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Marking Times – Some thoughts on Memorial Day 2017

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Have a good Memorial Day. This morning (beginning 9:30 a.m.) I’ll be at the Vietnam Memorial on the MN State Capitol grounds for the annual Vets for Peace Memorial Day observance. Stop over, if you’re in the area. (See end of this post.)

This Memorial Day musing began with an unplanned detour on a north suburban Minneapolis highway on May 18, and concluded with a powerful musical May 26, about a post WWI farm family and community in northern Minnesota.

I hope my musing might bring back to you some memories from days past. All families have legacies which we inherit, and pass on…. (My own family list is at the end of this post.)

(click to enlarge the map, click a second time for greater enlargement, explanation below)

part of 1940 Shell Oil Co. Road Map for Iowa.

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Some days ago I drove to an annual dinner in my old stomping grounds of Anoka County MN. Road work required a detour, and I found myself on Minnesota Highway 65 in Blaine MN, a route to/from work, which I had traveled daily for three years, 1966-69. The approximate six miles, from about 80th Ave NE in Spring Lake Park (1st Ave is downtown Minneapolis) to what used to be called 125th (Main Street east from Anoka) came on this day to be a reflective trip for me – a time to reminisce.

Hwy 65 at 109th in Blaine MN May 18, 2017

These days, the route is strictly suburban, and middle class; home to the world known National Sports Center. Back then, near 50 years ago, Blaine was just developing. Small tract starter homes were blooming west of the highway, ending about at 109th as I recall. To the east and north were essentially nothing but sod farms, and occasional small businesses and rural homes of the day.

I crossed Clover Leaf Parkway at about 94th Avenue NE, and remembered that back then I saw the large barn of Clover Leaf Farms, then a well known company name in the Twin Cities. The farm is long disappeared, but there remains an interesting history of the place here.

This is how history comes back to mind, unintended. The past is never that far gone.

As I drove up that stretch of “65” (as locals would say), I was listening to Vol IV of a CD collection from the 100th anniversary collection of the Minnesota Orchestra: it had been an impulse purchase at a garage sale a short time earlier. Playing as I drove that stretch was Mozart’s Piano Concerto #25 in C Major – a personal favorite. I stopped at Roosevelt Middle School, the place where I had been a teacher from 1965-72, and looked to see when the selection I was listening to had been recorded. Nov. 15, 1957, it said. I remembered Nov. 1957 in my life: we were at my Grandparents farm in Henrietta Township ND, probably at Thanksgiving, and in the evening we gathered on the lawn to watch Sputnik blink its way across the night sky – in those years, the newspaper printed the track of that first satellite in their areas.

I was a senior in high school.

in 1957, “CDs” were many years from becoming part of our vocabulary; now that same CD is rapidly becoming just another fossil. The computer on which I compose this blog, doesn’t even have a CD player as part of standard equipment.

Bernards, Summer 1956, at Anoka MN roadside park

Ah, Sputnik…it gave fuel to the space race and a real emphasis on science in American schools, and all of the other assorted things, good and bad, that went with the Cold War. Ah, CD’s….

Back home a few days later I was looking through a bag with some remaining items from my Grandfather Ferd and then Uncle Vincent’s desk at that farm, and came across several old road maps I had found there after Uncle Vince died. One of them, a well worn one of Iowa roads and towns in 1940, included the map of the U.S. which leads this post. This was, of course, printed long before the Interstate Highway System, which was designed as America’s autobahns, first and foremost a military defense highway system. I first drove on a section of Interstate in 1958, between Jamestown and Valley City ND. “A million dollars a mile”, they said of its cost, then.

My trip down memory lane, at least this trip, culminated last Friday night when we went to see “Sweet Land, the Musical” at Minnesota History Theatre. We were part of a packed house. Its last show was yesterday, though my guess is that it will be back. But you can still access the movie of the same name, or read Will Weaver’s short story which inspired both film and musical, “A Gravestone Made of Wheat”

Short synopsis: Sweet Land is of the triumphs, trials and tribulations of small farmers in Minnesota, from post WWI when a German war-bride came to marry a Norwegian farmer, when anti-German prejudice was still very high. Years later, the intended husband helped save a neighbors farm, and the community in turn helped them save his own farm. It is story of humanity, about greed and about generosity and the tension between invaluable legacy and valuable land. A further history summary of the era, from the program for Sweet Land, is here: Sweet Land001

The show begins with a for sale sign on the property, whose owners have died; it ends with the land not for sale…. I thought of my own families 110 year old farm which recently has begun a new life in North Dakota.

I thought of all of the inhabitants of that farm, now all but one deceased, and those of the neighbor farm whose owners were brother and sister of my own grandparents.

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For this Memorial Day, I remember all of those people who lived for all or part of their lives on that land in rural LaMoure County North Dakota. May we be good examples of their raising us up.

The children of Ferdinand and Rosa (Berning) Busch: (born 1907-27) Lucina, Esther, Verena, Mary, George (Lt., U.S. Navy, Pacific Theatre 1943-45), Florence, Edithe, Vincent, Arthur (U.S. Army 1945-46).

The children of August and Christina (Busch) Berning: (born ca 1907-28) Irwin, Irene, Lillian, Cecilia, Rose, August (Captain U.S. Marines, Pacific Theatre WWII), Hyacinth, Ruth, Ruby, Rufina, Anita, Melvin (U.S. Army, Korea).

These families felt the cost of war. The husband of one was killed over Italy near the end of WWII; the son of another committed suicide on return from Korean war – he couldn’t leave the war behind; the brother-in-law of another, my uncle Frank, went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor; a neighbor of the family, Francis Long, was killed in action, hardly a year into active duty in WWII. Everyone is affected by war. This day the tendency is to honor the fallen, who we call “heroes”. But among us are survivors, suffering in assorted ways from the effects of war. War is insane. We need to work very hard to rid ourselves of the impulse of war as a solution to problems.

And there are other true heroes who have committed their lives to finding some ways to seek peace.

Last night we watched the always moving Memorial Day program on PBS. At the end of the program Vanessa Williams and choral group sang the Hymn which captioned my 1982 Christmas greeting. Below is the cover, and here is the text of that card: Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

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Listen: “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin With Me.”

COMMENTS:
from Donna: Thanks for your inspirational words once again. This Memorial Day I am thinking of my relatives in Germany where my daughter and sister are currently visiting. Rich and I had the opportunity to visit them in southern Germany last October and it is amazing how welcoming they all were. While there I could not imagine leaving the beauty of southern Germany and arriving in North Dakota. It must have been a rude awakening that first winter. I expressed this to one of my cousins from Germany and he said “well if they hadn’t left they would most certainly been part of World War I & II”. Apparently during WWII my relatives would draw around their feet and then send their foot outlines to my dad and he would send back shoes. Growing up in an the all German community of St. Mary’s I am sure that all of our neighbors and friends had family back in Germany that were caught up in the two wars.

from Annelee (who grew up in Nazi Germany): Dick,Thanks for the Peace and Justice memorial Day 2017. I learned a great deal about the past as you took us down along the highways of memory lane. You brought alive the toils and struggles of your ancestral families on the farms. Then they were asked to give their sons. They were called to serve and they gave their lives.

Times have changed, some for better, some for much worse. Young men throughout the world since then have died and are still dying to serve a cause?

I remember my papa: I don’t know where he read, heard or came to the conclusion on his own.

He always said when our young men were called during WWII, and he learned that that many he knew had died — he shook his head and said
“WAR IS INSANITY AND INHUMANITY OF MEN TO HIS FELLOW MEN— I MAY NOT REMEMBER IT EXACTLY.

WAR IS STILL GOING ON, AND IT WILL CONTINUE AS LONG AS WAR AND ITS COST ARE GLORIFIED AND WE NEGLECT LIFE AND ALL ITS BLESSING PEACE COULD BRING.

from Christina: What great thoughts for this Memorial Day!

Veterans for Peace at Vietnam Memorial on MN State Capitol Grounds, May 29, 2017.

It was a chilly, blustery day, but there was a large group who gathered. Below are a few photos from the annual gathering.

May 29, Veterans for Peace gathering.

Ceremonial Bell Ringing remembering those who have died.

May 29, 2017

Anne Dunn: “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, from her book, “Fire in the Village”

Monday, May 8th, 2017

COMMENTS at end of post.

Note: Anne has honored this space with her work on a number of occasions. With her permission, I present this story from her wonderful book Fire in the Village. Ordering information at end of this post. Regarding the photo, see note at the end of this post.

(click to enlarge)

Grandmother died suddenly, as so many had during those difficult days. For that reason, her eldest granddaughter began to clean th old woman’s small tar-papered house by the big lake.

If Grandmother had sold the valuable lakeshore property she would have been a rich woman. But she’d held on to the land so she could leave something for her surviving children. Eventually, however, the land had been divided and bit by bit, it would be lost.

But today her orphaned granddaughter, Rose, would discover an old mystery carefully wrapped and packed in the bottom of a wooden barrel. The barrel was full of rug rags, colorful yarn and remnants of fabrics the old woman had been saving for quilts.

So it was that Rose found herself holding an exquisite bowl. After turning it around several times to admire the shape and design, she looked inside. She was startled to find a long braid of human hair coiled in the bottom of the bowl. It was an old braid from an old person. The braid had been tied at the ends with faded red ribbons. Rose wondered whose hair it was and what her obligations were now that she had become the keeper of the hair bowl.

Thoughtfully she put the bowl and its mysterious contents into a box of things she would keep for herself. Then she went on sorting the rags and folding the fabrics in neat stacks for the giveaway, which would celebrate Grandmother’s life one year from the day of her death.

After the four-day wake and burial, Rose turned her attention to the hair bowl. She fully recognized her responsibility to the hair and decided to seek counsel on the matter.

On a bright spring morning Rose made a bundle of several carefully chosen items from Grandmother’s possessions, put the hair bowl in a bag and went to visit Maggie Sore Eyes.

After a warm greeting followed by three cups of maple-sweetened wild mint tea and four fig cookies, Rose placed the bundle on the table between them. Maggied opened the bundle and found a tin of tobacco, a pair of blanket slippers, an embroidered apron and three skeins of yarn. She smiled at Rose and thanked her.

When the gift had been accepted, Rose showed her the hair bowl. The elder woman lifted the braid and held it in her hands for several long minutes. Then she laid the hair on the table, opened a nearby chest and removed several items.

She placed a large abalone shell, a bundle of sage and a sweetgrass braid on the table. Prayerfully she prepared and lit a cleansing smudge. The women sat together in silence as the shadows of the tall trees crept across the yard.

At last Maggie spoke. “We will be visited in our dreams. After you dream, you must come to me with the hair bowl. I will be waiting for my dream, too. When we receive instructions we will know what we must do.”

Rose was greatly relieved as she walked home late that afternoon.

That night she had her dream. An elder woman, whom she’d never seen before, came to her and said she wanted to give her a gift. Reaching up, the elder cut off one of her braids with a stone blade and held it out to Rose.

When she woke up she dressed quickly and hurried to Maggie’s small house. After sipping a cup of hot coffee, Rose told her dream. The elder woman listened the told her dream to Rose.

Maggie lit the smudge. Together the women prayed for guidance and understanding. Afterwards, they discussed what must be done. They decided to create a ceremony of compassion, burn the hair in a nearby balsam grove and wait.

It took several days to gather everything they needed for the ceremony. When all was ready they went to the grove, performed the ceremony and waited. At last, another woman joined them. Rose recognized her as the woman in her dream. Her braid had been restored and she was pleased. Now she could continue her journey.

For many years Rose kept her own hair in the bowl. She burned the hair under a full moon several times a year.

Eventually she became the mother of several children and her eldest son was married. Tanya, the young bride, was interested in the ceremonies of women.

But before the newlyweds could celebrate their first anniversary, Tanya became ill and Rose prepared a cleansing ceremony for her healing. She also decided to give Tanya the hair bowl. So she presented the gift with a braid of sweet grass inside. Tanya looked into the bowl for a long time. Then she said, ‘I must tell you my dream.”

The young woman spoke softly: “An elder woman came to me. She said she wanted to give me a gift. Then reaching up, she cut off one of her braids and held it out to me.”

Rose was overcome with emotion and turned toward the window to hide her feelings. Then it was that she saw four women standing in the yard. They were her mother, her grandmother, Mattie and the elder woman she had seen in the balsam grove so many years before. The women smiled at Rose, then looked beyond her at Tanya who smiled back. Slowly the four women faded into another dimension and were gone.

Tanya reached across the table to hold Rose’s hand. They sat together in the gathering darkness and thanked the visitors for coming.

Sharing the same dream would enrich their long relationship. The women would enjoy several good years together and many times they would be asked to make ceremonies for the healing, cleansing and guidance of other women and their children.

POST NOTE FROM DICK BERNARD: Anne, longtime friend, sent Fire in the Village to me as a gift a few months ago. Its contents are 75 stories similar to the above.

“Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, at page 195-97, spoke to me immediately. Anne won’t know, till she reads this post, that in the possessions of my last surviving elder from my mothers side, I found in a trunk at the former family farm in North Dakota the container pictured at the beginning of this story. It was a possession that spoke to me, profoundly, but what does one do with a can full of old hair? It has been safely stored in our garage for the past two years.

I took the photograph, without embellishment, on May 8, 2017. For the first time I disturbed the contents to see what was within.

There are no labels with the various cuttings of human hair.

Almost without any question, they were collected by my grandmother, as her children were born and grew up on the North Dakota prairie. From 1907-27, nine children were born in that farmhouse, and they all grew up there as well. The first five children were girls, then a boy, then two more girls, then two boys. Among them they had 28 children, one of whom was me.

Of course, I have read the story, and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it now.

For any reader who wishes, how would you advise about the future of this can full of hair?

It is one of those treasures without price or money value. Just some old hair…but much, much more than that.

Anne, need I mention my grandmothers name: Rose Busch.

And one of her granddaughters: Tonya….

(click to enlarge. There are two photos).

COMMENTS
from Kathy:
My thoughts about the hair-
Many of us who sew or make quilts, save old scraps in hopes of piecing these remnants together someday. Often these scraps get relegated to the back of a closet or put away into boxes or plastic tubs and are soon forgotten in life’s whirlwind.

The hair scraps made me think of the antique hair wreaths I’ve seen in museums. My friend also has a tatted hair wreath displayed in an ornate frame, passed down in her family from the 1800s – bits of hair from family members…a sort of tapestry of family dna samples.

I suspect that’s why your bucket of hair was being saved – a treasure.

Dick Bernard: A visit to the “Canyon of 60 Abandon”; and music in the country.

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Ross ND Marching Band on Parade in Williston ND, 1954.

My birthday, Thursday, was just as I liked: quiet, the usual morning coffee, then Minnesota Orchestra, and dinner at W.A. Frost in later afternoon. I’m grateful for the many Facebook comments to Thursdays “birthday post.

A gift to me some years ago was a TED talk by Louie Schwartzberg called Gratitude. Here is the link to it, a gift transferred to you.

In my birthday post, I shared a 3 second YouTube of Grandpa Bernard at 77. Yesterday came a three second cut of myself at 2:24 of a 3 minute video from April 29, 2017, at “The World is My Country” (a film in which I’ve been directly involved). See the video here, if you wish.

May 4, at coffee I began to generate a list of elders who have influenced my life since I retired in 2000. To this day, with these folks – the ones still alive – I will remain “just a kid”.

I was remembering a long ago conference of the National Education Association in the far suburbs of Houston TX in November, 1998, where the major workshop, was entitled “The Canyon of 60 Abandon”. It became my Christmas greeting for 2000 which speaks for itself: Canyon of 60 Abandon002.

My list was really quite long, about half women, half men. Most recent of note was our friend Annelee Woodstrom, age 90, who was honored a week or so ago by the arts community in northwest Minnesota. They didn’t know, apparently, till the event, that she is about to complete her third book, to be published perhaps this summer. All of those on my list, in various ways, at various times, have, to borrow the phrase, “touched, moved and inspired” me.

Most noteworthy was Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who seemed to go on and on as conductor emeritus of the Minnesota Orchestra. He conducted his last concert just months before he died Feb. 21, 2017 at 93. We saw him conduct several times in his last years. Here’s more about him, if you wish: Skrowaczewski001

We all have such a list. A good day to remember some of yours!

At the Minnesota Orchestra concert for May 4 – we’re long time subscribers – in the program I saw an essay by the late Minnesota poet and writer Bill Holm, who grew up in the small town of Minneota MN. You can read his Essay here: Bill Holm001.

Holm, in his essay, talks about education and a teacher who played the violin in his small town.

I related to the story, since my entire upbringing was in tiny North Dakota towns – Minneota was a “big city” compared to any of mine and, as many of you know, my parents were the teachers in all of them. (The photo which leads this post was in Williston ND, of the Ross ND marching band, ca summer of 1954 or such.)

Many of our small towns had two or three high school teachers, and perhaps three elementary school instructors. There was no room for specialization. And there were the characters, as Bill Holm describes, though I will defend to the death the value of small town education (while not dismissing its problems).

Music in these small towns was more miss than hit, of course. Only once in awhile was a town lucky enough to have a teacher who’d been in a band somewhere.

In 8th grade, in Ross, I at least learned the scales on a clarinet. Miss Stone, down in Antelope, and Sr. Rose, in Sykeston, attempted to teach me piano (I still see that metronome.). Miss Stone, I learned later, was conservatory trained, somewhere out east. It didn’t help her, with me!

I was told that my brother, Frank, did an amazing job with Taps on Memorial Day in Sykeston ca 1960; sister Flo ruined many an early morning practicing on the snare drums below we boys bedroom. (She was probably doing a good job, but the practice time and venue was not ideal for the older brother upstairs!)

And someone, Mom or Dad or both, liked to listen to live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons.

As Mr. Holm was inspired by the eccentric Mr. Peabody, so did osmosis work its magic on we kids, in assorted ways. For years I’ve loved music (but I never did to learn to play an instrument!)

As age goes on, we learn what we have learned….

All best.

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POSTNOTE: As with Mr. Holm in Minneota, some of the music bug rubbed off on me. We are longtime subscribers to the Minnesota Orchestra; a week ago grandson Ted and I completed our second Jazz season at Orchestra Hall; Sunday, grandson and granddaughter Ted and Kelly perform at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul as part of the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs. Come on over, if you’re in the area. It will be very much worth your time. The youth choirs are wonderful.

Shack II – Good Friday at the Basilica of Saint Mary. “God” Among Us.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

SEE COMMENTS AT THE END OF THIS POST.

In my tradition, today is Easter. Whatever your tradition, this day, all best for a happy one!

(click to enlarge)

At the Stone War Memorial at the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, March 28, 2017. Each Minnesota County contributed a boulder on which part of a single war time letter was inscribed. This one is from Todd County Minnesota.

March 17 at this space, I posted about the film and movie, The Shack. You can revisit it here. At the beginning of that post, I very deliberately mentioned Columbine High School which became memorable April 20, 1999. At the end of that post I have now added my blogpost about The Shack written at the time I read the book in 2009, plus my Amazon review at that time. At the end of this post – postnote 1, below – is my unedited first rough draft thoughts about todays post, saved on March 19.

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It’s been almost eight years since some friend told me about the book, “The Shack”, and now well over a month since I saw the film version in Littleton CO (see postnote 2 below). I have had some very interesting conversations about the book in the past month (including with myself!), and my antennae have been up to observe, as I say in the headline, “God Among Us”.

These are two repetitive thoughts this day:
1) Ours is an individualistic society, with a tendency to create God in our own image and to justify our own action. This is a real dilemma for organized hierarchical religion of all varieties, long accustomed to controlling the flock through one or another view of what God is, or is not.
2) We have great trouble dealing with forgiveness…of others, and of ourselves. The 1916 quotation on the boulder which leads this column merits long and very serious reflection and conversation.

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Tenebrae on Good Friday evening at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis – two days ago – seems to bring it all together for me at this moment in my history.

We were in a jam-packed church Friday night.

The stage for Good Friday had been set for me, personally, through a brief back-and-forth between two of us – long-time good friends – earlier in the day.

I’m a regular at Catholic Mass; my friend used to be. He has his reasons.

Some snips:
J: “Happy Easter from the Apostate. I haven’t been to a Good Friday service in ages… do they still pray for the conversion of the Jews?”
D: “Maybe we’ll go tonight and I’ll let you know…we visited Auschwitz, etc., in the spring of 2000, a mixed group of Jews and Catholics from Basilica and Temple Israel. About that time, the big story was the shakeup in the famous Oberammergau (sp?) Passion Play, where the big deal was the guilt of the Jews… But, I think, there is a relatively positive equilibrium at the moment….

Seated, I leafed through the program booklet, and in the section, “Jesus Breathed His Last” on p.6, was this (click to enlarge):

Tenebrae Program booklet at Basilica of St. Mary Minneapolis MN Good Friday April 14, 2017

The powerful service continued, and at page 12 in the booklet, came a prelude: “Remarks (Please be seated.)”

Presider and Basilica Pastor John Bauer began brief remarks by talking about the tragic history of Jewish – Catholic relations, and the strong impetus to change those relationships particularly in the time beginning with Pope John Paul II.

Then he introduced the speaker, Rabbi Sim Glaser of neighboring Temple Israel in Minneapolis.

I have heard Rabbi Glaser before, and we did go to Auschwitz with Temple Israel members in 2000, so what I and the others were about to hear was not a surprise.

I would summarize Rabbi Glaser’s very powerful remarks in this way:
1) There are three major Abrahamic religions: Jews, Christians, Moslems.
2) Jerusalem is important to all these religions.
3) We all live together in this world, and we need to relearn how to communicate with each other, rather than continue isolation and division.

I usher at Basilica often. I am sure that many of these people who Rabbi Glaser was addressing from this Catholic pulpit had not been in Church for a long while. Some may have been surprised.

The Rabbi had been introduced to much applause; when he returned to the pew, seated among all of us, the applause was even greater and sustained. This at a service where the final words in the program are “All depart in complete silence“.

I thought of my earlier conversation with my apostate friend, and about “The Shack”, whose focus (at least to me) is the need for forgiveness, of others, of ourselves.

A few hours earlier, my friend and I had closed our e-mail conversation.
J: “Heck, I go [to Catholic Mass”] fairly often… at least 2 Sundays per month at least, at St Joan… and I don’t even consider myself either Christian or Catholic….
D: “Actually, I like going to church. It’s a good calming place for me. We’re a large diverse place so there’s all sorts of folks who wander in, including me, I guess.
J: “Yep, calming… agree!

The Shack? A novel followed by a movie. By traditional standards, perhaps, a purveyor of bad theology.

But what I witnessed at Basilica of St. Mary on Good Friday 2017 was the very essence of what I had read about and saw in “The Shack”. It may not seem like it, but people are beginning to get it. Let’s leave it at that.

Happy Easter.

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POSTNOTE 1 – the early draft of this post, March 19, 2017: This post begins with two pages from an 1896 8th grade Geography book, used by my grandmother when she was in 8th grade – the final year she went to school at a Catholic school in Wisconsin, not far from Dubuque IA. It speaks for itself. (Click a second time and you can enlarge both).

The above was 131 years ago, in the United States of America, in a textbook sanctioned by my Church, the Catholic Church. It was the basis of instruction for 8th graders in a Catholic School.

We have changed, and I think very much for the better. But where we started was dismal, and for some what the standard should still be.

POSTNOTE 2: We saw the film, the Shack, literally across the street from “Cross Hill“, overlooking Columbine High School in Littleton CO. By sheer coincidence, I was visiting my family in Littleton five days after the massacre on April 20,1999. We joined the throng of people who slowly moved up that “hill” of construction remnants, to see the crosses that had been planted there by a man from another state for each of the victims killed that terrible day. It was incredibly moving.

It is long ago, now, so I don’t remember precisely, but in my memory, the day we reached the top, two of the crosses in that line had been cut down – the ones erected for the killers, the two students who had killed the others and then themselves. They, too, had perished, but denied standing as having also been killed.

In effect, they had been denied the right to be grieved – two more lost lives on an awful day.

My son and I walked up that same hill little over a month ago, and there is now a permanent monument – presently being reconstructed – remembering those killed 18 years ago.

But the killers seem to appear nowhere in todays monument, at least nowhere I can see. I can see the reasoning. At the same time, how long will it be till we can forgive, to echo that letter in the photo above, written in 1916, about the Civil War 60 years earlier.

In my opinion, unwillingness to forgive others, and ourselves, is the blind-side of forgiveness that affects every one of us. No one need qualify for forgiveness. To me, that seems to be the essence of this day, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Have a great day, and all which follow.

COMMENTS:
from Flo: Amen.

from Jermitt: Wonderful testimonial, wonderful historical story of your Grandmothers education and great lesson on forgiveness for everyone.

from Larry(wordchipper@gmail.com, with permission): Found your pieces on “The Shack” and Good Friday in your Roman Catholic Church to be thought stimulating. Will watch for the book and/or movie. I’ve bypassed the book several times but your article prompts me to maybe read it or at least look at the movie.

Regarding the Roman Church, I have my problems with this body and not just because I’m a lifelong ELCA Lutheran. I have many dear friends – like you – who are Catholics and when my wife and I have visited places like Mexico and Hawaii, we’ve attended mass at the most prominent landmark in any village, the Catholic cathedral. I find your church’s emphasis on string instruments and piano refreshing. I’m with Garrison Keillor on protesting against overly-enthusiastic organists. We have them in our church and, apparently, they’re also playing loudly in Mr. Keillor’s.

But my concerns today with your church have to do with their heavy-handed role in American politics. Although it raises my blood pressure, I listened to Catholic media, both radio and television, featuring endless praise for Donald Trump because of his stand on “abortion,” although his stance on anything, including abortion, is a bit suspect. The commentators on Catholic media sounded like they took their training from Fox News. Horribly one-sided. I called into one national program and reminded two of the on-air expounders, who were praising Republicans and blasting Democrats, that it was Democrats who put across the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and fought for working class people, many of whom belonged to unions and were good Catholics. Also, because I’m “pro-choice,” does not mean I’m against life. I believe Republicans and Catholics ought to care as much about babies who are born – through health care, education, and so forth – as they are about getting between a doctor, his or her patient, and the patient’s God, or no religious belief. Our Republican legislators in North Dakota, many of whom are Catholics, cut health care programs for women and others but pass unconstitutional measures that waste tax dollars on wild goose chases that do nothing but please the Roman hierarchy.

Noting the personal morality record of Mr. Trump, multiple divorces, not paying subcontractors, and proposing to cut health care while investing more money with the Daddy Warbucks of the country, I just don’t get it why the Roman Church in the USA is so in love with Trump and expressed such hatred for Mrs. Clinton. They preached their right-wing philosophy so strongly during the Presidential campaign that, I believe, the should have lost their 501-3c tax exemption.

Response from Dick: Larry, it’s a rather daunting task to take on your response. I just googled the words “Catholic census” and the first link was a reputable one, Pew Research, that says there are over a billion Catholics worldwide, half of the Christians. The whole global population is over 7 billion. I usually hear that Minnesota has about 20% Catholics; the U.S. about 25%. That’s lots of folks, and I know from long experience that they aren’t all alike.

I was in college in the transition from the old to the new Church – 1958-61. Generalizing is dangeous, granted, but I think I can fairly say but “authority” took a hit in the post-Vatican II era. This was great for many Catholics; “the pits” for many as well. In one sense or other this battle is joined every day in one way or another.

Personally, I’m on what I’d call the social justice side of the debate within the church. I’m sure the authoritarian side would also say they’re for social justice, but they’re more into control, often played in the assorted debates that you cast concern about in your state (which is a state very familiar to me.)

I choose to stay within the Church. I don’t see it doing much good to drop out and start over in some other denomination. Those I would call “authoritarians” are not comfortable with the current Church, which is fine by me. The Catholic Church, like many Christian churches (and others, doubtless) has a very long history of authoritarianism, going all the way back to Constantine’s embrace of Christianity as essentially the state Church of the Roman Empire about 300 A.D. In general, where the ruler went, the people went. Some places, everybody was Lutheran; other places, something else. in the olden days sense, we’re sort of in the wild west.

I think I’ll leave it at that, except to emphasize once again Rabbi Glaser’s advice at my Catholic Church on Friday: we need to look at and talk with each other. That is risky, but the only way to break the current and very unhealthy stalemate. Just my opinion.

A LETTER: On April 17, I sent a letter to the Denver Post. I almost immediately got a call back that they were interested, and I expected it would be printed. Thus far (Apr 26) I haven’t seen it printed. So here it is:
Last month we were in Denver to visit family. I asked to visit “Cross Hill”, the place above Columbine dating back to just after April 20, 1999. March 11, 2017, we walked to the memorial.

April 25, 1999, I was in Littleton to visit the same family, who then and still, lives little more than a mile from Columbine. In a steady rain, four of us patiently trod up to those new crosses.

At the top were two fewer crosses than originally set in the ground. Those two were those raised for the killers, also students, who also perished that day. Those crosses were cut down.

I know the reasons those crosses came down.

Today I speak to the need, in my opinion, to recognize once again these two students whose personal demons led to the heinous results. They were victims too.

Forgiveness is difficult. Consider it, seriously.

Dick Bernard: Planting Onions…and Glorious Flowers

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Today’s post is a recollection about my Aunt and Uncle. Shortly, we leave for a few days vacation. This computer will lie quiet for awhile. The following post has nothing to do with politics…then again, it may have everything…. At the exact same time I was composing this, among many critical issues, the most important of all, “repeal and replace” “Obamacare” has erupted in our nations Capitol. Insuring all of we citizens against catastrophic medical costs is a very, very big deal everyone needs to care about. In my view, the launch of this supposedly new plan is like launching a nuclear bomb against an unsuspecting people…. Here is a long and readable summary to read on this issue, if you wish. I will write later on my deep personal concerns on this matter. More in coming weeks.

Vincent Busch May 7, 2013


(click to enlarge any photos)

“Forwards” are not always welcome, as anyone who does e-mail knows.

Sometimes, like a couple of days ago, comes a gem, one such reaching me from a North Dakota farm near my ancestral farm at Berlin ND, a blog post by Rachel Held Evans received and forwarded to me by a good friend.

What caught my attention was the headline: “…Planting Onions*….”

What attracted my memory was remembering a row of onions I watched being planted by my Uncle Vincent May 7, 2013. (See photo which leads this post).

Uncle Vince was 88 at the time, and this visit he had a compelling need to plant some sweet onions in the now nearly vacant one acre garden he and his sister Edithe had kept alive long after the rest of the nine family members who had lived there, helping with and enjoying the fruits of the garden, had passed on.

Now there were only the two of them. and for seven prior years they’d lived in assisted living in town. But near every day they’d drive out to the old farm, and every spring was the ritual planting. Every year, the actual planted area decreased, but every year the entire acre was cultivated, to keep weeds at bay.

Now the gardeners were down to my Uncle, and he had very little energy left to expend. But once again he had plowed the ground, preparing the soil, and now it was time to plant something.

Six months earlier his sister had been admitted to the Nursing Home, and Uncle Vince now had to come to the farm alone. This year about all he was managing to plant were a couple of row of sweet onions. In his quiet way that pleasant day in May, I seemed to be witnessing almost a religious rite, near grief: a nod to a past that was rapidly disappearing.

It was while looking for the photo that leads this post that I came across another photo of something else I had seen at the same farm, a few minutes earlier that May day, as we drove up the lane, past the long vacant farmhouse.

Aunt Edithe’s voluntaries, May 17, 2013

Those and other flowers were Edithe’s passion, and probably in a previous year she had planted them, and here they were, unattended, but beautiful nonetheless, adding life to the house and surroundings..

No one had been by to remind them that it was time to bloom; they paid no mind that no one was weeding around them, or making sure they had water; or that they had an audience to admire them. They just were….

It seems to me, now, four years later, that both Uncle Vincent and those flowers were sending their own messages to us, about things like reverence for the land and tradition, about devotion to the better sides of our nature. Many other messages can be conveyed. They are for you to contemplate yourself and, if you wish, to share with others as well.

Have a great day.

* – Ms Evans post talked about “revisiting Madeleine L’Engle’s Genesis Trilogy,” and being “struck by how forthcoming the author is about her own fears around raising children during the Cold War. She writes of one particularly worrisome season: “Planting onions that spring was an act of faith in the future, for I was very fearful for our planet.”

In her Mar. 1, 2017 blog post, Ms Evans commented: “Planting onions” has come to signify for me the importance of remaining committed to those slow-growing, long-term investments in my family, my community, and the world, no matter what happens over the next four years”.

POSTNOTE
Time went on after that May visit to the garden.

In mid-July I made another visit to Vincent and Edithe; and once again Vince and I went to the old farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids.

July, 2013 in the garden

Vincent told me the rows of sweet onions were no more – he had gone out to the farm by himself, after dark, to plow the garden, and by mistake plowed them under.

It was clear to everyone that Vincents memory and general health were failing as his sisters had.

My next trip, in September, it was even more clear.

In November, 2013, Vincent joined Edithe in the memory care unit at the St. Rose Nursing Home in LaMoure. In Feb, 2014, she died at 94. Almost exactly a year later, in Feb, 2015, Uncle Vince passed on, having just reached 90.

At the lunch after Vincent’s funeral, neighbor farmer Pat Quinlan recalled the onion sandwich Vince had given him one day when he was over helping. It was the funniest of stories, as the photo below attests. Probably Vince would have squirmed, but it was all in great humor. Vince was who he was. In life, he would appear to be just an ordinary farmer with a small farm. But he was oh, so much more….

Pat Quinlan (at right) remembers the onion sandwich, February, 2015

We have only our own images of what heaven might be like.

Perhaps there is a garden and flowers and gentle breezes there.

Meanwhile, here on earth, let’s do what we can to make this world a better place for all of us.

Edithe and Vince in their garden July 27, 2007

Flowers and Onions, July 27, 2007

Edithe and Flowers, July 27, 2007

Edithe with the flowers from the garden July 27, 2007

Dick Bernard: An Old Photograph

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Today is my oldest child, Tom’s, birthday. He shares the birthdate with my wife, and our daughter-in-law; and his great-grandfather, Henry Bernard, would be 145 today, were he still alive. And two days from now would be his great grandparent Ferd and Rosa Busch’s 112th wedding anniversary. Time marches on.

(click to enlarge all photos. Click again for more enlargement.)

Busch family history about 1937

This weekend I was continuing a long project – sorting hundreds of photos from the Busch farm, saved by the last survivors of the farm, my Uncle Vince, and Aunt Edithe, who died two and three years ago respectively.

There are hundreds of photos. The one which leads this story has always intrigued me, though as you can readily see (you can enlarge it twice if you wish) is not a prize winner. It was taken, almost certainly, on August 9, 1937, on the wedding day of my mother and father, Henry Bernard and Esther Busch, at the Busch farm near Berlin ND. If I’m correct – I think I am – it is the only photo surviving of my parents wedding day.

Back in those days, the days of the Great Depression, few photos were taken, and those taken were not wasted. And you didn’t know, sometime for weeks, whether the photo would turn out. But once you got it back, even if not good, it wasn’t tossed – thankfully.

In this photo, I can clearly make out my Dad, he’s the “tall drink of water” in the back row to the right. My future Mom is in front of him. Clearly, at the right in the picture, are Dad’s sister, Josie, and her husband Allen Whitaker, from San Marino CA. In the group would be both sets of my future grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles and others.

What really attracts my attention, though, is the dinner bell in the background. This is the oldest picture of the bell I’ve seen. The family story of the bell is uncertain. Certainly it was used to call the workers in from the field. We kids would always visit the bell when we came to the farm. It was well photo’ed over the years. My guess: it once adorned a country one-room school nearby.

And I note the dog as well, who appears in quite a number of the photos which have not been labeled. That pooch probably had a normal farm dogs life span, and helps me date some of the photos. He or she seemed to enjoy being in the pictures!

All the birthday folks mentioned at the beginning of this post started out in some family circle somewhere, going back generation after generation after generation. Everyone has stories worth remembering for generations, here or yet to come.

For every one of us there are hills and valleys in the family history. We like to think we can control our destiny, but as one who is rapidly approaching octogenarian status, I know that there are many and disparate intrusions into the dreams of youth.

Best wishes to everyone. To Tom and all the others, do the best you can with the time you have, and help make the world a better place. Take time to read “The Station” linked at the end of this post.

Happy Birthday.

Some other photos, more family specific.

Four generations: Grandma Busch with great-grandson Thomas, daughter Esther, and grandson Richard, at the farm, June 1964

Family gathering at the farm August, 1964. Barbara, Tom’s Mom, at far right.

The men in the Busch family with the youngest male, Tom, August, 1964

After Barbara’s funeral July 29, 1965, at the Grand Rapids Veterans Memorial Park. Ferd holds Tom, Rosa at right, all of the Busch “kids” are behind. It was a sad day, such as we all experience sometime in our lives.

Busch dinner bell, photo by Mary Kay Busch summer 1976

A popular and Inspirational Essay on Living Life, a favorite of Ann Landers called “The Station”The Station001

Dick Bernard: Three weeks after inauguration day. Letters to Judd

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

More on the topic of the 2017 Presidency here.

(click to enlarge)

The town in which we live, Woodbury MN, would be considered a prosperous suburban community just east of St. Paul. Sometimes I refer to it as “suburban 3M”, since 3Ms headquarters are nearby and many highly skilled employees live here. Politically, we’re probably a “purple” place: our State Senator and one of our two state legislators are Democrat and female; the other side of the district had a hard fought race between two women: one Democrat, one Republican. The Democrat (we call Democrats DFLer – Democratic Farmer Labor in Minnesota) is a young African-American professional woman; our town of 62,000 has a significant number of Muslims, primarily highly educated professional people.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, yesterday, to see our local paper, the Woodbury Bulletin, carry a front page and very long column by Youssef Rddad on the WWII internship of the Japanese in America, with a headline “Does Trump order echo the past?

Meanwhile, back in Washington…. A good daily summary I look forward to every day is found in Just Above Sunset, a retired guy in Los Angeles. The last number, overnight, is titled: “The Persistence of Nonsense“. [Feb. 11: the most recent posting, again overnite, is chilling and important, here. Avoiding reality is not a good option…for us.]

Here at home I had occasion to pull down one of the boxes of farm “junk” – part of the last remaining residue of my grandparents 110 year farm in rural North Dakota.

I was looking for the book about the 1997 Red River Valley Flood (which is here, somewhere), but instead, sitting on top, was a 64-page pamphlet, “Letters to Judd”, originally written in 1925 and, according to author Upton Sinclair, “reprinted in 1932 and 1933. I might have rewritten it, but I thought you would learn more by reading it as prophecy.”

It would count as “prophecy” for the first decades of the 2000s as well.

Upton Sinclair was a prolific author, a Socialist, once a candidate for Governor of California. You can read the entire 1933 pamphlet here.

The pamphlet I have is the 1933 edition, and five pages can be seen here: Letters to Judd002

Take the time to read the first couple of letters. I think you’ll want to continue to the end.

Grandpa Busch was about 53 – my oldest sons age – when he picked up the book in 1933. His area, North Dakota, was in the hard times of the Depression. He had lost, or was about to lose, part of his land.

I’ve gotten to know a lot about Grandpa and Grandma and their family over these past many years.

Grandpa came to the prairie in 1905 to be somebody. As so often happens to the little guys (and gals), greed of bigger shots than he put the brakes on his aspirations. The Non-Partisan League beckoned; later he was one of the first to join and become very active in the North Dakota Farmers Union.

But I think he was always on the conservative side, not happy with “loafers” who got government jobs in the CCC and WPA and such (even though a nephew was in the CCC). He was a gifted tinkerer, convinced that inventing stuff – he had patents – would sail his families boat, though it never did.

It would be great to have a conversation with Grandpa about “Letters to Judd” – how he came to learn about it; what he thought of it…. He lived on 34 more years, on the same farm, always a dreamer, a tinkerer.

Letters to Judd is about the battle between concepts: Capitalism versus Socialism. We are in a society where Capitalism has won, but have we…?

Read the pamphlet, think about what you’ve read, share it, have a conversation.

What part do you play in our future.

COMMENTS:
from Corky: Letters to Judd is interesting read. Economic analysis is interesting. I understand the plight of farmers much better now.

from C: How sad. We watched the movie Grapes of Wrath last night on [TV]. You couldn’t help but cry at what they went through. I kept thinking of our refugees. I know we shouldn’t live in fear, but I can’t help it. I fear what is happening in our country. Is this the coming of Hitler’s dictatorship time? I hear how, ” this and that” is being investigated and it gives me hope but it’s so slow in happening. It’s like I read where a president was told “Don’t piss in the pot we all have to eat out of”. The women in congress speak up but the only men that speak up are Democrats, Senators Tim Kaine, your [Mn Sen.] Franken, and Republican John McCain.

from Emmett: As I read through the material, I found that it paralleled the story of my family. My dad suffered from a hernia and wore a truss, as did Judd. Our house was also made of a couple of houses brought together, and then other additions were added later. Much of what is said sounds a lot like what my dad said. And much of what is said is still happening today (automation). The letter writers would be shocked by what is currently happening in this electronic world we live in. It is interesting as to how people can witness the same thing and yet process it in such different ways. All this makes me think about Mitt Romney and his comment about makers and takers. You have a work force making things and the wealthy executives of the company take the profits for themselves leaving little for the makers. Yet from Mitt Romney’s perspective, he was the maker by virtue of his investments, while the 47%, made up largely by poor underpaid makers were the takers in his mind. I was thinking that this should be sent to Trump. But I’m not sure he has the intellect to digest it all. All this makes you understand the passage of Glass-Steagall, to protect us from the wealth crooks that caused the Great Depression and the Bush Recession.

from Peter: Here is a letter I just sent to my extended family. I encourage everyone to follow the link and take effective action

Love

Peter

*******

Family,

It may have been awhile since you heard from me about other than births, deaths or marriages.

We are confronted with an administration that seems bent on harming as many as possible of the most vulnerable among us. Most of you saw this coming, and opposed it, but here we are.

Today immigration raids have begun in earnest, tearing apart families all over America. I had seen this under the previous administration, when I participated in a workshop in Boston with teenagers who often came home from school to find the front door missing and their parents gone. In Boston. In America. But this is now set to “surge”, according to ICE.

This can’t be accomplished by haranguing people who already agree with us, which is what happens when we blog or use the Book of Faces. One way that might have real impact, however, is to erode their corporate support, as outlined below. Because, although corporations are not democratic in any way, they exist because we put up with them, regardless of politics or law. And we don’t have to put up with them. They live under the Rule of Money, not the Rule of Law, and in that country [Money], we have considerable, innate power.

The history of the list, and those included on the list, is GrabYourWallet.org/about.

We are seeing a massive power-grab by the likes of Bannon, who is a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist. He is now attacking Planned Parenthood, the golden goose of his hate-spewing career, now that he is running the White House. That person knows no limits, and believes in an an ultimate war between the few people he likes, and the rest of humanity. The President, as is obvious, is a loon who is easily steered by such manipulators, and will be discarded – a last great trumpian spectacle – when his puffery ceases sufficiently to distract the nation from the deep substantive changes his backers are making to our system of governance.

We are all needed now. Meanwhile, as Joni Mitchell sang:

“The gas leaks

The oil spills

And sex kills…”

Love,

Peter
PS- as with all links in emails, paste it in your browser, don’t click on it here!

from Fred: Here is [a] Kipling poem The Sons of Martha and the note my friend sent. If you want to see Upton Sinclair’s comment [on the poem] just google reviews of the poem*.
“I’ve seen this cited in a couple of places on the web as a key to (at least some of) the psychology of the 2016 election. It’s called “The Sons of Martha”. Biblical reference is Luke 10. Notes here.”

Rudyard Kipling (1907)
The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother, of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains “Be ye removèd.” They say to the lesser floods “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger Death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are –
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s ways may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

* – Upton Sinclair: from “The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.(Under this title the English poet has written a striking picture of the social chasm. He figures the world’s toilers as the “Sons of Martha,” who, because their mother “was rude to the Lord, her Guest,” are condemned forever to unrequited toil. “It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.” The poem goes on to tell of the ignorance and torment in which they live—while the Sons of Mary, who “have inherited that good part,” live in ease upon their toil.
“They sit at the Feet and they hear the Word—they know how truly the Promise runs.
“They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and—the Lord he lays it on Martha’s Sons.”
But it appears that for a long period of years Mr. Kipling has refused to permit this radical poem to be reprinted. Under the circumstances, all that the editor can do is to state that it may be found in the files of the New York Tribune and other newspapers throughout America having the service of the “Associated Sunday Magazines,” on April 28, 1907. The editor ventures to doubt if there exists a more dangerous social force than the man of genius who turns his divine gift to the crushing of the efforts of his fellowmen for justice)”

Dick Bernard: The 15th day after inauguration.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Related Posts accessible here.

Sunday till Thursday, the end of January, the beginning of February, 2017, we were visiting a friend who has lived for over 50 years in a northern Minnesota town of under 2,000. We have been there before – we are friends for many years. It is always a pleasant visit.

Of course, we’re in the beginning of different political times, and this was a few days to notice things. For starters, I noticed a small photo of our friends “Gentleman Soldier” (below) who she had met in the aftermath of WWII in Germany, and later married, and lived and raised their family in rural America, for over 50 years, till he died in 1998.

I asked to borrow the 2×2 1/2″ photo, and scanned it. It is below (click to enlarge).

“Gentleman Soldier”, rural Germany, 1945.

It got me to thinking about those authoritarian days our friend and all Germans became accustomed to the 1930s, the days which ultimately left their country in ruins, and themselves, starving.

Back in the beginning, in the 1920s and 1930s, communication was primitive compared to today, not much difference between Germany and the U.S. There were newspapers, of course, and other printed material; there were telephones, but seldom used, and telegraph was more likely and reliable for emergency use. Radio was in its infancy (the first American radio news broadcast was about 1920).

Today, of course, all is different. Makes hardly any difference where you live, you have hundreds of choices of media.

We watched cable and regular news on the channels she preferred. We read the newspaper and the magazines she received, etc. It was just like at home. We could watch the beginning of the new administration in Washington just like anybody else. The new President couldn’t contain himself, with yet another reference to “fake” news (it seems to mean, that which does not flatter him).

Our friends rural community is like (apparently) most during this election time: basically conservative Republican. In the just completed election, the now-President won about 60% of her counties vote.

These would probably include the old guy (maybe my age or younger) who was railing away at the town bowling alley which doubles as the morning coffee hangout. He was raging against those present day immigrants and refugees taking free stuff that belonged to him. His friend didn’t seem to agree with him, but wasn’t about to argue.

The rural town dates back into the late 1800s, and was virtually 100% settled by immigrants from Norway and Sweden but, I guess, he thinks those immigrants were somehow different than today. My guess is the anti-immigrant guy comes from that immigrant stock.

Our friend shared last Sunday’s church bulletin from her church in town. She said the pastor was a veteran, two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. His words are well worth the time to read in their entirety: Pastors message Ja 29 17001 I wonder how the flock received his words. And how many other pastors are pondering how to approach the business of politics in this new American environment.

Our friend also shared what was obviously a hand-made Christmas card with a beautiful piece of art painted on a piece of cloth. It was from a friend with whom she had shared a deeply personal tragedy many years before.

Light in Darkness

Her friends Christmas letter was profound, in part saying:

“My birthday on November 8th began with chilled champagne and the expectation of emotional celebration It ended with the appalling realization that life as we know it will never be the same – in the worst ways. With each new nomination and each middle-of-the-night tweet, the darkness has become more real and more frightening.

The Gospel of John contains no stable scene – no manger, angels, shepherds. No Christmas pageant script. It’ short and to the point: in the beginning was the Word…the light shines in the darkness…the Word became flesh….

In the midst of our discouragement we also sense the fires within to be torchbearers. We will surround ourselves with people we respect who will inspire us and light the way for us to think and act outside our comfort zone. We will donate more time and money to the organizations that support the values we hold dear. We will treat the environment with care. We will contact our legislators. We will be advocates for the people who will undoubtedly suffer discrimination, fear, and injustice under this administration. We will do what we can to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry. We will be the intentional in showing kindness and compassion.

We will do our best to be reflections of the Light. The Light that shines in the darkness.

Let your light so shine.”

POSTNOTE: In the last 30 miles to our friends town last Sunday, I got to thinking: there were, after all, almost 66,000,000 of us who voted for the candidate who won the election, but lost the electoral vote. What if, what if, every one of us committed, each week, in the next year, to do a single action aiming to positive change in direction of our country?

That would come out to nearly three and one half billion (3,500,000,000) actions.

How about it?

And I must also share this commentary from page 47 of the January 30, 2017 Time magazine: Time Jan 30 2017001. It speaks for itself.

Uncle Vincent’s Pastureland

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Thoughts on the final day of 2016.
Remembering a North Dakota farm family.


(click to enlarge any photo)

Since 1934 an impressive cottonwood tree has stood watch over the former Busch farm between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND. I took the above photo, and wrote a story about the tree in 2005. The story is accessible here.

A few blocks to the west of the tree stands a piece of pastureland, which, 106 years after the prairies became a farm, has yet to see a plow. For reasons only my Uncle Vince knows, this pasture was a very important piece of ground to him, even though it was only a small part of the farm.

This was a pasture well known to Vince and Edithe’s parents and brothers and sisters, going back to the beginning of the farm in 1905; and known to any of their nephews and nieces who visited on occasion. We became familiar with “cowpaths” and the lane from pasture to the barn, and if old enough we could watch the cows being milked by hand, and even try our hand at milking. In a sense, the cows were part of physical life of the Busch place, the milk cows with names.

For most of its years it was pasture for a few milk cows. Here is a photo from the 1940s labeled Aunt “Edithe’s favorite milk cow.” Unfortunately, the cows name isn’t included; most certainly she had a name.

“Edithe’s favorite milk cow”, 1940s

My first vivid memory of the pasture is in the winter, sometime in the 1940s, watching what seemed to be gigantic white rabbits loping across snowdrifts. It wasn’t an illusion:

Uncle Vincent and Uncle Art with a productive hunt for rabbits, sometime in 1941-42.

Over the years, the rabbits disappeared, for some reason never explained to me.

As for the cows, we grandkids, who showed up from 1940 on, knew the drill: Twice a day, cows came home via the cowpath – force of habit, I guess – with a lead cow. Here’s an old slide from Nov. 1980 showing my Uncle and cousin Mary Kay. (double click to see the cows in the background, or a closer view of the cowpath)

Uncle Vince and Cousin Mary Kay (on a cowpath in the pasture, Nov. 1980)

In my growing up time, there were maybe 10-15 cows maximum, milked by hand twice a day, later usually by Edithe and Grandma Rosa. Kids were allowed to try milking, but it was hard work – the fun wore off very quickly. Cats hung around for a possible treat. Once in awhile a cow “kicked the bucket” partly full of milk, probably the origin of the saying about dying.

The cream separator initially was hand-powered. Cream and milk would be kept in cans, and kept cool in a water tank by the door of the barn. For years, Uncle Art kept the old separator; later he gave it to me; I think my sister has it now…”antiques” have their day…a nuisance, but yet a reminder of what once was.

I can remember the tedious job of hand-churning cream to make butter: the butter didn’t just magically appear. We kids didn’t have the patience, I’d guess. But once in awhile you could actually see the butter begin to appear.

Once in awhile we might be there when a truck came from LaMoure to pick up the milk and cream. In LaMoure was a small Land-o-Lakes Creamery which made things like butter and, perhaps, ice cream. At least once I can remember a visit to the creamery. Every time, however, we stopped at the Dairy Bar in the same building (photo below) for ice cream. Successive renditions of that Dairy Bar continued until very recently. I think it’s now closed.

LaMoure ND June 28, 2009. Edithe, Vincent and Dick Bernard at what used to be the Creamery and the Dairy Bar in LaMoure. We all appear to be tired. Must have been a busy day.

I can’t fix a date when the Busch’s stopped milking. It probably came sometime in the 1960s, before Grandpa died, and by then Grandma was in her late 70s. There quite likely was an extended period without cows in the pasture. Someone could correct me on this.

Beginning about 1980, Uncle Vincent began to graze a small herd of beef cattle in the pasture. This lasted until the bad winter of 1996-97, when snow conditions and his own advancing age made it impossible for Vincent to take care of the cattle. On occasion one or another of us would go with Vince to the pasture. The cattle were familiar with him; for strangers, particularly if there was a newborn calf nearby, extreme caution was advised. Mama’s cottoned no nonsense. Strangers were a threat.

After 1997, for reasons known only to Vince, this particular piece of pastureland lay unused, except he allowed a neighbor to cut and bail the hay for a fee.

Vincent in the pasture spring of 1987, photo by his sister, Edithe.

From 2006 on, Vince and Edithe lived in LaMoure, and the trips to the farm normally did not include the pastureland.

But in early October of 2012, just about a month or so before Aunt Edithe went into the Nursing Home in LaMoure, Uncle Vince felt a need to go out to that pasture one last time, and that we did, on a very breezy and chilly North Dakota fall afternoon. It would have been wiser to stay home, but Vincent was determined, and we went.

This particular day, Vince had his mind set on pieces of tin on an old feeding station out in the pasture, and we set about successfully taking off the roof, later to be used to cover a broken window or two on an old shed on the farmstead.

October 4, 2012

The farm has now been sold, and the young couple with three young children who now own the farmstead and have a contract to purchase the pasture in a given time period. When I was at the farm in early October, I saw the two calves who, by next summer, will bring farm life to the pasture, as the family is rebringing life to a rural North Dakota farmstead.

Two young calves outside the Busch barn, Oct. 6, 2016

Uncle Vince would be pleased, of that I’m certain.

As this year ends, and a new one begins, what do you remember about your growing up years when your life was being formed?

Busch barn, rural Berlin ND, May 24, 2015 at approximately 100 years old.

COMMENTS:

from Jon, Uncle Vince’s grand-nephew Jan. 3: Hi Dick..Hope you had a Merry Christmas.This is Jon Busch..Don’t know what you know about the pasture land..But in my few conversations with Uncle Vince with my dad alive the land where the pasture is has never been tilled for crops (native prairie). It was grazed by livestock many years ago. Also there is a native American burial ground at or near the farm..Not sure if nearby or on their property no idea if that would be the pasture? Or mounds? Elsewhere.. Thanks for all of the time you guys spent working on this stuff. Have a happy new year…Jon

Response to Jon from Dick: Over the years I’ve gotten to know a great deal about this particular piece of pastureland, primarily many visits with Vincent, which is a main reason I’ve endeavored to deal very carefully with it, particularly carving it out as a specific parcel of the property. It is a legacy of the family. It was very, very important to Vince, for some reason; more so than even the surrounding long-tilled land which was more valuable. Your Grandpa George, Vincent’s older brother, as you doubtless know, had a great affinity for this land as well.

The Indian mound(s?) of which you speak were a short distance north of the Busch property – to the north of what I call the Grand Rapids road. I do not know much about them, except they existed and (probably) weren’t respected by someone or other over the years. The Busch farm sits very near the western edge of the James River, and no doubt saw a great deal of Native American activity in pre-white settlement, which primarily came with the railroad about 1880 or so.

Over my life-time, now nearing 77 years, the size of the usable pasture land decreased as it is part of a watershed which, when combined with the natural consequence of wetter years, and drainage by farmers upstream, increased the permanent wetland. The gate to what we used to know as the south pasture has long been unusable and I think the south boundary of the property has been somewhat difficult to fence because of the water issue.

Thank you very much for your comment.

from Fred: This is an excellent, evocative and thoughtful study. It brought to life a different time, one with which I can identify — there were farmers in my family too. Very nicely done.

from Joe: I read and greatly enjoyed your essay about the pasture and your excellent 2005 story about the old cottonwood tree. Thanks for both.

from Gail: Good story. Even better, it’s true.

from Shirley: Another “so-very-interesting” piece! Thanks.

from David, whose Mom grew up on the then-adjoining farm: I still recall that great old barn.

from Leila: One of my relatives had an old barn near Forman that withstood all kinds of severe storms when others didn’t. He claimed that it was because air could move easily through all of the gaps in the roof and walls.

Response from Dick: It makes sense. They do get very strong and frequent winds out there! Often! There is another factor with this particular old barn. About the first day of August of 1949, the roof blew off the 1915 barn during a big windstorm. As a matter of fact, we were staying in the house, 200 feet away, that very night. It was a scary evening to say the least. I was 9, and I remember the fright of the night! There was lots of damage in LaMoure County. Re the barn itself, all that was lost was the entire roof; even the floor of the hayloft was intact. My Dad, being a schoolteacher and on summer break, stayed and helped build new roof beams, one at a time. My Grandpa had made the form, based on a barn he saw in the area. The construction of the beams was by hand and thorough. It is also possible that the roof itself, at least to this point, buttresses the rest of the structure, but that will change unless it is re-roofed. Without extensive and very expensive renovation, the barn will not be saved. Most likely, I would guess, someday we will see a pole barn for the small herd the new owners of the farmstead hope to have. It is an interesting process.

from Jo: Your farm story brought back my entire childhood until I turned 17 and came to [college]. I can read paragraph after paragraph of your story and it so resembles my story. We had a huge red barn which also went with the wind. It lifted the roof and haymow over the house we lived in and set it down on the pasture past us. This haymow we used to swing out over and drop into the hay that had been brought in by a team of horses and hayrack and pulled up to the huge opening with a chain which the horses pulled up (the sling hooked unto the dropped down part). When that load of hay was in the proper part of the haymow, a trip rope would trip the catch and it would drop unto the haymow floor. It took many trips with that hayrack, (each held 2 slings) to fill that large area. There were holes to throw down the hay into each stall below where the milk cows stood. For safety sake, I am sure, each hole was surrounded with about a 5 foot tall box around it with a lid. Harder to put the hay down as have to be lifted up before going down. Our cream cans were not picked up, they were driven to the Casselton Creamery by us. As we waited for them to be processed, our great and always anticipated joy was to order and savor an ice cream malted milk. They probably cost 10 cents or a quarter.

Our pasture was filled with large cottonwoods under whose shade in summer we would sometimes picnic. One of the first “jobs” I had was to help to drive the milk cows to the “North Pasture”. It was through the regular pasture and over the railroads tracks so there was a gate to get over the tracks and one to get into the N. pasture with due diligence paid to making sure there was no train either way. Not being old or big enough to open those gates, pulled shut with a barbed wire round, I was the chaser for cows that started other ways.

So thanks for triggering some very old memories. Life is so far from that now. Thank goodness.

from Dick, in addition: Thanks very much for this. We are old enough, now, I’d guess, to admit that we had our feet pretty deep in what truly were “the old days”. We just came to the farm to visit, but because we moved so much (my folks were both small town school teachers), the farm really became a “home town” in a very real sense of the word for me. They didn’t get electricity until the very late 1940s, so a wind charger did that duty; Grandpa was the rural telephone guy (“three longs and a short”, and perhaps 20 parties could “rubberneck” on calls), that sort of thing. But it was a good, solid upbringing for us.

*

Below are two photos, one after the storm, and one of the beams. You can click twice on them and see a closer enlargement.

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991, standing by the roof beams he helped construct in 1949.

Look closely at the below and you can see all five Bernard kids, including John, who was then a year old. Plus Mary Ann, Florence, Frank and Richard. Henry is hidden behind Richard.

The Bernard kids the morning after the barn went down, summer 1949. Richard (Dick) is the kid facing away from the camera.

Dick Bernard: Dec 22, 1987, and Nov. 7, 1997: Remembering Two Days in the Life of Dad.

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Today we were planning to be at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, for the 50th anniversary of the Apartment Community, where my Dad, Henry Bernard, lived the last ten years of his life, 1987-97. A scheduling conflict caused a change in plans, so, rather than being on site today, I decided to do what Dad liked to do…look through pictures and reminisce. His travels “were by the National Geographic”, he liked to say.

I’ve picked one particular day in his life at Our Lady of the Snows: his 80th birthday, December 22, 1987.

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry Bernard at home, Apt. 96A, Our Lady of the Snows.

Henry Bernard at home, Apt. 96A, Our Lady of the Snows.

Dad moved north, from San Benito TX, in August, 1987. His San Benito friends, the Brasher’s, were “winter Texans” and lived in Belleville, and suggested he “try out” the Apartment Community for a trial period. He was 79. Mom had died in 1981. It was time.

Depending on one’s point of view, Dad either came and conquered, or was conquered by, this beautiful place with a great view of St. Louis Gateway Arch directly west. He took an efficiency apartment, which over time became his house (in almost a real sense). The beautiful grounds became his lawn, perfect for long walks; the chapel and the library were a short walk indoors, and there was a woodworking shop which he used, and exercise facilities as well. I would guess he was considered a “character” by the community at large. In assorted ways we kids saw him in action each time we visited. He was no recluse!

I choose one particular visit.

His 80th birthday was December 22, 1987, and he set himself a goal, per a national fitness program, to walk a 15 minute mile every day for 80 days, ending on his 80th birthday. His chosen route began at the ampitheater down the hill, and was timed to end at the Angelus bell.

My sister and I were there in the very early morning of day 80, to walk the route with him. He posed for a photo before he began.

The Walking Route, Dec. 22, 1987.  The goal was at the more or less directly behind Dad.

The Walking Route, Dec. 22, 1987. The goal was at the more or less directly behind Dad.

It was a rather icy day, I recall, but that was no deterrent for our Dad. He’d set his goal…period. Back and forth, row by row, he walked briskly. He was hard to keep up with. He was 6’3″, and he had been conditioning for this for 80 days! He arrived at his destination after 13 minutes. We were not far behind. I was pooped. The Angelus Bells rang.

His apartment, 96A, was a place to behold: a single bed, a homemade desk, a recliner, telephone, radio (to listen to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, etc.) There was never a dull moment in his life, right to the end. At his Memorial Mass at the Apartment Community Chapel a few weeks after his death we played an audio tape about family that he had recorded some years earlier at Our Lady of the Snows for St. Louis’ shutins on Radio Information Service (RIS) for the Blind. It was a nice testimony about him, for others.

I had especially hoped to be there this year because, not part of the communities planning of course, his death was on the evening of this day, early in the morning of November 7, 1997, when Dad died in the geriatric unit at Our Lady of the Snows. My sister and I were there at the end. He almost made 90.

Less than two weeks after his death I was back in Illinois, at a conference at the O’Hare Hilton, and picked up a copy of the Chicago Sunday Tribune. By chance, this day, I came across this column by Mary Schmich: My father died 1997001.

To this day, when somebody’s father dies, I sent them a copy of the column.

The following Memorial Day, 1998, we family members gathered at the Apartment Community to dedicate a flag pole to the memory of our Dad, and his brother, our Uncle Frank Bernard, who died December 7, 1941 on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. We thought it a most appropriate memorial, and it is still there. Here is the program from that day: henry-bernard-flag-dedic008

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

We Dads are people like everyone else. We have our stories, our triumphs, tragedies, dilemmas…. This is a good day for me to remember my Dad. I hope this story has a similar effect for you, about someone in your own life.

On the grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

On the grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

At work in his "office" in Unit 96A

At work in his “office” in Unit 96A

Checking for a "postal" in the days before computers took over.  I doubt he ever actually touched a computer!

Checking for a “postal” in the days before computers took over. I doubt he ever actually touched a computer!

The Birthday Photo in Dad's unit Dec. 22, 1987.

The Birthday Photo in Dad’s unit Dec. 22, 1987.

The St. Louis Gateway Arch from the Apartment Community Grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

The St. Louis Gateway Arch from the Apartment Community Grounds, Dec. 22, 1987