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#1121 – Dick Bernard: Judy, a Homemaker goes home.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Monday I was completing a project, and noted to my colleague that I was about to go to a funeral. “I am sorry that you will be at a funeral; my condolences”, came the reply, to which I replied “I’m at the age where these are increasingly common events…life goes on….”

It was not a flip statement, simply a statement of fact. As you get older, you become more aware of death, pending and actual.

Judy had died on April 5, the details unimportant. She was a many years long friend of my wife, and she and Bud had been married for 53 years, best I could tell, a great marriage. They had met when she was a car-hop at the Dariette in east side St. Paul, and he was a young biker (who later in life earned many patents at part of a work team for a large corporation).

I sent Bud the condolence card I always send when someone dies. I took it in November 1999 along I-94 east of Valley City ND. It’s story always, to me, has been the radiance of the life just ended, and the family tree left behind. Nothing fancy.

(click to enlarge)

ND Sunset east of Valley City on I-94 Nov. 99

ND Sunset east of Valley City on I-94 Nov. 99

Every end-of-life commemmoration differs.

Judy’s was marked by simplicity. This mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of one was recognized this way in the program: “Judy loved music. She could play the accordion, the organ, and all sorts of percussion instruments. She sang in her high school choir and church choirs her entire life. Judy was a drum majorette in high school and also played in the St. Paul Police Band for five years where she played community concerts and marched in parades. She loved to dance and could never resist a Polka!

Judy was full of energy, loved being outside, going on walks, planting vegetables and flowers, weeding the garden, raking, picking up sticks, and even re-stacking the wood pile. If there was something that needed to be done, she would jump up and do it.”

They didn’t mention her homemade pies. Well, there is only so much space in a program. The Priest who presided at the funeral and who had visited her during her final illness, choked up, visibly emotional, during the service. This is something I rarely see. She had that kind of impact on a person.

Bud had been especially thankful for the card and note (photo above) in which I commented on the personal meaning that the sunset and the tree had for me.

Perhaps there was a reason Bud was particularly moved.

At the end of the program were the lyrics of “Beyond the Sunset (A favorite song of Judy’s)”. You can listen to a version of it here.

(Click to enlarge)
Beyond the Sunset002

Farewell, Judy.

Fare thee well, Bud, and family.

#1118 – Dick Bernard: A Thought at Easter. Le Don du Sourire (The Gift of a Smile)

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Recently I have been reviewing the index of 22 years, 1980-2002, of the newsletters Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles. These 145 “kitchen table” publications were for those of French-Canadian and French heritage, and affection, primarily in the upper midwest of the United States.

In the midst of the project, at page 651, I found the below, submitted by Stephanie Wolkin in summer, 1996, and reprinted in the Septembre-Octobre, 1996, issue of Chez Nous:

(click on image to enlarge)

from Chez Nous, Septembre-Octobre, 1996, page two.

from Chez Nous, Septembre-Octobre, 1996, page two.

(Here is the same thought in printable pdf form: The Gift of a Smile002)

*

(For those curious about the other near-1000 pages of Chez Nous and Nouvelles Villes Jumelles: go here, click Library tab, click Chez Nous, click second link and note first paragraph.)

These were, remember, “kitchen table” newsletters, put together by a succession of volunteers over 22 years. For the last 16 years, I edited or co-edited Chez Nous.

These modest publication were, in aggregate, a chronicle of hundreds of years of relationships between the French and North America, as conveyed by ordinary people through their own stories….

Have a very good Easter, wherever you may be.

#1108 – Dick Bernard: A Leaf Flutters to Earth

Sunday, February 28th, 2016
Hymn at 9:30 Mass Basilica of St. Mary, February 28, 2016

Hymn at 9:30 Mass Basilica of St. Mary, February 28, 2016

My friend, Wayne Wittman, won’t be at his Minnesota Precinct Caucus on Tuesday, March 1.

My guess is he’d never miss his Precinct Caucus. He was always an activist.

From his obituary: “Wayne lived every day of his 86 years to the fullest. He had a long, satisfying career, a family he deeply loved (who loved him equally). He had zillions of friends. He died with his boots on, doing what he loved. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wayne was the definition of success: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

As the story came across the internet: Wednesday night, Feb. 24, Wayne “had a heart attack while riding the MTC [Metropolitan Transit] bus home from a union gathering. He was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness.

The next day I was at another meeting and colleague Karla was shocked to hear the news. I gathered that she had been at the same meeting as Wayne, which apparently was a phone bank urging support for a particular candidate for President at our caucuses on March 1.

So is how it goes. Below is the last photo I have of Wayne, which I took two weeks ago in St. Paul.

Here is his obituary. And here is his personal autobiography, written some while ago: Wayne Wittman Pers Hist001.

(click to enlarge)

Wayne Wittman Feb 12, 2016

Wayne Wittman Feb 12, 2016

“A Leaf Flutters to Earth”?

Wayne Wittman was a common guy, like all of us.

We humans are all like leaves on a tree, and there are many trees, many varieties, in many environments, everywhere.

Just like human beings.

Wayne’s life of contributing to his family, very broadly defined, ended abruptly as he sat on a bus heading home from being of service to others. I’d guess that he’s happy that his death didn’t disrupt too many others lives. It would probably be the way he’d like to depart this earth for eternity…going home.

I know from knowing him, his particular “leaf” on life’s tree was a very productive one. (That’s why the song which heads this post came to mind when I heard it sung in Church this morning. (click to enlarge the text) A version can be heard here.)

Wherever people are in the world there are trees, and leaves.

All of us are connected.

Wayne won’t make his Precinct Caucus on Tuesday, March 1.

I’m sure he would tell us all: get involved in politics. “Politics” is each of us, at every level.

If you’re in Minnesota, and don’t know where your Minnesota caucus is: click here.

Trees, Woodbury MN, October 14, 2015

Trees, Woodbury MN, October 14, 2015

(looking for Wayne’s leaf? It’s the golden one that just fluttered down to earth….)

Here’s the Memorial Card for Wayne Wittman: Wayne Wittman Mem Card001

More about Veterans for Peace (to which, Wayne Wittman recruited me a dozen years ago, and of which I’m still a member) here.

#1107 – Dick Bernard: A Beachhead at Tarawa: A Farewell to Lynn Elling, a Man of Peace

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

My friend Lynn Elling died early today, Valentine’s Day, 2016.

Lynn was four days short of age 95. His daughter, Sandy, said “I think he may have planned to head up to Heaven on Valentines Day to be with his life long sweetheart, my mom, so it is quite fitting.”

Lots of words will be said and written about this businessman who spent most of his adult life as a warrior for peace. I understand there will be an obituary within the next week; and a Memorial Service is planned for May 1, 3 p.m. at First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Ave S, Minneapolis MN.

There will be lots of time for “Lynn-stories”.

Lynn was no wallflower.

It was my privilege to know him for almost nine years, but I have to admit periods of Lynn-fatigue. Lynn was relentless. Nonetheless, Lynn walked the talk for peace for almost all of his adult life. He had some incredible accomplishments, including the flying of the United Nations flag over Hennepin County Plaza from 1968-2012; and Man’s Next Giant Leap, a film he produced in 1971, which featured John Denver singing “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”.

Everyone who ever spent a half hour in Lynn’s presence knew his experience with war began as a young Naval officer whose LST (Landing Ship, Tank) came to Tarawa Beachhead in the period immediately following that horrific battle with loss of thousands of lives near the end of 1943.

Lynn Elling on USS LST 172 in the Pacific, 1944

Lynn Elling on USS LST 172 in the Pacific, 1944

I heard the Tarawa story from Lynn numerous times.

Dec. 21, 2015, completely by surprise, I came upon a monument in the town of Waimea (Kamuela) Hawaii on the Big Island, which brought the story of Tarawa more to life. Here is a photograph of the monument at Waimea, which tells part of the story.

(click to enlarge)

Tarawa Monument, Waimea HI Dec. 21, 2016

Tarawa Monument, Waimea HI Dec. 21, 2016

Not long before he died, January 18, 2016, I stopped in to visit Lynn at the Nursing Home. He was about to be discharged to return to his home in south Minneapolis, and he looked and sounded better than he had in months. We talked about Tarawa; I gave him the photos of the memorial at Waimea, and I took the below photo of him.

Lynn Elling, January 18, 2016

Lynn Elling, January 18, 2016

Sadly, Lynn’s return home lasted all of three days, thence began the end of his life’s procession.

Now he’s gone, but his work and his example of working with others for peace and justice live on.

Bon voyage, Lynn.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant.  The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

Lynn (at right) at what turned out to be his final Friday night gathering at Gandhi Mahal restaurant. The next day he went into the hospital, and except for three days in January, 2016, never returned home.

More about Lynn Elling and his history and accomplishments here. (The link to the 1971 film is broken at this site, but is the same film linked above.)

There is also a one hour video interview with Lynn Elling from May, 2014, which can be provided on request to dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#1097 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Saturday, January 16th, 2016
Hawaii roadside Dec 15001

Roadside monument to someone, probably a young person, who died near Kawaihae HI Dec. 2015

A few days ago a few folks in California, Tennessee and Florida won the largest lottery in history.  Judging from the news, there was, even knowing the chances of winning were near zero, the thrill of the dream of riches with almost no effort!

The day after the drawing, I had my date with the Internist (annual physical) and Eye Doctor (annual checkup).

A few days before, at coffee after church, my fellow usher friend, call him John, and his wife, Mary, were sitting with me.  Mary not too long ago was a fellow usher with us.  This particular day her Alzheimers took over.  She was uncommunicative, and abruptly walked away.  John knew the drill.  He caught up with her, and they left.

There were no departing words, there didn’t have to be….  Theirs is a very long and loving marriage with several grown children, and such is the lot of their lives at this moment in time.  He has retired from his job, because she needs his full-time care.

And so it is.

The day after the checkups, I attended a very large funeral for a colleague from many years ago.  I didn’t know Bob well, but in our mutual context from about 1972-75, he was a stellar person, a dependable and valued colleague.  The attendance at the funeral was not surprising. He spent his time “on the court” of life.

He had died suddenly, shoveling snow.  He was 77.

Arriving home, my wife told me that the elderly lady across the street, the always pleasant person who I saw just weeks ago walking with her dog to pick up the mail, had just died; there were no details.  Last time I saw her ,she was her usual pleasant self, about to head for some time in Florida with her daughter and son-in-law.

This morning, giving blood, the attending nurse who I’ve become friends with, allowed that five people from her high school class have died in recent years, all from cancer.  She’s probably 25 years younger than me, and while her class was a large one, still….

Both the Internist and the Eye Doctor had a minimum of serious looks as they checked me over this year.

I even passed the memory test given by the pleasant nurse before hand.  So for me it was a good day.  Hopefully, the next visit with both of them is a year from now.

I could extend the above list considerably, of course.  For all of us, life happens.

There is an “end of the road”, in temporal terms, and the more miles our vehicle has traveled, and the rougher the road, the closer the destination is.

Thankfully we’re mostly spared that memo which specifies the day, hour and cause of death.

We all just know that we are somewhere along the route.

One thing I’m sure of: if we’re fortunate to have medical insurance, especially medicare for the elderly, we can almost be assured of a longer and better quality of life than those who preceded us.

The practice of medicine (emphasis on “practice”), with all its abundant and well publicized problems, is in the greatest part full of caring professionals who do their best.

That dreaded memory test is useful to help notice a symptom.  Mary’s ailment probably could not be prevented, but it is helpful for her husband to know earlier, and be prepared.

In the end, I’m reminded of the long ago words of the wise pastor at the same Church I attended the funeral on Friday.

Perhaps 40 years ago, a teacher I knew, Myron Way, died in a car accident enroute to a national conference, perhaps Boys Nation.  He was probably in his 40s, then.

Pastor Hyllengren said, and I’ve always remembered this: “Myron lived before he died; and he died before he was finished.”  “Too many of us”, the pastor continued, “die before we’ve even lived”.  His reference seemed to be a passive approach to life itself: we don’t live, and then we die.  We wait to win the lottery, in vain.

Bob lived….

I’m not sure I remember Pastor Hyllengren as he intended; but he’s not around to challenge my interpretation.

Let’s make every day, a day we win the lottery, just by showing up.

POSTNOTE from Kathy: Thanks for writing your thoughts and sharing. “Be faithful to the day” a 102 year old nun told me…her mantra for life.

#1094 – Dick Bernard: A Homily to begin a New Year

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

See also Jan 11 and Jan 20, 2016
My Christmas message here, Dec. 17, 2015.

Aloha.

We just returned from nineteen days in Hawaii, most of which time was a wonderful visit with my cousin, Georgine, and her circle, as well as the use of her home on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mahalo!

Only one previous time, in 1985, did I visit Hawaii. Certainly I’m no expert on our 50th state. Still, there are many learnings, simply from observing. In later posts, I’ll share more observations about the Hawaii I saw the past 19 days. This initial post focuses on events part of three of those days.

We are home bodies. Christmas and New Years this year was far away from home. One becomes aware of customs and traditions, similarities and differences, inclusion and, yes, exclusion.

December 23 was not a particularly good day, and in mid-afternoon in a McDonalds restaurant in a Kailua-Kona Walmart, I had the good fortune of passing about an hour of time listening to a concert of community elders sitting across from me (picture below, click to enlarge). They were simply folks, singing in English, and in Hawaiian, tunes familiar, and unfamiliar. At most, there were about nine in number. It was a very pleasant time, and they seemed pleased there was an audience.

Singers in McD's in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Singers in McD’s in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Dec. 23, 2015

Earlier, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Dec. 20 edition featured an essay by Minnesota home-boy Garrison Keillor on Christmas. Neat: GK Honolulu Star-Adv001.

But the high-lite for me was the Christmas Day homily of Fr. Stephen at Annunciation Church in Waimea (called Kamuela by the post office, as there are six Waimea’s in the islands.)

One doesn’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to know the basics of the Christmas story: Jesus was conceived and born, and on goes the story.

I happened to be sitting in a pew directly in front of a doll, the infant Jesus, which, ironically, was directly in my sight-line to the crucifix on the wall behind the altar.

Fr. Stephen had a very simple Christmas message which I interpreted like this: Jesus was born, and then he died, and then he was resurrected…the basic elements of the story we all know.

But in a most gentle way this teacher seemed to nudge my thinking in a new way. Surely, Jesus went away, leaving his disciples behind, those folks who had become dependent on him doing miracles and such. There they were, stuck with continuing the hard work Jesus had begun.

In a sense, perhaps, we were being reminded by our homilist that we need to learn that we are the ones who “must be”, as Gandhi so famously said, “the change we wish to see in the world”. We cannot delegate our responsibility to someone else. At least that is how I heard the message.

I started to see the Christmas message a bit differently than I had always seen it. If those apostles of Jesus were a bit slow on the uptake, so long as he was on the scene, so are we, and its best that we nudge ourselves off of our sense of hopelessness or dependence on whatever it is that holds us back, and get to work, actively, in our own spaces and places to make our community, our world, a better place for everyone. It’s not enough to blame the President, or the Republicans, or whomever. We are, each of us, responsible….

With our involvement the world can indeed become a better place.

At the end of Mass December 25, the excellent community choir sang the Hawaiian Christmas song – you’ve all heard it: here’s Bing Crosby’s rendition.

Mahalo, everyone at Annunciation in Waimea, Big Island, Hawaii.

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Fr. Macedo, Dec 25, 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

Annunciation Choir 12 25 2015

A PS: A couple of days later I was back in the same Church, again listening to the same choir, and the same pastor. It was Holy Family Sunday. The message this time was about the tough time this Biblical family had for some years after Jesus was born. As Christians know, Herod was not especially happy at this new child. The family was not welcome. They became “Illegal Immigrants” for a considerable time

After church, myself, this stranger, this short term “migrant” in Waimea, was welcomed to participate in the after Mass hospitality.

Migrants are not a pleasant topic these days.

Back home, going through mountains of mail was a Refugee Facts001. Might be a good fact sheet to look at as this New Year begins.

Aloha.

#1093 – Dick Bernard: “Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with me”

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

This space goes dark for the next 2 1/2 weeks as we take a long awaited vacation trip. An early wish for a great Christmas season, and Happy 2016.

My most uplifting find recently has been “Let there be Peace on Earth”, sung Sep 5, 2015, for Pope Francis and many other religious leaders at the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City. You can listen to it here (link in the first paragraph).

World Link Exchange Students with Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Elder Martti Ahtisaari Mar 5, 2010

World Link Exchange Students with Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Elder Martti Ahtisaari Mar 5, 2010

Thirty eight years ago, I took my then 13 year old son to a brand new movie, “Star Wars”. More on that at the end of this post.

Today, the latest sequel of Star Wars opens in theatres, closely following the latest U.S. Republican Presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas; and less than a week after the Climate Change agreements in Paris, and on and on and on.

As this year ends, I raise a question for thought and discussion: who are we “Americans”, and how are we, and should we be, in the World of which we are part?

Over a year ago, April, 2014, I met Ehtasham Anwar, Pakistan native and civil administrator in one of Pakistan’s largest cities, who was ending a year as a Fulbright/Humphrey Scholar at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. He made his statement to me, then, and more recently included it as part of a public post on Facebook (here).

The relevant quote: “Through the eyes of media, rightly or wrongly, I had always seen the United States as an aggressive country, a war monger nation, and the biggest obstacle to my dream of a dream world—a world free of hunger, disease and war.

I also believed the US citizens were too mired in their own worldly pursuits that they did not have time to attend to what the US government was doing elsewhere in the world in their name and with their tax money. They either endorsed or, at best, remained indifferent to the US aggression and highhandedness abroad. Their heart, if at all it was, did not beat for the humanity at large. They were thus equally to be blamed for the death and misery that their government brought to people in many parts of the world every now and then.

And then I got an opportunity to travel to the United States and live among, and interact with, the citizenry. Myths were shattered. Concepts were changed. I met some of the best persons in my life in the United States. They were as humane, if not more, as anyone else on the globe. Overwhelming majority disapproved war. They too felt disturbed over the US hegemonic designs. They too worked for the cause of peace. They too wanted a world full of happiness and joy, not only for them but for others too.

Where then was the disconnect? My confusion compounded. With so many good people, why was there no impact seen on the US policies? Was the church and the clergy playing its due role? Those who were working for peace failed to inspire their own families, how could they expect to impact the US policies? What were the obstacles? Way forward? Messages?

My quest led me to a journey—a journey through the hearts and minds of the common Americans. During my nearly a year-long stay in Minnesota, I talked to people from all cross sections of the society: those who had given their lives to the cause of peace; those who had taken part in, and personally seen the horrors of, the World War II and the Vietnam War; those who had participated in the civil rights movement; those who were well off; those who belonged to less privileged segments of the society; those who were the academicians, and had been keeping an eye on, peace and related issues all around the world; those who claimed to have belonged to the inner circles of the US security establishment; those who spoke from the pulpit; those who used arts as a weapon for peace; the men; the women; the young; the old; the rich; the poor; the white; the people of color.”

World at Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College March 5, 2009

World at Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College March 5, 2009

(Completely unintentionally, the previous three posts, Dec. 10 (Muslims), 12 (the old barn) and 14 (Paris Climate Talks), catch my feelings as this year nears an end: I see a base of hope on which we can build. But “hope” is not an easy word. It requires great effort to achieve the aspiration of hope.)

I observe that there are, essentially, two “worlds” in which the vast majority of we Americans live, every day. Ehtasham was correct in his observation.

The first world is our daily lives: who we see and interact with in all sorts of ways, from passive to active. This is our real world, for the most part an environment of peace, understanding, caring. Publicly, it is largely invisible, and not a place of constant violence or talk of war. It is the America Ehtasham saw when he spent a full year here, in 2013-14. I see this world each day; as do most Americans.

We are basically good people.

There is a much smaller, louder, extremely aggressive, artificial and negative world; a very aggressive place that inhabits the daily TV “news” of death and destruction, “reality” shows, advertising, and the often near-insane rhetoric of contemporary American politics. Daily we watch and read about the artificial “America”. Sadly, the recent “debates” speak to the most bitter portion of that relatively small alternate universe where fear, suspicion and respect only for war and dominance moves the agenda.

As citizens we cannot pretend that all we can do is to be a decent person in our own small circle. That is not enough.

We each must choose which of these worlds to be part of; and, importantly, whether or not we will work to change the public conversation. We cannot be detached.

As the old Native American story about ourselves as a wolf goes, we choose what to feed.

The best each of us can do is to, as Gandhi suggested, “be the change we wish to see in the world.” .

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis' Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis’ Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

A Look Back at “Star Wars”, the Spring of 1977

The spring of 1977 was a difficult one for me, personally.

A new movie was opening in the United States, called Star Wars, by a young filmmaker, George Lucas.

It sounded interesting, and I took my son to the film at the Northtown Theatre in Blaine MN. It was a super movie. I liked it; my son loved it. The rest of that summer he went to the film many times; it is one of the very few movies where I can still remember where I saw it.

Somewhere that summer I got a theater poster for the film, and Tom had it on the wall of his room. Later I kept it rolled up in a closet. In 1995, I had it mounted, and gave it to my son. He still has it.

In 1983, the Strategic Defense Initiative, called Star Wars, entered the geopolitical conversation. The words became useful for those whose livelihood depends on enemies.

In more recent years, one of my son-in-laws has made a couple of movies on a Star Wars theme. There are thousands of people who make similar production. David has done two; they were both well done.

Star Wars had and has a grip on us.

And everyone has their own interpretation.

As a Dad, that spring of 1977, I saw the movie as a simple good (Luke Skywalker) vs evil (Darth Vader) film. I might have seen one of the sequels to the original, and at some point I’ll see the version that opens today, and I’ll find it interesting, after the passage of 38 years.

I wonder what we’ve learned in the past 38 years.

Surely, there are vastly more sophisticated weapons of war; now among the fears is taking out space satellites that we all rely on for even basic communications. We do war remotely now, with drones, piloted from places half a world away.

Star Wars was a good movie.

It would be nice if Good prevailed, to be helpful to all….

Who is Evil?

#1091 – Jerome Meyer* and Dick Bernard: At Christmas Season 2015. The Old Red Barn; and The Cottonwood Tree

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

As 2015 ends, all best wishes for peace and kindness embracing everyone, everywhere. As sung so movingly at Pope Francis’ visit to the Twin Towers Memorial in NYC some months ago, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Here are two stories to help bring perspective as 2015 comes towards an end.

Pictured, the old Ferd and Rosa Busch barn between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND, built about 1915; unused since 1997. (Photos by Tom Maloney on May 24, 2015.) The Cottonwood tree (link at the end of this post) remains, about a half mile east of the old barn.

(click on any photo to enlarge it)

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND May, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

The Busch barn, rural Berlin/Grand Rapids/LaMoure ND, May 24, 2015, by Tom Maloney

Psst! Hey you. Yeah, I mean you.

It’s me speaking. The old red barn. I’m guessing very few of you have ever seen me because I’m tucked away on an old abandoned farm acreage near a seldom used township road a few miles from the main hiway and somewhat hidden by a large grove of trees.

So, why am I talking to you?

Well, I just heard from a reliable source that I will be torn down, smashed and buried in a big hole and finally covered up by the Mother Earth I was built on. I’m sure my demise will not show up in the death notice column in the local paper; and there probably won’t be an obituary.

So before I’m no longer around I would like to say a few things to you.

I probably have had three or four farm owners in my life time. And sad to say the current owner no longer has any use for me, I’m so obsolete. I knew my time on Earth was getting short, as so many of my barn friends have disappeared from the local landscape.

For most of my life I could see up to 10 barns over the horizon. Now I can only see one across the barren field and that one has it’s days numbered too. I’ m sure my current owner needs a little more land for a larger farm profit.

I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.

I’ve seen many good productive farm years and a few bad ones and years when the owners struggled just to exist and make bank payments. Some how we all survived. I’ve felt summer temperatures of more than 100 degrees and winter temperatures of 20 degrees below zero with very strong winds.

I’m still standing. Very few metal nails were used when I was built from local timber because most of my wood frame was held together by wooden pegs.

Boy, was I a beautiful sight when I was built. I thought I was a castle. For awhile I was the best looking barn in the township with a bright coat of red paint, white trim, a shiny roof, four tall lightning rods, and a big weather vane on top of a large dome shaped cupola.

I had new pulleys and a long trolley under the roof to hoist the bales up in the hay loft from the wagons.

In the early days, similar to all my fellow barns, I was the farm building with the most activity. I was used seven days a week 365 days per year. I provided shelter and a home for 12 cows that were milked twice per day. The mornings were started early as the farmer milked at 5 am in the morning, then came back at 5 pm for the evening milking.

There were always a few calves in the pens, sometimes a few pigs, and in the early days, four work horses that were used for field work before modern tractors took over.

There were always about a dozen cats that called me home. They couldn’t wait until the milking started because they always got a good supply of fresh, warm milk. I also had a large storage area in the hayloft where bales were stored for the milk cows to eat and straw for their bedding.

I even got electricity sometime in the early 1940’s. Then, the old kerosene lanterns were only used when electricity went out during storms.

I still can hear the faint sounds of laughter of the children playing games and swinging on the ropes hanging from my wooden beams. Believe it or not, I even had a barn dance when one of the farmer’s daughters got married.

Sometimes people made fun of my name by asking “were you born in the barn?” if you left the door open in the house and the cold air came in. Or if your fly was down on your trousers, people would say “your barn door is down”.

What glorious memories I hold onto. I’m now old, tired and spent. My wood frame is bending, my foundation is crumbling, and I’m about to fall over. The cold North winter winds continue to shake my whole body.

However, I have no regrets, I have served my owners well, and I’m proud of it. I haven’t been used in the last 20 years. My roof now is battered and has a big hole in it, so I sometimes get wet inside when it rains and when the snow blows in.

My once bright red paint now is faded, most of my windows are broken, my wood frame is leaning, the lightning rods are broken off and my weather vane is rusted in one position.

The original farmyard light no longer is on electricity and has been disconnected for many years. The only light I have now is nature’s sun and an occasional bright moon.

I still have a few feathered friends visiting me and a couple of cats that seek shelter. I wonder where they will go when I am gone.

So, I guess this is the last time you will hear from me. The few area farmers I still have around me probably will give me only a quick glance and then go on with their daily work when the big rigs arrive to take me down, bury me and cover me up.

I can’t complain though, because I have had a good, productive life. Hopefully there will be a few people who will remember me. But that soon will pass as new generations farm. My only regret is I will have no marker where I will be buried, and no one will ever visit my grave site. But I guess that’s okay – I was just an old barn.

Summer corn fields will now hover over me, and winter ice and snow will cover me.

Well, I’ve got to go now because I see the sun is setting in the West, and the end of the day for me has come.

By Jerome Meyer of Albert Lea Minn.

Our generation was lucky to have lived and enjoyed these things.
It’s sad the next generations will not have these memories.

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

The Busch Barn, the morning after the roof blew off, late July, 1949

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, with brand new barn, 1916.

The original barn at right, circa 1907.  This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.     Busch farm harvest time 1907.  Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa's sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch.  It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background.  Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

The original barn at right, circa 1907. This first barn was just to the north of the second barn.
Busch farm harvest time 1907. Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa’s sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch. It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background. Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

ABOUT ANOTHER FARM VETERAN: an essay I wrote about a Cottonwood tree on the same Busch farm, here.

* – The cast of characters for the stories, above:
Someone named Jerome Meyer apparently wrote the story about a barn near Albert Lea MN, which is above. As yet, I have been I unable to verify, or get permission from, the author, or know when the article was written, but his story, from my own childhood experience, rings so very true. It came to me as an e-mail, forwarded by a long-time good friend. My thanks, and if necessary, apology, to the real author of the Old Barn.

All blessings to everyone, everywhere.

COMMENT:
from Madeline, Dec. 12: While I was in Sweden, I learned why barns are traditionally red. Scandinavians brought the concept with them to the US: link here.

from Christina: I so enjoyed the piece about the old barn. It brought tears to my eyes. I forwarded it to my brothers and sisters and my kids. My youngest son bought my folks’ farmstead about two years ago. It’s a different house but still the same old barn. One of my brothers said he thought it would be OK to tear that barn down. I think he just wanted to tell us if we want to tear it down it would be OK. When I forwarded this piece I said I hoped [my son] would let the barn die and fall on its own. My Dad’s name is still written on the milk separator door. The barn has so many memories. Thank you for sending it. I copied the piece so I could keep it.
A Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

from Norm: Like all oldies, even the barn has added a few years: [from the post] “I probably was built in the late 1930’s. I’m too old now to remember the exact year. This makes me well into my 90’s.” We like hearing, “Wow! You don’t look a day over 75.” Wonderful piece Dick and makes me want to do something similar for some of the memories around.

from Larry: Having grown up on a farm, I, too,have have memories of our old barn. I was about 4 when our barn was brought across Bald Hill Creek (which ran through our farm) from somewhere south of us. Playing in the hay mow, milking cows since I was about 7, turning the cream separator before we got electricity in 1947 or ’48. Our old barn “died” when I was a grown man, and my mom had it buried. Now the old house is gone, too, so it is too difficult to visit my old home.

from Jerry: I enjoyed the story of the red barn. I have watched many barns end their life too, including one on the farm where I grew up. As a kid, some of those barns seem enormous and stately.

from Norm: A great observation from the old red barn!

We had two similar barns on our farm, one of which is still standing albeit eight feet lower than it was when originally built on an adjacent farm that my Dad bought many years ago. The thing was toppled by the wind before it could be anchored down on its new foundation and had to be jacked up, that is, primarily the roof, with new sides put in place and some roof damage repaired before it could be used again.

I am sure that it has lots of stories to tell as well and I will have to seek them out the next time I am at the farm that is now owned by one of my brothers and myself.

The other barn was knocked down and buried many years ago just as apparently is the fate of the red barn whose story you shared with us.

Ah yes, lots of good memories, Dick, of growing up on a modest farm (by Iowa or North Dakota standards) albeit with lots of hard work and toil often for very modest returns. On the other hand, we raised our own beef and chickens so we never starved and, of course, never thought that we were poor or whatever.

from Jane: Thanks, Dick. We have an old barn here on our farm, built into our hillside in 1901. Luckily it has had a metal roof for about the last 50 years, so it is doing pretty well. We saved it from pushing out and down the hill about 20 years ago. Our barn was built by Ole and Lena Waage, so we have Ole and Lena’s barn! We’d love to renovate it, if Santa leaves the where-with-all!

#1087 – Dick Bernard: San Bernardino

Friday, December 4th, 2015

The afternoon of San Bernardino, December 2, 2015, I was in Bloomington MN at Presbyterian Home, visiting my long time friend, Lynn, who had been admitted there the previous day.

It had been a very tough month for Lynn and his family. The previous week, beginning with Thanksgiving evening, when he went into intensive care at a hospital, had been even worse.

Such times are most always uncertain, almost chaotic, even when everyone knows that there is a new and unavoidable “normal” facing them.

So, I passed the word along to friends who knew Lynn, and would want to know his status. The first message from family had the word “hospice” as part of its content; early the next day, Lynn made a remarkable rebound. By Monday, plans were made to move him to the Nursing Home.

Friend Ruhel, owner of the popular Gandhi Mahal restaurant in south Minneapolis, called and asked if he could ride along when I went to visit; another of Lynn and Ruhel’s friends, balladeer Larry Long, called with the same request.

So, about noon on Wednesday, the three of us met at Gandhi Mahal and traveled south to the Nursing Home.

Ruhel brought along some soup and bread for his friend. Larry brought his guitar.

Ruhel, native Bangladeshi, sat in the back seat, Larry in the front, and I drove.

There was some kidding about me “Driving Miss Daisy”….

I think we surprised Lynn when we appeared at his room.

He was especially delighted to see Ruhel and Larry.

As we chatted, Ruhel took out the soup and the bread, and helped feed Lynn, whose limbs are not working the best.

It was a very tender time.

(click photos to enlarge)

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

Ruhel and Lynn, Dec. 2, 2015, Bloomington MN

Shortly, Larry took out his guitar, and sang Lynn’s favorite anthem, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”*.

Larry Long and Lynn singing Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Dec. 2, 105

Larry Long and Lynn singing Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Dec. 2, 105

I noted that Lynn had a very strong voice when he sang along: much, much stronger and in tune than when I had first heard him sing that song eight years earlier at a meeting. It reminded me of my Uncle singing “Amazing Grace” some months before he died. There was no hesitation in his voice that summer day in LaMoure ND, as if Uncle Vince knew something was on the way for him, shortly.

Another resident came walking past, heard the music, and wondered if there was a program. There was a bit of conversation, among which Lynn revealed that he was a Naval Officer in WWII, and our visitor said he’d been on “mop-up” duty in the Army at the ending period after the deadly Battle of the Bulge.

Larry Long and new friend: "the Battle of the Bulge"

Larry Long and new friend: “the Battle of the Bulge”

As it happened, Larry has been working on an album of military based songs, intended to, as I understand him, help bridge the communications gap between those who think war is the only answer, and those who think peace is the only answer. One of his ballads, a long one, is the words of a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge put to music. So, he sang the song for the veteran and the rest of us. It was a very powerful moment, just four men, together.

Our “audience” headed off to his room, and we drove back to the restaurant, and spent some minutes talking about this and that.

Then we all went home.

My first notice about what had happened in San Bernardino came via the evening news….

I thought back to the American response after 9-11-01.

This time, so far, I’ve noticed a much more muted response by the public, which is, I think, the best measure of reality.

If there is to be peace on earth, indeed, it will have to begin with each of us, maybe with that cup of soup and piece of bread and some music to accompany.

What San Bernardino will represent in days to come is up to us.

All Blessings at this season of peace.

* – Larry and I talked about the Ed McCurdy song, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream. He said the strongest rendition he ever heard was that of Johnny Cash. You can listen to that Johnny Cash version here.

Comments:
from Jeff P: Thanks Dick, the note of the vet from the Battle of the Bulge and the songs reminded me of a childhood memory. I may have been 7 or 8 years old , It was early evening or late afternoon in December (in Upper Michigan in December its dark by 3:30 i think) I was at a neighbor kids home, and the radio was on, we were playing something on the floor in their living room. As it was the Christmas season they were playing Christmas songs, the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” started to play and the radio in the kitchen was switched off or turned to another channel. I think I looked at the other kids, and one of the older daughters said that her father had been in the Battle of the Bulge and could never listen to that song after his experience. He forbade the song in their house and the mother hearing it quickly shut it down.

from Flo: Really appreciated your blog, including having Larry Long as part of your group with Lynn. I’m so glad you could all be together, each sharing what you brought to your relationship together.

#1085 – Dick Bernard: Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

This is the first year I can recall not purchasing or sending or giving a single Thanksgiving card.

I was thinking about that this morning, then it occurred to me that I was making my judgment about reality based on television news, which has truly become the “daily dismal”, particularly in recent days (not everyone is being attacked or killed or enemies). I need say no more than to ask you to compare the “news” being reported on the media every day against the reality in your own neighborhood and community: the saying: “…difference between night and day” comes to mind.

There is no comparison. The “news” on the news is an aberration.

If I were to make a list of good things that have happened this past year it would be very long. I just wasn’t noticing them.

Most recently, on Monday, grandson Ted, a sophomore, arranged two pieces for his school jazz band. It’s more than simply Grandpa pride that I can already say he’s a gifted musician. Ted is on the vibes, at right.

(click all photos to enlarge)

So St Paul HS Jazz Band, first concert of 2015, Nov 23.  Grandson Ted at right.

So St Paul HS Jazz Band, first concert of 2015, Nov 23. Grandson Ted at right.

I could repeat Ted’s story, in different ways, for the rest of our nine grandkids, at assorted places enroute to or in adulthood. I could fill an entire column with each of their stories, all as unique as each of them.

When the oldest, now 29, was born in August, 1986, I began to introduce myself at assorted meetings as a Grandpa, with my hope to leave a better world behind for her and her contemporaries everywhere in the world. I try to live this dedication. Oftimes I can be discouraged, but this younger generation is more aware than we might think they are, and just waiting for the old folks to step aside.

I think we’ve left them a mess; but they’ll do their best.

Mostly the rest of this post will be 1984 photos of North Dakota sent to me Nov. 22 by good friend, David Thofern, along with this note:

“I thought you might be interested in a few photos from the 1984 Wisconsin to Seattle bike trip that my wife and I did. I’ve always told people that North Dakota was my favorite state to bike through. I never get tired of the prairies and extremely friendly people. We entered North Dakota at Fargo and rode north up Hwy. 38 to Devils Lake where we joined US 2. At that time, US 2 was pretty quiet since most traffic was on I-94. That was before the recent oil boom.

The guy standing in the door of Johnson’s Store was Art Johnson. It was his last day of operating the general store that his dad had operated for many years. Ironically, the store was in Hope, ND. The photo of the rope was the fire escape in our room in Page, ND. We were relieved that no fire broke out during our stay.”

North Dakota 1984 (see Thofern text above)

North Dakota 1984 (see Thofern text above)

"Fire escape" in ND Hotel Room 1984

“Fire escape” in ND Hotel Room 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

Hwy 2 North Dakota 1984

Hwy 2 North Dakota 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984

ND 1984 Lewis and Clark Highway about 16 miles from Williston ND.

ND 1984 Lewis and Clark Highway about 16 miles from Williston ND.

Williston ND 1984

Williston ND 1984

Those of us of a certain age remember “1984”, George Orwells year….

Will there be tragedies to come? Of course. Most everywhere.

There is reason for optimism for the future – as it will be determined and lived by our kids and grandkids. My guess is that my generation, particularly, will not get high marks from them a few years down the road. We have messes we’ve left behind.

But I am optimistic for the future.

Happy Thanksgiving.

POSTNOTE: I initiated this blog in March, 2009, as “Thoughts Towards a Better World”. It was a hopeful note, then. It is a challenge to try to follow up on this model, but this Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to reaffirm it.