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#1119 – Dick Bernard: The Armenian Genocide, 1915-23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

(click to enlarge photos. This post includes two parts, with information from Lou Ann Matossian and Peter Balakian Updated May 9, 2016_

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

The internet brought an announcement of “A presentation and discussion led by Lou Ann Matossian on “Armenian Genocide Education and the Community.” I went to the presentation at the University of Minnesota last Wednesday evening, and learned a great deal about the delayed but active Minnesota response to the horrible Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during a year beginning in Spring 1915.

Here are some maps relating to the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Museum in Armenia.

(click to enlarge)

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Ms Matossian’s talk emphasized the relationship of the Armenians to Minnesota and the Congregational Church in particular. You can read, here, the results of extensive research she did of Minnesota newspaper coverage of the Genocide in 1915.

I didn’t know, till Ms Matossian’s talk, of the historical Christian and Minnesota connection with Armenia.

I’ve long been aware of the genocide, but it is like numerous issues: I didn’t give it close attention…Wednesday it came to life.

When I left the gathering, I found myself thinking not only about the Armenian Genocide but other atrocities, including America’s own shameful record with people we in the olden days generically termed as “Indians”: a successful genocide at least from the standpoint of we beneficiaries, the descendants of the ancestors who got the land and won all the rights and privileges, guilt free.

Back home after the session I took out a 1912 public school geography textbook I had found on my ancestral farm in south central North Dakota. Was there anything about Armenia?

You can see parts of two maps from that book, above and below, which say a great deal. No question that there was a place called Armenia, more a question about its status, then, as a distinct state.

The wikipedia entry about Armenia gave further help. From the article: “Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD”.

A good general reference about the Armenian Genocide may be this one

The website of the St. Sahag Armenian Ch. in St. Paul gives some basics of the genocide.


April 14, 2016, I attended a second most enlightening talk about the Armenian genocide, by Prof. Peter Balakian of Colgate University. (Subsequent to the session, I learned that Balakian won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize.)

The photo which leads this post, of Armenian Churches existing, later destroyed, at the time of the genocide is from Balakian’s presentation.

Some comments which supplement Dr. Matossian’s:

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in Totally Unofficial defined the word genocide based on what happened in Christian Armenia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hitler used societies tendency to historical amnesia about the Armenian genocide to at least partially justify what he felt was the political low risk of eliminating the Jews: “after all, who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians.”

Balakian divided genocide into two general categories: “Barbarism” is the killing of people; “Vandalism” is the destruction of an entire culture, things like differing religious beliefs, churches, art and the like.

He further differentiated between destruction of cultures in the times of territorial expansion, more or less before 1900, and what he called the “modern modality”. I could see his point; however, indiscriminate destruction of some “other” is destruction nonetheless, regardless of rationale.

I found myself thinking about the possibility that the internet in particular has created a new, equally evil, post-modern modality. In this modern day, we don’t kill people physically, we assassinate them, particularly leaders at times of elections, such as the period we are now in. This is an enhanced form of “cyber-bullying”. “Truth” in this post-modern modality is completely irrelevant. The target lives, physically, but is nonetheless the motive is to destroy the target.

I had come into Prof. Balakian’s session early, and even preceding me, in the back row, were seated two women who very much fit the appearance of Muslims. They sat there quietly. The room filled, and I heard one man, in some apparent official capacity, come past me right before the event started and say: “I think I see trouble in the back row”. (It is hardly a risk to infer that he was referring to the women I reference.)

When I left, the two women were still there. There had been no incidents of any kind. But I did notice.

There exists, I think, a great opportunity for dialogue. I wish those two women, and that man, and others, could come together, just to talk.


Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for genocide in the hands of evil. Rwanda and Darfur are but two examples in recent history. But we need look no further than some of the present political rhetoric of U.S. Presidential politics where deliberate ginning up of hatred for others who are somehow different is effective. We have to be constantly vigilant and outspoken within our own circles in American society. The spectre of evil is always there.

The essential conversation continues: for more about Armenian Genocide, see April 14th program announcement here, the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


How bad was the Armenian Genocide?

I always try to put events in some sort of context, to try to better understand what led to/results from such events.

Of course, a post like this hardly is a pin-prick on a piece of paper about our awful history as supposedly civilized people.

“Our”, here, largely means those descended from European colonizers.

See this data set about the bitter fruits of people against people, generally, in the last 150 years.

The 150 years between 1860 and 2010 seem to be the deadliest era in human caused death and destruction from war. The Armenian genocide comes at about mid-point in this deadly era. It is one of many tragedies.

In the case of Armenia and the Ottoman Turks, the ancient and deadly Christian Crusades to control the Holy Land may well serve as a prelude – I’ve heard it argued that the Crusades essentially “birthed” the Ottoman Turks*.

The arbitrary carving up of the Middle East as spoils to the European victors in WWI is a postlude, which very significantly contributes to the chaos in the Middle East up to the present day (ISIS and the now global “war on terror”).

Scroll down in the above referenced data set to the “1.5” in the left hand column. You’ll find reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1923, the “First Genocide of the 20th Century committed by the Ottoman Government on Armenian Civilians.” Scroll down a bit further, to .75 (750,000) Greek deaths in the same time period for the same reason, and .275 (275,000) Assyrian deaths in Mesopotamia (now the general area of Iraq and Syria – places like Mosul, now ISIS territory.)

And there is more perspective in the chart: scroll up to the second entry in Genocides, and there is the estimate of 55 million deaths of native people in the Americas due to conquest and colonization between 1492 and 1691. As is noted there, there are wildly disparate estimates of the actual death toll then, 8.4 to 138 million, the actual number “which might actually never be determined”.

This genocide came at the hands of my people, white Europeans, in all the assorted ways we have heard from one time to another, the history slanted towards the winners, of course.


About 35 miles from that south central ND farm in which I found the old geography book with the maps shown here, is the Whitestone Hill Battlefield at which a large number of peaceful Indians on their annual buffalo hunt were massacred by American military in 1863. Twenty soldiers died; it is impossible to find a definitive number from among the several thousand Indians who were there*. The official story is vague.

I have visited that site often (two photos above and below), and today, as always since the early 1900s, the visible monument there is to the soldiers who died, with scarce evidence of a much later, very simple unadorned stone monument to the Indians who were on their annual buffalo hunt, killed in the deadly skirmish.

I mention this fact as Ms Matossian noted that today there are no apparent monuments in Turkey to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey, in 1862 officially called for either moving out or exterminating the Sioux Indians from Minnesota – a statement repudiated by Ramsey’s successor, Gov. Mark Dayton, in 2013. It is common to dehumanize the adversary. In such situations, this scenario is common.

One of my first Minnesota relatives, Samuel Collette, was part of Henry Hastings Sibley’s Minnesota unit in the 1863 war, reaching what was to become Bismarck ND in August 1863, “mission accomplished”. Their unit wasn’t at Whitestone Hill but that was only an accident of history. Nebraska and Iowa were at Whitestone.


If I am correct, that 1860-2010 was a particularly gruesome “round” of people destroying other people; can I hope that the next 150 years, from 2010-2160, can be, truly, a time of awakening that we are all family, together, on an ever more fragile earth.

We all need each other.

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

* – The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. There is plenty of blame to go around. A winner in one round becomes the loser in another, and on we go.

** – A well researched article about the battle from the North Dakota Historical Society is “The Battle of Whitestone Hill“, by Clair Jacobson, North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol 44, No. 3 Summer, 1977.

from Larry:
Thanks, Dick – excellent, informative article. I particularly saved this line: The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. That is SO true!

from David: Nice piece. There are so many important events in history that we have, at best, a dim memory of hearing about them.

from Flo: I remember praying rosaries for the starving Armenians, and being reminded of their plight when we fussed over the food served us at home [1950s]. I don’t remember any conversations about just who the Armenians were or why they needed our prayers. Do you?

from Bill: Great article, Dick. There was a secretary at 3M that was the daughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide. The world has never been able to get the Turks to acknowledge their role in this genocide.The USA has stopped doing so since we depend on our military bases in Turkey. I did read once that the Turks hated the Armenians for siding with Russia when Russia was attacking Turkey some years before World War I.

I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.

International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba
9. Mar. 23, 2016 The Two Wolves, Deux. Brussels

#1114 – Dick Bernard: Bienvenue Canada, the Trudeaus & French-Canadians

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Much more information about the French in Minnesota available here and here.

What is your heritage? What is your story? Comment/Questions/Stories are welcome: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. (For many more stories, simply put the words Collette or Bernard in the search box of this blog.)

Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau - 1868 - Minneapolis MN

Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau – 1868 – Minneapolis MN

I’m in the midst of updating the index of a small French-Canadian newsletter, Chez Nous, which I edited for 16 years for midwest French-Canadians from the mid-1980s through 1990s.

And four of us from the French-American Heritage Foundation are at mid-point in a four week workshop presentation on our shared French-Canadian heritage.

So the visit of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his spouse to the Obama’s in the White House this week is a good reminder of the very long connection between French-Canadians and the United States; and a good time for a brief “seminar” on a branch of the French-Canadian family tree very familiar to me: my own family.

It did surprise me to learn that the last such state visit between the two heads of state was about 20 years ago. After all, Canada, the French in Canada and the U.S.have a very long history in North America, going back to the founding of Quebec City in 1608.

Collette Reunion t-shirt, Dayton MN 2002.

Collette Reunion t-shirt, Dayton MN 2002.

My Dad, Henry Bernard, was 100% French-Canadian, born in Grafton, North Dakota, Dec. 1907; graduating from high school there. His father was Honore (always known as Henry) Bernard, immigrant from Quebec ca 1894, carpenter, then flour mill chief engineer; his mother was Josephine Collette, born in 1881 at what was then called St. Andrews, Dakota Territory, where the Park enters the Red River of the North, baptized, and growing up on a farm, near tiny Oakwood.

They married at Oakwood ND’s Sacred Heart Parish in June, 1901. (You can access the Sacred Heart Parish Centennial book here. It is chock-full of French-Canadians. (See Part 2, page 27 upper left corner for “my” Collette’s). Oakwood is “suburban” Grafton – about four miles east.)


There is plenty of French-Canadian blood in the veins of Minnesotans and midwesterners. The 1980 U.S. census – the last to record such data – showed 7.9% of Minnesotans to have French descent (Wisconsin 7.3%, Michigan 10%).

At minimum, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans carry some French or French-Canadian lineage.

French-Canadians were true non-native pioneers here, though often unrecognized. Ours seems always to have been a quiet heritage. Yes, there is a story about that, too…for another time. (In the Chez Nous index project I re-noted an article written by University of Minnesota professor William Rogers for an Adult Education journal in 1975. You can read it here: Fr. in MN 1975001)


Thirteen years ago, members of the Collette family staged a reunion at the historic French-Canadian parish of St. John the Baptist in Dayton MN, and event organizer Vernon Sell of the Minneapolis Collette’s designed the t-shirt pictured in part above.

Every family story is different. The Collette story in some ways is representative of the migration from Quebec to this area; and integration of the French-Canadians in this area.

Briefly: The first Collette came to St. Paul from St. Lambert QC in about 1857; my great-grandmother Clotilde Blondeau and her parents and siblings came to Dayton MN, probably from Ottawa Ont area, sometime shortly after 1850.

Most of the rest of the Collette’s, seven boys and one girl, came to then-St. Anthony, and settled near what is now the St. Anthony Main end of the Stone Arch bridge in Minneapolis about the time the Civil War ended. Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau (photo below) married at then-St. Anthony of Padua Parish in then-St. Anthony in 1869.

In 1875 the family moved to the Dayton-Otsego area, where they lived till about 1878, when the first of the group walked to the Red river Valley to take homesteads. Two other girls, by now married, had moved to the area of Oakwood from Quebec. About a dozen Collettes from Quebec had transplanted to Dakota Territory before North Dakota became a state (1889).

(click to enlarge photos)

The Collette men in Oakwood ND 1887 likely after the death and burial of their wife and mother Mathilde.  Dad is front left; the Priest is at front right.

The Collette men in Oakwood ND 1887 likely after the death and burial of their wife and mother Mathilde. Dad is front left; the Priest is at front right.

Visitors from Winnipeg to the Henry and Josephine Bernard home in Grafton in the 1920s.  The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists, in a Pennsylvania museum.

Visitors from Winnipeg to the Henry and Josephine Bernard home in Grafton in the 1920s. The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists, in a Pennsylvania museum.

1954 photo,Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard of the homeplace at Oakwood.  Apparent identities as known.  At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; from left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard.  The others are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

1954 photo,Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard of the homeplace at Oakwood. Apparent identities as known. At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; from left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard. The others are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

As happens in families, in time one of the boys, Vernon Sells Grandpa, married, and returned to the Dayton MN area to live the rest of his life with his family in what is now Otsego, between Dayton and the present day Albertville Outlet Mall.

One of the brothers, and two sons of another brother, in the early 1900s, headed north into southern Manitoba to take available land between Ste. Elisabeth and Morris MB.

Another brother moved back across the Red river to Argyle MN. Others moved to other places like the west coast.

So it happened over the years that this family, like so many others, blended into both the United States and Canada, all now speaking English, but the Canadian cousins likely speaking French as their first language at home.


Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau comes from the French-Canadian tradition, as does his first lady.

Yes, I’m very proud of this heritage.

What are your stories? Check in with us at, consider joining our mission to preserve the French in Middle West heritage. Write me at dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#1104 – Dick Bernard: Revisiting “The Bones of Plenty”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s Reflective Testimony to Ourselves and Coming Generations: “Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now”.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

UPDATE May 1, 2016: The official Lois Phillips Hudson website is here.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2016: Six pages from North Dakota State University (Fargo) Archives, Feb. 23, 2016. Hudson NDSU Arch001Mrs. Hudson taught at NDSU 1967-69.
In 1962, Lois Phillips Hudson published “The Bones of Plenty”.

A New York Times Book Review commentary said this about the book: “It is possible…that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”

While I grew up a North Dakotan, I missed the book at the time of publication.

In early Jan. 1962, freshly graduated from college (Valley City (ND) State Teachers College), I entered the United States Army, spending two years playing war in the rattle-snake infested foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Ft. Carson, Colorado and other places, like Hanford Firing Range, Washington.

After the Army, life interfered with things like recreational reading; I don’t recall ever hearing about “The Bones of Plenty”.

In fact, it wasn’t until my friend, Nancy Erickson, told me about the The Bones of Plenty a few years ago, that I took the time to read it, and it spoke to me, very personally. It was my people she was talking about: rural North Dakotans who had lived through and survived the awful years of the 1930s, “The Great Depression”.

The “Bones of Plenty” is set in rural Stutsman County North Dakota in 1934, set primarily in Jamestown and rural Cleveland ND (photos which follow are of Cleveland ND* taken January 27, 2016).

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the  main street.

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the main street.

At the time I was introduced to “The Bones of Plenty” by Nancy, I was spending more and more time with my Uncle Vincent and Aunt Edithe in LaMoure, a town little more than an hours drive from Cleveland.

When I’d ask Vincent, a lifelong rural Berlin ND farmer, about the Depression, he would always reply that 1934, the year he was nine, was the worst. (He was 2 1/2 years older than Lois Phillips, then living on the rural Cleveland ND tenant farm, not far away).

I can attest, having shouldered the task of closing down the 110 year old farm, that the family never recovered from the trauma of the 30s.

And they weren’t unusual: being trapped in years of uncertainty has its impact. “The folks”, their siblings and many others lived in the shadow of the 30s their whole lives. “The Bones of Plenty” put “meat” on those bones for me. It helped me understand why they lived as carefully as they did.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016. Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

Jan. 27, 2016. Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.


Fast forward.

January 6, 2016, one of those occasional unusual e-mails came to my e-screen.

A person named Cynthia Anthony introduced herself: “I’m seeking permission to post links to your posts, numbers 490**, 499**, and 565**, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson. I am the director of the Lois Phillips Hudson Project, and run a website dedicated to preserving her legacy – you can view [the site] here.”

As we began our chat, I found that Cynthia lives in western New York state, I am in Minnesota (but North Dakotan to the core). She had come to be custodian of Ms Hudson’s boxes of archival material after Ms Hudson’s death in 2010, in part, I gathered, because of her involvement in something called the Rural Lit Rally. She said the boxes had yielded little about Lois’ 8 years in ND, nor about her parents and their kin. She knew a lot about most of the rest of Lois’ life, beginning about 1937, mostly in Washington State, most around Redmond.

Redmond, among other things, is the headquarters of Microsoft.

I agreed to help Cynthia sort out the North Dakota connection of Ms Phillips Hudson (and invite the reader of this blog to do the same. Here is the portal for submitting comments, etc., to her.)

Included in the many boxes was a manuscript of a nearly completed book, Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now (click on the title for ordering information). Ms Hudson had apparently been working on the book from about 2000 till near her death; roughly the decade of her 70s.

On careful review, a decision was finally made to publish the 390 page book as it had been left by Ms Hudson, including occasional typos and notations about incomplete verification of sources.


I have read Unrestorable Habitat, and I recommend it without any qualification whatsoever. It is powerful, and it is uncomfortable.

In many ways “Unrestorable Habitat…” is autobiographical and about the world of Lois Phillips Hudson, from youth forward. It weaves personal recollections and direct observations of contemporary life, as seen by a young girl, then by a woman who ultimately retired as a college professor in 1992, about the desperately poor rural North Dakota of the 1930s, and country village, thence city of Redmond, Washington, from the 1930s to the end of her life.

The book offers the reader a great deal of food for thought about our present technological age.

No reader who cares about the future of our planet will be comfortable reading Ms Hudsons observations. We are all complicit in the deteriorating state of our planet. Start with myself, writing this post on a computer in a comfortable room, soon to be transmitted to who-knows-where by internet….

As I read Unrestorable Habitat, I have to ask myself, how do I fit into this narrative of squandering our future for the comfort of today? What can I, as an individual, do to make the future hospitable or at least survivable for the generations which follow, as well as for other living species?

The problem to solve is not someone elses: it is mine, and all of ours.

This book would be a great one for book clubs. I recommend it highly.

* – In 1920, the first census of Cleveland showed a population of 341; in 1930, 273; 1940, 246; 1950, 181…the current population is estimated as 82.

** – The references to The Bones of Plenty in previous blogs are found in #490; 499 and #565

Jan. 27, 2016.  The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment.  Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

Jan. 27, 2016. The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment. Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing information on Lois Phillips Hudson book “The Bones of Plenty”. There are two books about the dust storms of the Great Plains and depression of the late twenties and early 1930 that I really like. They are The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, The Great Plains by Ian Frazier and Pioneer Woman of the West, by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson. I just finished my book “Memories of a Grateful Past” Stories of Family and Friends from the Heart 1830-1985. The book has 470 pages of stories about family, friends, and my work as a teacher and eighteen years of working with the Wisconsin Education Association (1968-1985). The book also includes family stories from South Dakota during the depression and drought. It has gotten wonderful reviews, so I’m pretty excited about it. The books will be printed and sent to me by April 1.

from Curtis: As a history guy is it just on ND? Just finished Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. Story of a survivor of the death camps of WWII. After the war her mother married Otto Frank. Tough read about what humans did to other humans.

Response to Curtis: Bones of Plenty is 100% about Stutsman County ND, basically rural Cleveland and Jamestown in 1934. Unrestorable Habitat is mostly about Redmond (suburban Seattle) in the 2000s, but includes lots of autobiographical flashbacks to Hudson’s growing up on the ND farm.

from Lynn: Thanks Dick, This reminds me that when I worked for the North Dakota Farmers Union we were privileged to have Lois speak to a youth group, I think in 1968. Very memorable experience!

from JoAnn: Thanks for all your interesting discussions. I can remember receiving a copy of “Bones of Plenty”, I believe from my mother. My brother and I enjoyed the incongruity of the lovely title. I totally enjoyed the book. I was not old enough to participate in the actual worst periods of those times, but i certainly lived through the after effects of those years. My grand father lost his bank in Wheatland in spite of my mother donating her $5000 inheritance from an uncle in the vain attempt at saving the bank. (Quite a chunk in those days.) I can remember many conversations (this would have to be early 40s as I was born in late 39) in which my father would end with the phrase, “Well, we can always move to the Ozarks.” I guess that was his escape plan if we couldn’t stick. My husband and I have recently moved and while unloading and sorting and selecting books to keep, I actually handled BONES OF PLENTY today. I acquired along the way somewhere, a book entitled, REAPERS OF THE DUST, a prairie chronicle also by Hudson. More recently I found THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan, which, as my brother would say,”Another miserable book”. This I took to mean another book about a miserable time. Egan’s book is not about our local area but covers the horror of the dust that covered the earth of the high plains during those “dirty thirties.” The descriptions were unbelievable. Perhaps you’ve read this book already. Anyway, thanks for directing my thoughts back to those memories. You do great work with your blog. Cheers!

from Emily: Great article! Thank you for sharing! I hope you are well.

from Debbie: Thanks for this info, Dick. I love reading books about Dakota. I do believe I read Bone of Plenty way back when. Will look for the other.

from Christina: I googled for some information on those two books. I think they both might be very interesting especially “Unrestorable Habitat.” I like John Grisham’s books. I am now reading Gray Mountain. I know it’s fiction but based on true situations. This one is about the coal companies strip mining the mountains, miners with black lung diseases,the water being polluted from the coal slush & waste being dumped into the valleys etc. The coal companies have the lawyers pretty well sewed up . I am thankful how Gov. Link got that reclamation project passed. Many object to the EPA but thankfully some one is watching out for our environment. Thanks for the book recommendations.

from Kathleen: Thanks very much. Our library system has it. I look forward to reading it when I return from CA.

#1102 – Dick Bernard: “Perfect Pitch”. A tradition lives on.

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Today it is one year since my Uncle Vincent Busch died in LaMoure ND. He was 90, and my last survivor of the generation preceding mine.

This past twelve months has been filled with reminiscing about various aspects of the family of 11 people who made the North Dakota farm a home for 110 years.

Today, Vince’s great grandnephew Ted Flatley, my grandson, gives me the opportunity to remember a part of the heritage of the Busch family: an affinity for music.

Ted, a 10th grader, loves music and has the unusual gift of perfect pitch. Here’s how he described it in his 10th grade personal project at South St. Paul High School on January 29:

Ted Flatley 1-29-16002

I saw Ted demonstrate his project a few months ago at a school concert. The Band Director, Mr. Peterson, asked a random someone in the audience to hum a note, then asked Ted to identify the note. Ted said “F”, or such, then went back to his Vibraphone, played “F”, and sure enough: perfect.

At last weeks project display I asked Ted to explain what perfect pitch is, and he did. “See the frame around the words”, Ted said. “People can see that the frame is a certain color. I hear musical notes the same way.”

Made sense to me.

Ted continues to cultivate his gift by singing (along with his sister, Kelly) in a metropolitan area choir, plays an excellent marimba, and composing his own music, one of which he debuted with his schools jazz band last Thanksgiving at a community dinner. You can listen to his composition here.


It wouldn’t surprise me if Ted’s (and others in the Busch families) musical gifts come from the Busch branch of the family tree.

Ted’s the first “perfect pitch” I know of, but Grandpa Busch was an excellent school-trained “farmhouse fiddler”, and one of his Uncles was a church organist, and one branch of the family had a band in Wisconsin. Grandma was in the church choir, Grandpa had his own band for country dances. Singing was a staple in the country farmhouse of my grandparents.

(click photos to enlarge)

Grandpa Busch with his fiddle, and family, ca 1915

Grandpa Busch with his fiddle, and family, ca 1915

Twice, the summer before Uncle Vincent died, I heard him sing Amazing Grace at church, and his was an amazing voice for an 89 year old. I think he saw the future, and Amazing Grace was his personal acknowledgement that his time on earth was soon to end.

Vince’s particular music preference was Dixieland. Ted’s is Jazz. Saturday night Ted took me to Orchestra Hall to see the Julian Bliss Septet, an outstanding interpreter of clarinet virtuoso Benny Goodman.

Back in 2014, when we were about to begin renovating the Busch farm house – Vince was then in the Nursing Home – I discovered in the house an old bedraggled case in which I found an old clarinet. Vincent had mentioned at some point that he had an opportunity to learn the clarinet about 1937, so it wasn’t a surprise to find the instrument, bedraggled as it was. (In the tiny school he attended, occasionally a teacher would be hired who knew something about music, and apparently about 1937 Berlin ND had such a teacher, and Vince at least had the opportunity to learn the basics.)

Along the way, Vince’s niece Georgine ended up with the remains of the clarinet, and took it to an instrument repairman in Hilo, Hawaii, who fixed it. (Georgine is the smiling youngster beside the drum in the below photo taken at the Busch farmhouse about 1953.)

At the end of 2015, at Georgine and Robert’s house above Kailua-Kona, Georgine took out the old clarinet and toodled a few notes on it.

I challenged her to use the next year to get the scales down. I’m pretty sure she’ll do it.


Uncle Vincent and his generation have now passed on.

With kids like Ted and the other young band members, we need not worry about the future. His parents generation, like Georgine, help too.

“Take it, Theodore”!* And Georgine, too!

Ted Jan. 29, 2016

Ted Jan. 29, 2016

Ferd Busch and the George Busch family ca 1953 at the farm.

Ferd Busch and the George Busch family ca 1953 at the farm.

* – Our neighbor across the street, Don Thill, not long ago gave us a Benny Goodman CD which included the Oct. 13, 1937, radio program at the Manhattan Room of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Introducing pianist Teddy Rosen in one of the pieces, Benny Goodman said “Take it, Theodore”.

#1099 – Dick Bernard – Hawaii, more history with the U.S. than we think….

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Previous posts at January 6 and January 11. Other posts will follow.

New Years Eve we were seasoned veterans of the Big Island. It was our 12th day at the Kaawihae Village house…and there was a New Years Eve party, with real Hawaiians there!

New Years Eve 2015 Kawaihae HI

New Years Eve 2015 Kawaihae HI

It was a relief to find that real Hawaiians were just folks, like Cathy and I. We all acted our age; quite a few celebrated New Years when Los Angeles did (two hours earlier) and bid aloha.

Very unusual for me, I stayed up till midnight, the real midnight, but not long after.

2016 was here.

I have a long time interest in geography – it was my major in college. Even so, it is always interesting to match up preconceptions with realities, physical, human, etc. For starters, the island of Hawaii is not flat, like a regular map suggests. Sure, we know the highest mountain in the world is there (if measured from base to top, Mauna Loa is over 30,000 feet), but even above sea level it is just a few hundred feet less than Pike’s Peak, but not a dramatic sight from anywhere within the roughly 30-50 mile radius of the Big Island.

Basically, Mauna Loa and its twin Mauna Kea are the island of Hawaii.

Big Island of Hawaii

Big Island of Hawaii

For some reason, Hawaii feels and even sounds like a foreign country, even though it is every bit as American as anywhere else in the U.S.

A poster at the Army Museum at Waikiki Beach summarized the U.S.-Hawaii history as follows:

At the Army Museum on Waikiki, Honolulu, Dec 19, 2015

At the Army Museum on Waikiki, Honolulu, Dec 19, 2015

Succinctly, Hawaii has been in the U.S. sphere for many years.

118 years ago, in the early summer of 1898, my grandfather Bernard and his fellow soldiers likely arrived at what is now Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor as their ship likely refueled enroute to Manila and the Spanish-American War [see end note]. They were there before Hawaii was formally annexed by the U.S.

This happened a few months after their miserable troop ship steamed out of Pearl Harbor. And that was quite a long time ago. A sketch history of Hawaii is here.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife's cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife’s cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.

Sadly, 43 years later, Grandpa’s youngest son, Frank, went down with the Arizona at Pearl Harbor….

At the gathering on Dec. 31 were many nice people, including an announced candidate for the Hawaii State Senate, by all appearances a very capable guy.

He and his family were neat people: his district would be fortunate to have him again as their Senator.

But that is ahead.

Back home I got to thinking about a photo I’ve long had, which I hadn’t paid much attention to.

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

That’s my Aunt Josie, Grandpa and Grandma’s daughter, and Dad and his brother Frank’s sister….

She’d beat me to Hilo 47 years ago.

Josie was part of the Los Angeles deaf community, and my guess is that everyone in the photograph was deaf, part of a tour group to Hawaii.

Aloha. Mahalo.

End Note: In a rather quick review of the literature on the internet, I don’t find any specific information about the troop ships going from Presidio San Francisco to Manila in 1898, except that the trip was well over a month in duration; and I had previously heard that they stopped at Honolulu enroute. Folks I talked with in Honolulu were short of specifics, though one man at the Army Museum was sure that the fueling station would have been where Hickam Field now is. A research task for another time.

#1089 – Dick Bernard: December 7, 2015, “War” to Peace: Changing the Conversation.

Monday, December 7th, 2015
Grandpa's Flag, 1957

Grandpa’s Flag, 1957

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

Anyone who knows me, knows my Uncle Frank Bernard went down with the USS Arizona Dec 7, 1941.

A year ago, Dec. 7, 2014, was especially emotional. I was given an opportunity to speak publicly about my Uncle at the December 7 observance at Landmark Center in St. Paul.

The talk was easy to prepare – I know great deal about my Uncle’s life and death, and I have no trouble in front of people – but actually speaking the words was very emotional for me that day.

(My notes for that talk, and a few added photos can be seen here: Uncle Frank Dec 7 14001).


Fast forward to two days ago.

I noted the box labelled “Henry Bernard Artifacts” in the garage.

Henry, my Dad, died 18 years ago.

I hadn’t looked inside the box for years, and on a whim, Saturday, decided to take a look.

There were two artifacts: one an empty hand-made box, likely made by my Grandpa Bernard, Frank Bernard’s Dad.

The other was the flag (above) which covered Grandpa’s casket when he died in 1957. Grandpa Bernard earned his flag as a veteran of the Spanish-American War, 1898-99 in the Philippines. The flag, used but rarely, has 48 stars.

Grandpa died at 85, before Hawaii and Alaska entered the U.S. as states.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife's cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife’s cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.


Revisiting history.

We are headed for Hawaii on Dec. 17, and the first weekend we’ll take Grandson Ryan, 16, out to Pearl Harbor, and Uncle Frank’s tomb on the USS Arizona. I plan to take the flag along, symbolically bringing a family back together.


War to Peace, Changing the Conversation

My family, like many others, has “War” imprinted in its DNA. I can directly “trace” my own families history with war back 200 years, to the days of Napoleon’s dreams of conquering Europe and Russia. My relative who gives me my last name came to Quebec from France 285 years ago, likely connected with militia.

There are common elements to all wars; the uncommon element is that War is ever more deadly in each succeeding rendition.

We are not fighting with “swords” any more.


The 9-11-01 Generation

Our response to 9-11-01 brought our nation into a “war” mood, bringing us into what has become a permanent state of war…on “Terror”, with attempts to make that word synonymous with a major world religion.

But away from the media and political spotlight, something has been changing in our national mood, rarely public, but very evident.

You won’t see it on the news, but there seems a basically more rational response among our populace to tragedy. Rather than demanding more war, or more and deadlier guns to kill each other, hideously easy to acquire, and division as a default response to any disagreement, the vast majority of us, nationally, person to person, seem to be embracing decent relationships among peoples as the highest value.


A reality.

There will always be evil in our world, including among our own citizens.

Incidents, a Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, must be confronted.

But we don’t need to make things infinitely worse, as we’ve done after 9-11-01, in the process becoming birth parents, almost literally, to ISIS or whatever radical groups are called; and going insane over alleged “rights” to weaponize ourselves.

Collectively, everywhere, common citizens of the world seem to get this. But we can’t implement a firmer peace and more rational gun policy without working together towards them, including being willing to accept incremental improvements, rather than insisting on instant peacefulness.

Let’s learn from the endless series of mistakes that have led so many, combatants and civilians, to premature deaths and dislocation everywhere. Let’s deal with issues as issues.


Looking back to the day before 9-11-01

I close with a single sheet from a file of about 2000 sheets of paper generated by myself and others between the time of 9-11-01 and the end of November 2003*.

It is a simple family letter I wrote on September 10, 2001, the day before 9-11-01: Here it is: Sep 10, 2001001. It is nothing special, just a family letter on an ordinary day, the day before we chose a violent path.

Most of us have some memory of that day prior to “The War on Terror”. Why not take a moment to recall your own memories of that ordinary day in September, 2001, when life was going on without war. Here it is, again: Sep 10, 2001001

A better world is possible. It is up to us.

I wish us peace.

March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

Grandpa's flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

Grandpa’s flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

1. President Obama’s Speech on Sunday Evening
2. A summary of 2016 Presidential candidates response to the speech.

* – The 2000 sheets referred to above are being submitted to the Minnesota Historical Society on Tuesday, as a hoped for addition to the archives of an important time in history.

#1078 – Dick Bernard: North Dakota and South Dakota in 1912. A school textbook freezes a year in time.

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Today, November 1, 2015, is the 365th day of North and South Dakota’s 125th anniversary as states of the U.S. Tomorrow they’re 126 – that’s a bit like having been 21, and now you’re 22. It seems a good day to remember a bit more of that good year, the 125th….

(click to enlarge all photos)

Central States of U.S. 1912 from Natural Advanced Geography, Redway and Hinman, 1912

Central States of U.S. 1912 from Natural Advanced Geography, Redway and Hinman, 1912

As readers of this blog know, the past year has found me frequently and physically revisiting the rural North Dakota where Mom, born 1909, grew up. Soon the 110-year family farm, not far from LaMoure, will belong to new owners. The work has been hard, both physical and emotional, now close to finished. Three times in the last twelve months I’ve written about the 125th birthday of ND: Sep 17, 2014, Oct 1, 2014 and Nov 2, 2014.

October 18,2015, I was at the farm, doing a near-final “sift” of “junk” left in the machine shed, and an old book caught my eye. I fished it out of a box. A portion of the 10×12″ cover is pictured below (click to enlarge).

Cover of 1912 edition of ND Public School Geography text.

Cover of 1912 edition of ND Public School Geography text.

I’m an old geography major. Back home I decided to leaf through and see what I’d find. Its last copyright was 1912.

At the very end of the book, I found two chapters on North Dakota and South Dakota geography.

(Not until preparing this post on October 29 did I notice the note at the very top of the cover page of the book. You can see it hidden, above, at the top of the page. Apparently there were many regional editions of this more than 175 page textbook, each having a section focused on a particular state or region of the U.S.)

What the book had to say about North and South Dakota geography is presented in entirety here (in two twelve page chapters): No. Dak Geog 1912002 (including 23 photos) and So. Dak Geog 1912003 (27 photos).

At page 77, North and South Dakota are introduced:

Geography 1912 ND SD003

The chapters have lots of most interesting tidbits.

On the last page of each state chapter is its 1910 census.

For North Dakota the 1910 census total was 577,056. The “Principal Cities” ranged from Fargo (14,331) to Eckman (population 84, founded 1908, not long after almost a ghost town near Maxbass.). South Dakota totaled 583,888 including Sioux Falls (14,094) and Effington (46) among the “Principal Cities”.

(North Dakota’s current population is 714,551 est in 2013; South Dakota’s 833,354. In 1960, when I was in college, the respective populations were 630,000 (ND) and 680,000 (SD)

1910 was North and South Dakota’s 21st birthday, each state roaring along with all the enthusiasm and hope of someone at 21.

For reasons most of we natives of the states have learned, boom times ebbed, and things like the Great Depression of the 1930s left their mark, everywhere. As my relative, Melvin, born 1928, who grew up the next farm over, said in a letter just days ago: “It was a good life for all of us and I am sure that there will always be some bitter sweet memories of the old homesteads, growing up in the Post Depression years which were further dampened by the drought, grass hoppers and the dust bowl in the prewar [WWII] years.”

The chapters, and the book itself, are filled with raw material for great conversations. (If interested, note that the 1898 edition, probably for the California market, is at google books (click on the tab, other formats).

Ferd and Rosa Busch with first child, Lucina, in yard of their farm home likely Fall 1907

Ferd and Rosa Busch with first child, Lucina, in yard of their farm home likely Fall 1907

POSTNOTE: Geography is much more than just relatively static features, like rivers and mountains. It is very much geopolitical: things as country and state names, and boundaries, and peoples, and conflict change the picture of the landscape. So the publication date of a map or data on which text is based makes a big difference.

For a single example, note the below map of Central Europe in the 1912 textbook. The configuration of the countries is much different in 1912 than it is today, and played into World War I, then into World War II.

If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, there is a current and important exhibition at the Museum of Russian Art entitled “Faces of War: Russia in World War I (1914-18)”. We have been to this exhibit, and the text and pictures are a vivid history lesson in themselves. Do take the time if you haven’t already done so. The Museum is at 5500 Stevens Avenue S. Minneapolis, at the west edge of I-35W, at the SW corner of Stevens Avenue S and Diamond Lake Road.

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

Map of Central Europe in 1912 edition of Natural Advanced Geography textbook

#1075 – Dick Bernard: A Prairie Home Companion comes back home to Anoka.

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

POSTNOTE Oct. 25, 6 a.m.: Here’s last nights program at the Anoka High School Fieldhouse: Prairie Home Anoka001. You can listen to the program here. It was a phenomenal evening. More comments later today.

(click to enlarge photo)

Anoka High School Seventh Avenue Singers with Garrison Keillor October 24, 2015

Anoka High School Seventh Avenue Singers with Garrison Keillor October 24, 2015


Tomorrow, tickets in hand, we’re off to see the Prairie Home Companion (PHC) – I’ve had tickets for weeks. This time the show is at Garrison Keillors Alma Mater, Anoka Senior High School, in a town and school community in which I lived and/or worked from 1965-81.

If you can read this, you can listen to the show on Saturday, here, regardless of where you are in the world.

I first happened by PHC in 1977, thanks to my friends Don and Laura. You could walk in off the street then, and find plenty of good seats. Things changed when they went national.

Keillor, of course, plays off the old and familiar of rural America, and Anoka was the big town of his youth, where he went to Junior and Senior High School. That then-small County Seat town, along with the rural precincts between St. John’s University and Freeport along I-94 west of St. Cloud (Lake Woebegone Country) gave Garrison the base for his always rich stories.

Saturday will probably be a particularly rich show.

Though I rarely see or listen to his show these days, I’ve seen it in person at all phases of its evolution, most recently back in January 17, 2015 at the Fitzgerald Theatre, and at the day long celebration of its 40th anniversary at Macalester College in St. Paul in July, 2014. On that particular day I watched the “yarn spinners” do their magic in person, unfortunately without master sound effects man “Jim Ed Poole” (Tom Keith) who died a few years ago. (His replacement, Fred Newman, is right fine, as you’ll hear!)

(click to enlarge)

Garrison and yarn-spinning gang at Macalester College St. Paul July 4, 2014

Garrison and yarn-spinning gang at Macalester College St. Paul July 4, 2014

Fred Newman, July 4, 2014

Fred Newman, July 4, 2014

I was lucky to live and work in Anoka when it was germinating the ideas for part of Garrisons “little town that time forgot but the decades cannot improve”.

When I go out to Anoka on Saturday I’ll be thinking of Ralph’s Grocery along the east bank of the Rum River, which I got to know in the 1960s. Garrison would deny Ralph’s begat Ralph’s Pretty Good…, doubtless, but how else would his “Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery” get its name? There Ralphs sat, just a block or so north of Main Street.

Then there’s Pastor Inkqvist, and Father Emil. They have to be Pastor Hyllengren of Zion Lutheran and Father Murphy of St. Stephen’s; the latter my elderly Parish Priest in the old Church and rectory downtown; both powerhouses in their respective competing religious communities a few blocks apart.

And Anoka was the home of the Pumpkin Bowl, the school football field, and the big Halloween Parade, and the “Tornadoes”. It is most appropriate – planned, doubtless – to have the show in Anoka right at the edge of Halloween.

Back between 1965 and 1981 I either taught, or represented the teachers, in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, already a sprawling school district encompassing thirteen then-largely rural townships. By 1971, Anoka High School had come to be Fred Moore Junior High, when the massive new high school was built north of the tracks. We’ll see the show in the fieldhouse of the now old “new” high school….

Garrison was gone by the time I came to Anoka, but there were a fair number of school teachers who survived and live on in one or another of his phenomenal stories. They were names familiar to me.

I can live those days vicariously now.

But anyone who tunes in can tune in on their own growing up, wherever that happened to be.

Some of the laughter you’ll hear tomorrow night will be my own, and I plan to go decked out in my 40th anniversary Prairie Home Companion T-shirt, and my Powdermilk Biscuits baseball cap (“Has your family tried ’em? Heavens! They’re tasty!”

Is William Keillor Garrison’s root? From the History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905
(click to enlarge)

History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905

History of Anoka County by Albert Goodrich, 1905

Monday, October 26: Since the entire show is accessible on-line (at beginning of this post), the sounds are all there for anyone who’s listening.

I taught in Anoka-Hennepin district from 1965-72, then represented the teachers there, including Anoka Senior High School, from 1972-81, and my son did his Sophomore year there about 1979-80 or so. So I experienced the evening quite intensely. Lyle Bradley and Coach Nelson were very familiar to me. I did get one photo of Lyle Bradley, 90, and still vibrant.

Garrison listens to Lyle Bradley, about this and that....October 24, 2015

Garrison listens to Lyle Bradley, about this and that….October 24, 2015

This was a very personal program for Garrison. That was obvious from the beginning when he came down into the audience and led the few thousand of us in several songs before the show began, including the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, as I recall.

There was reverence shown to public schools and teachers, particularly Anoka, his alma mater. I’ve followed Garrison for years, and there were some serious speed bumps a few years ago between himself and public education, but it appeared that was in the past.

His family, his schools, and his community were the relationships that made him what he is today.

I was particularly struck by his reference to growing up autistic. It was an affirmation to any who struggle in any way with autism or its effects.

It was amusing to hear the skit about the Homecoming game between Anoka and Visitation (a Catholic girls high school in St. Paul). Anoka won 6-0, of course, but he softened the edge between zealots for no holds barred competition, and those who emphasize team play and empathy for the underdog. (In the skit, Visitation was the hard-edged competitor, and Anoka the softer feelings oriented team.) It came across especially well, knowing that Anoka-Hennepin has gone through some rough years lately over LGBT issues. There was a “you factions can get along” sense that I was left with.

School people were heavily involved in the program, from kids, to teachers, to the librarian, to the Principal. A school is a social system which, in our society, everyone can enter and have an opportunity to find their muse.

I left renewed and buoyed in lots of ways. When you’re aging, you lose essential touch with the systems of youth. And this show was important for me – though I hasten to acknowledge that we have nine grandkids, and the day after PHC, we went to a wonderful vocal concert in Bloomington which involved two of them, grades eight and ten.

Still, it was great to see the greater community of kids as well.

Thanks, Garrison. You done REALLY good!

#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)

(click to enlarge photo)

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