der Boom carried to Harding County the intensity of the faith of his Dutch parents who came to America, the faith of his Dutch grandparents who remained in Holland. In a country of immigrants, Govert's neighbors would understand if he did hum the words to himself in Dutch ... "Stille nacht, Heilige nacht ..." remembering what he could of his grandparents and life in the Old Country.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[*You may wonder at the many spellings of the family name. Historically "van der Boom" is correct. Because Govert chose to Americanize his name as an adult, "Van der Boom" is now also correct. Because Govert's son Roger decided to further Americanize his family name, "VanderBoom" is correct. Those who choose to spell their name "Vander Boom" or "Vanderboom" are also correct. This blog is written with gratitude to Hans van der Boom, for his insight, his knowledge, and his interest in his American cousins.]

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Govert, South Dakota, P.T.A.!

"Merry Christmas!" "Hiya, neighbor! Merry Christmas!" "Good evening and Merry Christmas!" "Hey! Merry Christmas!" "Merry Christmas to you, too!"

Voices from every direction called out cheery greetings as Goverites gathered at the schoolhouse for the Govert, South Dakota, P.T.A. Christmas Program. Every man, every woman, and every child, glowing shiny clean and rosy from excitement, was carefully dressed for the holiday celebration. They were ready for the best, the biggest, the most enthusiastic community gathering of the entire year.

Inside the schoolhouse, the children's desks had been pushed to the fringe of the room and rows of wooden benches were lined up facing the blackboard in front. In the swelling anticipation, an evergreen tree decorated with tinsel and colored balls, standing awkwardly to the side of the blackboard, seemed bigger, brighter, and more confident than perhaps it really was. Nine-year-old Marie Kulisich thought this tree, brought in from the Slim Buttes, was the most beautiful Christmas tree she had ever seen.

Darkness closed in on the schoolhouse and, although the weather grew only colder and colder as the evening progressed into night, the coal stove burned hot. Gasoline lanterns, carried in by the Govert neighbors, radiated light and a little heat, brightening the schoolroom. With all the neighbors crowded into the single room of the 19' by 27' schoolhouse, the air became warm, almost steamy.

The desk of the Govert country school teacher, Alma Eleanor (Cox) Schuck, the widow of Walter Benjamin Schuck these last 14 years and more, was pushed to the side of where the stage now sat in front of the benches, on the side opposite from the decorated evergreen tree. Every inch of Mrs. Schuck's desk was obscured by plates holding cakes and cookies, and more plates holding sandwiches piled so high as to threaten to tumble. And coffee. The P.T.A. always served coffee, strong and hot.

With no admission fee, the P.T.A. Christmas Program was the perfect holiday activity for rural Harding County families during the Great Depression. What should Goverites find in the Govert schoolhouse that night in December but a glamorous Christmas tree, hours of laughter and heartfelt entertainment, companionable fellowship with neighbors, and sugary treats for everyone. Who could ask for more happiness than the oh-so-pleasant here-and-now, in that interlude before leaving this bright place to find their way home in the dark and cold of the earliest morning hours?

Like all the years preceding, the P.T.A. Christmas Program for 1939 was an acclaimed hit among Goverites and all the farming and ranching families within reach of the Govert schoolhouse. The performers that year were Mercedes Hafner (2d grade), Marie Kulisich (4th grade), Leroy Scofield (2d grade), Roland Springer (1st grade) and Edwin Springer (2d grade), and Alice Mae West (4th grade) and Evaline West (6th grade). Twelve-year-old Billy Lale was the oldest student at Govert School that year; he was in the 7th grade. Billy joined in the songs and acted in the plays with the other students.

Eager for holiday excitement, the grade school students, their parents, brothers and sisters, and all of their neighbors, including the old bachelors in the township, began the program singing ... quite loudly ... "Joy to the World". The children ended their program much, much later, tired and happy, singing "The Tree That Blooms at Christmas." Between these two songs were plays, readings, recitations, a dialog, and more holiday musical favorites.

P.T.A. PROGRAM

Joy to the World ...... Song by All

Silent Night ...... Song by Govert School

Just a Hint ...... Reading by Alice Mae West

Our Baby ...... Recitation by Edwin Springer

One Drawback ...... Recitation by Roland Springer

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear ...... Song by Govert School

Tangled Telephone ...... Play by Govert School

Poor Dolly ...... Recitation by Mercedes Hafner

Christmas at Grandma’s ...... Recitation by Leroy Scofield

Put a Candle in the Window ...... Song by Govert School

Christmas Angels ...... Reading by Evaline West

Nurse! Nurse! ...... Dialog by Alice Mae West and Marie Kulisich

A Wise Christmas Gift ...... Recitation by Edwin Springer

Dear Little Stranger ...... Song by Govert School

Christmas Strategy ...... Play by Govert School

Hark the Herald Angels Sing ...... Song by All

The Tree That Blooms at Christmas ...... Song by Govert School

By the time the Govert schoolchildren sang the Christmas lullaby, Dear Little Stranger, little brothers and sisters were snuggling in their parents' laps, with mommy's or daddy's protective arms around them. The adults were smiling nostalgically, remembering their happiest Christmas times. Waves of light and sound echoed between the stage and the densely seated benches. These are the voices of children you would have heard: Dear Little Stranger.

And these are the words:
Low in a manger, dear little Stranger,
Jesus, the wonderful Savior, was born.
There was none to receive Him, none to believe Him,
None but the angels were watching that morn.

Refrain:
Dear little Stranger, slept in a manger,
No downy pillow under His head;
But with the poor He slumbered secure,
The dear little Babe in His bed.

Angels descending, over Him bending,
Chanted a tender and silent refrain;
Then a wonderful story told of His glory,
Unto the shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain.

Dear little Stranger, born in a manger,
Maker and Monarch, and Savior of all;
I will love Thee forever! Grieve Thee? No, never!
Thou didst for me make Thy bed in a stall.

By the time the children reached their finale, "The Tree That Blooms at Christmas", Mercedes, Marie, Leroy, Roland, Edwin, Alice Mae, Evaline, and Billy wistfully sang their wishes for a Christmas tree with presents stacked underneath.

We, with hearts so light and happy
Gather 'round the Christmas tree;
There are gifts that love has given,
Gifts for you, and gifts for me.

Chorus:
See the tapers, lighted, burning,
Sending forth a cheery glow;
See the tree, a-sparkle, turning,
All its dainty gifts to show.

Tops and balls, and drums and every
Gift to mention, swinging there.
What care we, though snowflakes whitely,
Flutter through the frosty air.

For the tree that blooms at Christmas,
With its fruit so strange to see,
Bears amid the shining branches.
Some sweet, dainty gift for me.

As they sang, the children were glad for this holiday celebration at the schoolhouse ... and wondered whether their own tree would bloom this Christmas.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Based on an article in the Govert Advance, December 28, 1939; with gratitude to Marie Kulisich for assisting with details; Dear Little Stranger, Charles H. Gabriel, 1900; The Tree That Blooms at Christmas, Author Unknown, sung to "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning", Philip P. Bliss, 1871]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What’s Happening in Govert, South Dakota: Thursday, 5 December 1940

In preparation for Christmas, 73 years ago today, the Govert Advance published the instructions for Santa’s helpers to craft a four poster doll bed. All a mommy or daddy needed were a cigar box, four wooden clothes pins, four wooden thread spools, scraps of fabric to make a pad, pillow, and bedding, and a bit of paint. This, together with a late night of gluing, sewing, and painting, might be the best a Goverite could offer a young daughter for Christmas after struggling through 11 years of the Great Depression. The good news: only one more year of the Depression. The bad news: America would join the war.

Reading beyond the cigar box doll bed that Thursday night in 1940, a Govert family might have been comforted by their decision to choose a home on the Harding County prairie, 1800 miles from the east coast, far away from the bright lights and the crowding in the cities, and far, far away from the political wrangling.

That Thursday night in Govert, farmers and ranchers shook the creases out of the Govert Advance and read that New Yorkers were now being warned to be alert for suspicious packages. The abandoned box, bag, valise, or satchel might be a bomb positioned by “subversive and destructive elements” in America. "Thank goodness we don't have to worry about THAT," Goverites echoed across the prairie. Why in the world would any subversive, or any foreign spy, waste their time traveling to a place where the two-legged population was far outnumbered by the four-legged variety?

Continuing through the newspaper, they read about the destruction left by Nazi bombs in England. And then the Govert Advance reported a survey conducted by the United States Employment Service revealing 215,000 people registered with employment offices throughout the United States for jobs in defense industries ... should they be needed.

In December 1940 the folks in Govert are less worried about an abandoned valise or satchel left in a place where a bomb might be calculated to cause maximum damage to resources or morale, and they are more worried about Christmas. So what happened in Govert, South Dakota, the first week in December in 1940? You saw it first in the Govert Advance:
  • "Herman West and Archie Cornella are hauling hay from the Primm place to the JX Ranch for Howard Sheridan. Howard will winter a band of sheep at the ranch."
  • "Chester Phillips has been quite ill with pneumonia and was taken to the Buffalo hospital."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. F.F. West, of the West General Store at Govert, were shopping in Belle Fourche, Friday."
  • "Ann, Anton and John Kulisich were in Newell Friday, visiting the dentist."
  • "Guests at the Bert Ellis home Thanksgiving were Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ellis, daughter, Nona, and son, Harold, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Class, Mr. and Mrs. Mitch Kulisich, daughters, Ann and Marie, sons, Anton and John, and Leonard West."
  • "Wesley Horton and wife spent several days with relatives at Whitewood."
  • "Nick and Pete Lale took their dressed turkeys to Lead and received very satisfactory prices."
  • "Alice Mae West spent the weekend with Marie Kulisich."
  • "Mrs. Westley Horton is visiting her daughter, Evelyn, at Custer. Evelyn is taking a Beauty course at Custer and making her home with Mrs. Horton’s sister."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. Nick Lale entertained friends Thanksgiving Day."
  • "Mr. and Mrs. Louie Frandsen were in Belle Fourche Wednesday to get his pick up repaired. Mr. Frandsen slipped off the grade and turned over causing some little damage."
Life goes on. War may be raging in Europe but, in Govert, you do what you always have done. You tend to the work in front of you. You laugh when the opportunity presents itself, and you create as many of those pleasant opportunities as possible. On Thursdays you read the Govert Advance. And, in December, you might make a gift from an empty cigar box and scraps of fabric. Life goes on.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Based on the news reported in the 5 December 1940 edition of the Govert Advance]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble on the Prairie in 1938

In the tenth year of the Great Depression, Gus and Elizabeth Toble would assure sweet potatoes and turkey were on your Thanksgiving Day table. You would have cause to give thanks.

As for Gus and Elizabeth, on Thanksgiving Day in 1938, they had reason to be sad, and reasons to be happy. Elizabeth started the Depression already two years a widow, and Gus was widowed in the second year of the Depression. After meeting at a dance in Govert, South Dakota, they married in 1935, during the sixth year of the Depression, and lived near Cash, about 15 miles from Bison, South Dakota.

Back to Thanksgiving dinner ... this from the Govert Advance: "Mrs. Gus Toble of near Cash, nearly always has one of the very best gardens in this section of the country, and this year is no exception. However, she has added another item this season in attempting to grow sweet potatoes. Mrs. Toble told us last week when in Bison, that the plants had begun to “run” or vine. The plants were sent to her by a sister who lives in the Ozarks of Missouri. They were in excellent condition upon their arrival, which is remarkable considering the great distance and the time required to send them. Mrs. Toble believes that the sweet potato plants may develop fast enough to mature if the grasshoppers and cool weather do not get them. Mr. and Mrs. Toble have a flock of nearly 300 turkeys that are helping to keep the grasshoppers from doing too much damage around their fine garden."

Like Gus and Elizabeth, Govert farmers and ranchers raised turkeys, too. Not everyone can fix a complete image in their minds of large flocks of domesticated turkeys on the prairie. Perhaps thinking of the turkeys as a "herd" will help. Then again, the idea of herding 300 turkeys ... or any number of turkeys ... might instill serious uncertainty in the toughest of cowboys. Segments of The Turkey Business just might help fix that image.

With the menu taken care of, how do you otherwise feel gathering with friends and family around the table on Thanksgiving Day in 1938? This was the year Action Comics #1 was published, introducing America to Superman. This was also the year of Wrong Way Corrigan, the nylon toothbrush and, in 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the March of Dimes Polio Fund.

You may not have paid much attention when, in 1938, Adolf Hitler reorganized the German military complex to consolidate his authority. Day-to-day life on the prairie was a struggle, and maybe you didn't have the luxury of time to become unsettled by the mobilization of Czechoslovakia in response to German threats. After all, Europe is so far away, and those Europeans are always fighting about something, like that Spanish Civil War flap beginning in 1936.

Or, maybe, this unceasing military maneuvering in Europe has been unsettling, making you hope that distance counts. Two months ago, in September 1938, the radio broadcast of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" may have made you feel more vulnerable. How did you react, only two weeks ago, after 9 November, when Germans Nazis looted and burned Jewish businesses? Kristallnacht was shocking and, you hope, still far away. But the distances are becoming less protective. Are you wondering what will happen during the year to come, leading up to Thanksgiving 1939?

As everywhere else in America in 1938, the farmers and ranchers in the area of Govert, South Dakota, were living and working through the Great Depression. They never had much before and still found a way to get by even after nine years of economic downturn. Rooted in the middle of the prairie, Goverites may have had reason to be comforted by distance. They could still look to the far horizon and see nothing but their own shadow.

Everyone has something to be thankful for, whether that be a homestead shack or a modest frame house on the prairie, partial protection against the prairie winds, or whether that be a modern home with the luxuries of plumbing and electricity. Even in times of great hardship, men and women still met, fell in love, and they still raised children. Gus and Elizabeth did. They also raised sweet potatoes and turkeys. On this day of thanksgiving, look with eyes of gratitude upon what you have, in whatever circumstances you may find yourself.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Based on an entry in the Govert Advance Thursday, 7 July 1938, reprinting an article originally published in the Bison Courier; with gratitude to the U.S. National Archives for allowing Internet access to holdings in their video archives.]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lorraine Jensen Carlson, Keeper of the History of Sorum, South Dakota (Part 3)

When she was 79, Lorraine Jensen Carlson sighed in remembrance, "There never was a time when I didn't know Smokey Joe." Lorraine grew up behind the counter in the country store that served Sorum, South Dakota. When she was very young, she peered around the end of the counter, the same way other children would hide their faces in their mother's skirt. Then, when her head cleared the top of the counter, Lorraine could help her parents, Beatrice and Otto Jensen. She was, after all, the storekeeper's daughter.

Now, from a perch atop all the years of her life, Lorraine looked back to the beginning, back more than 70 years. She told the story of how she came to know Smokey Joe. At the country store you got to know everyone who walked through the door more than once. And then there was that December so long ago. Was it 1939? You might as well stir chocolate into hot milk and settle in for a while with the comforting warmth of your mug, because Christmas stories are never short.

Remaining true to the operative facts Lorraine shared, perhaps it happened like this.

Trix Jensen stood wearily in front of her kitchen work table and impatiently brushed the uncooperative lock of hair off her forehead. The backward wave of her hand, lifted from the dough resting on the table, added another puff of flour to the air which eventually settled on her hair and on the floral patterned house dress mostly hidden behind the apron hanging from her neck and tied at her waist.

On the table sagged a bag of flour, more empty than full, and another bag of sugar, and boxes and tins of dried fruit. Folded in the box under the table were more bags, already emptied, ready to be made into towels after the holidays. December always was busier than other months, but this was a happy kind of busy. Not only did Beatrice and her husband, Otto, make sure all of their customers at the Sorum store had ample amounts of the same supplies for Christmas baking, Trix needed to steal away from the busy store to bake for her family and for customers who couldn't do for themselves. Trix had a special concern for the old bachelors living in shacks in the area surrounding Sorum.

For four days Trix had swirled flour and sugar and dried prunes, dates, apples and citrus into sweet breads and strudels. She baked dozens and dozens of shortbread cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, removing one baking sheet from the oven and sliding the next one in. Then Trix wrapped her Christmas treats in waxed paper, arranging the packages in baskets, always with a jar of jam or jelly.

Offering Christmas cheer to the old bachelors was part of Beatrice's annual Christmas plan, but this year she had in mind that Lorraine would follow the route with her father to deliver the gifts. "Lorraine!" Trix raised her voice to get the attention of her youngest daughter. "Lorraine, go change your clothes. I want you to help your father deliver these Christmas baskets."

Lorraine did as she was told. She climbed out of last year's clothes she wore for work and play, now faded and too short. Then Lorraine slipped her school dress over her head, pulled clean white cotton anklets over her toes, and tied her school shoes. Lorraine was an obedient child, but she was also curious and sensed something special in the air. The season was, after all, magical.

Lorraine knew one of the baskets would go to Smokey Joe. He was one of the old bachelors her mother fretted over. When Joe came in the store, Lorraine peered out at him from behind the end of the counter. He was a man unlike any she had ever seen. He didn't look like her father or the fathers of any of her friends. Smokey Joe seemed bigger than life to Lorraine. He was a legend, as legends go in Perkins County.

Lorraine saw some women purse their lips disapprovingly and they moved to the side when Smokey Joe was in the store. Men exchanged a few accommodating words with Joe, but nothing more. To Lorraine, Smokey Joe seemed alone, even with other customers in the store. He seemed mad and sad at the same time. Maybe Smokey Joe didn't have a best friend, like she did. And Lorraine wondered whether this is what happened to men who didn't have a wife.

"Otto!" her mother called to her father. "Otto! It's time! The baskets are ready. Take Lorraine with you and deliver the baskets. Don't be back too late." But, of course Trix knew the sky would be its darkest and the air at its coldest when the two Wise Men she sent out returned home to the Jensen house in Sorum.

Lorraine had never been to Smokey Joe's shack. There were always rumors. No one got close to Smokey Joe to know the truth about him. Lorraine didn't know what he was, but she knew what he wasn't. Men who were married were like her father. They went to church. They went to the meetings at school. They knew the schoolteacher, the minister, and everyone else important in their small town. They had jobs. They took baths. When Smokey Joe came to town for supplies, Lorraine knew he wanted to be like the other people in the store. What was it ... was his face cleaner than his clothes? Maybe you had to be an old bachelor to be like Smokey Joe. "Maybe men would never take a bath unless a woman made them," considered Lorraine. And then Lorraine wondered at the power of being a woman.

Lorraine heard her parents talking about Smokey Joe. Well, at least she heard her mother talk. Her father didn't say much about Joe. For a young girl, Lorraine was very observant and, instinctively, Lorraine knew her father's silence was the kind of respect that comes from the sympathy one man holds for another.

What did Beatrice say? Often when Lorraine was supposed to be in bed, she hid where she couldn't be seen and watched her parents sitting by the parlor table in the glow of the kerosene lamp. Beatrice rocked in a chair, pushing the floor rhythmically with her toe, intent on her handwork. Otto, Lorraine's father, sat in a straight chair, reading the Bison Courier. The Govert Advance rested on the table, waiting its turn. Otto liked to keep up with the happenings in other West River towns.

"Otto," Beatrice started. Otto acknowledged his wife with a quick movement of his head in her direction without fully breaking concentration on the local news. "Otto, I worry about those poor bachelors living out there in the country in those rickety, one-room shacks with only tar paper for insulation. It's not healthy. Living alone like that is just not normal." Otto suffered a sigh and turned the page of his newspaper without a word. "You take that Joe Ogden. He's a lost soul. I would bet my last dollar a woman is involved somewhere in this. That man was disappointed in love. All it would take is the love of a good woman ..."

Otto slapped the newspaper against the table. A solid "uff-dah" passed his lips and Beatrice fell silent. That was enough of that.

Without a doubt, whatever Lorraine learned about Smokey Joe, was a combination of what other people said and her own observations. In any case, Lorraine at 79 spoke of Joe Ogden with respect, edged with a sort of fondness, and humor at her own responses as a child.

Beatrice sent Otto and Lorraine to deliver Christmas baskets and out they went. Otto lifted Lorraine up into the passenger seat of the store's delivery truck, and tucked a blanket around her. He looked fondly at his sweetest of daughters, the last child he would raise. She was like him, observant and intent. His baby was wise beyond her years.

He felt the slight breeze, cold on his cheek, and knew this was one of those nights when the crystalline air carried a man's voice endlessly across the prairie, yet tonight he himself would be content to follow the dirt road in his truck. Otto breathed deeply of the night air as he walked around behind the truck he had driven so many miles down prairie roads. He opened the driver's door and climbed up behind the steering wheel.

The delivery truck slowly bounced away from the Jensen house, the dim headlights picking out the edge of the dirt road. Together Otto and Lorraine dropped off baskets with their cheery Christmas greeting, saving the basket for Smokey Joe for last.

When they had driven three miles north of town, Otto turned to Lorraine and said, "When we get to Smokey Joe's place, don't sit down and do not touch anything." Lorraine froze, the implication of her father's words being that she would carry away from Smokey Joe's shack some sort of vermin yet unknown to her. Lorraine's imagination couldn't take her beyond the tiny mice seeking warmth in the house after the summer passed. Mice were common to prairie life; what would happen if she touched the arm of the chair, Lorraine wondered.

As Otto and Lorraine approached the shack where Joe lived, a faint light skittered across the window pane from the inside of the shack. On the prairie you could hear a car approach from a long distance but Joe didn't investigate the noise of wheels churning the dirt road. He waited until Otto knocked before he came to the door, just as if he was expecting Otto and Lorraine, and he played along, a proper host. Joe opened the door and light filtered outward, making a path for Lorraine to follow inside. Joe didn't seem surprised to see them, and the slightly upturned lines around his eyes and his mouth said he was definitely pleased.

With a stiff movement of his hand toward the light inside, Joe invited Otto and Lorraine into this shack which held such mystery for Lorraine. Lorraine wasn't afraid of Smokey Joe. Curious, yes, but not afraid. When he made his weekly trip to the store, Joe could see Lorraine peeking out at him from around the end of the store counter. Joe knew her hiding place and he kept her secret. On her part, Lorraine knew that he knew that she knew that he knew she was there, and that gave them a sort of commonality. It doesn't have to make sense; it just was. Why, there was nothing to be afraid of, Lorraine was confident. She had been curious about how an old bachelor would live, and now she had a chance to see just that. Lorraine marched right past Joe standing there as he was beside the doorway, white anklets bobbing with her steps, and her eyes moved across the room.

Joe boomed, "Have a seat!" Lorraine stopped short and her eyes widened. She sputtered, "But I ...", and her voice trailed off remembering her father's admonition that she not sit and that she not touch anything. She didn't want to say words she sensed to be unkind, and looked pleadingly at her father.

Otto shook his head and smiled, "Now, now, girl, be polite and sit down." Lorraine sat at the edge of the chair Joe offered, feet together, one white anklet touching the other, hands in her lap, attempting to comply the best she could with her father's earlier admonition. "Don't touch anything," he had said. He needn't have cautioned her, because Lorraine didn't want to touch anything.

Mother was right. Joe's home was a tar paper shack, held together by little more than imagination. His life filled one room ... the only room ... a room crowded with a tumble of furniture and Joe's possessions. "Oh," Lorraine thought, "Mother would never stand for this mess and dirt." A layer of prairie soil seemed to cover Joe's few furnishings, but the dirt was disturbed as if Joe made a mostly futile attempt to prepare for visitors. Dirt was inevitable in these old shacks. Any prairie soil not held fast to the ground by the snarled roots of the prairie grass was bound to find its way through the spaces between the boards. The shacks were not built to withstand the wind, carrying with it as it does both soil and the cold.

Lorraine looked intently at Smokey Joe that night. She saw now that Joe's skin and his nails were streaked black and yellow. Years and years of smoking more tobacco than any wife would tolerate must have been part of it ... maybe that's why Joe was called Smokey Joe. Respectfully, Lorraine tried not to stare, but that didn't stop her from looking around.

Empty cans had begun to stack up in the corner waiting for disposal at winter's end. Lorraine knew that bachelors ate a lot of canned food. At the store they bought more cans than the women did. The bachelors also didn't buy as much flour as the women. In fact Lorraine remembered the times Joe arrived at the store late in the day, after the last loaf of ready-made bread had already been sold. He growled, "Dang those women, they should be making their own bread and leave the ready-made bread for those of us who can't." Lorraine thought that was a funny thing to say. Still, somehow she understood.

When the last Christmas greetings were exchanged and father and daughter returned to the delivery truck, Otto once again tucked the blanket around his little girl, and father and daughter headed back to town. Otto glanced down at his daughter, as she struggled to stay awake, and thought how proud he was of her. He reached over and pulled the blanket up where it had slipped from her shoulder. "My baby is growing up so fast. How many more times will I share a Christmas miracle with Lorraine before she is completely grown and off with her own family?" Otto knew, with certainty, Lorraine was his very own Christmas miracle.

At 79, Lorraine remembers that Joe Ogden sold his shack to an itinerant combiner from Oklahoma. This laborer was working up near Sorum, traveling with his wife and children in a sort of primitive motor home he built. Smokey Joe had let the family park on his land. After that Joe packed up what little he had worth taking and moved down to the Govert area.

I've also heard it said that, one day, a few years after the Christmas visit made by Otto and Lorraine, a rusty old bus limped into Sorum. In the bus lived a dirty woman, long past hoping, and a passel of dirty children. They were in desperate need of a place to live, and even more desperately in need of hope. Joe Ogden traded his decrepit one-room shack for their even more decrepit bus so the family could finally have a home, a proper roof, even if it was attached by little more than imagination. Then Joe nursed that old bus 28 miles until he reached the Govert townsite, and there he scuttled it, making this metal shell his new home.

Other stories have been told about Smokey Joe, one about a fire in Joe's tar shack, in which he was badly burned.

What happened after that Christmas visit? How did Joe Ogden become the last resident of the Govert townsite? Which story is true? Maybe they all are. Or maybe not. That's the way it is with people who have become legends, people who have been given a special name like "Smokey Joe".

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Written with gratitude to Lorraine Jensen Carlson for sharing her memories.]

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lorraine Jensen Carlson, Keeper of the History of Sorum, South Dakota (Part 2)

What has never been written ... and what has never been told ... will be forever lost. For those who want to know more about the past, too much has already been lost. What's to be done? Tell what you know and write what you've heard. Become a storyteller and a scribe.

Here, today, you will read much of what Lorraine Jensen Carlson shared of her recollections as the storekeeper's daughter in Sorum, South Dakota. Lorraine and I talked 23 June 2010 when I had near given up trying to find the true identity of Smokey Joe, the last person to live on the Govert townsite 28 miles from Sorum. Not only did Lorraine know Smokey Joe's real name, she met him when she was just a slip of a girl. And all this Lorraine told me matter of factly, as if she didn't realize she had just solved my mystery of the decade. "There never was a time when I didn't know Smokey Joe," said Lorraine. She gave me this gift, and then she gave me so much more. Lorraine shared her memories as the storekeeper's daughter.

The Sorum store was already up and running when Lorraine's parents arrived in 1921. Unlike the store in Govert, which was owned and operated as a partnership by Govert Van der Boom and Howard Jacobs, the store in Sorum was owned by a group of ranchers who hired Lorraine's parents, Otto Jensen and Beatrice Dearborn, to manage the business. Folks thereabouts knew the Jensens as “O.W.” and “Trix”. Eventually these storekeepers also became store owners when they succeeded in buying the shares of stock held by the ranchers.

The store tended by O.W. and Trix in Sorum was a wood frame building, at a time when wood buildings and heating technology existed in an uneasy balance. Fuel was coal, wood or kerosene and, with these fuels, fires were common. As in so many other prairie disasters, the Sorum store, too, became a statistic when the kerosene stove exploded and reduced the building and the inventory inside to ash and cinder and the oddly shaped debris of melted manufactured objects.

Even with this fire to discourage them, the Jensens wasted no time setting up a successor store, this time in an empty building across the street. There the Jensens continued to serve their customers, rebuilding the earlier store on the same spot, this time out of adobe brick. Members of the community worked hard to raise the adobe building. In normal years store customers would run a tab all year and then pay in the fall. This year they could exchange their labor to reduce their store debt.

Then, as fate would have it, the interim store burned, too, this time in a fire believed to have been started by bootleggers stealing sugar. Lorraine remembered many rural stores were robbed for sugar to make whiskey, naming the stores at Date, east down Rabbit Creek from Sorum, and Reva, to the west of Sorum and just north of the Slim Buttes. The common element to these robberies was the singular focus on sugar.

Just before the fire, the Jensens took possession of the Friday shipment at the Sorum store. Every Friday wholesalers sent the Sorum store a shipment of staples: 500 pounds of flour and 500 pounds of sugar, in addition to everything else the Jensens needed to keep their customers content. In the ruins of the store, O.W. and Trix found no burned sugar, no crystallized sugar, no melted sugar. The fire in Sorum was believed to be arson, a cover for the larceny of sugar.

With the nightmare of two fires, storekeepers with less persistence might have packed up their family and moved on, but the Jensens just moved back across the street. The store being built of adobe brick was only half complete. The Jensens served their customers from the basement until they could once again do business at street level.

Through all the moves from one side of the street to the other, the Sorum store continued to carry every imaginable staple, including the core staples of canned foods, flour, sugar, and salt. In later years, the store even offered ready-made white bread, a favorite for bachelors and busy housewives. Without reliable refrigeration, the store at Sorum did not sell raw meat. Canned sardines and salmon were in big demand, but raw meat would have to wait for refrigeration to come to town.

Before the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) brought electricity to the area in the late 1940s, Lorraine's father had a wind-charger and generator. When the wind didn’t blow, her father would start the generator, which was a long row of batteries in the basement. With the wind-charger and the generator, the Jensens could keep food cool, they just couldn’t refrigerate or freeze food. As to alternative power sources, Lorraine remarked that, in the years approaching the mid-century mark, more people had refrigerators and stoves that ran on bottled gas.

Then Lorraine talked about the connection between the store in Sorum and Sorum High School. The high school cafeteria, a critical feature of what amounted to a boarding school, was set up in the basement of the store. Living conditions there for the cook were primitive, as were the kitchen facilities. Lorraine wondered how the town ever convinced the cooks to stay. Still, the cooks were enthusiastic and the students well fed. The cooks were assisted by high school students who washed dishes and cleaned the cafeteria in exchange for tuition and room and board. The boys were the ones who, in the absence of plumbing, hauled clean water in from the well, and the dirty water back out.

Sorum High School was not Lorraine's alma mater, as the school closed the year her older brother, Reed, graduated, Lorraine says in 1941. Lorraine's sister Joan, who was three years older than Reed, and 10 years older than Lorraine, also went to Sorum High School. The high school was a blessing to Sorum and to the ranchers and farmers from the area, Lorraine said. The children would learn what they could in the local country schools, but many families couldn’t afford to send their children further than Sorum for the higher grades. However, with the school cafeteria in the basement of the store, and the boys’ dorm in an old flour mill, the high school was struggling and, finally, the high school closed.

Look at the hour! Smokey Joe's big "reveal" may have to wait for another time. Because everyone deserves the respect of a family name, I'll tell you that Joe was Josiah, also known as Joseph F. Ogden. You'll see Mr. Ogden's name again.

Joe Ogden will be remembered, thanks to Lorraine. Lorraine's detailed brush-work of Sorum will also survive her. Being Lorraine's scribe is an historian's pleasure. You might be surprised by how attached you can become to the people who have the answers to the questions you failed to ask.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Written with gratitude to Lorraine Jensen Carlson for sharing her memories of Sorum.]

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lorraine Jensen Carlson, Keeper of the History of Sorum, South Dakota (Part 1)

Have you ever paused to listen to the voices in the wind stirring the prairie grass? The wind remembers the voices, joyful voices, sorrowful voices. Listen to the wind blowing through the prairie grass on a summer day and you will hear the lilt of the children of the prairie.

The wind's testimony cautions us to remember every child of the prairie. Lorraine Jensen Carlson, was a child of the prairie who, as an adult, became a keeper of the history of Sorum, South Dakota. Sorum was the small town in Perkins County hosting Thrall Academy. When I wrote about Thrall Academy in August and revisited Thrall Academy in September, I couldn't consult with Lorraine. Lorraine Jensen Carlson died two months before I started writing that story.

What I learned about Lorraine, and from Lorraine, since 2010 gives me cause to be grateful for Ma Bell and her successors and competitors. Without the telephone, I would have missed meeting Lorraine Jensen, the child of the prairie, through her stories, and Lorraine Carlson, the woman, a prairie historian who continued to have the strongest of connections with the North Country. Lorraine's parents were the proprietors of the country store in Sorum, just as Govert and Emma Van der Boom tended the country store in Govert. Sorum fit the template of all small country towns west of the Missouri River in South Dakota. The experience of life in Govert would be similar to the experience of life in Sorum 28 miles distant, or any other small West River town, even giving full credit to the effect of distinctive personalities. Lorraine remembered, and she shared this experience with me, connected as we were by telephone.

Lorraine remembered even more than this. Without the telephone, and without Lorraine on the other end of the line, the true identity of the last resident of Govert, South Dakota, may have remained hidden. I would still be wondering "Who in the world was Smokey Joe?" In my South Dakota travels, by car, by phone, by email and by the US Postal System, I asked everyone who would listen, "Who was Smokey Joe?" No one knew him by any other name and never questioned whether Joe had a family or even a family name. "He's just Smokey Joe", they said. Smokey Joe is no longer lost, his identity is no longer a mystery. Smokey Joe's story was a crossover story from Sorum to Govert.

And, without the telephone, I would have missed the joy of getting to know Lorraine, just a little bit.

Lorraine wrote her own obituary, so I've been told. I believe that report because any other author would have shared more of this wonderful woman than Lorraine did herself. Characteristic of Lorraine, her obituary was low key, even modest. After the necessary introduction detailing that Lorraine died in her own home 8 July 2013 at the age of 82 from complications of cancer, these are the words that appeared:

"[Lorraine Jensen Carlson] was born in Hettinger, ND, to Otto and Beatrice Jensen of Sorum, SD. She and Dewayne Carlson of Bison, SD, were married July 2, [1951], in Rapid City. She is survived by a son, Wade Carlson (special friend, Margaret Joseph); a granddaughter, Mackenzie (Jason) Grimes; her two beloved great-granddaughters; nieces; and a nephew. She was preceded in death by her husband; an infant son, Craig; a sister, Joan Meyer; a brother, Reed Jensen; and her parents. At her request there will be no funeral services. Celebrate her life by doing a random act of kindness. Love you forever. [signed] Mom."

"Why so sparse, Lorraine?" I wanted to ask her. But I already knew what her response would have been: "I didn't want anyone to fuss. I lived my life quietly, and I see no reason to change that now." Unassuming prairie folks. You can take the girl out of the prairie, but you can't take the prairie out of the girl.

I hope you are the reader who knew Lorraine best. If you are, and if you feel I'm not the best person to create a memory of Lorraine, you're right. I've never chatted with Lorraine over a cup of coffee. I've never shared a South Dakota evening with her raking through the old times. I never drove Lorraine to the medical center and I never held her hand while she endured round after round of cancer treatment. Lorraine and I could not boast a friendship born of shared experience. However, Lorraine and I did share something quite real, that being our appreciation for the small prairie towns of times past. One thing I can do for Lorraine is remember her voice in the wind. Lorraine was born a child of the prairie, and the spirit of that child running through the prairie grass never left her.

Lorraine was kind, thoughtful and, with the respect due the word as was given in her day, Lorraine was a lady. She communicated a sense of grace and graciousness, even on the telephone. Her mind was keen and her disposition patient, polite and friendly. She had determination and perseverance, and even cheer, in the face of what the rest of us would consider disaster. When cancer can’t be cured, you have few choices, and when Lorraine made her choice, she set the standard for acceptance, endurance, and love. Lorraine was a women other women could respect.

Next week I'll tell you about life on the prairie as Lorraine experienced growing up in Sorum, South Dakota. But first, let's take a look at Lorraine's last request that we celebrate her life by doing a random act of kindness. Her sparse obituary required few words and occupies only a few lines of newspaper print, little more than her birth in 1931 and her death in 2013 separated by a dash. The space represented by the dash tells you how this friend, neighbor, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt lived. Lorraine says no funeral, no flowers, no contributions to a favorite charity. "Celebrate [my] life by doing a random act of kindness. Love you forever. [signed] Mom." How much tenderness of heart does it require to make this last request and leave this public bequest of love? How many random acts of kindness do you think God credits Lorraine in her 82 years? When she was growing up, random acts of kindness were simply referred to as neighbors helping neighbors. This was the code of the prairie.

Maybe, having met Lorraine today, and learning more about her story next week, you will contribute a random act of kindness to her memory, too. All it takes is being kind to your neighbor, a long-time neighbor you know, or a person who becomes a neighbor by virtue of temporary proximity. Practice this for as long as Lorraine did and maybe you can change the world. Did Lorraine change the world? Don't short-change the possibility of a woman living a quiet life having this power. I believe Lorraine did change the world.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass ... and to the voices in the wind. Kate

[Written with gratitude to Lorraine Jensen Carlson for sharing her memories, and to Marie Kulisich for introducing us.]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Twas a Very Good Year in Govert, South Dakota

Govert Van der Boom was reflective as he slid the invoices from one side of his desk to the other. Sitting at the desk in the back corner of his general store in Govert, South Dakota, he was reflective, yes, but at the same time he was barely suppressing a celebratory whoop. Govert Van der Boom was feeling pretty good. He was feeling confident. In fact, he was nearing the top of his game. Maybe he was even on top of the world!

September always did seem a good time for reflection. A time for renewal. September was when it began. With not a single customer in the store needing his assistance, or pulling him from the desk to ponder the weather and the crops, Govert put his elbow on the desk, and his chin in his hand. And he closed his eyes.

Back in September '09, wasn't it, that he and Howard Jacobs came up to Belle Fourche from Wessington Springs? At the Land Commissioner's office in Belle, they each filed a claim for a homestead nearly 70 miles to the northeast. "A claim right where I'm sitting." Govert turned in his chair and looked slowly around the empty store, amusing himself with the change brought by the years. Govert blinked and drew in his breath. "Here it is 1928 and I've been on this corner of the prairie for near 20 years."

Back in '09 ... 1909, that is ... the township chosen by the two men was nearly unpopulated. Those were good days, heady days, days of town building. "God sees, and God provides. Howard and I only helped him along." Govert and Howard were proud of their town. People liked living here. Most people didn't have more than they needed and were happy that way. They had enough. "Been more than 12 years since Howard sold me his interest in the store and moved his wife to the city." Govert and Emma had been married about four years when Howard and Laura left. "Been 16 years now that I've been married to my Emma." And then Govert smiled that charming smile of his.

The Govert Mercantile had always carried a good inventory, all the staples, like flour, sugar, coffee, canned meat, sometimes even a barrel of salted fish stood outside the door of the store. And other important items to lighten the heart ... like sweets. Govert never could resist gathering up a few luxury items on his trips to Belle Fourche and later to Newell after the railroad built a spur there. The necessaries were necessary, but Govert was sure the unnecessaries were necessary, too. Govert Van der Boom liked to see the eyes of the women and their children brighten when they entered the store. A few toys. The girls always liked to look at a doll, and the little boys liked wagons. He always stocked pretty fabric for the ladies.

And now Govert was also selling more and larger things, machinery for the farms and ranches. Govert Van der Boom had become a salesman and service agent for the International Harvester Company.


On 1 September 1928 Govert Van der Boom finished the sales year for the International Harvester Company, his first year selling McCormick-Deering machinery. Sitting there at his desk, Govert reviewed the invoices for the equipment he sold over the last 12 months. He fished a blank piece of paper from the drawer, picked up a pencil, and made a list.

Howard Sheridan .... Corn Binder
Nick Lale .... Corn Binder
John Weurzer .... Corn Binder
Clem Bruggeman .... Corn Binder
Frank Balduiki .... Cream Separator
Herbert Scofield .... Cream Separator
A.C. Noyce .... Cream Separator
Chas. Scofield .... Cream Separator
Chris Wamman .... Cream Separator
Martin Blomberg .... Cream Separator
C.C. Howard .... Cream Separator
T.H. Bekken .... Cream Separator
F. DeJeager .... Manure Spreader
Clem Bruggeman .... 10-20 tractor
Mrs. A. Bakka .... 9 ft. Grain Drill
Harry Class .... 10 ft. Grain Drill
Clem Bruggeman .... Tractor Plows
L.R. Jones .... 10-20 Tractor
Mrs. A. Bakka .... Corn Planter
Clem Bruggeman .... Tractor Disc
L.R. Jones .... Tractor Plows
W.B. Willard .... Overshot Stacker
James Mishler .... Disc
R.F. Ruby .... Manure Spreader
W.B. Willard .... 4-Wheel Sweep
W.J. Adams .... Seeder
G. Aukland .... 3-row Lister Cultivator
G. Van der Boom .... Red Baby Truck
Link Storm .... 10-ft. Hay Rake
Dan Cresman .... 10-ft. Hay Rake
Willard Esler .... Big Six Mower
Wm. Marty .... Big Six Mower
R.F. Ruby .... Overshot Stacker
John Bekken .... 8-ft. Grain Binder
Coe Bros. .... 16-ft. Harvester Thresher
R.F. Ruby .... Sweep Rake
A.M. Nelson .... 7-ft. Grain Binder
Fred Millett .... 12-ft. Header
Geo. Escherich .... 8-ft. Grain Binder
Burke Bros. .... 10-ft. Sulky Hay Rake
H.L. Schofield .... Corn Binder
Willie Willerett .... Corn Binder
E.S. Smith .... 6 Speed Special Truck
Nick Lale .... Big Six Mower

Govert Van der Boom looked up from his records now splayed across his desk, and then added at the bottom of the sheet of paper: three Jungers ranges, three Parlor furnaces, several Maytag washing machines, 5 second hand cream separators, one second hand tractor and a set of tractor plows.


1927 and 1928 were good years in Govert, South Dakota. They must have been. The ranchers in Govert were feeling confident about the future or they wouldn't be placing orders for equipment for the upcoming corn and hay crops. Butter was always a reliable "cash crop", too, and Govert did a good business selling new and used cream separators. Govert Van der Boom would not have had a good year selling if the neighbors were not also having a good year.

Govert and Emma Van der Boom had cause to be optimistic with this impressive report card. The sales made in 1927 and 1928 showed they had a good customer base. These were the homesteaders who remained after proving their claims, and these were also landowners who bought land from homesteaders who moved on. The machinery sales proved to them that Govert, South Dakota, was buoyed by an enthusiastic population, neighbors and friends who had a then-present determination to continue to make a life in that isolated corner of Harding County.

How were they to know? How were Govert Van der Boom, Emma Van der Boom, or any of their customers to know? They all found something satisfying about living on the prairie, partly that sense of being responsible for their own destiny. How were any of them to know Govert, South Dakota, was already passing its prime? How were they to know their destiny would soon be overwhelmed by forces beyond their control? How were they to know the Stock Market would crash in a little more than a year? How were they to know the Depression lurked just around the corner? How were they to know? How was anyone to know?

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Story based on an untitled news bite in the Govert Advance, 27 September 1928]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Little Women Go to School in Govert, South Dakota

Like snowflakes, the two little girls danced in the cold morning air in Govert, South Dakota. From a distance, the two little girls appeared no different than any of the other children playing at recess. Close up, Marie and Alice Mae were amazingly different, unique in their beauty. If we were casting Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Marie would play Josephine and Alice Mae would be Beth. Or maybe Alice Mae would be Amy, as she had qualities of both March daughters in Little Women.

Marie Kulisich and Alice Mae West were born three months apart in 1930, and each lived on her family's ranch in Govert Township. When the time came for the two little girls to start school, each walked through the door of the one room Govert country schoolhouse and, during the years that followed, each little girl eagerly applied herself to her studies. They both liked school, Marie and Alice Mae.

In their claim to Govert and to the country school, they were the same, but all their teachers could see the difference between the two little girls. For one, Marie was a tomboy. When she wasn't in school, Marie played with the goats and the bum lambs on the Kulisich ranch and she wandered the prairie barefoot upturning rocks to see what would wiggle out from the spit of moisture beneath. Alice Mae was as much girl as rugged prairie life would allow. At the West house, a doll could be found, and Alice Mae would play as little girls are known to play.

As different as the two girls might have seemed to some adults, they were best friends in a country school where Marie and Alice Mae were the entire first grade. When they last saw each other after finishing the 6th grade in Govert School, they had no way of knowing that more than 70 years would pass before they would see each other again. But that is putting the cart in front of the horse. That is where we should end, not begin.

When Marie and Alice Mae started the first grade in 1936 at the country school in Govert, South Dakota, they were already familiar with the school building. The Govert school was the only public building in the township other than the Govert Store, which was also the post office. Alice Mae's big sister, Evaline (who would play Meg in our version of Little Women), attended Govert School. Alice Mae's brothers had gone to school here. So had Marie's brothers and sister. The Govert School is where the two little girls went to church when a preacher was available and, from this place after a community social event, they would ride home across the prairie tucked under a warm blanket in the bed of a wagon in the earliest, darkest morning hours.

Like the March sisters, the two little girls were poor, Marie and Alice Mae. Louisa May Alcott would call theirs a genteel poverty. Their families experienced no poverty of spirit, nor did they lack in self-determination, or pride in the labor of their own hands. Still, they were as poor as the school. The school board could never give Govert School new books to start a school year; all the schoolbooks were well-thumbed by other students. Likewise, Marie and Alice Mae never had new clothes to wear the first day of school in the fall.

The two little girls didn't know they were poor. They were born into the Depression, and this modest prairie life was all they knew. Besides, pretty much everyone out there in the North Country was a church mouse. Marie and Alice Mae went to school, did their chores, played games, went on picnics ... and always looked forward to the P.T.A. meetings which offered entertainment so wonderful that the two little girls might squeal anticipating the fun they would have. Oftentimes, they themselves supplied the entertainment with a song or a dance they learned at school. The March sisters would agree with Marie and Alice Mae that being poor didn't seem like such a bad thing when you were loved and having fun.

You never did see two little girls who liked school as much, whether they were tending to their lessons, heads together, or whether they were running lickety split across the schoolyard during recess. The seven children attending Govert School in 1939 would rather have been playing pump-pump-pullaway at recess, but they stood quietly enough, for long enough, that a photographer managed to capture their picture. In the back row, left to right are Billy Lale, Alice Mae West, Evaline West, and Marie Kulisich. In the front row are Edwin Springer, Sonny Springer, and Mercedes Hafner.


Fifteen minutes for recess! Playing tag in a dress was not the easiest thing, but all the girls wore dresses to school in the 1930s and for decades after, tomboy or not. What amazing talent it took for their mothers to sew such style into a dress cut from another dress worn by an older sister, a favorite auntie, or one of mother's old dresses, or made from flour sacks ... such pretty collars and puffed sleeves, and nice lines. Mom probably wasn't happy to see the dirty knees and soiled dresses when Marie and Alice Mae came home after school, but what is a little girl to do at recess but to risk getting dirty? And did a little girl really care at the moment she tore across the schoolyard and slid on her side through the prairie dirt? For sure, Louise West and Nikla Kulisich washed a lot of soiled dresses during the school year ... without electricity, without plumbing.

After an energy-taming recess, Marie and Alice Mae were ready for two more hours of quietly sitting in desks lined up facing the teacher, studying math and spelling and reading. Marie and Alice Mae memorized phonetics from a flip chart, and quizzed each other on spelling words. Then, when Marie went back to school in the fall of 1942, she no longer had Alice Mae to run her through spelling drills. That summer was the last time the two little snowflakes saw each other for years and years to come. They would both have hair the color of snow before they shared the same room again.

Alice Mae started the 7th grade in Newell, South Dakota, about 50 miles south of Govert School. Marie moved with her parents to Newell for high school but, by that time, Alice Mae and her family had moved on to Plainview Academy in Redfield, South Dakota, where Alice Mae went to high school. Alice Mae grew up, went to college, became a teacher and a social worker; she married and raised two children, a son and a daughter. Marie married and raised two sons, and became an artist working in ceramics, glass, porcelain, textiles, and even words. Marie created art in her garden, too. Be patient for a little longer and I will show you Marie's Monet.

Marie and Alice Mae wrote letters over the years, but something more than 70 years passed before they were to meet again. On 16 August 2013, Alice Mae and Marie had a reunion in the Black Hills. This is how Marie remembers the day:

I'm grateful for this joy
that came to me today
Alice Mae and I
are 83 years young!

How many times
can we start a story at six
and continue it for 70 years
with such love and affection?

I wasn't there, and neither were you, but this picture allows us to "remember" the day, too. Even though Alice Mae (left) and Marie are standing in Marie's garden, an artistic masterpiece fit for Monet ... and even though the day is warm ... remember these women, once school chums as girls ... remember them as snowflakes, each unique in her own beauty.
 

That was a good week for Marie, because a few days earlier Marie also had a reunion with Alice Mae's older sister, Evaline West. After leaving Govert and finishing her studies, Evaline became a college dean, a professor and a counselor. All three women, Marie, Alice Mae and Evaline, can call this life that began in Govert, South Dakota, a good one. These are strong, talented women. Real women, honest, resourceful, hard-working, just like their parents who settled in Govert, South Dakota. They believe in God. They believe in family. They believe in community. The same is true for Evaline's and Alice Mae's little sister, Shirley Jean. None of them, not a single one of these four women, became a niminy piminy chit.

If you haven't read Little Women for a few years, you might have forgotten about niminy piminy chits. Don't have a copy of Little Women on your bookshelf? Can't get to the library today? You can read the book on-line or download the book right here: Little Women.

Perhaps Shirley Jean and Alice Mae can tell us who, between them, should be cast as Beth March and who will play Amy March.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Written with a tip of the hat to Louisa May Alcott, and with gratitude to Marie Kulisich and Alice Mae West for their memories. Pictures used with the permission of Alice Mae West.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Join Us at the Basket Social in Govert, South Dakota

You know about basket socials, don't you? Last week I told you about the basket social planned by the Govert, South Dakota, P.T.A. for 26 October 1928 to accompany the Halloween program at the schoolhouse. If I tell you about basket socials, maybe you'll join us.

A basket social is not just a matter of baskets. The baskets are full of food. But a basket social is not just a matter of food. A basket social was a matter of legitimatized public flirting. Say what? A basket social involved a girl and a boy, a basket or box supper for two, and an auctioneer. This was bona fide entertainment by those who participated and for those who watched. A basket social was the perfect opportunity for the hardworking unmarried men and women of Govert, South Dakota, to meet each other in a safe environment. No legal consequences attached to eating supper over a basket of food. Still, a courtship might arise from a basket social.

So how does this work? If you were an available girl of at least such-and-such an age, within your father's tolerance, you spent all afternoon worrying in the kitchen over your basket supper. In fact you may have been worrying about your basket, and how it would be received, since the basket social was announced. For this P.T.A. event in October 1928, you might have been worrying a whole month. You need not have worried. After all, if your kitchen skills are limited, you might enlist your mother and pass off her cooking as your own. Do you think this was ever done? I thought so.

Me? I would have made sandwiches for my basket. Thick slices of fresh baked bread slathered with fresh churned sweet butter and layer upon layer of thinly sliced roast beef. A bowl of potato salad. And a whole apple pie. Men like roast beef sandwiches, potato salad, and pies of every variety, don't they? What to drink ... maybe I'll add a big canning jar full of lemonade. I'll make room for a small jar of my watermelon pickles. And a jar of my raspberry jam for the winning bidder to take home. Maybe I'll tie a ribbon around a scrap of calico to cover the lid of the jam jar. That would fancy up the jam jar nicely.

I would put together an attractive basket of scrumptious food, as if my social standing depended on it. And maybe it did. No soggy sandwiches in my basket. The pie crust would be perfect, flaky, not too much salt, not too much fat. With the first of two freshly pressed tea towels, I'd line the basket. I'd arrange the second tea towel so the towel didn't quite cover the pie resting on top. With my prize pie peeking out, my basket is sure to get some good bids! Into the basket I'd tuck two freshly pressed cloth napkins. No one would ever know I made the linens from flour sacks, unless their flour came in the same patterned fabric. Maybe I'll attach a paper cutout of a pumpkin to make my basket seasonal. Horror of horrors, what if no one bids on my basket? Or what if bidding is unenthusiastic? Would I survive the humiliation?

To be sure my best beau, if I had one, bid on my basket, I would make sure he knew the color of the tea towel covering my basket. You see, the boys weren't supposed to know which basket went with which girl and that was part of the fun of it. How often do you suppose the boy knew which basket to bid on? I thought so.

Then I would take a bath, crimp my hair, and put on my best Sunday dress, freshly pressed. Do you get an idea of how much ironing was done back in the last century?

That night, the Govert community will gather at the one room schoolhouse, rush through P.T.A. business, mingle for a while and, when the time for supper arrives, the boys ... maybe we should be talking men and women here ... then the men would bid on the baskets. Every eligible man was hoping for a good meal with a pretty woman ... with individual preferences as to the relative priority to these two qualifications.

The men who didn't have to keep an eye on the color of the cloth covering the basket were the lucky ones. They could bid or not bid. A man could bid on a particular basket because he saw a woman he secretly admired add her basket to the others. Or he could bid for the fun of eating dinner with a yet unidentified woman. He could bid because he believed in the activity promoted by the proceeds of the auction. If the auctioneer swung the gavel on his last bid ... "SOLD!" ... he was a happy man.

Imagine, however, the unfortunate man who had a limited cash reserve and high expectations levied on him by a woman's ego. He was in danger of losing her favor if he did not outbid the competition for the basket covered with the identifying tea towel. Don't you think the other men knew this? Don't you think they would keep the bid running higher and higher? I thought so. Men tend to get mighty generous under these circumstances.

Likewise, my worries about no one bidding on my basket were flawed. Given the forum, a charitable activity in the schoolhouse of a small rural prairie community, no doubt the best of human nature prevailed over the worst of human nature that Friday night in October 1928. The older men, especially, knew to bid up the prices so the young men didn't get off easy, and to assure the bids by the young men were respectful. And some old bachelor would be there who, out of kindness, would treat the poorest looking basket as a feast fit for a king.

After unbridled laughter, high hopes, and much blushing by the women, each winning bidder would claim the basket and the attention of the woman who prepared the basket. Basket socials were intended to raise money for a community cause, as in October 1928 to promote school athletic activities. That goal had been met by the time the winning bidder settled down to eat. Beyond that, graciousness was considered to be a beautiful thing in a woman.

The auction assured some people had a special meal that night, but what about everyone else? This kind of hearty entertainment can create an appetite. The women not participating in the auction brought food to share, assuring the husbands and children and the men who had no basket to claim were well fed. No one goes away hungry from a community event like this. Enjoyable entertainment, pleasant socializing, and good food made for a perfect evening on the South Dakota prairie. And, for the man still seeking supper with the prairie woman of his dreams, there was always the next time.

Here we go a courtin'! Maybe yes. Maybe no. As my husband, Russ, was quick to note, a basket social is an intriguing variation on what we would refer to today as a blind date, a blind date within a protective social structure.

I probably shouldn't get carried away planning a basket for the basket social, because I'm a married woman. I suppose that is something more than a mere technicality. In any case, I think I'll take the apple pie for the community dinner. I still have my reputation in the kitchen to protect, but maybe I won't be quite so particular about the crust ...

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Govert, South Dakota, Organizes a Parent Teacher Association

It was a Friday afternoon in Govert, South Dakota, 85 years ago, less a week. October days in the North Country started cool and ended cold, but the afternoons were still comfortably warm. Leona Danielson waved good-bye to the children at the door of Govert School, even though she would see them again in just a matter of hours. The teacher of the first six grades quickly swept the floor and cleaned the blackboards one more time in preparation for when the children would return that night with their parents. As she set wood aside for the stove, Miss Danielson felt a flutter of excitement.

Soon darkness would fall and wagons would roll through the prairie grass toward the schoolhouse. The Govert community would stream through the door, one adult, one child, after another, until the single room was much fuller than it was during the school day. Her role tonight would be to advocate organizing the Parent Teacher Association for the Govert, South Dakota, country school. She was confident the community was in favor of a P.T.A., so she had no worries on that account. She knew already that Govert Van der Boom, the founder of the town, supported the P.T.A., and so did Charles Laflin, the editor of the town newspaper, the Govert Advance. These two community leaders would stand beside her and Mr. Williams, the teacher of the high school aged students. This evening was going to be a triumph!

The following Thursday, 4 October 1928, Charles Laflin reported their progress in organizing the P.T.A. in the Govert Advance:

"At the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Delbert A. Williams and Miss Leona Danielson, our teachers, the pupils and parents met at the Govert schoolhouse last Friday evening at which time a Parent-Teacher Association was organized with D.A. Williams, Chairman, Chas. Laflin, Sec-Treas., Miss L. Danielson, H.L. Scofield and Govert L. Van der Boom, Program Committee. Grown-ups as well as the children are to participate in making the programs a success.

"An impromptu, wholesome program led by our teachers and in which Mrs. Lydia Gee, Herb Scofield, Mitch Kulisich, Lester Hafner, Ira Grayson and a number of the children participated provoked much laughter. A Basket Social and Hollow-o-e'en program are to be the features for Friday evening, Oct. 26th, at the Govert schoolhouse. The proceeds from the sale of the baskets are to be used to promote school Athletic Activities.

"You are cordially invited - so come, please. The P.T.A. is doing much to bridge over difficulties that might arise in schools and to promote everything that is for the best interest of all concerned in other towns - so why not here.

"We heartily endorse the P.T.A. movement and pledge our best efforts toward its success."

A Program Committee of three people? A Basket Social? A Halloween party? That sounds promising!

The P.T.A. was embraced by the entire community and was a great success in Govert, South Dakota. This new civic organization encouraged an active interest in Govert School by every member of the community, parent or not. Perhaps even more important, the P.T.A. became a cohesive social activity drawing together not only parents and teachers, but all the children and adults in the Govert community and beyond.

Why? Opportunities for social interaction were important to this hard-working, rural population. What better opportunity for social interaction could be found than the increasingly popular Govert P.T.A. entertainments followed by supper. Skits. Dances performed by the children. Readings. Songs. Musical instruments. Many smiles and much laughter. And good food ... sandwiches, cake, coffee. Without a doubt, P.T.A. nights drew farmers and ranchers from as far beyond the township boundaries as a man or a woman was willing to ride in a horse drawn wagon. These were the Friday nights when wagons bumping through the prairie grass from every direction merged on the schoolhouse. Then, when the entertainment was concluded and the supper finished, deep into the night, the horses happily re-engaged in this unintended choreography, reversing the wheel-spoke pattern as they headed home to their stalls, carrying a tired, contented cargo to their own beds.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dateline Govert, South Dakota: Truth in Storytelling (Part 3)

Here we are, back in Govert, South Dakota, where last week I told you about Peter Vogt, one of my family's epic storytellers. Peter was the father of four Goverites. His oldest daughter, Emma Vogt Van der Boom, lived at the epicenter of Govert, South Dakota, where the Govert Store and the Van der Boom residence stood side by side. The rumble of daily social activity in this rural area was concentrated in the Govert Store. Next door, in the residence, Emma shared a pillow with the man whose name was on the store, the post office, the newspaper, and the town. The storytelling skills of Emma's father, Peter Vogt, added a fable to the family narrative that became the family's truth for over 100 years. Now we're going to explore what happens when the truth becomes a fable for another epic storyteller.

To do that we will travel across the Missouri River from West River to East River. In the area of Letcher, South Dakota, my family's other epic storyteller, Adolf Zoss, told a story that was the truth, but no one believed him. Adolf Zoss's relationship to Govert, South Dakota, is more tenuous than that of Peter Vogt. However, Adolf's story is important to make my point about the value of all kinds of family stories ... and, yes, I can conjure a connection. Adolf Zoss was two degrees of separation from Govert, South Dakota. Adolf was the grandfather of the woman who was to share the marital pillow with Emma's youngest son. That woman would be my mother, Christene Volzke, an East River girl. Emma's youngest son, Roger, spent his earliest years running through the prairie grass in Govert, South Dakota, on the West River side of the Missouri.

What is Adolf's story? Adolf Zoss and his wife, Amelia, lived on a farm outside of Letcher, South Dakota. Adolf climbed out of bed one fall morning in 1945, with no reason to believe the day he woke into would be any different from any other day. Amelia cooked up a farmer's breakfast on the wood stove just like she did yesterday and all the other mornings of their 50 year marriage. Amelia deftly threw together Adolf's customary breakfast of bacon with eggs fried in the bacon fat, toast, oatmeal or cold cereal, juice. And, of course, coffee with a spot of milk. Adolf poured his coffee into the deep saucer and drank from the saucer in the way his family did in Switzerland.

Nothing was amiss and neither Adolf nor Amelia had a clue how the day would unroll. The day started cool and warmed up with the sun. Conditions were perfect for pheasant hunting. After breakfast Adolf reached for his shotgun, his dog perked at the signal, and the two headed for the fields. Adolf wasn't sure what he enjoyed most, the challenge of the hunt, a leisurely fall day with his dog beside him, or the beauty of pheasant taking flight over the South Dakota fields he loved so much.

Adding to Adolf's assurance that all was right in the world was the Zoss family's recent jubilation in celebration of the end of World War II. Adolf's son, Fred, would be coming home soon, if he was not already back in South Dakota by that time. Victory in Europe was declared a few months ago on 8 May 1945, and the Japanese surrendered on 2 September. Already things were looking up in America and in South Dakota, and in Adolf's farm fields outside of Letcher.

The day was peaceful out in the fields ... until that blasted automobile came rumbling down the road a bit too fast, shooing the pheasant into flight. An old Ford, was it? No new cars around this close to the war. In the automobile were Lawrence Welk of "Champagne Music" fame, singers Jayne Walton and Bobby Beers, and trombonist Lauren Brown. Someone else was there, too, and that someone had a camera. We may never know whether this trip out into the South Dakota corn fields was a planned photo opportunity or whether the already well-known Lawrence Welk was taking a much needed break between bookings. Perhaps both. From rural North Dakota himself, Lawrence Welk had the strongest kind of connection with the Dakotas, one that defined his character. However long this interlude in the field outside of Letcher lasted, and however many shotgun shells were fired, all the parties defined this part of that day in 1945 as pheasant hunting, and the picture supports this conclusion.

Adolf returned to the farmhouse from the fields that day in 1945, and told Amelia he had been hunting pheasant with Lawrence Welk. Of course, the Zosses all were fans of Lawrence Welk and his big band sound, and felt a special kinship with this famous fellow Dakotan. Well, Amelia didn't believe Adolf that day. And none of his 11 children living in 1945 believed Adolf either. Not Nellie. Not Mary. Not Albert. Not Elsie. Not Jake. Not Adolf. Not Ann. Not Charlie. Not Mildred. Not Fred. Not John.

Sometime after 1968, Ann Zoss told her father's story in an undated letter, quoting her older sister Nellie. According to Ann, this is what Nell said: “In 1945 we came down to Letcher [from Herreid] for Thanksgiving. Ma said some hunters came and Pa said it was Lawrence Welk and some fellows and a girl. Pa took them out to the shelter belt to hunt. Ma said Pa said they took his picture. She said she thinks Pa is fibbing. [...] [Then] one time in 1954 when Ma and I went with Pa in the car to go out to look at the corn field he was telling that once Lawrence Welk came and ask him for a good place to hunt pheasants. Ma said she didn’t believe it was Lawrence Welk and Pa said he told him he was Lawrence Welk.” Don't be fooled by the folksy language, as Nell could be as ladylike and demure as can be when that suited her.

Pa wasn't fibbing, but he was dead in the water all the same, the victim of being a good ol' storyteller. According to Adolf's Granddaughter Christene, Adolf had a reputation of "embroidering the facts". Adolf was a known fibber, and his tale-telling finally caught up with him. The occasional retelling of the Lawrence Welk story over the next 12 years preceding Amelia's death brought her - and their 11 children - no closer to believing Adolf's story. Amelia died in March 1957 and, seven months later, Adolf died with his truth still unbelieved.

Then, after the photograph ... the one Adolf claimed was taken ... was published in the Lawrence Welk magazine in 1968, Adolf's close brush with fame changed history as the family knew it. For Lawrence Welk, Jayne Walton, Bobby Beers, Lauren Brown, and their photographer, this fall day in 1945 was just a blip in time. For Adolf Zoss the day may have been life defining. Do we have this photograph? You betcha. The photograph is copyright protected, but the Welk Group kindly gave me permission to reproduce the photograph for non-commercial genealogy purposes only.

Jayne Walton is on the left, then Bobby Beers, Lauren Brown, a younger Lawrence Welk, and the older man on the right with the shotgun and generous mustache, looking slightly star struck, is Adolf Zoss. Adolf was probably already planning how he was going to tell this story to Amelia.

If I could conjure a closer connection to my blog charter of Govert, South Dakota, I would tell you what was in store for Lawrence, Jayne, Bobby and Brownie. However, Lawrence and his merry Music Makers are three degrees of separation from Govert, South Dakota, so next week we will move on to something else. I will tell you that another 10 years would pass before The Lawrence Welk Show would leave its mark on national TV. For now, though, I hope you will be as charmed as I was when I listened to Bobby Beers sing "Cleanin' My Rifle". Bobby recorded this in 1944, a war ditty. Still, I wonder whether his smile a year later in the 1945 picture of two Dakotans bearing arms was accompanied by the tune of Cleanin' My Rifle and Dreamin' of You. Go ahead and click on the link. Yes, now.

What is Truth in Storytelling? Adolf Zoss told the truth and Peter Vogt created a fable. Adolf's truth was disregarded, Peter's fable was accepted as family history. As family historians, what are we supposed to do with that? You do exactly what I did. Tell all of the stories, every single story, but distinguish what is factual and what is a tale. It's as simple as that. Every family story should be preserved. What is a little more complicated is our responsibility as family historians to discern the truth, and then to create a story based on the facts, a story that bears retelling. With that, we do the best we can, knowing we will encounter good ol' storytellers the likes of Peter Vogt and Adolf Zoss, both wonderful men who left the legacy of a story and a smile.

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[Written with gratitude to Becky Zoss, Christy Volzke, and the Welk Group]