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About Ruby Girl

Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer for 23 years now a free-lance Herald "In The Spirit" columnist. Column appears the second Saturday of each month. Born and raised on a farm near Newburg, N.D. Married, mother of two sons and grandmother of four. Loves to read, sing, dance, play drums with my worship band at church, garden and ride my ole Schwinn bicycle. Plus, shovel snow in winter and mow lawn in summer.

He or me?

In a matter of days, grandson Ethan, will be a decade old. I don’t know who’s more excited about that – him or me.

Ten is a milestone in a lad’s life and this one’s especially thrilling for me because of the gift Gramps and I will give him. He is, after all, such a gift to us.

I will always remember 10 years ago this week standing at the water fountain at a gas station in Fergus Falls, Minn., when my cell phone rang. I saw it was from our son Troy so I answered, “Do we have a baby?” Troy replied, “We do. It’s a boy.”

I rode cloud nine the rest of the way east. Troy and Sheri had gifted us with a grandson, and given Elyn a baby brother. Ethan rounds out our family which also includes two other granddaughters, Amelia and Grace. Most of the time I call Ethan “my one and only,” rather than by his given name. At nearly 10, he still smiles at that.

Last week Ethan’s parents were told by his teacher that he is doing “fabulously,” in school. They also heard that he needs to get a little more “hooked,” on reading.

I’m not aware of having a premonition, but before I found that out, I had ordered The Hardy Boys Starter Set through Ferguson Books and More in Grand Forks. I buy locally whenever possible and I recall how much our sons liked the Hardy Boys, Joe and Frank.


20150223_131703rHardy Boys books are filled with wonderful intrigue, mystery and suspense. How they came to light is also very interesting.

Franklin W. Dixon is shown as the author of these nearly 60 books, but Franklin W. Dixon never actually existed. A man named Edward L. Stratemeyer did, however, from 1862-1930.

Stratemeyer created brothers Joe and Frank Hardy along with literally dozens of other series characters in juvenile fiction. Through his Stratemeyer Syndicate, Edward hired authors to write stories from his outlines. They got paid (usually poorly) to write the texts and they had to agree to never reveal that they, and not the mythical Mr. Dixon, wrote the books.

Now Ethan’s big day draws near. He’s already had his friend birthday party, so when we get together he will be all ours. Can’t wait for him to open this five-book present. Since I’m already “hooked” on him, and he on me, I hope Joe and Frank Hardy can “hook” him on reading.

Until Soon

Sneaky Wild Oats – a standout in the music field

As a youngster growing up on a farm in North central North Dakota, I remember my dad lamenting over all the Avena fatua that popped up in his fields during growing season.

Well, actually, Dad never called it by its official fancy name (if he knew it) as he and Mom and a couple of us kids drove “down west,” to survey the crops on a lovely summer evening.

Dad simply referred to this pest by its common label – wild oats. We knew that it gave him fits as it raised havoc with the wheat and barley until farmers started using pesticides. I also recall that happening when I was a kid.

Mom and Dad are long gone, but dream with me, OK?

If they were still in their prime on the farm and Dad came in for dinner (at noon) and Mom (in her apron) had the radio on and a jazz combo was playing, I know he would grab her and they’d cut a rug around the kitchen to the music filling the room.

Plus they’d sure get a laugh out of learning that the makers of this music call themselves, Sneaky Wild Oats.

Yup! Sneaky Wild Oats!

You can wake up now.

Recently I heard a fabulous group, not called Avena fatua, but Sneaky Wild Oats, playing in the beautiful University of North Dakota Gorecki Alumni Center. They drew me to them like a magnet and all my toes wanted to do was tap.

Peggy Bartunek on keyboard. John Bartunek, standup bass. David Jeffrey, drums  Mike Bartunek, saxophone

Peggy Bartunek on keyboard. John Bartunek, standup bass. David Jeffrey, drums. Mike Bartunek, saxophone.

Peggy and John Bartunek, Grafton, N,D., started Sneaky Wild Oats more than 25 years ago. “We were originally a bluegrass group with John on upright bass and me on mandolin,” Peggy said. “We also had a banjo player, a guitar player, and a violinist. I won’t call her a fiddler because her background was classical and she didn’t think of herself as a fiddler. We heard a local TV ad for a herbicide with the lyrics, “Sneaky wild oats hiding in your field” and we borrowed those words to name our band.”


Peggy said that as years went by, she and John remained the constants of the group.

“At some point I convinced John that I really wasn’t much of a mandolin player so I switched to piano,” Peggy added. “I was much happier!! Our style of music moved away from bluegrass, especially when our friend Richard Schultz began playing saxophone with us. We added a drummer and started playing a rather eclectic repertoire, mostly chosen because one of us suggested a song we liked.”

When the Bartunek’s son, Mike was a music major at NDSU and studying both classical and jazz saxophone, Peggy started taking jazz piano lessons from Simon Rowe at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, “and we evolved into a jazz combo,” she said.

Currently, Dave Jeffrey, Grand Forks, is the group’s primary drummer. “He’s a wonderful musician who plays with several bands in the area,” Peggy said. “Our son Mike just finished a six month position playing saxophone with Carnival Cruise Lines. When he was gone we either played as a trio (bass, piano & drums) or invited another musician to join us. Mike is in Grafton for the next several weeks with a long-term position teaching music while the regular teacher is on maternity leave.”

If you’ve never heard Sneaky Wild Oats, now’s your chance.

Gigs coming up:

  • Feb. 20 (tonight) Sneaky Wild Oats plays in the lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Fargo.
  • Saturday (Feb. 21) they will perform at the Celebration of Women and their Music in the Fargo Theater.
  • March 7, 8 p.m. Backstage Project at the Empire Theater, Grand Forks.

How I wish I could take Mom and Dad.

Until Soon

Cutting Prime Rib And Cuttin’ A Rug

February 14, 2015

When we’re in St. Louis, brother-in-law, Bob, takes us to the St. Louis Club, which offers the finest of fine dining and ambiance.

In Winnipeg, the food and mood at Ichi Ban Japanese Steakhouse is over the top.

Then, there’s the Inn at Maple Crossing on Maple Lake near Mentor, Minn.; tastefully classy to the core.

Well, move over St. Louis Club, Ichi Ban and Maple Crossing Inn. If the group I’m about to speak of were in the food business, it could give any fancy restaurant a run for its money.

All the youth and their adult helpers: Michayla, Jessica, Madi, Macy, Reagan, Kaylynn, JD, Jordee, Aiden, Alec, Emily, Michael, Laurie, Adam and Mikael

All the youth and their adult helpers: Michayla, Jessica, Madi, Macy, Reagan,
Kaylynn, JD, Jordee, Aiden, Alec, Emily, Michael, Laurie, Adam and Mikael

As it turns out, they’re just a bunch of teens assisted by a handful of parents (and one grandpa) whose sole purpose was to offer those seated at card tables, graced with red or white linen cloths, the joy of delectable food and lots of fun for only a few bucks.

Enjoying the dinner and ambiance

Enjoying the dinner and ambiance

Last Saturday night, youth from our church, Immanuel Lutheran in Grand Forks, helped prepare and serve a Valentine’s dinner — to perfection with a capital P. Spearheaded by their director, Jessica, it was a fundraiser, and I’m told after expenses they made more than $600 they can use for various projects and activities.

Every couple had their photo taken and this is Jim’s and mine

Every couple had their photo taken and this is Jim’s and mine

The Fellowship Hall was beautifully dressed in strings of tiny Christmas lights as well as red, white and pink balloons. It was a dimly lit romantic atmosphere for the 18 couples who attended.

Teens in black slacks, white shirts and some with red ties, were as professional, friendly and accommodating as any maître d’ who’s ever served me.

Emily and Moriah

Emily and Moriah — part of the decorating committee

Lyle and Jeanne were our table mates. First, we enjoyed punch and a hors d’oeuvre of veggies, dips, crackers and breads. Soon, Madi, one of our servers, stopped back at our table wondering if we’d like Ranch, French or Thousand Island dressing on our salads. When the salads arrived, they could not have been more fresh, crisp and colorful with cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices mixed in with the greens.

Shortly before the main course, our servers returned with another query: “Would you like your prime rib well done, medium well, medium or rare?” they asked, adding, “You will get au jus with that, would you also like horseradish?”

Yes, yes, I answered. I will have it all.

And then, our plates arrived with the biggest slice of prime rib I have ever seen, “real” garlic mashed potatoes (no flakes allowed) and glazed carrots. The carrots tasted like they had just been dug from the garden that day.

Oh my!

Never have I tasted such tender prime rib. Saying you could cut it with your fork (which is gospel) is cliché. Now, I’ve never compared prime rib to cotton candy, but for all the world cutting and savoring each bite of my huge slab of pinkish beef was like pulling a plug of spun sugar off its paper baton at the fair.

I kid you not!

Two dads, Adam and Mikael, deserve accolades for preparing the prime rib. It was a “team effort,” Mikael said. “I learned it’s all about cooking it slowly at the right temperature. We had a lot of fun in the kitchen. Laurie, Adam, Alec and I worked extremely well together. We were like a well-greased wheel. What was really interesting was listening to (Grandpa) Ralph talk about KP duty when he was in the military.”

A slice of Italian Cream Cake capped the meal and through it all, we enjoyed the piano and violin music of Emily and Michael.

I don’t know who was more excited about what came next, the young people or we who are still young at heart. More music began and soon most everyone was on the dance floor. Jim and I enjoyed a jitterbug, a cha-cha and a slow dance or two.

Scan_20150215 (9)But I think the most fun of all was a floor full of the young and younger doing the “Cupid Shuffle,” a popular sort of line dance that’s like the Cha-Cha Slide. No sireee — you’ll never catch me sittin’ out something like that because along with cutting into an exquisitely prepared prime rib, there’s nothing I’d rather do than cut a rug.

All in all, it was a great Valentine dinner/dance/party that offered the finest of fine dining and ambiance. It was definitely over the top and tastefully classy to the core — thanks to a super bunch of kids we are happy to support. If they do it again next year, we’ll be there.

Until Soon

God hath not promised . . .

This is Thanksgiving week. We all are eagerly preparing our feasts or packing up to travel elsewhere — to spend a few thankful days with loved ones and friends. In the midst of all the joy we also hear of sadness. Requests come in and prayers go out for those we know and love and some we don’t know who are in treatment, facing surgery, pain and sorrow.

Such a request for prayer came to me just a few moments ago and as I stopped from cleaning a closet to pray for someone I don’t know, I realize what a gift memorization can be.

Somewhere in my youth or childhood, somewhere in our house on the farm, my mother had a Helen Steiner Rice poem that I have never ever forgotten. To this day I can recite it word for word. It’s message is such a comfort at times like this.

The poem is titled, “God Hath Not Promised.” May I suggest you pause to reflect on it and perhaps even memorize it so it will be in your heart when you need it.

It reads

God hath not promised
skies always blue,
flower-strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised
sun without rain,
joy without sorrow,
peace without pain.

But God hath promised
strength for the day,
rest for the laborer,
light on the way.
Grace for the trial,
help from above,
unfailing sympathy,
undying love.
Until Soon

Orlan Hall – my veteran cousin

Each and every day and most assuredly on Veteran’s Day, we boldly express our heartfelt “thanks,” to the military men and women we encounter who have served and still serve our America, our beloved land of the free. We also remember those veterans whose names we see on tombstones and wonder who they’d be today if their lives had been spared, if they hadn’t given them for us.

I have a cousin who served with the U.S. Army in Viet Nam. He came home a hero and yes, safely, but forever changed. Sometimes Orlan talks about his combat experiences. Very often he’d rather not because in order to speak of such things, you need the right setting and the right listening ears. He’s found there are people who just don’t understand.

Orlan grew up on a farm near Upham, N.D., where he graduated from high school in 1962. He is especially dear to me because he’s my double cousin: our mothers were sisters and our dads brothers.

While in the Army, Orlan earned (if I’m counting correctly) 30-some badges, ribbons and medals. Among them: Combat Infantry Badge, Good Conduct Medal. US Viet Nam Service Medal with Bronze Star, Viet Nam Campaign Medal. Because of his strong work ethic, which goes hand-in-hand with growing up on a farm, and because of his kindness to a fellow soldier, he was promoted to Sergeant.

Recently, another cousin of ours, Dale Niewoehner, Rugby, N.D., gathered all of Orlan’s medals and beautifully arranged them in a shadow box.

Max Zurcher, a good friend and neighbor who also hails from our neck of the woods (Newburg and Upham) presented Orlan with the shadow box. Max also served in Viet Nam and came back with his own stories, awards and badges. Both Orlan and Max live in Minot now and because of their back-home ties and their military service camaraderie, these two veterans will be forever friends.

Orlan and Max

Orlan and Dale









Both Orlan and Max are featured in a new book titled, “Minot, North Dakota and Area War Years and War Heroes,” by Bruce Anderson. Online I see that in his first of several photo history books on Minot, Bruce has skillfully crafted a tribute to the patriotic sacrifices so many have made to guarantee freedom as the cornerstone of our American way of life, and he has done so with dignified respect and reverence. To order the book call: (701) 852-5604 or (866) 302-8885.

Near the beginning of this post, I mentioned that on Veteran’s Day and other days of the year we often stop at veterans graves and thank them for their service. But, have you ever wondered what a fallen soldier might say to us, if he or she could?

Twenty some years ago, with Viet Nam still fresh in his mind, Orlan sat down and wrote a poem titled, “Freedom’s Sacred Call.” It is as if his words are coming from a soldier who gave his life for his country. Orlan prefaced the poem by writing: “The Bible admonishes, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ a reflection of God’s love and teaches, ‘No greater love hath one man for another than that he be willing to lay down his life for him.’ The names inscribed on the war memorials across America and around the world are the names of men and women who have done that, laid down their lives that we might live ours in freedom. They are heroes. They are the source of our freedom.”

Here is Orlan’s poem, “Freedom’s Sacred Call.,” Just imagine it as emitting from a Hero’s Place of Rest.

Think not,

As you read my name,

That I did not for freedom fall.

Say not.

As you see it here,

“The awful shame,

His life is lost; He died in vain.”

For everywhere man lives,

He seeks a sacred treasure.

He lives and works, fights and dies,

For freedom in full measure

Before I lived, others died

That I might be born free.

A strife to win that prize for others,

Drew life’s last breath from me.

Too much to give that others live?

Too much to sacrifice?

Which of you would bear the cross;

Take the place of one whose loss,

Paid your freedom’s price?

Rather say then as you read,

“A hero’s name is here inscribed.”

Rather say then as you see,

“I feel the pain endured

I mourn his death, I live with pride,

In the freedom he secured.”


As you stand here awed,

That you stand here “Free.”

Remember all of those who’ve died,

For this blest reality.

Though my battle’s now still,

Remember too,

I’ll not be the last to fall.

The world’s free men ever will rise,

In answer,

To “Freedom’s Sacred Call.”


Guess there’s no more to say – on this blest Veteran’s Day.

Until Soon

Remembering North Dakota’s first governor

One morning last week, I had a very nice surprise phone call from my cousin, Dale Niewoehner. He was on his way to Grand Forks from his home in Rugby, N.D., where he and his wife, Marilyn, own and operate Niewoehner Funeral Home.


Dale is one of my favorite first cousins. His late father, Henry A. Niewoehner, was my late mother’s beloved brother. Down through the years those two remained very close siblings which only seems to bind the tie between Dale and me.

When Dale got to Grand Forks that day and had completed his purpose for coming, I met him for lunch at the Great Wall Buffet on Gateway Drive. We had a wonderful hour or so of catching up on one another’s lives. He always, always, amazes me with the things he’s interested in and the things he accomplishes.

His latest has to do with our Flickertail State. Quite timely since Sunday is North Dakota’s 125th birthday.

With his latest project all said and done, Dale wrote and submitted a news release to the North Dakota Newspaper Association. It has to do with the state’s very first governor, the Honorable John Miller, and the restoration of the mausoleum where Miller is entombed in Green Hills Cemetery, Dryden, N.Y.

There’s erroneous Information on a website that states Mr. Miller is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minn. Dale has contacted the sexton there and has verified that this is not true.

Dale gave me permission to share his news release here. Its headline states:

North Dakota First Governor’s Mausoleum Restored.

The release reads:

John Miller was a wealthy bonanza farmer in the Red River Valley in North Dakota, but his legacy extended beyond this rich farmland.

JOHN MILLER, North Dakota’s First Governor

In 1878, Miller came from Dryden, New York, located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. He purchased 17,000 acres of land in Richland County, North Dakota. Mr. Miller had no political ambitions, but after serving in the Constitutional Convention in mid-1889, he was persuaded to run for Governor, and was elected in November, 1889.

Miller was known as a strong and honest leader for the new state. He would not be bribed or swayed by the many powerful political forces forging their thoughts in the new government and organization of North Dakota. Miller served in office until January 1891 then returned to his business to manage and expand his farming and grain operations in the Red River Valley.

He was a partner with Herbert F. Chaffee in an operation of milling flour, feed, and other agricultural services. The company had offices in North Dakota and Duluth, Minnesota.

On October 26, 1908, Miller died in Duluth, three days short of turning 65. His family and Mrs. H. F. Chaffee accompanied the body on a train from Duluth to Dryden (N.Y) for burial in Green Hills Cemetery.

In 1910, a grand mausoleum constructed of light gray granite was built on the Miller lot for the burial of Governor Miller. Over the years, his wife and their two daughters also were entombed in the mausoleum. The fact that a state governor is buried in the Green Hills Cemetery has long been a sense of pride for the cemetery.

For some time the tomb has been in need of minor repairs. Rugby funeral director, Dale G. Niewoehner became aware of these needs while in communication with Ray Harris, Sexton of the Green Hills Cemetery. Harris informed Niewoehner that two windows needed replacement, a bronze door hinge was in need of repair and the buildup of 100 years of tree sap and dirt needed to be cleaned from the outside of the building.

The cemetery also asked that a bronze plaque be mounted on the outside of the mausoleum to inform visitors of the occupant. A flag pole outside the mausoleum proudly displays the North Dakota flag.

A modest fund drive, orchestrated by Niewoehner, was successful in raising the necessary funds for the restoration of the Miller mausoleum. Among the supporters Niewoehner contacted was Grace Link, widow of former North Dakota Governor Arthur A. Link. Mrs. Link was proud to participate in the project, adding “that our state’s history must be preserved and this would certainly be a way to honor our state’s first governor.”

Additional generous contributions from former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and former Governor, now U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), generated the necessary funds for the restoration project.

Also an interesting piece of history is that Herbert and Carrie Chaffee were first class passengers on the R.M.S. Titanic in April, 1912. Mr. Chaffee died in the sinking of the ship and Mrs. Chaffee is buried in the Amenia Cemetery, north of Casselton, N. D.


See what I mean? Every meeting, every conversation with cousin Dale becomes a history lesson. I love history and look forward to the next time we break bread together.

Until Soon

Grab the rake; batten the hatches

Out the window, I look – north, south, east and west. Leaves, everywhere golden leaves, floating down like tiny parachutes to their green grass landing strip.

I go outside and look up. Millions still cling to the branches of our tallest tree, But a girls gotta start somewhere and so I do. And while I rake I reminisce.

I love every season of the year and even though fall is perhaps my favorite, it does conjure up some sadness. It’s hard to see the moss roses, petunias, impatiens, alyssum, pansies and geraniums bite the dust. They have been especially beautiful this year. As I tended and talked to them over the last few months they became an extension of the friends in my life — always more beautiful than I deserve.

It’s been a summer of many very good hours on the deck with family and friends – grilling, fellowshipping, talking, laughing. The space is too quiet now and much too spacious since the furniture has been stacked, covered and arranged along the west wall under the overhang. The grill and air conditioner have been outfitted with their winter garb secured with bungee cords and the decorative bricks that always hold two containers of geraniums on each side of the big garage door have been stacked under the work bench.

Makes everything look too barren for my liking!

The very hardest thing to see go, however, is the spray of American Beauty Rose impatiens that fan out beneath the mailbox out front. I’ve had such an arrangement hanging there every year for many. I get them in the spring from either All Season’s Garden Center or Shea’s Nursery where they are planted in skinny green plastic pouches. They never, ever let me down with their beauty, but now they are gone, too, and in their place hangs a fall welcoming arrangement all in orange.

It seems to get harder and harder each year to say goodbye to summer and fall, but because we know what’s coming, we must rake and batten down the hatches. As we anticipate the upcoming winter, however, here at our house we will keep a little bit of summer ever before us.

When its all white outside and freezing cold, we will simply have to cast our gazes upon the garage and at least our hearts will be warmed, for in the garage windows we have transplanted two things that always adorn our deck in the summer.

Guardian angel and little lady watch over bed of moss roses that have seen better days

One – an amber glass guardian angel with wings; the other, a little hatted girl holding a sprinkling can and shading her eyes from the bright sun. I suspect both will stay toasty warm all winter on the other side of those panes via solar heat. For sure, just by being so visible, they will pass some of their warmth on to those of us in the house.

I know for a fact, though, that the angel and the little lady will hit the deck again in the spring.

Ah spring! Is it here yet? .

Until Soon

This day in the year 2000

I would not want to be in a small plane flying over North Dakota today. It’s much too windy. But that’s what I was doing 14 years ago on this day.

On that October day, I had an exciting and most welcome phone call that brought about a never to be forgotten day. I wrote about the adventure I had with my nephew, Tom, in my Grand Forks Herald “In the Spirit,” column. Allow me to run it by you one more time for old time’s sake.

Come back in time with me and  think about a beautifully still fall day as the wind whistles outside. It was a Sunday and it began like this:

Our phone rang at 7:45 Sunday morning.

It was my nephew, Tom Hall, calling from Fargo.

“What are your plans for today? he asked.

“Church and Bible class,” I said. “That’s about it. Why?”

“I was thinking of renting a plane and flying up to see Grandma,” Tom said.

In other words, Tom was asking if I’d like to fly along.

Would I?

Tom, (27 that year) is a design engineer at CNH Global N.V., a company formed from the merger of Case Corp. and New Holland.

He’s also an ace pilot, who took my husband, Jim and me and our friend, Gary Euren, up to circle our Grand Cities during the Flood of 1997.

Tom’s mentioned flying to Minot to see Grandma before, but so far, we hadn’t been able to coordinate our schedules.

On what was to be a gorgeous day, what could be better than being with Tom in the heavens over North Dakota, seeing God’s glorious earth below and surprising my mother?

By noon, I was headed to Fargo, where I found Tom and a Piper Warrior waiting at Vic’s Aircraft Sales.

“The weather looks good for now and later in the evening,” Tom said.

He ran his finger over the propeller. No nicks. He checked the fuel tanks and bounced the plane to check the shocks. He did a few more things before jumping onto the right wing.

“I’d say ladies first,” he said, “But I have to sit on the left.”

Buckled in, Tom went through his checklist, primed the fuel pump, started the engine and told the Fargo tower the Warrior was departing for Minot.

I sat on a cushion, and still I couldn’t see over the dashboard. As we ascended, I lived the words to a song: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings . . . . . . and hold you in the palm of His hand.”

“We’re going up to 4,500 feet,” Tom said. “Not bad, huh?”

Oh no, it was awesome.

Except for an occasional bounce, I hardly could tell we were moving.

“The bumps are caused by uneven heating in the ground by the sun,” Tom said. “On a cloudy day, typically, the ground temperature is a little more consistent, so it may be smoother flying on a cloudy day.”

This was the most crystal clear afternoon in some time.

Below I saw a fall patchwork quilt of beautiful squares: greens, golds, rusts, black. Above were strips of cottony clouds that I imagined would make perfect batting for that quilt.

Tom had maps and pointed out two TV towers. We were 2,000 feet above them.

As we passed over Page, N.D., I learned we were 47 degrees north of the equator and 97 degrees west of Greenwich, England.

Tom pointed out Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City, N.D., and dipped the plane’s nose so I could l see railroad tracks and swans in front of us.

“It’s interesting to see the change in the terrain after you get out of the valley,” Tom said. “There’s more grass and pasture land. The valley is square and more orderly, like it’s been arranged. The valley looks like it has a mother.”

What a beautiful concept. What an insightful young man.

Some fields looked paisley, others mosaic and still others pinstriped and tie-dyed. We saw lines in the fields that looked like ripples in a living room carpet, and you could see different planting and harvesting directions.

About the same time, we saw the outline of the Turtle Mountains to the north, Tom spotted Fallkirk Mine near Washburn, N.D., to the south.

“That’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

We spotted Lake Sakakawea, then Minot, and soon we were down to earth.

My mother was thrilled to see us. Tom’s parents, David and Margaret Hall, came from Newburg, N.D., with a pie made from apples from Mom’s tree. We ate, talked fast and 90 minutes later, boarded the Warrior for an equally wonderful flight back.

In was dark as we neared Fargo. In one fell sweep of our eyes, we saw the lights of Cooperstown, Fargo, Grand Forks, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Mayville-Portand, Valley City and Wahpeton, N.D.

In both his Minot and Fargo landings, Tom set the Warrior down like it was a western meadowlark lighting on a wild Prairie Rose bush.

No sooner were we out of the plane than Tom’s eyes lifted back to the sky.

“Look at the Big Dipper,” he exclaimed

“Being in the heavens,” Tom says, “puts things into perspective. The size and the vastness of the earth God created makes you realize how small a part of it you are. You realize there’s a lot more to life than just the little details”

His aunt couldn’t agree more.


All these years later, thoughts of that memorable day bring about a peacefulness within as the wind of today rips the leaves from the trees.


Until Soon

Happy sewing machine day!

I see in the Herald’s Red River Valley calendar titled, “The Spot,” that on this day (Sept 10) in 1846, Elias Howe patented the first sewing machine.

(From Wikipedia)

Because I so appreciate this pioneers’ efforts and creativity and because I dearly love my old Singer, I googled Elias only to learn that he and I have something in common.

We both are 9th of July babies.

Not long after Jim and I were married and while living in Cheyenne, Wyo., he bought a Singer sewing machine for me. When our sons were little and I was a stay-at-home-mom, I sewed up a storm. Made most of my own clothes and even sewed sport coats for father and sons. The ones I made for Jim came complete with lapels. The boys I made lapel-less.

Below is a photo of Jim and our oldest son, Troy, sporting their fall plaid sport coats in the year 1967.

The time came when I thought I wanted one of those new fangled do-everything Singers on the market, so one day Jim and I took my Singer and went to the Singer store to look at them. I was quite surprised when the sales associate actually talked me out of trading in my old Singer because what I had, he claimed, was the best one could get. He said that was so because mine is all metal with no plastic parts.

So we took my Singer back home.

Many years have since passed and I still have my trusty ole Singer, thanks to Jim. That machine and the boxes that hold every story I’ve ever written for the Herald were the last things he brought up from the basement the day we evacuated our home during the 1997 flood. Below is my Singer machine, a far cry from Elias Howe’s first machine shown below mine.


(From Wikipedia)

Here’s what I learned online about Elias Howe:

He was born in Spencer, Mass., on July 9, 1819. After he lost his factory job in the Panic of 1837, Howe moved from Spencer to Boston, where he found work in a machinist’s shop. It was there that he began tinkering with the idea of inventing a mechanical sewing machine.

Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to visualize the idea of a sewing machine. Other people had formulated the idea before him, one as early as 1790, and some had even patented their designs and produced working machines. But, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors, and on September 10, 1846, he was awarded the first United States patent (U.S. Patent 4,750) for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines:

1. a needle with the eye at the point,

2. a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and

3. an automatic feed.

I no longer have a box full of Simplicity patterns and I haven’t made something from scratch in years, but my trusty ole Singer never fails me when I need it. That’s because every so often it gets a tune-up at Dietrich Sewing Machine Co., East Grand Forks.

I must sign off now as I have a new pair of jeans to shorten.

Until Soon

We were and remain a corny bunch

Ever since I discovered Lyle Rose’s home grown sweet corn, my freezer and I will have no other.

I happened upon it a few years ago when a sign by the sweet corn in the produce department of a Hugo’s store stated: Locally grown by Lyle Rose, East Grand Forks.

I had never met Lyle Rose until this summer and now I’ve made three trips to his farm which lies not far out from my end of East Grand Forks. He’s a very gentle, kind and friendly soul living in a beautiful place.

On my second trip to the Rose farm, my grandchildren Elyn and Ethan, and my daughter-in-law, Sheri, were with me. We were setting out to have a corn-filled day.

Several years ago, I showed and told all four of my grandchildren how to can peaches. This time Elyn and Ethan and their mom were eager to take part in all that’s involved in freezing sweet corn. There’s nothing like freshly frozen sweet corn on a day in the dead of winter. No one knows that better than all of us.

At the Rose farm, Elyn and Ethan eagerly emptied a gunny sack of corn into our big red tub.

When we got home we set our system in place: a circle of chairs just outside the garage, a red tub in the middle holding the corn, two garbage cans at the end of our elbows for the husks and tunes coming from the radio on the work bench. A motto handed down to me by one of our sons is this: “all jobs are made easier with tunes.”

So, we set the dial on Christian station 97.9 KFNW and husked-away.

When all the cobs were free of their husks and silk, we moved inside to blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes in my big speckled canner. Next, with tongs, each cob was placed in a cold water bath followed by yet another cold water bath followed by a plunge in ice water. Then the cobs were placed on towels to drip dry.

When all the blanching was complete and the cobs cool enough to handle, Elyn and Ethan observed me cutting the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife over a large kettle. When the cutting was done, we scooped the corn into 1- quart freezer bags, flattened the bags and pressed out all the air before zipping them shut. When bags are flattened they take up much less space in the freezer.

Before going to the freezer, however, Ethan thoroughly enjoyed labeling each bag.

One thing I’ve observed while toiling with my grandchildren is that they love to work. They love being given jobs whether it’s in the kitchen breaking eggs to scramble, setting the table for dinner or around buckets of corn to husk by the garage. Seeing them work and making it fun for them makes all of our hearts happy. I hope they one day will pass all this on to their children and grandchildren.

Yes, the corn is ready, but I do hope the dead of winter is a long way off.

Until Soon.