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#1068 – Dick Bernard: In Love With a Gun.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Grandpa Ferd Busch with shotgun and game  in summer of 1907, viewed from the north of his new farm home.  At  left, his Dad, Wilhelm Busch; at right his brother Frank.  At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

Grandpa Ferd Busch with shotgun and game in summer of 1907, viewed from the north of his new farm home. At left, his Dad, Wilhelm Busch; at right his brother Frank. At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

In 2013 I happened to come into possession of a book of poems, “Lyrics of the Prairie” by a retired professor at the college I attended beginning in 1958. Soren Kolstoe (bio here: Kolstoe,Soren-History) had retired right before I began my four years, but he was legendary at Valley City State Teacher’s College. His “beat” was psychology, but his love was the outdoors, particularly the North Dakota outdoors. I wrote about him here, including (with permission) his book of poems.

Near the end of the book of poems is this one:

Strange how much a man can love a gun;
A battered thing of senseless steel and wood,
I’ve used it hard and fear its day is done.
I’ll get a new one, or at least I should.

A sleek new job with parts that really match,
A perfect product of the gunsmith’s art;
Smooth, shiny blue, without a scar or scratch,
A beauty that should win a hunter’s heart.

Yet all these beauties leave me strangely cold.
I find the parting harder than I thought;
I know they’re good but still prefer the old,
To any new-style gun that can be bought.

This gun was more than just a gun to me,
A trusted hunting pal for many years.
It served me well and somehow seemed to be
A partner in my triumphs, hopes, and fears.

It’s battered now and worn beyond repair;
Its hunting days it seems at last are done.
But still I’ll keep it, cherish it with care,
Strange how much a man can love a gun!”

I knew my Uncle Vince loved North Dakota outdoors, and in his home were four guns – I call them farm guns – which were always ready, but, by 2013, not used for many years.

He was generally a solitary hunter for the occasional duck, deer, varmint or whatever that crossed his land. (From time to time, he’d use the shotgun to scare off the pesky blackbirds who were decimating his sunflowers – I remember that). His gun was his companion on the hunt, that was all.

So, I gave Vince a copy of Dr. Kolstoe’s poems. As it happened, it was at a time in his life when he was rapidly deteriorating in health, and five months later it fell to me to admit him to the nursing home in LaMoure. I doubt he ever looked at the book, which I found in the envelope. Life had changed his priorities.

But the possessions Vince worried about the most were his guns.

I saved them from being stolen, but I’m not sure he trusted me – someone who has never had any use for a gun, nor even owned one – to take good care of them.

He’s gone now, and I still have those guns in safekeeping, at some point to go to the family member who wants them the most.

They’re just some old farm guns: a 12 gauge or two; a .22 calibre; something that would pass for a deer rifle; a single shot out in the shed. Just old farm guns.

I think of those guns, my Uncle, Dr. Kolstoe’s poem, and lots of other things, this day after the day before when the latest carnage took place in this country at a college in Roseburg, Oregon: lots of innocent folks, and the gunman, falling to bullets from guns.

Been a long while since we in this country have crossed the boundary from sanity to insanity when it comes to guns.

Our politicians are threatened with political assassination if they mess with any one’s gun in any way whatsoever.

“Second Amendment Rights” they say.

It’s long past time we figure it out. Those folks in Oregon yesterday, now being prepared for funerals, had a “right to life” too.

Vince once belonged to the National Rifle Association, but I gather not for long. He didn’t like the policy drift of that organization.

I wonder what he’d say if he were here today, having watched the news….

Once again we have a chance to converse about this topic. And maybe a chance to do something.


from Christine: It was risky to call your message “In Love With a Gun”. Of course, one can understand your real feeling about it after reading the message.

from Claude: Very interesting, Dick. Thanks. The recent shooter had six guns on him and seven more back at home. I think it was more than one gun that guy was in love with.

On Thursday night I was returning from St Paul and listening to MPR here (dated Oct 2 but I heard it Oct 1) to a college professor being interviewed who had grown up in Baltimore in the crack cocaine days. He said it was easier to get a gun than a job. He inherited his dealer “starter kit” when his brother was killed and left a safe full of money and drugs. So this now college professor knows from the inside a lot of the gun problem. He professed never to be a gun person himself. He bought as a mid teenager his first gun just because he felt he needed one for posturing or protection (often unloaded! that seems to be a mistake?). But he knew people who loved every aspect of guns and he said that today’s gun culture is probably the same.

from Sharon: This brought memories back of my dad on the farm and the many guns he had. One was placed over the back door. They were given to nephews and us kids when he died. The rest were sold at an auction. I took the old gun that did not work anymore just to hang over a wood stove in the basement. Just sold it on E Bay last year when we moved. Thanks for sharing.

from Larry: Thanks for sharing this. It is quite powerful, and express my sentiments about gun control.

from Jim: Dick, thanks for sharing. Brings back memories of my childhood too!

from Duane: Thanks, Dick… AMEN, FGS.

from Lynn: Thank you Dick,
As I remember we credited Dr. Kolstoe for founding the EBC’s and originating it’s name.
The EBC’s had a traditional fall pheasant hunt. After the hunt, we invited our dates to a pheasant dinner which we prepared and served.

During my first teaching job in Bowdon, ND, Dr. Kolstoe spoke to our high school student body and demonstrated hypnosis with a volunteer student. After, he came to my bachelor apartment and we had pheasant, which I had hunted and prepared in a crockpot.

I had two farm guns like you describe, a double barrel 20 gage and a .22. They were strictly utilitarian and I no longer have them, left behind when I left the farm. I fired military weapons on the practice range when I was in the Air National Guard. I have no use for guns now. My son loves to hunt and he is teaching his sons proper use of guns and hunting skills.

I agree we need to do better and withdraw from the insane use of guns. I thought the task force chaired by Vice President Biden put forth reasonable legislative proposals. I would like Senator Heitkamp [ND] to introduce her alternative, since she did not support the work of the task force. Somehow, some protective mechanism should have prevented a person who was an Army boot camp dropout from bringing six guns and five ammunition magazines to an Oregon school.

from Ken: Thanks for sharing this piquant and well-thought piece. Like many, I tend to feel that the situation is rather hopeless. With a reported 90%+ plurality of polled citizens being in favor of at least more extensive background checks, still the advocates of divinely ordained 2nd Amendment prerogatives (NRA and gun manufacturers) rule the day, along with nonchalant and effete politicians who fear taking them on.Truly a problem that our system does not seem capable or competent to address, much less solve. Sad.

from Norm: I feel the same way about the limited number of guns that I own having used them and still using them for deer and bird hunting every fall, something that I really enjoy doing.

While I know that the killings in Oregon have prompted another push for gun control, I honestly don’t think that would make much of a difference in preventing such future outbursts of violence. Just like I did not think that the adoption of the permit to carry law in Minnesota would lead to an increase in gun violence as claimed by it opponents…and it did not, of course although it did lead to some business for the sign people given all of the guns are banned from these premises postings that one sees all over the place.

Of course, the laws do allow the occasional idiot who needs to have people notice him or her who wanders through public places carrying a gun visibly on his or her hip. Those folks seem to have a need for attention and probably believe that people will really “respect” them if they walk through crowds with a visible weapon on their hips.

Goodness, if their mommies had only hugged them a few more times when they were growing up maybe they wouldn’t have such a need for public attention.

I am not an NRA member nor ever will be given their far right positions on not only gun control but many other issues as well. On the other hand, I honestly do not think that more stringent gun control laws will reduce the number of incidents like the recent one in Oregon. The shooter in that instance had bought several guns over the past three years all through legal purchases. As such, the gun control laws in Oregon did not prevent him from doing what he did.

I wish that I could say that I thought that more stringent gun control laws would any future Oregon’s but I honestly do not think that they would.

from Jim: Ok Norm, we know you love your guns. But you must admit that the level of gun violence in the US is well beyond sickening toward the astounding, war-like. In the country of Columbia, which the media portrays as a hotbed of revolutionary violence, FARC revolutionaries kill about 500 per year. Columbia is a country of 48 million so a matching kill rate for the 320 million US citizens would be a little under 3400. But actual statistics for US gun violence in 2013 are 11,209 deaths by homicide, 21,175 deaths by suicide, 505 deaths by accident (Cheney events), and 281 of undetermined cause. We are bythose measures, a far more dangerous place than revolutionary Columbia.

from Charlie: Many Very Good comments here about GUNS.

Like You Norm I grew up on a farm & my Dad also kept a gun above the kitchen door. I hunted many years with him & we had a lot of fun hunting pheasants, ducks, fox, squirrels, deer & even going to Montana & Wyoming Deer hunting a few times. I also still have a couple Small Caliber guns, the shot guns & deer rifles I gave to my sons & grand sons years ago. I always loved to hunt but after my Dad died, I pretty much lost interest & only hunted a few times after my Dad’s passing. Stupid me, I even was a member of the NRA for one year & soon learned how very crazy & far right they were & still are.

Many comments here that I agree with, that it seems almost hopeless that NOT much will change.

I do feel we need much more thorough Back Ground Checks. The Change of Ownership of every gun should require a Back Ground Check, Even those like when I gave guns to my kids. A limit on the size of ammunition clips. What kind of a hunter needs more than a 10 bullet clip ? Last but not least, Ban the Sale of Assault Weapons. NO HUNTER HAS A NEED FOR AN AK-47 type Gun, I also believe we should have National Gun Laws that I think fewer of the crazies would slip through the cracks. We Do Need the Same Gun Law in Every State All Over the USA ! !

Thanks Everyone for All Of Your Great Comments.

from Kathy: Here is my personal opinion on the matter of guns.
1. Repeal the Second Amendment. We no longer need to have armed citizen militias.
2. Put a huge tax on all ammo and guns except those used specifically for hunting. Require hunters to attend a class on gun safety and require them to carry insurance for owning a lethal weapon, just like we have to have car insurance. Require them to be disabled and locked up when it is not hunting season.
3. Confiscate all other guns and ammo. Collectors must disable the guns they have, not add to collections, and register their collections with local authorities. Hunters must also register their hunting rifles. A yearly tax to own a gun and/or maintain a collection should be required. Limit the number of hunting rifles a person can own.
4. Anyone involved in a death by gun will be subject to the death penalty.
5. Shut down the NRA, and gun manufacturers.
6. Allow only ammo for hunting to be made.
7. No more gun shows.
8. Prohibit the sale or transfer of a gun to another person.

from Emmett: We are working to get an activity started here in the state of Washington to publicly highlight those persons in Congress and our State Legislature that are against tighter gun sale laws and see if we can get a national movement to do that like the $15 minimum wage movement that we started. Something has got to be done. Listening to the Sunday cable news programs, there was much discussion about the subject. Several of the discussions had to do with the high levels of crime in Chicago and Baltimore, both of which have strong gun laws, yet none of the so-called experts seemed to understand that those cities have the problem of the states around them allow gun runners to buy volumes of guns at gun shows then turn around and sell them to criminals and others just outside the city limits. We need a national referendum on the subject and the selling of guns without doing proper background checks should carry a life-in-prison punishment. This won’t solve the entire problem, but it will hopefully make some impact.

from Carol: I’ve had more than enough with the handwringing that we “can’t do anything.” I am committing to not voting in the next election for anyone who will not personally assure me that they will support (on federal/state level) the very reasonable gun control laws that Obama proposed after Newtown. Have to look up the exact language, but they were background checks for every sale, a ban on (semi-?)assault weapons, a limit on number of rounds. If some Republicans can spend their whole lives voting on the basis of abortion only, we can only look at guns. I think it is truly the only way to make a difference.

Care to join me?

from Lloyd: I took Kolstoe hunting out in the Flasher [ND] area which is where I was from with a bunch of EBC’s. We had a great time but I mostly remember knocking a hole in the oil pan of his car and ruined the motor. I have always lived with some guilt because I was driving and should have been more aware that it had happened. The poem was great and so true. I have lots of guns, or at least several and they were almost all purchased in the 50’s and 60’s. They are great relics and all work well and I still hunt with them.

#1067 – Dick Bernard: French-Canadian Special Event on Genealogy, Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Oct 2, 2015

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Friday evening, October 2, the French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF) hosts a special event focusing on genealogy in Maple Grove MN. All details are here. Time is short, so check this now, if interested*.

The event venue is in the heart of what used to be one of the French-Canadian rural settlement centers in what is now the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Note photo below (which is also in pdf form, here: Dayton MN 1873001)

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The French-Canadian presence in Dayton MN 1873

The French-Canadian presence in Dayton MN 1873

This map, though unpolished, gives an interesting look at a “nest” of L’Heritage Tranquille, the French-Canadian presence in a single township in the Twin Cities area. Otsego, to the immediate west (between Rogers and Elk River), also had significant French-Canadian presence; as did Osseo to the east, and Corcoran township to the south, and many other places (Little Canada, Centerville & Hugo, pre-Minneapolis St. Anthony et al).

(On the map, Simon and Adelaide Blondeau are my great-grandparents, who came to Dayton from Canada in the early 1850s.)

A mysterious and intriguing presence, by virtue of ownership of a piece of land just west of present day Dehn’s, is Thomas L. Grace, who happens to have been the second Bishop of what is now the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. (Scroll down to the para beginnng “After the death of Bishop Cretin…”) The story of that piece of land is one yet to be told….)

As late as the 1980 census – the last to ask the question – nearly 8% of Minnesotans recognized their French ancestry. Fr-Can in U.S. 1980001 Of course, this ancestry carries on, though the French surnames are less often recognizable as identifying people of French ancestry, masquerading their heritage (two French words, by the way) behind surnames of other ethnic groups, or, common back in 1873, behind French names that were anglicized: “Roy” became “King”, and infinite other examples.

But, back to Friday, October 2. Check us out. Stop by. Let others know.


About the sponsoring group, French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF):

FAHF (full disclosure: I am current vice-president) is the latest in a line of groups seeking to preserve the French heritage in the midwest.

In the twin cities, in recent history, FAHF was immediately preceded by La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota (LSCF) which existed from 1979-2002, and whose founder was legendary Franco American John Rivard, native of the Range-Somerset WI area also well known as the popular Father John of St Anne’s in Somerset. . LSCF lives on at the FAHF website in Chez Nous, its “kitchen table” produced newsletter, all of whose near 1000 pages, indexed, can be found under the tab “library”.

(Mr. Rivard retired before the internet age, thus no URL links were found about him for this article; though much can be read by him within Chez Nous. He died in 2005 at age 94.) Below is the jacket of the video produced for his memorial service in 2005.

John Rivard 2005001

September 28-30, 2012, another well known and passionate Minnesota French-Canadian, Dr. Virgil Benoit of Red Lake Falls MN envisioned and put together an event, Franco-Fete, in Minneapolis. This event followed several predecessor events at Grand Forks, Turtle Mountain (Belcourt) ND, Bismarck and Fargo, ND.

The 2012 event was very successful, but not without considerable stress. Three days prior to Franco-Fete, Dr. Benoit was in a serious car accident, and spent Franco-Fete and many days after in a hospital in Grand Forks. A dozen or so of us who had volunteered to help, were thrust into completely unanticipated leadership roles.

After Franco-Fete, in November, 2012, a core group in the Twin Cities met to debrief Franco-Fete, and an outgrowth of that meeting came FAHF, which has formal 501(c)3 standing, and is now completing its third year of existence.

We have weathered the birthpangs of any new organization, and look forward to a long future.

We invite you to join us as we continue the task of helping to preserve the French in America presence in Minnesota and surrounding areas. Membership information here.

* – Questions? Call Dick Bernard at 651 334 5744

#1053 – Dick Bernard: Aunt Edithe’s Recipes

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

The harvest season has had a strong beginning out in North Dakota, and will continue on into the fall. Depending on the crop, now is a time of vibrant yellows (wheat and similar grains), or rich greens (corn, soybeans, et al). (Indications are that this will be a pretty good crop year – though such is never certain for farmers until the crops are actually in…and then comes bad or good news about prices, etc….)

As for me, I continue the never-ending discovery process of going through the history left behind at the ND farm when Uncle Vince died on February 2 (his sister, Edithe, who was a lifelong resident of the same farm, died a year earlier).

Once in awhile there are remarkable discoveries, among which was this photo from harvest time 1907, which I didn’t know existed.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Ferd and Rosa Busch farm (upper left) in summer 1907, viewed from the north.  From left, Wilhelm Busch; his sons Ferdinand and Frank.  At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

Ferd and Rosa Busch farm (upper left) in summer 1907, viewed from the north. From left, Wilhelm Busch; his sons Ferdinand and Frank. At the time, Ferdinand was 26 years of age.

You can see the 1907 harvest proceeding. The shocks of grains dominate, and to the left in the background are a couple of horse drawn wagons to move those shocks to some kind of early threshing machine, not visible in the picture*.

But this is not about those men pictured out in the field. It is about the lady in the house, Rosa, and later her daughter Edithe, and other daughters, and other women, who had the immense task of feeding the workers in the fields, milking the cows, collecting eggs, and on and on and on. The phrase, “a woman’s work is never done” could have originated in these farmyards. As could the phrase, “hungry as a horse” have originated out in those fields.

Last week I was going through yet another stack of old papers, deciding which needed to be kept, and which could be thrown. In the box of the day was a bag full of Aunt Edithe’s old recipes which we’d rescued from the long vacant farm house last summer. As with the other stuff, I went through the recipe cards, one by one, and at the end, took a picture of part of the collection (below).

Some of Edithe's recipes, August, 2015

Some of Edithe’s recipes, August, 2015

My particular specialty has always been eating the results of the recipe cards, but these cards held a fascination of their own. Just looking through these old cards, which women, primarily, have exchanged forever, brought forth memories. Someone saying, “that was delicious. Can I have the recipe?” Someone else flattered and happy to oblige.

Perhaps the best tribute to Edithe came to me from cousin Glenn Busch of Freeport IL on Dec. 24, 2014: “Sandy and I will always remember the wonderful meal [Edithe] prepared for us and our family when we visited ]the] farm back in the early 1980’s. She went far beyond anything we expected. After about 30 years , I still remember that it was some of the best beef roast I’ve ever had. The hospitality that she and Vince showed us was really outstanding….”

Among the recipes were the staples: for pickles of all sorts, doughnuts, assorted desserts, etc. Lefse made a couple of appearances in the German household recipe box. Anyone who has a single recipe card likely knows the variety found in the stack. Among them were some that I found fascinating, which are included below with little comment – none is needed.

They were all reminders to me that in this world where men still, by and large, are “on the marquee” as the important people, it is the women who bear the children and a great deal of the burden of making any family or community work. Ferd was part of a team with Rosa; brother and sister, Vince and Edithe, were a team, too.

So those recipe cards of Edithe’s which we found above the stove in the farm house are far more than simply patterns for delicious foods; rather of a necessary partnership.

A simple “thank you” is not enough, but a little thanks is much better than none at all.

Thanks for the memories.

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house.  She died February 12, 2014.

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house. She died February 12, 2014.

Here are a smattering of the recipes….

Uncertain what "Victory", but an educated guess would be the ending of WWII.

Uncertain what “Victory”, but an educated guess would be the ending of WWII.

Recipe for Snowshoe Rabbits which were, perhaps back in the 1940s, very common in the ND country.

Recipe for Snowshoe Rabbits which were, perhaps back in the 1940s, very common in the ND country.

One of two or three recipes for homemade soap, a common product for rural folks in the early days.

One of two or three recipes for homemade soap, a common product for rural folks in the early days.

An apparent political statement recipe likely found in a farm magazine dating from the fall of 1974.

An apparent political statement recipe likely found in a farm magazine dating from the fall of 1974.

Apparently a tasty recipe for Ginger Snaps.

Apparently a tasty recipe for Ginger Snaps.

And, finally, a recipe for Lady Bird Johnson White House Pecan Pie, dating from March 2, 1964: Recipe #6006 (The date was found on the reverse side of the clipping, and the reason why the cooks face doesn’t appear is that another article on the reverse had also been clipped!)

Bon Appetit!!!

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.  Grandma Busch is at left behind the youngster in front row; Aun Edithe is in the back row, at right.

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952. Grandma Busch is at left behind the youngster in front row; Aun Edithe is in the back row, at right.

* – larger scale agriculture involving harvesting of small grains (wheat, oats, flax, etc.) required some kinds of mechanized farm implement to do the job. Such increasingly sophisticated equipment led to the rapid growth of such companies as J. I. Case, John Deere, McCormick-Deering and many others. From cultivating to harvest, it was very hard, dusty, sweaty, often dangerous work, very labor intensive.

This time of year, today, is when the threshing festivals crop up, to demonstrate in a very small way how it was.

The Busch farm in its early years was two quarter sections, 320 acres. In North Dakota, this would be a very small farm today; in 1907 it would have been about average for the typical farm of the day.

#1046 – Dick Bernard: 50 years ago today. A personal memory. Remembering a death.

Friday, July 24th, 2015

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At the Busch farm, August 1964.  Barbara at right, Dick next to her.  Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

At the Busch farm, August 1964. Barbara at right, Dick next to her. Grandma and Grandpa Busch at left.

Yesterday afternoon, enroute to a meeting, I stopped to take a couple of photos:

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

3315 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis MN July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis, July 23, 2015

Fifty years ago today I lived in a rented upstairs room in this house, just a block from KSTP-TV; and my wife, Barbara, was in the University Hospital less than two miles away, my memory says on 8th floor, in intensive care, .

It had been a very long two months since we arrived in Minneapolis in late May, when Barbara was admitted for a hoped for kidney transplant, her only remaining option to live.

This particular Saturday morning, 50 years ago today, she had fallen into a coma, and at 10:50 p.m. she died. The previous day there had been a brief rally, not uncommon for those critically ill.

Among the whisps of memory was my going to the Western Union office in downtown Minneapolis after she died, sending a telegram to relatives.

Communications was not instant, then. Mine was a very succinct message.

While death is never expected, particularly in one only 22 years old, there really was little hope left: three major operations in two months, no kidney transplant.

July 25, alone, I drove west to Valley City, North Dakota, where the funeral was held on July 29.

In a family history I wrote for our son on his 18th birthday in 1982 I remembered the day of the funeral this way: August 1965001

It was a very lonely time, I have never been able to recall many specifics of particularly the first month after her burial, but life went on for 1 1/2 year old son Tom and I.

It was very early in my life too – I was 25 – and I grew up in a hurry. It has informed my life and my attitudes ever since.

I became very aware of how important and how broad “community” is in society.

There were, out there, among family, friends and many others, people who in diverse ways helped us get through the very hard times. By quirk of fate, the funeral was one day before President Lyndon Johnson signed into federal Law the Medicare Act, societies immense gift to the elderly of this country, one of whom is now me. Here’s Grandpa Busch’s first Medicare card, dated July 1, 1966: Medicare card 1966001

Today in our country we debate whether or not everyone should have a right to medical insurance; whether it is a responsibility of the individual, or of society at large.

Medicare was debated then, too.

It was not on Barbara’s or my radar screen. Debate is a luxury when survival is the only issue.

Our married life was very short, only two years, and almost 100% of the time distracted by the progression of a finally fatal illness. We never really got to know what a “normal” marriage might have looked like.

I think we would have done well together, but that is sheer speculation. The inevitable tensions of a normal marriage were something we were never able to experience.

Three weeks ago I made a visit to Barbara’s grave in Valley City. It is in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, high on a hill just east of town.

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine's Cemetery

June 29, 2015, Valley City ND St Catherine’s Cemetery

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

St. Catherines Cemetery, Valley City ND June 29, 2015

Yesterday I went briefly into the University Hospital, including up to the eighth floor, which is now used for other purposes than 50 years ago.

In the lobby area I lingered for a moment by a plaque recognizing the founding of University Hospital in 1916, near 100 years ago.

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

University of Minnesota Hospital, July 23, 2015

Elsewhere, in the medical wing of University Hospital, doubtless were patients for whom yesterday was, or today will be, the last day of their lives.

It is the single immutable fact that we all face: at some point we will exit the stage we call “life”.

Take time to enjoy the trip. The Station001

My public thanks, today, to everyone who helped Tom and I, in any way, back then in 1965, before and after, especially the public welfare system and public and private hospitals.

#1044 – Dick Bernard: The Women in the Yard. Looking for Clara.

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Thursday I published a piece that included a family photo taken 72 years ago, in the summer of 1943, in rural North Dakota.

Everyone was in that picture, except for the Mom, and I observed that “[t]he entire family is in the photo, save their mother, Clara, who was probably taking the picture”.

The family was not kin of mine, so I didn’t know of them except by name, but they were near neighbors and fellow church members with my grandparents Rosa and Fred Busch.

I would have been three years old when that picture was taken at the nearby farm.

Overnight it occurred to me that in the same batch of photos I’ve been reviewing for a long while now, might be a photo which includes Clara Long*.

It is here:

(click to enlarge)

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

There seem to be 24 women in this picture, plus one youngun’. My Grandma Busch is directly behind the little kid. Aunt Edith, my Aunt and her daughter, is in the back row at far right, it appears. This picture was in the yard of the Busch farmhouse, where pictures were traditionally taken when people came to visit. The photo was unusual size, about 2×2″, so probably taken with someone other than Grandpa’s camera.

Most likely it is the women of St. John’ Catholic Church in Berlin, both social and service, as typical in churches then and still.

Such a photo truly speaks “a thousand words”…indeed many more.

Perhaps Chistina, the sister-in-law of Clara, who e-mailed to comment on the earlier photo, will remember Clara, and see other women of the town she recognizes.

It occurs to me, now many years later, that these women represented the life of that, and every, community in more ways than one.

Grandma, just as a single instance, birthed nine children in the house that you cannot see, just to the photographers left. By September, 1952, she and he husband Fred had been married 47 years, and their youngest child, Vincent, was 27.

Likely all those women are gone now, but what a legacy they no doubt left behind.

Here’s to the ordinary women and men who brought this world to life, one person at a time!

Thank you.

* – I was incorrect. According to a family member, Clara had died when the youngest was two years old. The photographer was likely the second wife.

#1043 – Dick Bernard: Going to Peace. A Reflection on Detente with Iran.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

POSTNOTE, July 18: see “The Women in the Yard. Looking for Clara”, here.

Going through old papers and photos of a deceased relative can be tedious, but occasionally something pops up, as did this photo a few days ago.

(click to enlarge)

A farm family, the summer of 1943

A farm family, the summer of 1943

While not of my town, or my family tree either, I have some knowledge of this farm family in the summer of 1943. Sr. Victorine, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet in St. Paul, was a good friend in her last years. She passed on in October, 2010.

I never knew that her brother was Francis, at right in this family photo taken in the summer, 1943, in rural ND. (The entire family is in the photo, save their mother, Clara, who was probably taking the picture. On the back of the picture are written the names of the Charles Long family. From left, as identified by a family member, they are: Leonard, Clem, Marcella, Charles, Sr. Victorine, John and Francis Long.)

The 1976 town history (Berlin ND) says that Francis was “Killed in Saipan, July 2, 1944“. A short article from, likely, the Fargo Forum, says that Francis dropped out of high school to go in the service. In the Berlin history, he is listed as “deceased” in the class of 1943.

A letter from my Grandma Rosa to her son, my uncle Lt. George W. Busch, officer on the USS Woodworth in the Pacific, dated August 20, 1944, sums it all up well: “[W]e had a Memorial Mass for Francis Long killed July 2 on Saipan in action Sister Victorine was here to come to visit us on Fri afternoon is done with school now has one test to take then she has her Masters Degree in Science she did very well looks so good too but all felt so badly….

So goes war, willing heroes, full of all of the brash confidence and invulnerability of youth. Francis was probably 19, just starting life, when he died.

I think of Francis and family this day because this week a major agreement was reached between U.S. and Iran negotiators.

The media is full of commentary about this agreement, and people who stop by this blog can find far more than adequate information in other sources, on all sides about the technical details, and dead-certain positions and opinions about it.

President Obama framed this pretty well, yesterday: “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force through war.”

Either we figure out how to get along, or there will be more and more people with names who perish, and not only ours.

This won’t stop the drumbeaters for War, for unconditional surrender of the Enemy, whoever that happens to be at the time.

Peace is a very hard sell in this country.

Peace is, I think I can fairly say, considered by the traditional Power People in our country to be an instrument of terrorism…It threatens their prosperity or their authority.

For the media (and the people who watch or read it) Peace is boring as a generator of revenue (just watch your local and national news and see what is prioritized for coverage.)

Peace is costly – a competitor – for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so correctly identified as a big and looming problem way back in 1961.

For others, an enemy is absolutely essential to retain power and control. It is useful to keep people in fear, and portray yourself as the only safety buffer between “us and them”.

Eisenhower was as military as they come…he knew, however, a reality to which we’ve paid too little attention.

My friend, Tom White, who spent a great deal of time for many years establishing accurate numbers concerning military and other costs in this country always estimated that over half of the U.S. discretionary budget related to military.

He’s out of the card business now, but the general information on his last one is still pretty accurate.

All that military money goes somewhere, and the vast majority not for the peace and general welfare of our or other citizens.

We live or we die by our priorities.

Francis and millions of others have died defending the premise that war is necessary for peace.


A postnote from the present:

I’ve been a member of the American Legion for years. I’m a vet. The Minnesota American Legion seems to enroll perhaps 1 1/2% of Minnesota’s population. It is a small, and decreasing in membership (old soldiers do die), but still a powerful entity.

In the most recent American Legion newspaper, announcement was made of the 2015 Minnesota American Legion Convention, including the Resolutions it would be considering, among which was this one.

(click to enlarge)
American Legion MN 2015001

Are our (America’s) priorities:
Military Power

as stated in the Resolution?

The drafter of the resolution seems to think so, and I can predict that this resolution will sail through. Look carefully at the four pillars of the resolution.

If we choose survival, we choose peace: that is my opinion.

And I thank the administration of President Obama for forcing us to begin this conversation, since an alternative to his forced choice is a third way, which he did not mention: to stay the course of our dismal reality of fear of anything and everything but war.

#1041 – Dick Bernard: “God Bless America”

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

“God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Thru the night, with a light from above….”

Thus Irving Berlin wrote, in 1918, the song that has become an anthem of the United States.

“…From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.”

Today is the 4th of July, the day of celebrating culminated by “bombs bursting in air”, as we will be reminded this evening by formal fireworks displays, and have already been reminded by early informal fireworks displays in neighborhoods.

“The Fourth” has a very long tradition. Here’s a photo of a baseball game from the 4th of July, 1924, at the Grand Rapids ND Veterans Memorial Park; one of the hundreds of photos found at the North Dakota farm I’ve so often written about in this space.

(click to enlarge)

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

I wasn’t around in 1924, but I’ve been to several July 4ths since 1940 at that very Grand Rapids park, and my memories are of similar rituals each time we went: the baseball game, fishing in the James River, adult games like horseshoes for the old guys (probably about in their 50s – time changes perceptions!), picnic lunches, lots of visiting…. A simple and nostalgic time, for sure. Elements of the old tradition remain, of course. But celebrating July 4 has changed in a great many ways as we’ve become a mobile and very prosperous society.

For me, the title of this blog comes from a particular use of the phrase “God Bless America” which I saw last Monday afternoon as I checked into a motel in Bismarck ND.

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

When I saw this truck last Monday, emblazoned also with “Support our Troops” on the back panel, I didn’t pick up gentle vibes.

There was less a “stand beside her and guide her” request, as there was a martial aspect to all of this, a demand: as it were, “God, bless us, as we command a subordinate world”. This ever more a dicey proposition; a fantasy. We still like to think we’re superior, among less than equals….

My perception on Monday was helped along by a large picture I’d seen two days earlier, of an American military man, one of those surreal “Transformer characters”, a less than human appearing being, a collection of technology and weaponry we see every time our contemporary GI’s are shown in a combat setting somewhere. Not really human appearing, as faced by a known enemy human in World War I or World War II, though similarly vulnerable.

Intimidating, but not.

We look tougher than we are.

But we like the omnipotence message conveyed by that truck in Bismarck earlier this week. The day before, a gigantic black Hummer vehicle passed me by, doubtless driven by some prosperous local citizen, perhaps even a lady. I remember when the Hummers became popular for those who could afford them, during the Iraq war. They’re seen less often now than they were then, there never were very many. But to me they always conveyed an in-your-face-message of omnipotence: “Look at me. Don’t mess with me….” A martial, war, message.

1924 was part of a rare interval between wars for the United States. We even tried to outlaw war with the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928. The time since WWII began for us in 1941 has seen only a single year without some war or another (see America at War001.

Our 4th will be a quiet one today, after a tiring week on the road. Tonights fireworks may wake me up, though usually they don’t.

But I’ll mostly think of that 4th of July I attended once in awhile at the Grand Rapids Memorial Park: catching a bullhead or two, probably some ice cream, some kid games….

A time of enjoyment and rest.

Have a great day.

God bless us all, everywhere.

An in-your-face "American" wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg.  Photograph by Dick Bernard

An in-your-face “American” wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg. Photograph by Dick Bernard

#1039 – Dick Bernard: The South Carolina Confederate Flag Debate

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

(click to enlarge)
The Clansman001

Last night I saw on television much of the remarks of South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of Strom Thurmond, making a strong argument for removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds. He seemed somewhat nervous, but sincere and impassioned.

A distillation of his remarks was in three paragraphs in the midst of a news report on Page A5 of todays Minneapolis Star Tribune. I hope the entire speech gets more publicity. If anyone was putting himself out there, personally, it is Strom Thurmond’s son, arguing against what was his father’s mantra for his entire career.

It is a good sign.

This is an issue – race – that will not go away, and it lives within all of us in this country in one form or another. It is part of our national tradition, our personal DNA.

We are steeped in the notion of superiority of the White Race and the inferiority of those whose complexion suggests Black.

A good briefing on the history of this issue was sent to me by my friend, Joyce, yesterday. You can read it here: In her note, she says “this was published almost a year ago, but it is well worth rereading”. I agree.

Indeed, it is helpful to look back.

Two years ago someone with whom I had common ties many years ago in small town North Dakota, stuck me on a list which turned out to be your basic rant-site against anything related to President Obama.

At an early point, I asked a pointed question about one particularly racist rant. Who would pass along such a thing. The writer, from Washington State, took the bait Nov. 7, 2013:

“Mr. Bernard, you want to know who [I am]. I don’t know about your back ground. But I can give you a little bit about mine. My real name is ________. My back ground is that I served this country for over 53 years. 23 as a Soldier, and 30 as a Civilian. I spent most of that time in Foreign Countries. I’m a Vietnam Vet. I am a Republican, although I have voted for a Democrat in the pass, (President Kennedy). By the was [sic] my Brother In law is a disabled (retired) Federal Park Police. So I know a little about the Park Police through him. As for this President. In my opinion The only reason he was elected, was the fact that he is half black. You never hear him talk about being half white. [emphasis added] One more opinion, I think that all US Citizens should fire both the Democrat and Republican Congressional leader and start over, including the President and his cabinet. Our Government Leaders should live under the same laws and regulation that the American Citizens live under. I think you would see a big difference in our laws that we would have to live with.

That’s just a little about me.”

Which leads back to “our personal DNA”.

I have been going through the endless task of sorting stuff at the North Dakota farm, and one day came across the book, whose cover photograph leads this post. “The Clansman” was published in 1905, the same year my grandparents came to that farm. But this book (see end photo) included many photos from the film Birth of the Nation, based on the book, from 1915, and also indicated that the book had once belonged to the Moorhead MN Public Library.

When did they get this book? Who got it? Why? Why was it kept for over 100 years? Why did it fascinate me sufficiently so that I now have it?

We didn’t talk about Black people out there. In my growing up, there were hardly any around to talk about.

There were, however, Indians. Different story.

All this and more part of the necessary conversation.

The Clansman002

from Jeff:
I am not sure what to make about the sudden GOP conversion. I suspect after 2 or three days of saying it was “up to South Carolina”, or
It was an attack on Christians… both of which were universally derided … someone who was doing polling figured out that stonewalling
Wasn’t going to help this time.

Although I think the smoke of removing flags… covers the issue of gun violence and right wing terrorism.

from Carol: Great job. I’d like to see that book!

from Peter: The “stars and bars” was a battle flag, not a national flag, and was only resurrected in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. It symbolizes anti-integration, racist sentiment, and nothing more, recent interpretations notwithstanding.

from Alberder: Thanks for this honest and candid post.

from Bruce: At some level, Dick, America is dealing with race. That’s good, but there is double standard going on, not the one you might initially think.

Remember Anwar Al-Waki. The Muslim American that without due process according to his & our civil rights was designated as a terrorist, sentenced to death & was murdered by the president.

Now, from what I’ve been reading these white supremacy groups are an international conspiracy to control, if not eliminate, people of color. For me, these are far more dangerous to the Homeland than the groups designated as terrorist organizations, which are called Islamic extremists.

If the these white suprematist organizations are labeled “terrorist”, will the president hunt down and kill their leaders without due process. I hope not. But the precedent has been set.

#1038 – Dick Bernard: The Barn Roof

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

PRE-NOTE: I’ve added to the beginning of yesterdays post material from Basilica of St. Mary today regarding the change in Bishops in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. I have also included a link to Pope Francis recent encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home” (the earth).


(click to enlarge photos)

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

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

This is the first year ever, in my memory, where I have mailed no Father’s Day best wishes.

I know lots of fathers, including myself. It’s nothing personal. This year, no cards.

My biological Dad died in November 7, 1997, at 89. He was a powerful and positive force in my life. In a real sense, my surrogate Dad, later, never married nor had any children of his own: this was my Uncle Vincent, who died at 90 on February 2, 2015. Vince and I spent a lot of time together, though as I said at the lunch after his funeral, neither one of us were much for talking, and my efforts to record the essence of his thoughts driving between LaMoure and the farm proved fruitless: it was minutes of dead air, with an occasional staccato comment on somebodies field, or a bird in the air. In a real sense he and I were peas in a pod. Now I’m dealing with the end of life issues for him. It is an honor.

Vince’s Dad, my Grandpa Ferd, was another crucial actor. He was 60 or so when I was born, so, while he lived until I was 27, he was always a somewhat ancient personage to me.

Dad and Vince and my life intersected directly and pretty dramatically at one point in my life, which comes to mind on this Father’s Day.

It was the end of July, 1949. I was 9, and we were at the farm, and had gone to bed, only to be awakened by a horrific south wind with very heavy rain. My particular memory was of water gushing in through the window sill. For the adults there was a whole lot of praying going on. Oddly, we stayed upstairs the entire time.

The next memory was the following morning, and when we went outside, the barn roof was no longer on the nearby barn, scattered to the north and east.

My memories are, of course, of a nine year old.

For the adults, it was a time of crisis.

There were cows to milk, and they could be milked, but the roof needed to be rebuilt.

Dad, 42 and a schoolteacher, was still on summer break and could stay and help. Vincent was 24 and, by then, basically the person who did the farming.

Grandpa, I learned years later, scouted the neighborhood and saw a barn with roof-beam pattern he liked, and made a form on the haymow floor, and the men hand-constructed each and every roof beam, then raised the roof, and construction proceeded.

The barn roof beams July 2014

The barn roof beams July 2014

My personal narrative does not include neighbors, etc., but I’m sure they were involved as well. But there was a great deal of damage in the surrounding area from the same storm, and I’m sure Uncle Vincent bore the brunt of the heavy-lifting later, including shingling the structure, which had to be a terrifying task.

These days, 66 years after that summer storm in 1949, the barn still stands, much the worse for wear.

I’ve often said that the barn roof is holding up the 1915 main floor, rather than the other way around, and each time I see that structure, however decrepit it has become, I see a joint effort of family and in particular of men in the summer of 1949.

Nobody’s talked about it much.

Nobody has to.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

An inadvertent double exposure, 1949, Uncle Vince appears twice, at left and in center, with his sister, Florence Wieland, her husband Bernard, and son Tom and duaghter Mary.  All in the photo, save Mary, are deceased.

An inadvertent double exposure, 1949, Uncle Vince appears twice, at left and in center, with his sister, Florence Wieland, her husband Bernard, and son Tom and duaghter Mary. All in the photo, save Mary, are deceased.

In the hay mow, May 23, 2015

In the hay mow, May 23, 2015

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991

#1034 – Dick Bernard: Virgil Benoit on Minnesota’s Metis and French-Canadians

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

May 19, a jam-packed room of us were treated to a one-hour presentation by Dr. Virgil Benoit, a man who needs no introduction to those with background as Metis or French-Canadian.

The below photos are from the session (click to enlarge). Here is a one hour podcast of Dr. Benoit’s talk. It speaks for itself.

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit's talk.

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit’s talk.


NOTE: I have known Dr. Benoit personally since 1985, and participated in many of his events in the Red Lake Falls area of Minnesota, and into North Dakota, particularly at Turtle Mountain. I wrote personal impressions of him some years ago. You can find that here.

I am also a member of the French-American Heritage Foundation, as is Dr. Benoit. Give us a look. Beginning Friday, June 4, 10:30-noon, for four successive Fridays, several of us will present a personal look at our heritage: “Minnesota History with a French Accent”. The series that will be presented at Washburn Library, located at 5244 Lyndale Ave South, Minneapolis on Friday, June 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Registration is free. Several of us from French-American Heritage Foundation are conducting these classes. We did the first series in April and early May, and will again be presenting them in the Fall.

For those with an interest, there is a fascinating story of Fr. Goiffon going on a Buffalo Hunt with the Pembina area Metis about 1860. You can find it here at pages 451-59 and 466. Also note the index relating to Fr. Goiffon.