Selma – a book that was possible and necessary

Lela Peterson whole heartedly concurs with Seth Godin, an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker, who once told an audience, “The book that will most change your life is the book you write.”

Lela Picture162r

Selma cover769r

Selma backcover770r







Lela, from Reynolds, N.D., has written a book — about her grandparents. Titled, “Selma,” it was published in June and last Saturday (September 26, 2015) at a conference in Moorhead, Minn., “Selma,” received the Family History Award from the Heritage Education Commission.

The award is, “a real honor,” Lela said.

Perhaps an even greater honor for Lela is that when she was born, her grandmother’s name, Selma, was given to her as a middle name.

Lela’s grandfather, Johan Sjoqvist, died before she was born. Lela knew her grandmother on her mother’s side, although not well. Their visits were few and far between, but when Lela did sit at Selma’s knee to hear stories of Sweden and to learn Swedish words, she recalls being mesmerized by her grandmother, hungering to know and understand and love her more deeply.

And that’s how writing this book has changed Lela. As a result of three trips to the area of Sweden where her grandparents came from and years of researching their lives both across the Atlantic and here, she knows them now, almost intimately, and profoundly respects and appreciates them for the hardships they endured both in Sweden and America.

“Selma,” with a picture on nearly every page, is a book about deep and abiding pioneer fortitude and love, sorrow and loss, an unwavering faith in God, unbelievably back-breaking endurance, and added to the mix, very interesting North Dakota history.

Here’s just enough of the story of Selma to whet your reading appetite:

Life was tough in Sweden in the early 1900s, and advertisements were placed in Swedish newspapers about free land in America. Why all you had to do was throw wheat seed into the black dirt and you could become rich in a year’s time

In 1902, Johan Sjoqvist, a maker of shoes, received a letter from a Swedish acquaintance who had already settled in Grover Township of Renville County  near Tolley, N, D. The man wrote that 100 acres of land was available to Johan, free for the taking. It was a tough decision, but after pondering it, Johan and Selma decided to act on the offer. They would make a fortune in North Dakota and then return to their beloved Sweden.

By 1903, they had decided that Johan would cross the ocean first, build a house for his family and Selma would follow a year or so later with three of their five children leaving two in Sweden with her parents.

Because, of course they would return.

But did they?

Only the book knows.

Lela’s grandmother was one who “leaned back in the arms of Jesus,” Lela said. “She had very strong faith. She was always calm. No matter the adversity, she hung tight saying, ‘it’s going to be OK.’ ”

Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of “Selma” may email Lela at: The book sells for $20 and for an additional $4, Lela will mail it out.

She’s also doing a book signing at the Christian Bookshelf in Grand Forks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 10.

Lela Selma Atwood Peterson is a graduate of both Minot State University and the University of North Dakota. For many years she taught elementary school in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Germany. In her retirement she enjoys writing family history and doing genealogical research.

In her acknowledgement at the close of “Selma,” Lela writes these words to her large extended family — her fellow descendants of Johan and Selma Sjoqvist:

“My heart is filled with love for all of you. I want to thank my grandparents and parents for making this possible and my children for making it necessary.”

Until Soon

If only this pillow could talk

Out of necessity of the heart, every so often I must return to one of my childhood happy places – the farm in north central North Dakota where my grandparents lived and where my mother grew up.

Grandpa homesteaded here in 1904 and this is where he and Grandma raised their six children who went on to have 15 kids of their own, one of which is me.

Grandparents Henry and Ida Niewoehner

Grandparents Henry and Ida Niewoehner

Hard to believe that practically every Sunday after church and “the feast,” we young’uns would skip a rope that was tied to a coral post. Then, after catching our breath, we’d lift the rafters with our singing around the piano in the living room – we who once were young are now the older generation.

How in the world did this come to be?

Over the years, since the generation before us took leave for eternity, we cousins and siblings have gathered on this Holy Ground several times to reunite, reminisce, remember and divvy up keepsakes we now hold dear that once belonged to Grandma and Grandpa.

And when we are in that very living room, without fail, we sing one of our old favorites, “Bless This House.”

In her later years, Grandma had two bedrooms in this absolutely beautiful mansion of a home. She used her cooler north bedroom during the summer and cozied up in her warmer east bedroom during the winter.

Which brings me to my most recent visit.

I walked into Grandma’s north bedroom the other day and there on the bed was this old tattered fancy satiny pillow with an endearing message within a frayed fringe.


Long gone from the walls of this room is the picture of a guardian angel watching over two children crossing a bridge. Gone are Grandma’s dresses and shoes from the closet, her powder puffs and hankies. Gone are her beautiful quilts but standing at attention was this pillow on her bed. How did we all miss this?

You’ve no doubt heard of pillow talk. I sure wish this one could but since it can’t, here’s what I imagine:

I’ll bet Grandpa brought this pillow back to Grandma from one of his shipping cattle trips to St. Paul. He probably stopped at Donaldson’s and when he saw the verse thought it perfect for his beloved. It reads:

To My Dear Wife:

From memories’ garden I recall
The sweetheart days we knew
With lovely flowers, singing birds,
And skies of azure blue.
Dear Wife of Mine how sweet the words
A hoped for dream come true,
My heart is happy when I think
Of home sweet home and you.

Grandma kept the home fires burning while Grandpa took his cattle to market and I’m sure he found great delight in bringing this verse back to her. There are a few spots on the satin. I imagine them as the tears Grandma shed while he was away.

My brother, Myrlin, remembers what all took place when Grandpa shipped cattle. “I can still see it in my mind’s camera,” he said.

The cattle were shipped to St. Paul by railroad from Russell, N.D., which was at least 10 miles from Grandpa’s farm. “They would go early in the morning and they drove (herded) the cattle along the road to Russell, imagine that,” Myrlin said. “The railroad anticipated their coming. There were stockyards on the west side of the depot. They put the cattle in the stockyards and then they would load them in open air box cars. ”

Myrlin also recalled early one morning when as a lad he was there in the midst of all the cattle chaos. “I remember Grandpa pouring coffee and drinking it around the stove in the depot.”

Maybe that’s the very trip in which Grandpa brought back this pillow for Grandma.

Wonder if Grandpa knew that someday the verse would also speak to this granddaughter who revised the last two lines just a tad?

“My heart is happy when I think of home, sweet Grandma and Grandpa’s home, and them.”

Until Soon

Getting up close and personal with James Avenue











I learned something new about rain and road conditions the other day. It’s a tremendously important lesson, but I would have preferred a much kinder teaching method.

What I did not know and what people have told me after the fact, I now see backed up online by All National Driving School. It’s this:

“Roads become very slippery when rain first starts to fall. As rain begins to fall, it mixes with oils that cover the road’s surface. Until additional rain breaks down and washes away this oily mixture, the pavement is very slippery. This condition can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.”

As many of you know, every year I put more than 3,000 miles on my Trek Cruiser. I’ve gotten caught in rain before, but nothing compares to the downpour I experienced a week ago.

I had been on the bike trail and still several blocks from home when it began to sprinkle ever so timidly. I really thought nothing of it and just proceeded to peddle toward home.

Beyond abruptly, the clouds burst and each drop became a bucket. I kept on peddling and had just come off a sidewalk and onto James Avenue S.E. (no more than 20 seconds earlier), when crash, bang, boom, I went down on the right with my helmet slamming the pavement.

Helmet, Notice I said helmet!

I’ve been riding for years and only started wearing a helmet a few weeks ago. I did so because I figured there must be a reason so many people are pleading with me to wear a helmet. Not only my entire immediate and extended family, but dear friends as well.

Up from the pavement I rose, a cock-eyed helmet on my head, but no broken bones and no cracked skull. I looked at my bloodied elbow, my skinned left knee and my skinned right wrist. I set my bike back up and started to walk it home. I wasn’t about to get back on to ride as the torrent continued.

Around the first curve I met another women on her bike, still riding. I shouted above the blaring rain, “Be careful. I just went down.” She smiled.

I had only walked a few more paces when suddenly a man on a bicycle appeared on my left. “Is something wrong,” he said. “Are you okay?”

He dismounted and proceeded to walk his bike beside me. I looked straight into his eyes and answered, “I just went down. Thank GOD I have this helmet on. I haven’t always worn a helmet. I only started a few weeks ago.”

I asked him if he knew anything about concussions because I had hit hard. What should I watch for? He said to watch for bleeding from the ears and blurred vision, etc. He asked where I lived and by that time we could see my alley earmarked by sweet corn in my neighbor’s garden.

“I’ll walk with you,” he said, “to make sure you get there OK.”

As we walked, we talked. I asked his name. “Rick,” he said. “I’m in the campground in East Grand Forks.” Then I asked, “Are you from Winnipeg?” When he answered, “Yes,” I added, “Welcome to East Grand Forks.”

Rick saw me to my alley and asked where he could get back on the bike trail. I told him, thanking him profusely for his kindness and concern. He said, “take care of that elbow,” before we said goodbye. He rode on turning once to check on me again. We waved and he was gone.

I was fine, completely drenched and so glad to be home and so thankful that the first thing I did was get on my knees to thank Jesus for watching over me. I had achy muscles for the next few days and my bruises are still healing, but basically I am OK.

I’m wondering now if Rick might have been an angel, just like all the wonderful people who had long urged me to “wear a helmet.”

First there was Ken, who for ages kept asking me every time I saw him, “What color is your new helmet?” I would answer smugly, “The color of my coiffure.” When Ken heard about my wipe-out and my new habit of helmet wearing, he hugged me in happiness.

Pat, a dear nurse friend who always urged me to sport a helmet, now tells me, “Naomi, a helmet is much more becoming than a brain injury.”

When I recall how quickly and unexpectedly I went down, I know now I will never again ride without a helmet. No, I did not see stars when I hit the pavement, but believe me, I have seen the light.

Until Soon

North Dakota’s Stonehenge on the prairie

PHOTO 01NORTHWEST OF BOTTINEAU, N.D. ON SCENIC HIGHWAY 43 – He was grown and gone from his boyhood farm home near Souris, N.D., before I was born and growing up on our farm near Newburg. Our towns are 25 miles apart.

In all my days, I had never heard of John “Jack” Olson, but since visiting Mystical Horizons and seeing what this man had envisioned, I’m thinking I’d also like to visit his final resting place in Souris’ Swedish Lutheran Cemetery. After reading about the roads of life Jack traveled and learning of all his accomplishments, it’s heartwarming to know that in the end he came back home.

Last Friday, I wrote about Jim’s and my visit to the International Peace Garden near Dunseith, N.D., with brother Myrlin, sister-in-law Shirley and nephew John. Myrlin was chauffeur that day and on the way back to Newburg, he pulled into a unique little park-like place known as Mystical Horizons.


Nicknamed, “Stonehenge on the Prairie,” after the prehistoric monument in Willshire, England, this is a small acreage of amazing artwork that I also knew nothing about. Situated on a bluff in the Turtle Mountains that offers a panoramic view of a seemingly endless prairie, it seemed we were in almost sacred-like surroundings on a peaceful North Dakota summer evening.

And it exists all because of Jack Olson.


Stonehenge on the Prairie

Stonehenge on the Prairie

Jack, one of North Dakota’s top guns, had a career as a Boeing engineer. He envisioned this installation of stone and cement obelisks (pillars and columns) arranged around a clearing in the forest somewhere near to where he grew up. Locals turned Jack’s dream into reality after he died in 2001 at the age of 78 from complications from cancer.


Besides the pillars and columns at Mystical Horizons, there’s a large sundial clock that allows you to track the hours of the day with the movement of the sun. Mystical Horizons also has ties to the solstices and equinoxes as its configuration aligns in specific ways with these astronomical events. Plus a there’s a sighting tube that helps you pinpoint the North Star,

Let me tell you more about this “Jack of many trades who mastered them all.”

After graduating from Bottineau High School and the School of Forestry (now MSU-Bottineau), Jack attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. In 1943, he completed bomber training at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and was awarded his silver pilot wings, which according to writings about him, he considered his proudest achievement.

Jack served in the Army Air Forces in World War II as an instructor and pilot, surviving a midair collision in a B-24. Though his four-engine plane lost half a wing, he land it safely with no casualties.

After leaving the Army as a First Lieutenant, Jack joined Brown & Bigelow which makes promotional gifts for companies. While there, he received 120 mechanical and design patents.

After going to work for the Boeing Company in 1958, Jack worked on projects ranging from designs for the Boeing Jetfoil to concepts that paralleled the later design of the Hubble Space Telescope. He also worked on a mass transit system in Morgantown, W.Va.

Jack pioneered the concept using the barren land beneath a solar power satellite rectenna as a greenhouse which could provide food for a city of 1 million people. (A rectenna is a special type of antenna used to convert microwave energy into direct current electricity. They are used in wireless power transmission systems that transmit power by radio waves).

Jack retired in 1984 due to medical problems, but continued to do consultant work for Boeing and NASA. In 1985, he was honored with a one-man show of his spacecraft design illustrations at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Twenty-one of these paintings are now part of the permanent Smithsonian collection.


PHOTO 07Jack also was an author. One of his books is titled, “Once in the Middle of Nowhere,” and is a collection of Turtle Mountain Tales. I haven’t been able to find it in a local library, but it’s available on Amazon and I plan to make it my next book purchase.

I’ve been to Stonehenge in England and find North Dakota’s 21st Century version equally as intriguing. Visiting Mystical Horizons makes me feel a kinship with Jack as Jim and I have something in common with him. We, too, are former Boeing employees.

Our paths never crossed at Boeing, but it’s wonderful to have visited what’s been done in Jack’s memory and so close to our hometowns.

Until Soon

Peacefulness permeates the International Peace Garden

The International Peace Garden in the heart of the Turtle Mountains is less than an hour from Newburg, N.D., and the farm where I grew up. I don’t recall how old I was the first time I was taken to the Garden, but I do recall one trip as a teen.

My two same-age cousins, Idamae and Carole were with me and we talked and dreamed of one day having a triple wedding ceremony in this setting with the millions of gorgeous flowers as a backdrop.

Of course that never happened, but each time I return I remember that little dream scheme. Such was the case on Monday.

Brother Myrlin, nephew John, me and sister-in-law Shirley

We were at the farm visiting family which included nephew, John of Denver, Co., and once again a trip to the Peace Garden was a given. This was John’s first Garden visit and it’s always such a joy for me to return to this 2,339 acre prairie wilderness adjacent to Metigoshe State Park in North Dakota and next to Turtle Mountain Provincial Park in Manitoba.

A bit of history: My cousins and I aren’t the only dreamers. It was always Sculptor Henry Moore’s dream to have a formal botanical garden in the heart of the North American continent. That dream became a reality on July 14, 1932, with the dedication of a cairn (landmark) built right on the 49th Parallel in the Turtle Mountains. About 50,000 people attended that dedication which established the International Peace Garden that celebrates the peaceful coexistence of Canada and the United States. On the cairn are these words:
“To God in His Glory, we two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”
On Monday, the sky was the bluest of blue and the flowers brilliant beyond belief – perhaps the prettiest I have ever seen them.

I believe we walked all 2,339 acres of the formal gardens which stretch along the border from the entrance all the way down to the Peace Chapel. We stopped in at the Vitko Conservatory which is home to more than 6,000 thriving cacti from North and South America as well as Africa. This is quite the amazing display.
We stopped at the 911 Memorial Site, which displays actual steel girders from New York City’s former Twin Towers. Very touching.
We spent quite a bit of time in the sacred Peace Chapel where quotes from many people line the walls. I especially enjoyed these words: “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year. Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: go out into the darkness and put thine hand into the hand of God. That shall be to thee better than light and safer than a known way.”
20150824_135825rPeace Chapel
We also walked around the base of the Peace Towers built in 1982 as a symbol of the peace that reaches across the longest undefended border in the world.
20150824_141338rPeace Towers

Unfortunately these towers are experiencing crumbling at the top and bottom and plans are to soon take them down.

We topped off our visit to the Peace Garden with a delicious lunch of soup and sandwiches in the café located in the Interpretive Center.

I’m told about 150,000 people visit the Peace Garden each year and this is where International Music Camp has been held for the past 60 years.

After several hours in the midst of this beautiful spot, your heart is indeed filled with peace along with thoughts of what might have been – a triple wedding once dreamed up by three silly cousins.

Until Soon

Awakened by a song from yesteryear

Our grandfather clock

Our grandfather clock

I woke this morning with a song on my mind and in my heart. Feeling the need to belt it out I jumped out of bed and opened our bathroom door. There’s no audience like a husband who can’t run because his face is covered with shaving cream and he has razor in hand. And so I began, surprising even myself as every lyric and the melodies of both verse and chorus to “My Grandfather’s Clock,” came back to me as if I had sung it yesterday.

And, I had not:

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf

So it stood ninety years on the floor

It was taller by half than the old man himself
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
And was always his treasure and pride
But it stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
Ninety years without slumbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
His life seconds numbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
It stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
“Very nice,” Jim said at songs’ end. His thoughts returned to the days he also sang it as a child in school.
I learned this song during my elementary years at Russell School in north central North Dakota. Mrs. Mabel Goheen was our music teacher and when she gifted my classmates and me with this classic she gave us a true treasure.
Maybe that’s why I have always dearly loved the quiet ticking and tocking of a clock. The sound takes me back to my grandmother’s serene and sacred farm house. She had a clock on a shelf in her dining room whose tranquil tick tock could be heard from any room in her house – upstairs or down. I loved being at Grandma’s. I loved the sound of her clock which wasn’t drowned out by a blaring TV set.
When we moved to East Grand Forks 40 years ago, we were the new owners of a grandfather clock that we brought from Cheyenne, Wyo., where it had just been lovingly built by a stately retired gentleman who was now making clocks as a hobby.
All these many years I’ve had a corner of my grandmother’s dining room right in my living room. Sometimes in the middle of the night I hear the tick tock tick tock of our grandfather clock. It makes me think of my gentle Grandma Ida (my favorite person in the world) and I’m lulled back to sleep.
I researched “My Grandfather’s Clock,” and found out it was written in 1876 by a man named Henry Clay Work. Henry saw an extraordinary clock in a hotel that inspired him to write the song from a grandson’s point of view.
The song’s storyline is that this clock is purchased on the morning of his grandfather’s birth and works perfectly for ninety years, only needing to be wound at the end of each week. The clock chimes 24 chimes when the grandfather brings his bride into his house; and before the grandfather dies, it rings an eerie alarm. The family recognizes that the grandfather is near death and gathers by his bed. When the grandfather dies, the clock suddenly stops, and never works again.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the song is responsible for the fact that a longcase clock is also known as a grandfather clock.
And now, the rest of the verses to, “My Grandfather’s Clock:”
My grandfather said that of those he could hire
Not a servant so faithful he found
For it wasted no time and had but one desire
At the close of each week to be wound
And it kept in its place, not a frown upon its face
And its hands never hung by its side
But it stopped short, never to go again
When the old man died
Ninety years without slumbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
His life seconds numbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
It stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
It rang an alarm in the dead of the night
An alarm that for years had been dumb
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight
That his hour for departure had come
Still the clock kept the time with a soft and muffled chime
As we silently stood by his side
But it stopped short, never to go again
When the old man died
Check out Johnny Cash’s version of “My Grandfather’s Clock,” on YouTube. He sings the exact melody I learned as a child.
Gosh! I hope music teachers are still teaching this wonderfully fun song to their students. It will leave a lasting impression.
Until Soon

When two or three gather, they’ll not walk alone


From left: My high school classmate Judy Olson Ellington, her husband, John, as he sings, “You’ll Never Walk Alone:” and another of our classmates Leon Wedar and his wife LaVonne.

I’ve mentioned before a comment my mother made as I was out the door to college. But her words of wisdom bear repeating. “It’s OK to make new friends,” she told me, “but don’t forget the old.”

Mom would be tickled pink to know it’s easy to heed her advice.

I think the “kids” in my graduating class from Newburg, (N.D.) High School will forever remain among the friends I cherish the most. We may be scattered here, there, and everywhere, but our roots are entrenched in the Newburg Eagles’ soil.

This week I had the great joy of having a couple classmates and their spouses around my kitchen table. We first met for lunch at Olive Garden and then they followed me home for rhubarb pie (with yummy coconut meringue) and coffee.

With just 14 in our class (one is now deceased) we were proud back then to be small town North Dakota stuff. We still are.

It’s been a while since the whole class has been together, but, like the Bible verse reads, “Where two or three are gathered . . . , well, we take what we can get. Turns out “two or three,” is a bit of heavenly sunshine. Earlier this summer Jim and I had a lovely evening with another of my classmates, Gene Anderson and his wife, Laural, who were in town from Colorado.

These latest plans were set after Judy Olson Ellington, who with her husband, John, lives in Baraboo, Wis., contacted me saying they were passing through Grand Forks on Monday. Could we meet for lunch?


I called another classmate, Leon Wedar, who with his wife, LaVonne, lives in Minot. Like the rest of us, they are on-the-go people and thought nothing of driving a couple hundred miles for lunch then back home again.

That’s the way it should be at this stage of the game.

Let me tell you about my quality guests, who have lived our class motto to the fullest. It was, “When the sun sets, the stars shine on.”

Judy, who radiates classiness, met her husband at the University of North Dakota. He earned a degree in music education and Judy graduated from the College of Nursing then went on to become a nurse practitioner.

Leon is our U.S. Navy hero who served aboard the USS Intrepid. He later had his own radio repair business in Minot where he is very involved in the community. Among her talents, his wife, LaVonne, is a marvelous sewer/quilter. In fact, a quilt she made sold for $2,000 at an auction to benefit Metigoshe Ministries at Lake Metigoshe near Bottineau, N.D.

When we do get together, we classmates love to reminisce about our wonderful teachers, Leona Strom, Bob Tvedt, Lester Wyman, Ozzie Noraker and Bob Hunskor, to name a few.

We girls will never forget the day we were in Bottineau for a music festival. We had a little free time so we went to Trutna’s Department Store and bought big red and yellow farmer’s handkerchiefs. We each sewed ours together that night and wore them as blouses to school the next day. Principal Bob Hunskor promptly sent us home to change into something more appropriate. Guess we weren’t so cute after all.

We talk about seeing each other for the first time on the bus, and the times we got together to make pizza, which back then was the beginning of Chef Boyardee in a box.

We reminisce about the class picnics we had after finals in the spring and marching the band to the cemetery for the Memorial Day service, singing in the chorus and all the class plays. Oh what fun!

I mentioned that Judy’s husband, John, has a music education degree from UND. That day I learned that for 18 years he sang in the Gospel Quartet, “The Messengers.” He continues to give hour long concerts at nursing homes. John raved about his accompanist but since she wasn’t with us, I asked if he sang A capella? A moment later, his marvelous baritone broke into robust beautiful song:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Each of us three couples has marked 50 years of marriage. We all have children and grandchildren, and yes, we’ve all had storms – floods, loss of jobs, illness.

But we’ve decided that because of our days together – way back when – we’ll never walk alone. Our friendships, our memories and our common faith walk with us.

Until Soon

The secret’s in the sauce

My husband, Jim, spent two years in Japan with the U. S. Navy. While there he came to know and love fried rice of the shrimp variety.

That’s just one of the food specialties he brought to our marriage and then to all of us. In fact, when one of our sons and his family plan a trip “home,” we usually get a pre-call with a request. “Could we have shrimp fried rice one night?”

We accommodate because we love meal suggestions.


Back in the late 1960s, while working for the Boeing Company, Jim and I spent three wonderful years in Great Falls, Mont. It was there that shrimp fried rice became our Saturday night ritual because Great Falls had a fish market where fresh (never frozen) shrimp were flown in from Seattle that very morning.

Great Falls also is where we discovered Kikkoman’s Sukiyaki Sauce which is sweeter and mellower than your average soy sauce. We are convinced Sukiyaki Sauce is the true secret to Jim’s amazing shrimp fried rice.

After leaving Great Falls for other Boeing assignments, we could not find this Sukiyaki Sauce in a lot of places, not even for a time in East Grand Forks/Grand Forks. So we were forced to order it by the case directly from the company in Wisconsin.

One day I stopped at Toucan International Grociers in the Grand Cities Mall and a bottle of this Sukiyaki Sauce nearly jumped off the shelf and bonked me on the head. (It’s on a top shelf near the entrance). I felt like I had been reunited. We love to buy locally and now we no longer order it from Kikkoman. At Toucan it sells for $3.99 a bottle. I keep a couple bottles on hand.

There’s another secret to Jim’s stunning shrimp fried rice. It’s the rice itself. Since we discovered Jasmine rice we no longer buy any other.

Jasmine rice is often compared to Indian Basmati rice, another long grained rice variety. Jasmine is grown primarily in Thailand and has a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s rich, refined aroma is just delightful even as it is cooking and wafting its bouquet throughout the kitchen. Its wonderful flavor is even more enhanced when mixed with other fried rice ingredients. Toucan International Grociers sells Jasmine rice and there again we buy none other.

We’ve recently made another discovery. At Trader Joes in the Twin Cities we found Jasmine brown rice. It also has excellent flavor, but when we make our fried rice we prefer Jasmine white rice.

As for the shrimp, we buy cooked, deveined, tail-on frozen jumbo shrimp by the bag thawing it under cold running water.

When it’s fried rice night at our house I get the rice on to cook while Jim starts chopping vegetables. When it’s just the two of us, we want to end up with about four cups of cooked rice. You need:

1 1/3 cups rice

2 2/3 cups water

Heat rice and water to boiling, stirring once or twice. I do not add salt to the rice. The Sukiyaki Sauce provides enough saltiness. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pan tightly and cook 14 minutes. Do not lift the cover or stir again. After 14 minutes, remove pan from heat. Fluff rice lightly with a fork; cover and steam for 5 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, this is what Jim is chopping:

1 to 2 bunches of green onions

4 to 6 stalks of celery

I green pepper

1 minced garlic clove

Then he slaves away at the stove, sautéing the above in oil and a bit of bacon grease (to add a smoky flavor) in a large frying pan or wok until tender. He pushes the vegetables aside and breaks in two eggs to scramble. When the eggs are fully scrambled he stirs them with the veggies. Then he adds the cooked rice, shrimp and about half a can of bean sprouts. He sprinkles the mound of rice with the Sukiyaki Sauce (amount of sauce depends upon your taste) and stir-fry’s it all until it’s heated through.

Jim and I have different tastes. I like more Sukiyaki Sauce then less so I add it at the table. I also like English peas in my fried rice (actually on everything) and Jim does not so I do a side dish of peas and add them at the table.

And there we are still savoring every bite after all these years.

It’s always a special night when we work together making delicious Shrimp Fried Rice with Sukiyaki and Jasmine. I’m glad Jim was in Japan. If not, look what we would have missed!

Until Soon

“Judy” — the only animal POW – a remarkable read

Funny how a great book just falls in your lap when you least expect it.

One night after a meeting at church my pastor, Craig Fenske, handed me a book he had just finished. “I think you’ll like this, Naomi,” he said.

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On the jacket is a picture of a beautiful dog with an affectionate faraway look in her eyes. Her expression, the title and the subtitle immediately grabbed my attention.

And that is how I came to turn the pages of “Judy – the Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero.” Written by Damien Lewis I read the author’s notes and preface that night. As a result I could hardly wait to begin turning the pages in earnest.

The book belongs to another church friend, Barb Tellmann, who after reading it couldn’t keep it to herself. Barb is a devout dog lover and sincerely believes there are dogs in heaven.

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It’s possible, I guess, that “Judy,” a beautiful liver and white English pointer who during WWII, pulled men to safety from the wreckage of a torpedoed ship, went scavenging for food to help feed starving inmates in a hellish Japanese POW camp (she too was starving), and who by her very presence brought hope and inspiration to the humans she loved, is looking down on us as we speak.

Judy was born in Shanghai, China, in an English–run dog kennel in 1936. Being a curious little puppy, she escaped from the kennel and lived for several months on the streets of Shanghai. That was a miracle in itself since the Chinese eat dogs she could have been somebody’s dinner.

Judy was rescued from the streets by a group of British sailors who served on a British war ship that patrolled Chinese rivers. And when they were captured and ended up in a POW camp Judy was with them.

Nations who fought in World War II used dogs for such things as mine detection, carrying dispatches and patrol duty along with being wonderful companions to the soldiers.

In Judy’s case, even amongst physical and mental torture while living in inhumane conditions in more than one POW camp, she inspired her crewmates to stay alive.

She would sneak off and bring food back for them and she found ways to distract the enemy.

Besides so wonderfully telling this true story, Author Damien Lewis includes examples of the unique and extraordinary aspects of canine behavior.

One thing he speaks of is, “intelligent disobedience,” which he described as, “the ability to hear a human’s command or request and to ignore it because the dog knows better.”

Another thing he talks about is a dog’s “sixth sense.” On page 104 of “Judy,” Lewis writes: “Dogs appear to be able to read our minds. They seem to have the gift of anticipating our next move and guessing how we are feeling. In the most extreme cases, they’ve been known to foresee earthquakes, the approach of a violent storm or even the death of a human companion. The most sensitive canine noses – like a pointer’s – can detect human pheromones and so they may be able to smell our moods.” Pheromone is a substance that is externally secreted by certain animals and induces a behavioral or physiological response.

The story of “Judy,” is disturbing, suspenseful, heartwarming and endearing.


I mentioned earlier that my friend, Barb Tellmann, is a dog lover and in visiting with Barb about “Judy,” she told me about Service Dogs for America, an organization in Jud, N.D., that trains dogs for service to assist humans in many ways.  (

I called SDA and spoke with Annie Strickland, senior administrative coordinator/client services.

I did not even know there was a place such as this in North Dakota. Annie tells me someone donated 10 acres of land for their campus and it has been in operation since 1989. They have five dog trainers who train dogs to help people with mobility assistance, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders/Wounded Warrior Program) and medical emergencies.

The dogs they train are of mixed pedigrees like an Irish Wolf Hound mix or Husky mix, but the majority are Labradors. “We like labs because of their temperament and personality,” Annie said. She says about 250 dogs have been trained there since the organization began.

Annie says she’s “with,” Barb, in believing there are dogs in heaven. She also believes Barb is heaven sent. “She’s a longtime friend and donor,” Annie added. “She’s been very good to our organization.”

Oh, the things you learn when someone simply hands you a book.

Until Soon


The 3 M’s: Medora – Musical – Misti


MEDORA, N.D. – The Teddy Roosevelt Medora Foundation’s advertisements ask us to “adore” Medora. I speak for my family, immediate and extended, when I say we definitely do adore Medora. We are stuck on this quaint little historic town and we try to get there at least every other year. This was our year!

We drove on to Medora after a family wedding in Minot. That’s another whole wonderful story, but today adorable Medora is the topic.

Getting there – driving across the Flickertail State (my homeland) is a nostalgic indulgence for me. I don’t need mountains. I don’t need oceans. Give me the quietness of the flatland plains of Dakotaland, the Garrison Dam, Lake Sakakawea and the friendliness of the people in such tiny towns as Pick City and Riverdale. They are among the best.

In the past we’ve pretty much “explored” and done it all in Medora: ride horseback, visit the Chateau De Mores Historic Site and the Harold Schafer Heritage Center, stop at every shop, saw and heard Joe Wiegand portray Teddy Roosevelt in the Old Town Hall Theater (he is incredible), walked the streets or just sat by the pool. Our guys have yet to play the Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Next time.

There are several places to stay in Medora. We like the Badlands Motel.

This time ours was just an overnighter. We arrived Sunday evening in plenty of time for the Pitchfork Fondue. This is an experience in itself as while in line you gaze at the beauty of the rugged badlands below the bluff. When it’s time to be seated, the food is fantastically tasty. We watched the chefs as they threaded juicy steaks on pitchforks before dropping them in huge vats of hot grease for frying.


Some in our party had the steaks and others had the Cowboy Café which included ribs, beef roast and chicken with the rest of the buffet items.

The musical is one of the big reasons why we keep going back to Medora and the last couple times the big draw has been Misti Koop.

We have loved Misti’s music and acting since first seeing her on stage at East Grand Forks Senior High School in the 1990s. We followed her to Red River High School’s stage after she transferred there. Misti went on for a BA in Music from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., and also earned an MA in Theatre Arts from the University of North Dakota.

After a few years as a band teacher, Misti moved to New York City for a time and had an ensemble role in the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. She entertained on the Norwegian “EPIC” cruise ship and now, Misti has come home. She teaches music at South Point School in East Grand Forks and once again is spending her summer in Medora as one of the musical’s Burning Hills Singers.

Because we know and love her, Misti is the life of the party for us on the Medora stage. This year is the musical’s 50th year and they have pulled out all the stops. It’s been said that this is Medora’s best one yet. I just might agree although I have loved all I’ve seen.

This summer, performers begin by taking the audience back to the beginning in 1965 in costume and song. As the show progresses, the singers and dancers proceed through the changes made over the decades.

The six member Coal Diggers Band and the show’s hosts, Emily Walker and Bill Sorenson do an amazing job. Along with Misti from our towns (Grand Forks/East Grand Forks), this year the Burning Hills Singers hail from Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, other parts of North Dakota, Maryland, California and Indiana.

The show ends with such a beautiful musical tribute to North Dakota and America that it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.

I had let Misti know we would be there on the shows’ third night and afterwards we met her by the concession stand to gather our hugs. Here are a few photos of her and the show:

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The Medora Musical runs nightly through September 12. Call: 1-800-MEDORA-1 for information. Like us, I know you and your family will “adore” Medora. You won’t be able to help it.

Until Soon