8th and 9th Grade: The Good and the Bad

After 7th grade, where I lived in Montevideo, we moved again, back to Minneapolis. I think I remember that my dad wasn’t doing too well and spent some time in a mental hospital. Meanwhile, my mom was working full time as a secretary and us kids were fending for ourselves.

I don’t remember how it all happened, but I got involved with a Christian group called Hi-C Club. It was a Jr. High branch of the Campus Crusade for Christ group in Minneapolis. I remember our first meeting in the home of one of the girls in the group. We all, about a dozen of us, sat in the living room waiting for the leader to arrive. He was about ten minutes late and came huffing and puffing to the door, saying that he had run all the way. Strange guy. He ran everywhere. Anyway, he gave his testimony about how he came to Christ, and he got us all excited about the group and about being Christians. Looking back on it, that group was just what I needed at that time. It was my first introduction to Christianity since I received Christ a year ago at camp.

We not only did bible studies; we did a lot of fun activities and games. And when one of the leaders challenged us to do beach evangelism, I jumped right in. We memorized a booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws, and then we headed for the beach on Lake Calhoun. It was so scary at first, but after a few encounters, me and my buddy Gary really got into it. Of course, the thing that excited us was the few converts we got. People were actually praying to receive Christ!

The junior high school, Jefferson Jr. High, was about ten or twelve blocks away. Instead of taking the bus, for some reason my mom wanted us to walk to school. It took a long time, over half an hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to lug my trombone with me all the time, but I had to bring it home because I had to practice.

Playing the trombone was probably the thing I liked best about 8th and 9th grade. I was in the band and the instructor gave all of us free lessons. He was hard on us—on me, but I learned how to play, and I loved playing in the band. The band wasn’t that good, but we sure had fun. One of the things the band instructor would always tell me was that I was playing too loud! But I couldn’t help it. That’s the only way I knew how to play.

At the time, I was going to a Presbyterian church just two blocks away. It was a little different than what I was use to—like free churches, Baptist churches, and even charismatic churches. So, you can imagine that this Presbyterian church was different, more formal or liturgical. But I didn’t mind.

My Sunday School teacher was also the church basketball coach, and I was on the team. I didn’t make too many points, but I was fairly good at defense. And anyway, it didn’t seem to matter that much to the coach. In fact, he had more than just basketball on his mind. He was out to befriend us. I later found out that he was a pervert, or a pedophile. But at the time I really didn’t know what to think of him. A couple of times he had me and another guy (a fellow basketball player) over to his house for the night. For some reason he chose me to share his bed. I had no idea what he was up to until he did it to me. And then I still wasn’t sure what happened. Living on the farm, away from everything, I had really been sheltered, and no one told me anything about sex. I kind of knew that what happened to me was wrong, yet at the same time I wondered if it was normal—if it was just something every boy would go through.

One fall, I think it was in October, the coach took me and this same player for a week long camping trip in Lake of the woods. It would have been so much fun and a great adventure if it hadn’t been spoiled by what he did to me during the night—as before. Again, I asked myself, was this normal? (years later I found out that my brother Mark had been abused by this same guy. He too was in his Sunday School class. And I heard that when my dad found out he was furious. Evidently, he had been doing this to boys for years and getting away with it.)

Well, wouldn’t you know it, a few months later, in the summer time, some kids from our Christian group had a swimming party. I can’t remember all the details of what happened, but, as I remember, the guy I got a ride with couldn’t give me a ride home and said I could ride with these old guys that he knew. Anyway, on the way back they stopped at their place, and they offered me a drink. I didn’t know what it was, but it sure hit me hard. After a while the whole room was spinning around and they were laughing. I couldn’t see straight and I couldn’t walk. And they led me, and sort of dragged me, to a bedroom and forced me down onto a bed. One of them had his way with me and I could hear that the other guy was in the room too. In a way I was kind of thankful to be drugged, because it kept me from knowing exactly what when on—though I remember some of it.

Thank God, it only lasted a couple hours and then they took me home. The next day I went for a long run in an attempt to clean out my system, and I’m sure I was praying along the way. I think I had come to realize that what had happened to me, both with my Sunday School teacher and with these old guys, wasn’t at all right or normal. The devil was after me. He wanted to destroy my life. That’s the last time I was abused by anyone; but it was just the beginning of what Satan had planned for me. Though I was a child of God and eager to serve Him, I could sense that Satan was constantly after me to destroy me in one way or another.

7th Grade: A New Life

As I sped down the hill on my new black Schwinn bicycle, a new assurance gave me an overwhelming joy. I was saved and I had a place reserved for me in heaven. This new assurance had come to me a few months prior, at a church camp, when my camp counselor explained to me from the bible how I could be saved. And then I knelt down beside him in his cabin, and prayed that Jesus would come into my life and take control of my life. Instantly, after my prayer, I received a new peace, that after I die, I would go straight to heaven. From that point on my life was changed, not because of anything external or because of changed circumstances, but because I had a changed heart due to a new life inside of me. I had Jesus in me and He had given me a new peace, a new assurance, and a new attitude about life. I felt new and clean inside. In reality, at age twelve, I really did have a new life!

We had recently moved from our Montevideo farm to a house in the city of Montevideo. I don’t remember anything about the move, or about the house we moved into, but I do have a few memories—besides my salvation experience at camp.

One of my clear memories was when I was on the wresting team in 7th grade. I always thought I was a good wrestler, since I always beat my brother. But I found out different. Either I was really bad, or the guys I wrestled were really good—probably a little of both. Anyway, I had a rude awakening.

Another clear memory was of the city swimming pool, which was only a few blocks from our house. It only cost 10 cents, and for that one dime you could swim there all day if you wanted. And some days I did just that. It was so much fun. There were two slides and also two diving boards—a lower one and a high one. The high dive was scary, but I did try it a couple times.  It was in that pool that I learned how to swim. Mom insisted that we take swimming lessons, and we all did.

One other good memory of that place in Montevideo, was playing baseball with all the neighbor kids in a nearby park. I remember how easy it was to get a game together. We just walked, or ran, down the streets and yelled out something like, “Who wants to play baseball?” We seemed to always get enough kids to play. We played for hours at a time. And now that I think of it, we also played football. That was a little rougher, but I loved it. Those were the days!

Next post: 8th and 9th Grade: New Challenges

Visiting Grandparents, Part 2

This is grandpa and grandma Anfinsen celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

My grandparents on my mom’s side were a lot different than my grandparents on my dad’s side. Grandpa was a house painter for the first few years of his work life; and then, when he was about forty, he began working in the Minneapolis Post Office until he retired. I think what people most remember about Him was his dedication to Christian ministry. In his younger years he would travel around and sing gospel songs in a men’s group, and my mom would play the piano. She was only about 16 or 17; of course, I wasn’t born yet, but I heard about it and have seen pictures.

My grandpa was also a fill-in preacher. But I think his biggest mission was what he did with Christian literature. He and a few others would meet regularly and box up and send used and slightly damaged books and literature overseas to missionary groups and churches all over the world. I helped out one time and I was quite impressed by how much literature they were able to get—which was donated from Christian book stores, and groups such as the Billy Graham Association.

Grandpa and Grandma Anfinsen moved a few times, but the place I remember most was their house in Minnetonka, Minnesota, right on Lake Minnetonka. I remember that house so well, and grandpa saying that Rosie (or grandma) wanted a pink house. So he painted the entire house bubblegum pink. He also painted the garage pink and the fence around the house pink, and even the fishing barge pink. Grandma loved it! And she loved flowers; she planted mostly pink ones all around the house, and the garage, and along the fence, and around the trees. It was plain to see that grandpa and grandma loved each other—just by the way they looked at each other and how they talked to each other.

Every summer they invited all the relatives (about 50, on my mom’s side) over to their home just to sit and visit and eat. There was always plenty of room in the back yard, and it was beautiful with all the flowers. And for the kids, grandpa or uncle Marv would break out the croquet set. And then later in the afternoon grandpa would fire up the barge motor to go fishing. The pink barge was quite large, about 20 feet square. Grandpa made it himself. It was a simple floor with a fence around it; and under the floor were 60-gallon drums that made it float. Fishing was always good. We never caught any big ones, like Northerns or Walleyes, but we always caught plenty of Crappies and Sunfish—with worms.

Christmas time was always special, and it was the tradition to meet at grandma Knutson’s house in Minneapolis. That was my grandma Anfinsen’s mother. Grandma loved to see everyone; and she was funny, and would love to laugh and talk to the kids, and to remind them to be good! She was all Norwegian and had a strong Norwegian accent.

The thing I remember most about Christmas at grandma Knutson’s house was when all us kids, about a dozen of us, would go wild in the basement and run around and around the furnace. I must have been very young then, about 6 or 7. I also liked all the sweet foods laid out on the tables—all the Norwegian sweets like krumkake and lefsa.

The last thing we all did was gather around and sing carols—and opened gifts. Grandpa would always take charge of announcing and leading the songs, and leading the devotional and prayers. And the way he led, and what he said, and the way he said it was always so inspirational. You could tell he was so proud of his family; and you also knew he was so dedicated to God.

Later in life grandpa and grandma moved to a smaller house in Ortonville, Minnesota; and again, on a lake. And I didn’t see them much anymore. And the most touching thing was when they died. Both of them died almost at the same time, only a few hours apart. Everyone said that that was so fitting; for just as they were always together in life on this earth, they left this earth in the same way—together.

Visiting Grandparents

This is my grandpa on the left after his successful deer hunt.

Our visits to the grandparents were always fun. My grandparents on my dad’s side were totally into farming. They had a huge farm, located not far from our farm, with many animals, and acres and acres of corn, oats, soybeans and flax. Besides my two uncles that were still living at home, Mike and Lyle, they always had hired help—as many as they needed. And grandpa was always working too. And so was grandma. She was the brains of the outfit—much more than grandpa. She kept the books, made the schedules, and I think even made sure grandpa got up in the morning to milk the cows! And then after the early chores were done, all the workers came in for breakfast, which grandma had all ready for them on the big kitchen table. Breakfast was always a big deal—eggs, bacon, pancakes, juice, milk, coffee, whatever you wanted.

I guess you could say that when we came over to visit, nothing stopped just for us. The farm work had to keep going and we understood that. Many times, us kids would just set in the living room and watch TV. That was fun for us because we didn’t have TV at our farm. I also remember walking around in the barn while the milking was going on.

Everything on Grandpas farm was so much more modern and bigger than on our farm. All the milking was by machine, and unlike our old wood barn, grandpa’s barn was made of shiny, silver-looking metal; and it was huge! And all their buildings looked modern and huge. And their tractors and machinery looked so new. And they had horses, which we didn’t have.

And they also had other properties. Besides their farm in Montevideo, they also had land in South Dakota, where they had Black Angus cattle—hundred of them. I remember riding with grandpa and my dad one day to check on them. Grandpa said he just needed to check to see if they had enough salt blocks, and also to see if there were any new calves.

I liked grandpa. He laughed at my stories (when I was about 7), and he told stories to me too. Unlike my dad, grandpa was a hunter. He hunted deer and pheasants, and even rabbits. And he always had his rifle in his pickup truck. I remember once when I was with him hunting rabbits. The way he would do it was just to shoot them out the window of his truck as we drove through the fields.  I heard some stories about grandpa after he died, that he would go into town to drink, and that he had a wild side. I never knew that about him. I guess for some reason grandma and my parents wanted to hide that from us. But I still have always liked him.

Next post: part 2.

On the Farm: The Delano Farm

This is me on the right with my little brother Jimmy, sitting in the dirt in back of the old Delano farm house.

As I wrote previously, I lived on a farm near Montevideo, Minnesota when I was about six and seven years old, and then later when I was about ten and eleven. In between those years we lived on a small farm near Delano, Minnesota. I have no memory of school there (3rd and 4th grade), but I have plenty of other memories.

The house was quite small and rickety—much smaller and older than the large Montevideo house. The ceiling leaked, the walls creaked, and the inside of the walls were infested with mice. We would hear them all the time. Though my mom and sister hated them, me and Mark had fun killing them with mouse traps. We would get at least one a day.

Another house adventure was the attic. Dad did some repairs to the attic and to the steps leading up there, but it still looked like an attic. And that’s where us kids would sleep. It wasn’t cold up there like the Montevideo farm was; but it was musty, and we could hear the mice; and once in a while we would even see and hear bats flying back and forth over our heads while we hid under the covers. That was scary. I think my mom felt sorry for us, but my dad didn’t seem to care.

Oh, I’m sure he cared, but I know he had so much on his mind. We were not making it too well financially, and I suppose he was always thinking of any way possible to make more money to hold the farm and the family together. And I know mom wasn’t happy in that house, and any suggestions she gave dad made him angry. I don’t know if it was her idea or not, but I remember that dad worked part time at a macaroni factory in town. I remember that he brought leftover macaroni home, probably swept up from the factory floor, and fed it to the pigs. He actually made a pig slop out of it; he mixed the raw macaroni with feed and sour milk. Oh, those pigs just loved it! They would go crazy over it! In fact, when we fed them, we had to be really careful, because when they would see us heading their way with a pail of slop, they would come running and squealing. If we didn’t quickly dump it in their trough and get out of the way, they would run us over.

We had a few acres of farm land, mainly corn; and we had one or two cows, some chickens, and about 30 pigs, as I mentioned. They were penned up only about 20 yards from the house. I remember that every time my grandpa and grandma came over to visit, they would always be holding their nose—literally. They couldn’t stand the pig smell.  But I didn’t mind at all. I guess you get use to it; and I really sort of liked that farm smell.

I have such vivid memories of that little farm, especially the back yard. Not too far from the back of the house, across from the pig pen was an old windmill, used to pump water. And it worked! Then not too far from the windmill there was a row of fruit trees; mainly apple trees, but also a pear tree. Mom would sometimes make apple pies from the apples.  And I remember, she would also make chokecherry jam from the chokecherry trees (pictured), which were scattered all over the farm. Mom was really good at making stuff. Besides making pies and jam, she baked bread—which was always wonderful.

We had one of those old-fashioned telephones that you had to crank. And it was a party-line phone—so you had to share it with the neighbors. We didn’t have many neighbors. But I remember up the gravel road, about a quarter mile, was a farm on the right with a crab apple tree and geese walking all over in the yard. Across from that farm, on the left, was an underground house with a flat roof that was about three feet above the ground level.

Then, a little way from that house was an old farm house, more like a shack, where two old bachelors lived, and where they often sat out on their back steps. We liked hanging around them, listening to their stories and watching them whittle their sticks. And they had a distinctive smell of tobacco and beer. Yea, they were a couple of happy, carefree guys, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like them!

This is me on the gravel road in front of the house.

On the Farm: Free Time

In previous blogs I talked about my chores and the field work.  But I hope I didn’t give the idea that I was working all the time. The chores were only in the morning and evening, and the field work was mainly during the harvest season. And even then, my dad didn’t always give us jobs to do. Sometimes he got so busy plowing or whatever, that he sort of forgot to give us jobs. So, we just ran off somewhere. And there was plenty of things to do. In fact, my mom didn’t mind at all that we were out playing. She just wanted us home for supper. And if we weren’t home at supper time, believe me she had a loud voice and she would call us home by name for supper—at the top of her lungs.

I think the main fun thing I remember doing is exploring, sometimes by myself and sometimes with my brother Mark. My sister was more of a bookworm and I think she preferred just reading, even if it was in the house. I liked walking along the creek that ran in a large circle around the farm. Sometimes we would see frogs and we would try to spear them with a sharp stick we made. It never bothered us that we were killing them and reducing their population.  We were like fierce hunters.

Some days, when we knew that we had a few hours to kill before we had to be home for supper, we would go deep into the woods until we came to a great river. We didn’t know what river it was, but we knew it wasn’t the creek. It was too wide. I remember the imposing sound of the water. I just loved standing by its banks and feeling its strength and majesty. It gave me the shivers! Another time we encountered a few red-haired cows with long horns. And they were mean looking, so we ran out of there!

Back behind the grainery, which was not too far from the house, there were two old junk cars. One of them was a light cream color with lots of chrome on it. The other car was clearly a Ford model T, all black. We would often see rats crawling in and around the cars…cool! I remember one time we were there with our dog Brownie, and he spotted a squirrel under the cars. I’ll never forget what happened. When the squirrel tried to run away, out from under the car, Brownie, as quick as a flash, caught him between his teeth, and he was dead instantly. I couldn’t be more proud of him. What a great dog. And he was fast. One time we clocked him as he ran along side of our car. I think he got up to about 40 miles per hour!

I don’t know where I got it from, but it seems like I was always doing things to try to prove and challenge my bravery and strength—me more than my brother. Besides spearing frogs, I remember more than once trying to ride our buck sheep. It was kind of silly.

I also liked wrestling with my brother Mark. I liked it mostly, I think, because I knew I would win. Mark didn’t seem to care. I guess he just liked being with me. Now that I think back on it, he had a better spirit than me, a very sweet spirit. All I cared about was winning, being number one, being better than him. That selfish attitude has been with me for years, and now I regret it. I should have treated my brother better and now it’s too late.

On the Farm: Field Work

This is a very old blurry picture, but I know who everyone is. I’m on the top right, and that’s my sister on the left. My dad is on the wagon and those little kids in front are my brother Jim and Donna. They came along later.

During harvest season there was always work to be done in the fields. Baling hay was especially fun. I would usually be on the wagon receiving the hay bales as they came off the baler. It was hard work, but fun. I would grab the bales by the twine and then turn around and stack them on the wagon. Then when the wagon was full, we would unload it and pile the bales onto a huge haystack (pictured above). If stacked properly, it would keep through the winter; but much of it we would transfer by conveyor into the barn hayloft to feed the cows. Oh, the cows loved the hay!

We also grew oats. The harvesting of the oats was entirely done by a combine, but the oat stems (straw) would be bailed up just like the hay, which was used as bedding for the cows, the pigs and the sheep. And we also used it in the garden. As a kid I much preferred straw over hay because it was less itchy and softer.

The harvesting of corn is usually all done by machine, but, for a couple seasons, we ended up doing it by hand. We dreaded it, but once we got into it, it was kind of fun. I say we because the whole family got into it. Mother would drive the tractor pulling the wagon; and the rest of us, dad and us three kids, would walk along on either side of the wagon, break off the corn, pull the shuck off, and toss the corn in the wagon. Once we got the hang of it, we could pick one ear of corn in just a few seconds. We would work at it for hours at a time, up and down the rows. At the end of the day we were bushed!

Another thing I remember doing in the corn fields is walking up and down the rows and pulling these big weeds called cockleburs. We didn’t want them in the fields because they would tend to choke out the corn. I also remember picking rocks. That was done in the early spring before planting. I suppose the main reason for getting rid of the rocks was so they wouldn’t interfere with, and break any of the machines, like the disc and the planters and the combines. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the corn picker broke!

I don’t know if this classifies as field work, but fixing the fences was a regular task. That was kind of fun because I got to work with my dad. My dad was always happier when he was working—doing something. In the evenings when he was just sitting around the house, he tended to get upset and angry, especially when my mom would pester him about certain things. Oh, they could get into it. I hated it. I hated hearing the angry arguments. But I loved seeing dad happy and in a good mood.

In the next post I’ll talk about what I did for fun—my free time.

On the Farm: The Chores

This isn’t me, but that ‘s how I remember it. I had a pail just like that, and a stool like that. But I never had a hat like that!

Farm chores consist of those daily duties that just have to be done, like milking the cows, feeding the animals and gathering the eggs. In our farm, my dad took charge of all the duties, but he liked to keep us kids busy too. His idea was that the whole family should work the farm. We did have some hired help from time to time, but it seemed like us kids did most of the work.

As I mentioned previously, there were two periods of time when I lived at the Montevideo farm: when I  was about 7 and 8, and then again when I was about 11 and 12. When I was at the younger age I don’t think I did a lot with the animals—although I’m sure I wanted to. I was more restricted to the menial, mindless tasks like weeding the garden and hauling water from the well to the house. I hated that job! It was a long way to go and the water buckets were so heavy. I don’t know why I was always stuck with that job. I guess because there was no one else.

When I was at the older age, I filled in much more with the chores. My sister, two years older, helped out some too, and so did my younger brother. The chore I liked the most was milking the cows, which had to be done twice a day: in the early morning and again in the evening at about 6. Most of the milking was done by hand; I think we did have one milk machine. My dad milked most of the cows, but I did my share of the milking too—for every three cows he milked, I probably milked one; not bad for a kid. We had about 30 cows to milk, so it took us a while. And it was a real workout, especially for your fingers and forearms.

You know, I don’t even remember what happened during the school months. Did us kids help out with the chores before and after school? Or maybe that’s when we had hired-help, or maybe mom filled in. Some things, like school were just a blur. Other things I do remember quite vividly.

Yea, I remember the dirty, stinky jobs like cleaning the gutters in the barn. That job definitely had to be done every day after the cows went out to pasture, and sometime even while they remained in the barn—when it was too cold to let them go out. We would scoop out the manure with a flat shovel into a wheel barrow, and then wheel it out the barn door. And that took some strength and skill.  You had to steer it on these planks all the way to the end of the manure pile, and then dump it. And if you would go off the plank—that usually didn’t happen—it would be a disaster and a mess! Can you imagine sinking hip deep in manure, while struggling to keep the wheel barrow afloat?

Sometimes I was charged with bringing the cows home from the pasture. Usually, they would come in by themselves; but sometimes, for some reason, they just didn’t show up. So my dad would say, go find those cows!

I didn’t always like all the walking, but, at the same time it was sort of fun and adventurous: walking across the creek, up the hill and through the trees, all the while following the cow paths. If you stayed on the cow paths you would usually find the cows. Often, I would run right into them, walking slowly home. Yea, they knew their way home. They were just slow and lazy in coming…so I would hurry them along by gently swatting them with a stick.

I would also be tasked with herding the sheep, and basically just watching them. If they would get into the alfalfa fields, that’s bad news because they can get bloated and die—and that happed a couple times. And there were also cases when wild dogs or coyotes would attack and kill the lambs. All kinds of things can happen. Sheep don’t have a lot of good sense, and if one gets in trouble, other will follow. So, we had to watch them, especially when we let them roam around.

I can’t remember too much about feeding the animal; but that is, of course, the most important chore which my dad handled—but I know I help out.

Here’s one thing I vividly remember doing in the fall and winter months: I helped dad keep coal and wood in our furnace. It was a large furnace located in the basement. And since it was the only source of heat available for our two-story house, it was important that we kept it going constantly. My dad would get these old boards—I’m not sure where he got them—and we would break them up by resting them against a wall or something, and then jumping on them until they broke. And he would also chop down small trees with an ax; he also let me use the ax. Great fun! I didn’t mind the work at all. Using the ax was worth all the callouses.

When it would get especially cold, we had to work extra hard to keep the furnace going. But apparently, there are things you are not supposed to do—like overload the furnace. I guess we managed not to do that, but I heard from my dad years after we moved away, that the next resident had overloaded the furnace and the house burnt down! I never heard whether everyone got out alive or not.

On the Farm: The Farmhouse and Surroundings

This is our tractor and barn in the background. I don’t know some of these people, but I think that’s my sister behind the tractor steering wheel. She looks to be about two or three, so that would put me at one, or maybe not even born yet.

My most pleasant childhood memories, up to about age 12, was my life on the farm. As I mentioned in a previous blog, we moved around a lot as a family, so it has been hard to keep all the memories straight in my mind, as far as how long we lived at each place. But the farm near Montevideo, Minnesota was the most memorable to me. And I think we lived there at three different times: from my birth to about age thee (which I don’t remember at all), then from age 7 to 8, and then also at a later time when I was about 11 or 12. In between those times we lived at 3 or 4 different houses. Don’t ask me why. But the farm near Montevideo was by far the best place, the best farm.

The Montevideo farm house and buildings were located in an area where, they say, use to be an Indian camp. If you were to look down from above on the area, you would see the farm house and buildings in the middle, surrounded by a winding creek. Then, beyond the creek, in a larger circle, the elevation steeply rises until it reaches the top, where it levels off into beautiful alfalfa and oat fields.

Actually, the creek only goes three-quarters of the way around, to leave room for the long narrow driveway which went out to the main gravel road. To the right, a little way down the road there is a bridge, under which the creek runs. To the left of the driveway the road sharply ascends and then branches off to the left and right to other nearby farms. (I should explain that none of the buildings, including the house are still there. I’m not sure about the driveway, but I’m pretty sure the creek remains. Yes, the last time I looked at a satellite map the creek was still in the same general area.)

The large, dirty white house was built on a small hill. The area was level in front, but lower in the back. It was a two-story house, but in spite of its size it didn’t have many rooms. The kitchen and dining area were all one room. The rest of the main floor was open with just one small adjoining room, like maybe a pantry or a sewing room.

And there was no bathroom in the house, but we had a three-hole outhouse outside; and in the wintertime we used a large pot with a toilet seat on top. We put Lysol in it to cover the stink. Nobody complained.

We also didn’t have running water. Oh, there was plenty of water, but not in the house. We had to walk down by the barn to get it from an artesian well. Hauling the water was usually my job. For a little guy, it was a big chore, especially since it was a long way to go, about 60 or 70 yards.

The second story of the house was where us kids would sleep. It was a large open area. Okay, I guess it was really the attic. The rafters were showing and nothing was painted; it was all bare wood. I suppose for a country house it was normal. Anyway, in the winter time it was cold up there, with only one small vent to let the warm air come up from below. I remember in the morning, after getting up, we would huddle around that opening to get warm.

The barn (pictured above) was a great place to hang out, especially in the morning when the cows were all in their stanchions, eating hay and being milked. Ah, to see those contented cows gave me a feeling that all was well in the world. Our dog brownie and the cats hung out there too, waiting to get some fresh cow’s milk. Everyone was happy in the barn, and busy. The cows had to be milked and fed; and later, after they went out to pasture, the gutters, full of manure, had to be cleaned out—scooped out and hauled outside. We had nothing fancy. We just wheeled it out the barn door into a wheel barrel and dumped it outside in a big pile. Later we loaded some of it up in a manure spreader and spread it around on the fields. We even used it on the garden—and boy did that work. We had the best watermelons you ever saw—until the pigs got into it. But that’s another story.

As with most farms, we had a silo adjacent to the barn, which we used mostly to store silage. When it was empty, sometimes we climbed up the ladder on the silo, even though we weren’t supposed to. I don’t think any of us ever got all the way up; it was a long way up.

Above the lower part of the barn, where the cows were milked and fed, was the hay loft. It was a great place to play. But I can’t remember playing there much; we had too much work to do—the chores! I will get to that later.

I want to tell you about the other places. Sort of across from the house was a shed we called a grainery, where oats were stored—mounds and mounds of oats.  Sometimes we would jump around in there and get buried up to our waste. And sometimes we would see mice in there, crawling around in the oats. I never liked seeing mice…anywhere, except in a mouse trap.

Between the house and the barn, we planted a large vegetable garden. My dad and mom planted it, and it was my job to pull the weeds. Some days I worked at it for hours. I didn’t mind it too much, but my mom would feel sorry for me. I remember one time she said to me, “Oh, you’re such a good son, you’ll get your reward in heaven.” From that point on I started to think a lot about what heaven might be like. My mom probably wasn’t aware of it, but her words at that moment became a turning point in my life; and in just a few years I would give my life to Christ.

From the garden going toward the creek was a muddy pig pen—where I remember one time my sister jumped in and was coated with black mud from head to foot. I don’t know why she did that. And she was the smart one! Next to the pig pen was the chicken coop with chickens, and then down the hill to the left was a large rickety sheep barn. At one time we had, I think, over 500 sheep.

Well, that’s enough for this post. Next time I will tell you about the chores, mainly my chores.

On the Farm: First Grade in A One-Room Schoolhouse

My school looked almost identical to this one, except there was only one door.

Life on the farm was far different than life in the city. I don’t remember too much about my life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The main thing I remember is that I went to kindergarten there, and there were paved streets and sidewalks. I don’t recall moving to the farm near Montevideo, but I remember first grade. The little schoolhouse was white and there were two outhouses in the back on each side, one for the girls and one for the boys.

The inside of the schoolhouse was all open—one big room. And it had a large wood burning stove or furnace near the front. That’s funny, I don’t remember ever having to get wood for the furnace. I guess the teacher did that before all the kids arrived in the morning, and maybe she added wood during recess and lunch breaks. Who knows? But I know she never called on me to help. Maybe because I was only a kid—in the first grade.

I vividly remember what the inside of the school looked like. There were about four or five rows of student desks. I’m not sure how many grades of kids there were, just that there were three in my grade: Rollie, Cheryl, and me. Cheryl sat in the middle of our row and Rollie and me were in the front and back. I know that because I remember how me and Rollie would always be poking Cheryl and pulling her hair. I would pull her hair from the back, and then when she turned around to hit me, Rollie would get her from the front. But it was all in fun!

You know, I don’t remember ever getting in trouble, at least not in the first grade. I really liked the teacher. I think everyone did. I wish I cold remember her name. I do have a very old picture of her. She looks to be about 25.

I learned a lot in the first grade: how to read, write and do arithmetic. And then after the first grade I have no memories of school until 7th or 8th grade. It’s all a blank. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because as a family we moved a lot. From age 6 to age 13, I would say we moved about six times to different houses and schools. So, I had so many different teachers and class mates. I really can’t tell you what happened to me, but my guess is that all the mental confusion of moving, along with family troubles, caused me to just shut down.

I do have one school memory—a very unpleasant one. I can’t tell you what school or grade it was, but I was sitting, looking out the window, and the teacher came over and grabbed me by my ear and almost pulled it off.  She didn’t like that I was day dreaming instead of paying attention to her teaching. So, I have a feeling that that was what my school life was like all the time: sitting in class, but wishing I was somewhere else, anywhere but school.

Oh, one more thing I remember about first grade. Walking there. I don’t remember ever getting a ride to school. The three of us kids always had to walk. My sister Diane was two years older than me, and my brother Mark was one year younger. Anyway, it was a long way to walk for us kids, more than a mile I’m sure. It was a gravel road all the way, and rarely would we see cars on the road. So we usually just walked down the middle of the road. I don’t know why I did it, but I can remember picking up rocks from the road and throwing them toward, and even at, my sister. I guess at that age I didn’t have much of a sense that little rocks could actually hurt someone. I know I wasn’t especially close to my sister, but still, throwing rocks at her was a terrible thing to do, and I regret it.