Thursday, April 30, 2009


It is on this day, April 30, a year ago that Ella Steinhauer died.

She is, through my eyes, an unforgettable woman.

A former Mother-on-law, turned friend in the last decade of her life, she had a spirit about her for capturing you into her circle. If there, you wanted to stay there.

A listener
A talker
A teacher
A friend
A hostess
A landlady
A comforter
A hugger
A story teller
A believer
A forgiver
A sister
A mother
A grand mother
A great grandmother
A friend
She was an example of wisdom and insight. Most of us who knew her, remember her daily in some way.

Cherished memories


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I wonder if Grandpa Benhard ever played marbles? I wonder if my dad did. Was I first generation?

When you are in grade school and it is spring, the fun of being outside at recess includes playing marbles. Although generally thought of as a pastime for boys, whereas jump rope and hopscotch was for girls. It didn't seem to be a problem for me to cross the line. I only needed a boy with marbles to teach me.

And so it was R who taught me how to shoot the marbles out of the circle with his pure glass ruby red shooter.

The idea was for each player to present the same amount of marbles into the center of the circle. So, R, being gracious, put in 12-six for me and six for him. He also loaned me his pure royal blue shooter.

Like the Romans or the Egyptians before us, we played until all the marbles were out of the circle. R. took his marbles after every game. They were, after all, his property.

One Saturday when we went to town, I spent 25% of my allowance and bought a bag of marbles at Ben Franklin. The teaching was over, it was time to play the game.

Another week of school days came and went and R. got some of my marbles. I watched how he knuckled the marble to shoot it, then practiced at home in the carpeted living room. The pure-see though marbles, which were smaller, were harder to hit, I thought of investing something with a smaller target. I had by passed them because of the expense.

Three new rules had been enforced since I started this phase of my life;

1. Do not drop the marbles one by one off the up stairs landing of the oak stair way thinking the marbles would roll into the open closet door.

2. Do not leave marbles on the carpet, they hurt when your shoeless parent's step on them.

3. If mother had to pick them up, they were goners.

And so R. and I continued to play and I started to win. The World of Marbles came to a halt one day when all R. had left was his two pure shooters. I would trade him 6 marbles for his shooter. He kept his favorite, the ruby one, until, alas, he traded that in too and 'rented' the shooter to continue play.

The ruby shooter got lost in the snow on the playground at Northrop School. I had learned to play. The fun part of it for me was over. R. was out of marbles. When he looked in my desk without permission, I hurt his hand when I slammed the lid down on it.

There is a Nash-Finch coffee can in the basement on a shelf in the coal room. It is full of marbles and shooters. They are Tom's. He probably won them off some girl in Sabin, MN when he was in elementary school.

Life isn't always fair, even in marbles.

Poor R.



When spring came to the Northrop School grounds, the long ropes came out of storage and the girls, generally in threes or fours, found places on the sidewalk in front of the school to skip rope. The caution was to keep the rope out of the mud next to the sidewalk.

It was a good time in life for all of us, jump rope was something everyone seemed to know how to do and those school ropes were just heavy enough to have that perfect cadence as it looped over and around the jumper tapping the sidewalk as the jumper skipped to such poetry as:

Cinderella, dressed in yellow
went upstairs to kiss a 'fella
made a mistake
and kissed a snake
how many doctors
did it take?

(Count until skipper misses)


Not last night but the night before
24 robbers came knocking at my door,
as I ran out, (run out of rope), they ran in, (jump back in)
[they] knocked me on the head with a rolling pin


Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, show your shoe
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!

The children jump rope while they sing this rhyme, they act out the actions as the words come up in the rhyme. An example: when they say go upstairs, the child pretends to climb the stairs.


Red Hot Pepper
in the pot.
Gotta get over
what the leaders got

(Count and speed up the rope until the jumper misses)

Although the counting was done for the number of jumps, there was never a tally kept. You were either a good skipper or not. There didn't seem to be any in between. There were also good rope twirlers and bad rope twirlers. Those who kept the rope slapping the sidewalk and those that lifted the rope to make you miss. Interesting, isn't it, that the twirlers that lifted the rope got banned from the serious rope jumpers. Why? Because it was considered unsportsmanlike.

Have you skipped today?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


There were two kinds of hopscotch played at school and on the sidewalks near our homes. As an adult, my daughter and her friends played rock hopscotch on a permanent 'board' in the garage. When the garage was remodeled to expand the living area of the house, the big question was do you have to cover the hopscotch board?

Shown in the photo are three silver haired ladies. The one that is at play is carrying her purse! Could that be three Amigos who played together in grade school?

The board shown was known as variation of rock hopscotch. The boards we made on sidewalks were made of two (xx), and numbered 1-8. If we had no chalk to mark the squares, we used a rock to make the faint pattern. If it was at school, we could get chalk from a teacher. In new neighborhoods, a piece of plaster board , at a house building job site, did fine because between the heavy paper, was a chalk like substance. Rocks were plentiful; the favorites were pieces of granite found by the railroad tracks.

The other kind, where we used a ball, which we rolled to the square, was also to eight and looked like (++). The best ball was a tennis ball. The worst? Golf ball because it rolled to fast or a play ground ball which was too big.


The first player stands behind the starting line to toss her or his marker in square 1.

Hop over square 1 to square 2 and then continue hopping to square 8, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up
the marker, hop in square 1, and out.

Then continue by tossing the stone in square 2. All hopping is done on one foot unless the hopscotch design is such that two squares are side-by-side. Then two feet can be placed down with one in each square.

A player must always hop over any square where a maker has been placed.

A player is out if the marker fails to land in the proper square

The hopper steps on a line

The hopper looses balance when bending over to pick up the marker
and puts a second hand or foot down

The hopper goes into a square where a marker is

Or if a player puts two feet down in a single box.

The player puts the marker in the square where he or she will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player begins.

I wonder if grandma every made the board in the dirt?

It feels like hopscotch season, wanna play?


Sunday, April 26, 2009


Although we know the people of New Solum first walked to St. Hilaire and carried flour home on their backs, we do know that later, as discussed in a earlier post, they did have a find grocery store for many years.

Today I would like you to think about the market in your neighborhood. You know the one I am talking about, it is the place your mother sent you for something or you went for a candy bar or a cold soda, (pop).

I was telling Shirley about a market I found in Thief River Falls only because my grandparents bought and remodeled a house near there. The Mom and Pop Stores were everywhere. If you lived in an established neighborhood, there was probably one within a block or two.

From 1018 North Main, it was just a few doors down to Noper's where Greg stole candy and the owners put it on the charge.

Across from the Zion Lutheran Church, where a florist is now, there was a market. The candy Greg brought home was bought with his Sunday School offering but he told my parents he got candy for being good. That was owned by Solheim. Later it would be razed and a furniture store which sold Early American would be built.

From Oakland Park Road, there was River side Grocery where the groceries were bought over the phone and delivered. How different is that than me ordering ours on the computer and having them delivered in the dead of a snowy, cold winter day?

On Arnold Ave the closest place was Sustad's, later to be Flom's. I went there often for a frozen treat when I stayed with Grandma Mae.

On Kneale Avenue, there was Third Street Grocery. It was just off the boulevard on Kneale Avenue.

St. Paul Grocery is where Frank went. It also had the biggest icicle in town.

Danny's was on First Street near Kendall Avenue. That later became Liden's Lefse. Mother walked to Danny's every day to buy cigarettes for the day. She said that gave her some exercise and she smoked less if she only bought enough for one day. She also was known to smoke a lot of butts!

On Eighth Street, there was a bigger market on the corner of 8th St and Main Avenue it was called Froseth's.

Certainly I have missed several. What I could never understand is how these markets could survive selling candy bars, rotting bananas, and pop. Was the merchandise delivered or did the owner's go to a bigger store and buy the products? Most did not have fresh meat, although Riverside Grocery did. I only know that because I was in there and it smelled of animal fat and rotting potatoes. Milk and dairy products were delivered to homes.

If you look at the old phone directories in the library, you will see how many markets there were downtown TRF before the trend to go to the neighborhood began. Not only food, but meat markets as well.

Did they live on the property? We know they did in Rosewood. How much did they have to sell in product to make the rent and utilities. Was the mark up greater than 33% as it was in the early sixties?

On Eighth Street farther east, their was Eighth Street Grocery.

First Street had a market near the bridge.

The name of the market by by grandparents house remains unnamed. It was a brown stucco building with awnings and steps. Does anyone know?

We gotta eat, right?



It is said one can save 10% on the yearly water bill if one turned the hot water heater down to 120 degrees. Of course, one could just jump into the Red River of the North!
All kidding aside, let's talk about bathing or showering.
Let me ask you this:
1. How many of you didn't have a shower when you were little?
2. How many of you always washed your hair in the kitchen sink? Did you wash your hair every day? Am I hearing Thursday for the weekend and Sunday for the first day of the school week?
3. How many of you got a bath in the wash tub? How many baths did you get a week? How about when you were a teen?
4. How many of you gave your kids baths in the kitchen sink?
The first full bathroom I remember had birch cabinets and a bath tub. I only remember the tub because daddy fell asleep in it reading the paper.
I do remember having my hair washed in the kitchen sink and remember washing my own in the kitchen sink for several years.
I do remember being at my grand mothers and having a wash tub bath; the water was heated on the stove in an aluminum kettle which was added to the tap water already in the tub.
When showers became part of our household, it was more for daddy than it was for the rest of us. Imagine my surprise when I started taking showers and could wash my hair at the same time.
In the last house my grandparents built, there was only a shower with a rough floor so they would not fall although Benhard and Julia both called it "bath night" which was always Saturday.
Daddy showered and mother bathed in the claw tooth tub twice a week. Take a shower and change into clean clothes. RULE: If you don't take a shower, you may NOT put on clean clothes. One of my children showered many times a day and yes, he also changed several times a day.
Now, the shower runs each day for each of us. Are we dirtier? Why do we need to shower every day anyway?
Maybe it has to do with the Native America saying of going to the river each morning and washing away the bad dreams, as without it, one carries the dreams with you. Does this mean if I have a great dream I shouldn't shower........................for a really long time?
Save 10% you say? The city of Fargo has a sales tax vote coming up in June. Let's hope we don't have to spent 10%!
Now, where is my rubber ducky?

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Old Trunks does not claim the ownership of these photos. I found them in a stack of about 500 photographs and scanned them with a digital photo converter. The idea is to get disks ready for Tom Johnson's sons and then mount all the photographs in albums for Tom.



Friday, April 24, 2009

5 & 10

Pictured above it a menu from the Woolworth Lunch counter in the 1950's. Old Trunks doesn't remember the counter in Thief River Falls. That is probably because the candy counter, which I frequented, was on the other side of the store next to the door.
The Woolworth Store was on the southwest end of the 200 block of LaBree; the Ben Franklin was on the northwest end. Ben Franklin had a lunch counter too, it had a door on LaBree Avenue as well as doors on the north side of the building. If you came to the lunch counter from the front, one meandered through the toys, kitchen wares, and cleaning supplies before you got to the red topped counter with stools.
What I liked about Ben Franklin lunch counter was the spinning stools and the dumb waiter. It didn't seem to matter how many times I asked, my grandmother would never let me take a ride in the dumb waiter. After all the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers did it, why couldn't a 45 pound kid?
Even as a little kid, I got the idea that businesses placed them selves near other businesses for extra revenue. Think about this: The Falls Theater was in the middle of the block on the west side of the street. On that same block there were numerous places to get a sandwich after a movie.
Ben Franklin
The Fountain
Which at that time was right next to the theater and was stools only. It had a KOOL cigarette sign in the window and a penguin on it with the words, "It's KOOL inside". As a kid, I thought it meant it was cold.
Across the street there was the MINT for those who liked to have beer, Parkin's Corner Drug with their lunch counter, and the Rex Cafe` with a full menu.
What spins your stool?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Rachel announced the yellow tulips were blooming!

When did this marvelous herald of spring begin, Old Trunks wondered. A trip to the local library reveals that there is a Cretan vase, estimated to be 3,500 to 4,000 years old, decorated with what appear to be tulips. There are references that can be interpreted as tulips during the Crusades (11th to 13th centuries).

The first recorded reference was in 1554 in a report by an Austrian Ambassador to his Emperor Ferdinand I on a visit to the Turkish Empire. The Ambassador wrote that he saw "an abundance of flowers everywhere-narcissus, hyacinths and those which the Turks called TULIPAN." The ambassador brought back seeds and bulbs as evidence of what he saw and within 5 years tulips were growing successfully in Vienna. It was there that Carolus Clusius, a Dutch botanist, found them and subsequently introduced them in the Netherlands.

In 1849 J.B. van der Schoot is the first 'bollenreiziger' (travelling bulb salesman) to go to the United States. Bulbs were sold to the U.S. from Holland as early as the 18th century.
This year, the Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival is May 2-9. The city is rich in Dutch tradition and it must be truly a beautiful sight to behold.
We have been to Holland, MI while on vacation, although it was not during the tulip festival, rather a time when other perennials were in bloom. The bridge pictured is the bridge my oldest two children were photographed on and we toured the windmill, (my favorite house dream is to live in one).
Bud bought wooden shoes which he never wore to play ball.
It is spring. Even in Fargo, the leaves of the tulipan are sticking through the soil. Bulbs bloom every year however, each year is exciting in itself. And to my dear friend Dixie who stated, "She read five books on how to plant tulips even through there is only one way."
My favorite color tulip? Purple.
What's yours?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Recently, we had a discussion at our house about keeping track of the catch and release bass for this 2009 fishing season. Last year, I kept a note book. When one top water fishes, one looses as many as one retrieves. We knew that but didn't have stats to show it. Nor did we have stats of time and place. It wasn't that hard to do, just took a pen that would write on the damp note book paper. Some one had to have a watch.

Tom waltzed into the jewelry store before Christmas last year and asked for a fishing watch for his wife. Imagine the clerk's surprise when he picked out one with diamonds that was solar driven. AHA! I thought, watch, pen, and notebook, ready for 2009.

But Tom was certain we could do better. I called around in Fargo looking for a counter. Something simple, tick, tick, tick; one, two, three. What I found was $20+ dollars each.

The beauty of catalogs and Internet buying is simple. You can search price. Most likely you can beat the price. And so to the menagerie of the basket for fishing came two counter, a yellow one for me and a chrome one for him, both purchases and postage/shipping & handling for less that the cost of one downtown.

It does not have numerous functions. It will only count fish. Tom stated he might bump his now and then driving up the numbers. He is teasing, of course.

My concern is that the data we need for comparison may be greater than numbers. After all if I am going to play queen of the data, I want more than a catch and release number. All of this is the gift of a multi-tasker.

I suppose like any hobby, there may be as much to it as you wish to add. If, for example, I was going to just start fishing, one would think a reel/pole and a few worms would be enough. And it is.

My friend, Soozi, in Arizona is a quilter. Do you think she has one needle?

Another does mosaics, how much glass do you think she has stored away?

Does a photographer have one camera?

Does a golfer have one club?

Here, you can use my counter for the next couple of weeks to count your hobby pieces.


Monday, April 20, 2009

MELLEM, Peter and Caroline

This is a picture of Peter and Caroline Lappagaard Mellem. They were known as Pete and Lena. Shirley knew Caroline as Mrs. Pete.

If you want a grand widow lady in your neighborhood, Mrs. Pete is the kind you want. What a lady.

Peter (21 MAR 1887-22 SEP 1966) and Caroline Lappagaard (2 FEB 1890-APR 1981) had eight living children. There is no first hand knowledge the twins born 7 OCT 1920 or the 'baby' (11 NOV 1950) were their children.

Living children:
Pearl 1908
Myrtle 1909
Roy 1910
Clarence 1911-2002
Florence 1915
Alvin 1919
Vernon 1925-1999
Joyce 1925

At the Rindal Cemetery in Lot 59, the following Mellem's are buried. If you are looking for Mellem, be sure to check MELLUM as well.

Lot 59
Baby boys (twins)
Caroline, (Although she died in Libby, Montana, she is buried at Rindal)

Peter and his brother Emil, are both listed as their mother's maiden name is Pederson. Yes, I am confused, too!

Long live the memories of these two fabulous people, they were both so cute and so full of laughter!


Saturday, April 18, 2009


As I get back into a normal, new normal after the flood, I am finding I am not focused on one thing. I am like a rocket that doesn't seem to know to use energy to focus upward instead of out word. Bear with me, won't you?

As you remember MELLEM is my children's heritage. Along with Shirley and Enid, we earlier discovered who was who. The thing about it is, OT just thought everyone knew 'everything'. It isn't the case.

Tulla writes, "Thank you so much for this information and sorting out for me who was married to who" as she referred to the Mellem children and their spouses. In old obits, women were always Mrs. X, rather than Mrs. (Jane) Doe. It helps all of us to know just who is who, doesn't it?

I had sent her the obituary from Enoch Nelson. Tulla wrote,
" The information about Enoch was interesting as I had not realized he also was from Trysil ~ the Skjærberget area. We spent some time in the Skjærberget area in August because I also have relatives who came from that part. The Ole Halvorsen Bakken family of Thief River on our website were related to me as well. Nyhus family who lived in Thief River are also related to me". What happens when so many names are passed on to me, is the desire to find out about the people in the New Solum area that are listed in the information I have.

She went on to say Enoch as first married to a Grambo. It states Enoch's death was unknown. We do understand that if someone dies and we don't know the best way to answer it is with a statement such as unknown. He is on the Grambo line on the Trysil website.

Tulla states, "I noticed on your blog that you have a picture of Thorinus and wonder if I could have permission to add it to his bio on our website? Am also looking for a picture of Pauline".

So just where is this Trysil website? What is the address? What is there?
Trysil Historielag USA-CANADA. Who knows you may even by on it!

Have a grand Saturday


Wednesday, April 15, 2009



.......and Tulla writes:

There were many from Trysil Norway who settled in New Solum twp, Thief River and Winger / McIntosh areas. You will discover some by looking at our website. The other main Trysil settlements were in the Alexandria and Holmes city twp areas; and in the Fargo area. Just north of Fargo in Harwood twp and Wiser twp of Cass co, ND (Cass County is Fargo and environs.

Thorinus and his family, his sister Tolline and Tolline's daughter Lovise Olsdtr went to the Wiser twp area when they first immigrated and probably moved to New Solum when the 13 townships opened up. Tolline filed "first papers" for citizenship in Clay county in April 1884. I found no 2nd papers. And that is about the last I know of her. Her daughter, Lovise married Eddijius Evensen in the Fargo area and in the late 1890s they went with several other Trysling to begin a colony on the north end of Vancouver Island in BC. The colony was named Quatsino and it's a great story.

I think there is much you can tell me about New Solum and Thief River, etc. and perhaps I can help you as well.

I noticed in your blog a reference to Sven Svenson who had gone west to look for a place to move with his 3 daughters. Would that be the Sven Svenson married to Jennie Nyhus? Jennie was sent to Fergus Falls for mental problems. They had three daughters; Sylvia Gladys, Jennie Olivia and Geneva. If so, do you have further information?

I will send Norwegian info on Thorinus' family.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here is part of the harvest from Tulla, a lady, as you can see, is much into genealogy and has a true gift of gathering information. Imagine how surprise and excited I was to receive a note from her in mid-March!

I am not a Mellem, nor am I part of the blood line. Old Trunks started the genealogy blog based I what I could find regarding New Solum Township which included Rosewood, MN. My great grandparents on both sides took root in the area, along with great aunts and uncles. The Mellem family are connected to my children through marriage. If you search MELLEM on the blog you will get numerous hits.

Here is the first of many pieces of email:

I found your blog with much interesting information. My roots are from Trysil, Norway but I live in Minnesota.

From your blog I assume that you are connected to Thorinus Toresen Mellem / Mæhlum (Nabben). Am I correct?

A group of us began a Trysil historielag USA/Canada in 2003 and began a website at that time with bios of Trysil immigrants. We keep following threads. I was especially interested in the Mellems because the Mæhlum "gaard" in Trysil is across the road from Strandvold, my gg-gparents. For a few years I have been trying to find what happened to Thorinus's sister, Tolline who emigrated with him and his family. Tolline brought her daughter with her -- Lovise Olsdtr. I have much information on Lovise and her life but no mention of her mother.

Another twist. I found your blog because in the last week or so I heard from a Norwegian man living in England who had found our website and is a descendant of one of Thorinus's brothers who remained in Norway. He has information on the Norwegian side.

Our communication has been quiet of late, due to the flood in Fargo, but I am ready to start the presses with her once more and share the marvelous details with you!


And Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Monday, April 13, 2009


There is much to be said about how genealogy unfolds. For those of you who are searching for family members, may Old Trunks advise you to sit back and take a breather if you feel stuck. Pick up on another subject when you feel like you haven't names, dates, and places to talk about because something will come. Wait as a waitress; keep busy, keep writing.

How the stories have come to Old Trunks in the last month are remarkable. Much credit comes from hours at the computer in times past and when a name is googled, if in the blog, there is a connection. Although there is much talk about Twitter, there is also Facebook and other communities of 140 or less key strokes full of information.

My sweet Thomas as a family that was, when he was younger, quiet about the family tree. The idea OT got was there wasn't much information out there. But, I warn you, there is ALWAYS information out there. It is a connection and it might make its way to you innocently enough, one much use their own eyes to find it. Start with the newest if you must, but start. I know everyone that reads this blog has stories learned at grandfather's knee or opinions of ancestors, good and not so good. Be a product of telling the yet-to-come generations about your family history.

I challenge you to write a story a month. Take your time to include the details including the conversation, the time of the year, and who was there. It is okay if the story doesn't match up with the other's there we aren't each going to remember every detail but whomever writes it will become a real person for generations to come. Until a better method of storage comes along, store it on a disk. You can add pictures the same way. In our ever moving world, it may be the best way to assure the information actually moves with the person and the out of pocket expense is minimal.

OT has learned that scanning hundreds of pictures is time consuming but sending them to family members in this fashion is the very best way to preserve them long term. OT learned that with several subsets of my former family, (of which one still calls me auntie), as well as Tom's children. His Texas son looks at his disks often, there are pictures on it of his mother, who died in 1997. How fortunate her parents took so many photographs of her when she was little. OT has no stories of her to tell but Bob does and needs to get them together for his own daughter, Jillian. Yes, and even Jillian, who spent Christmas with her grandfather a couple seasons ago, would have a feel for what was happening beyond sledding, snow scooping, and making cards for her grandfather and dad. We are hopeful she was old enough to look at the picture album presented to her to recall what was happening and how she felt.

Many of us were raised around our grandparents, we knew the mood, the aromas, and their ways. OT was one of those lucky ones to hear stories from my grandparents first hand or, voice for that matter. When I moved away, I wrote to them to extend our relationship. My grand parents wanted to know what I was doing, no different than grand parents of today, is it?

There was a cartoon in the paper yesterday. The boy friend was frustrated with his girl friend. She had not emailed, text, blogged, called, or written on Facebook for two days. Where was she, what was she doing? She answered, "You didn't check Twitter, did you"?

Communication lines are numerous, which one do you choose to use?


Friday, April 10, 2009


As you may remember, Old Trunks has been experimenting with different coffees after seeing that Eight O'clock was voted the best and the cheapest. When this bag of whatever is finished, I will be back to my Folgers. For me, it has the best part of waking up is Folgers in my cup.

Let's think about what our grandmother's may have said about this. What if they wrote a HOW TO?

I think the women of New Solum Township may have agreed that a really good cup of coffee is at all times a luxury and one that is very frequently difficult to obtain. Simple as the operation of making it appears, t is not everyone who understands who to produce a more than barely palatable drink.

Making French drip? Use a heaping teaspoon of pulverized coffee and place it in a canvas strainer on the top of the coffee pot, pouring a cup of water for every teaspoon of coffee. The water, of course, must first boil. Pour the coffee through a strainer at least three times.

Plain coffee? Buy whole beans and grind it as coarse as you like. Use a tablespoon of coffee for each cup, not heaping. Mix the ground coffee with an egg and one cup of boiling water for each cup. Boil five minutes. Remove from heat, add a little cold water and let it settle.

That is the grandma way. It is the way of the Lutheran Church ladies from Rindal Church near Rosewood. And if you were lucky it did NOT boil over. And if you were lucky enough, it didn't taste burned.

I raise my cup to you!


Thursday, April 9, 2009


Old Trunks had hoped by now, Fargo, ND would be back to normal and all the hype about the flood and its waters would be down stream, or is that up stream with a river which runs north. Alas, it is not, sand bagging continues in the Fargodome parking lot as they cleaned the interior at the price of $400,000. Sister city Moorhead continues to sand bag also.

The newspaper comment section included just why the NWS, (National Weather Service) came up with the high level of flooding as we approach the second crest. Another article stated the NWS was like a monkey playing Wheel of Fortune.

Trying to wait on a second crest is difficult. One doesn't know if starting on a big project which takes lots of books, pictures, and the like should really be brought to the main level to work on. What a little thing.

Let's consider just what is going on around the state. Let's look beyond the city into the country and the condition of the roads which are really in terrible shape. Lots of wash outs. Lot's of people around the state have lost stock, will loose planting time which don't get the press like Fargo/Moorhead has even if the fields are contoured to drain to ditches to ditches to ditches.

I have been listening to talk radio the last few days, something I haven't done for well over four decades. I needed to get the value of what the opinion of others are. It isn't that I have to agree; it does however, shoot new opinions beyond what is available to read in the local newspaper(s). Many callers think North Dakota should be opened up for hunting in more areas and charge the hunters. Someone else thought the price of car tags could be raised. It is certain the people in western North Dakota do not want their taxes raised to support the expense of the damage by the Red River of the North.

I can hear my grandfather, once a member of the school board, saying, "I shouldn't have to pay for schools, my kids are grown." I suppose if it doesn't directly affect you, it is human nature not to want to support the project. Maybe we should pick up Fargo/Moorhead and MOVE them? To where? Well, someone suggested it.

Through all of this, we have looked at maps, images, and Google Earth to learn just what we are in elevation. We had been told we were 'high'. We were safe. The bottom of the river is 861.08 feet. We are 901 feet. That is only 39.92 feet. The mayor's house is the same as ours.

Tom found a site with a 500 year flood plan. The back half of the garage is under water in the proposal. We don't know when that was done but he added fill back there years ago and the area where the slab for the garage sits was also filled before the construction began. The yard was contoured to keep the water from flowing to the house. We are dry. When Brian and Michelle came for supper recently, Brian said they used to slop around in water.

We are not out of the woods. I hit a few days where I was really restless about it. I decided that if I could drive to Fargo with a Geo full of special possessions, I could walk away from here with a truck bed full and call it okay. I took pictures of the house inventory and hoped my dream patterns would change. They did. Now I am just annoyed at Mother Nature but know I can't mess with her.

So, let's get started on genealogy and off geology. As I write, the river is at nearly 32 feet, that is down eight feet but still fourteen feet above flood level.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


31 MAR 2009

Five point eight inches of snow fell at Hector Airport north of the city of Fargo yesterday. The National Weather service expects a maximum total of eighteen inches. Even our mayor knows the difference between a blizzard and what the Dairy Queen serves.

Another item on the menu is the use of potatoes. No, the Irish are not saving Fargo. However, it has been learned that by tying bags of spuds to the plastic tarp, the tarping over the sand bags falls into the river keeping them from leaking at the base. Offuit, a huge potato farmer in the area, who has a contract with Frito lay and French fries, may or may not be the supplier. But if you do notice less chips on the market, remember they are fighting a flood, lest you feel famine for fries.

We ask again for people to stay off the roads. A teenager was talking on her cell phone and side swiped a sheriff vehicle last night. The visibility is poor, the streets are slippery. The department of transportation has closed North/South I29 and pulled their trucks. They can't see the road and the ditches are full of water; it is not safe.

Rather than driving, catch up on rest, stay in a routine, and keep relationships open is the advice of the mental health experts. A point was made that Mahoney slept well last night and dreamed of eating marshmallows, waking only to learn he had eaten his pillows. The people at the press conference, do, indeed look tired but assure us they are okay. The staff is taking care of themselves and one another despite curves and frustrations while all of them are not liking Mother Nature very much right now.

There has been much talk about the wind. Please understand the Red River in downtown Fargo is well protected. What we really need to look at is the lapping of water on rural roads. Think about 1997 when the wind+water hit Canada which moved the water where ever it wished in the open country. It has since been fixed.

The situation continues to be an amazing operation of great planning and numerous agencies coming together for the universal good of all. As the representative of Oak Grove School stated this morning, all the schools, both private and public have come together to form a partnership. The students from Concordia volunteered to get all the books out of the library on campus. Al W., a hero in the eyes of Oak Grove School will receive a diploma according the Missel who went on to say, "and we saved a squirrel for you". (meaning saved a squirrel from the river). Al thinks getting a Lutheran diploma is pretty good for a good old Catholic boy.

Mayor Walaker talked the first of the week about us not knowing what it was like in the flood of 1897. Human Resources as found a 99 1/2 year old who they are interviewing to learn if he heard stories from older siblings.

Our commission is concerned about the job loss hours for employees. Fema has agreed to get things moving on monetary needs through the Job Service of ND. Tom and I felt the best thing we could do was take care of Brian and Michelle, offering comfort foods and time with all of us at the same table talking about other stuff while their Labrador stretched out under the table snoring as if to say, "This is good".

The river is at 38.11, down from 39.20 yesterday morning. Experts expect additional drops before watersheds to the south are opened and draining begins into the Red River. Thus a crest but not nearly as high.

We are, as individuals, asked to stay off the roads. The commerce is asked to be closed. Our household remains diligent to the requests. Tom will eat the last of the brownies and I will make cookies for the next need for comfort food. We will keep the kitten inside of us purring.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009


30 MAR 2009

Her name isn't important, her occupation is; she is one of many certified nurses aids who followed the residents of her nursing home to Steele, ND, a hundred and fifty some miles straight west when the home was evacuated. They rotate a dozen aides every three days, they work 12 hour shifts. Her mood was up beat, although she was tired. She will be recalled after a rest, if necessary. WILLING

Mayor Walaker quotes Harry Truman, saying, "The buck stops here." His niagara of emails continue. He reminds us that in 1997, the city ramped up more than once. He calls for diligence and not letting down the high alert until the water has dropped to thirty-six feet. Non essential businesses are yammering to get back to work and service and obviously the ring of the register. His concern is traffic, safety of the city, and ability for crews to make quick work of getting around. He did not comment on whether or not liquor stores were essential.

Although the police department and the commission request stores stay closed, retailers are opening. Many of the blogs include statements of complaint. If not in the flood zone what is the problem with opening? Again, it is stressed the streets many be needed for equipment and snarled traffic can be avoided. Accidents pull police off the focus.

The water level in Fargo is 39.2 feet this morning. It was 40.15 yesterday at this time. We are encouraged, even with the possibility of a foot of snow falling in the next 48 hours with winds 20-35 mph.

Sandbag Central opened for business at 8'clock Sunday morning and filled for twenty-four hours. Tom wondered, in wait, to see if it was going to be extended; he is rested and ready. It was, as Pat Zavoral said, "The world's biggest beach party". The volunteers brought the inventory up to 450K bags. An unnamed faceless person suggest we should store sandbags so we are 'ready'. Think about a football field, which is 100 hundred long. Imagine half a football field covered and stacked high with sandbags.

The hospitals and nursing homes hope to begin the returning and open for business and are planning returns from around a tri-state area. Prairie St. John's, the psych hospital, hopes to start earlier. Many people who would use their services are going to ER and walk in centers; these people need specialized help.

We need to keep this epic flood in focus. As individuals, we need to consider public safety and stand vigilant with the city plan to get us through this time. It is a time to use our coping skills and comfort others. All of us, will be a new normal when the city is cleaned up, the sand bags and dikes are taken down and the honeymoon is over.

Remain positive with us. And if you wish to canoe, choose a different river.


Monday, April 6, 2009


29 MAR 2009

The headline of the Fargo Forum for Sunday is

River level in Fargo at 9 A was 40.15, at 11A it is 40.07.

The steel permanent barrier protecting Oak Grove Lutheran School in north Fargo had gushing water coming for underneath the dike, not over. Two buildings are lost and two more are threatened. Another levy has keep the family homes safe for now. The concern for the campus was first acknowledged in the early planning meetings, as it is on a point; think about what a peninsula is. When a river, which on a normal day, travels at 4 miles and hour and is now moving at 12 miles an hour, there is erosion in the banks as it whips around yet another oxbow in this river of many twists. Our sympathies go out to them.

Although the Home Land Security feels all of Fargo needs to be evacuated, we need to remember the plans for such evacuations are a rigid outline for Any City, USA. We are not Grand Forks in 1997 when downtown flooded and burned and we are not Katrina of 2005.

Our river, although running swiftly, is running efficiently with no ice jams. We believe the city knows the big picture from the small picture as Dr. Mahoney, Vice Mayor, demonstrated with a railroad lantern; big beam, small beam.

Let's talk about the Predator, the unmanned, remote controlled craft borrowed from the border patrol. This valuable technology is being used to measure water levels, river flows, ice jams and other necessary numbers to help the Red River Valley understand what is happening from the air and below the clouds. And no, you can't have a ride~nor can any of the commissioners of Fargo OR government officials. How do we know that? Someone asked.

When the Mayor requested non-essential businesses remain closed, he did not realize his favorite Dairy Queen would not be available for a BBQ and shake. That is just how well the city residents are listening. The Blue Law, which means nothing open until noon on Sunday, has been lifted for essential items. It is important to understand every business in Fargo is important but food, gas, and flood flight supplies are priority. Somehow Walmart found its way into ESSENTIAL.

Pomeroy could not remember who said "It ain't over til it is over" when he said we are still in the main event. He used the example regarding the Fighting Sioux hockey team who were up two, yet got tied in the last 1/10 of a second pushing the game into overtime. The point is well received. We appreciate an opportunity to laugh; without it we would be ice jammed in stress. I am certain by now, Pomeroy remembers it was Yogi Berra.

In the county of Cass, boats are going door to door to check on people. Those who have phones may call and delivery of needs will be done. Some of these folks are cut off but on high ground. Hopefully other counties along the Red River on both sides are doing the same.

As I write, the Ramada Inn has conference rooms open for prayer services. Fifty+ ambulances remain available. The hospitals ARE open, Merit Care for emergencies and Innovis ER and hospital itself is functioning.

Sandbagging at the Fargodome restarts. Of the 300,000 bags on hand, a third of them went out yesterday. The new inventory number is 500,000. Someone from the floor asked him if he was trying to beat the pancake record. (It is one of those inside jokes about the Kiwanis Club trying to break a record of the number of cakes served in eight hours).

Permanent dikes come from funding. Funding is released through the Army Corp of Engineers. A plan for just the city of Fargo has been submitted. The Mayor told them we need a plan for both sides of the river including Moorhead. A study of this is on going. People who have river view homes don't want to look at a dike, they want to look at the river. We all would.

Our Mayor, a big man of 6'5" is coughing. He told us not to worry about him, he had the doctor, referring to the Vice Mayor Mahoney, and his black bag right here. Mayor Walaker stated again he had found his mother and had talked with her. The Governor Hoeven told him they knew were she was all the time, they just didn't tell him. As it is with the humor in this part of the country, we are all aware we have to break the gloom and doom to break the stress. The flood isn't any fun.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


28 MAR 2009

I had mentioned to Ryen the Red River of the North begins at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and the Otter Tail river in Southern ND/MN. The beginning of what is to become the Red, starts at Lake Traverse east of Sissiton, SD. It is hoped they can hold the water in Lake Traverse as well as at Bull Run dam on the Sheyenne River, which runs into the Red in West Fargo. No water has been released.

There will be 1,850 National Guard up and down the Red River Valley today, monitoring dikes, running pumps, and in Fargo, walking 48 some miles just around Fargo. Thirteen hundred sandbags which hold one ton of sand each are on stand bye to be dropped by helicopter incase of a breech. Mayor Walaker calls them big diapers. Along with big diapers, explosive experts are on stand by to break up ice, as needed. We are an innovative society.

Without taking a breath, Walaker said his sister called from Connecticut and wanted to know where their mother, who is in a nursing home or assisted living, and has been evacuated to. Although it is not funny, it is because Walaker went on to say, "Even the mayor does have special privileges."

It is important for all of you reading this to understand that Fargo city limits is what Fargo is protecting. As painful as that is to many of you, they did reach out in 1997 and the system in place for the city of Fargo would have been compromised if the dike had broken. The city of Fargo has not lost a house. Their water and sewer plants are functioning well as is the electricity, no grids have been shut down. As mentioned before, the city fathers of Fargo are NOT telling people to turn off their electricity if they leave and it won't be turned off unless the owner requests it, think about sump pumps and what they do to protect houses.

Behind closed doors, as much as two and a half months ago, the meetings began on planning for what was thought, was a repeat of the 1997 flood. Tom reminds me that someone announced the governor had to get off his ass and get things started. The goal is to get INDIVIDUAL assistance to rebuild from FEMA not a blanket plan. It is in the works but not signed.

Fargo remains in the eyes of the nation. The direction of leadership and the volunteer spirit is fundamental to this group of people living near the Red. We all know their will be high and low moments in our spirits and concerns in the roller coaster fight with the river. When sand bagging operations ceased at the Fargodome at 6 last night, people didn't want to stop.

Some may be wondering why Fargo doesn't have a dike all around the city. Before being too critical, consider that in 1997, flooding was problematic at 31 feet; this year of 2009 it is an issue at 38 feet. Something has been done but not enough, who would have thought?

The bullish rumor of the day is the Mayor and the governor have ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire city. This is NOT so. Several hundred people have been dispersed from the fairgrounds which include adult facilities like group homes. Videos of evacuation sites on last nights news showed only a handful of people in the building.

We know the focus is on Fargo; we are getting the good and the bad press. We know we are in High Alert. We know that when the water crests, it is not time to say, "Let's go shopping!" We are on alert until the water falls below the sand bags and then, we can shop, and get trash pick up and snow removal. But we aren't there yet and don't expect to be for several days.

Yet in all of this, we do see a message of hope and we do see the message of help. We, as a city are determined. The guard will walk this 48 or so miles of dikes, the police and fire department will monitor, as well. And every citizen is responsible to watch and wait, hopefully like a waitress. And if the river wins, then, we will go to plan two because that is who we are.

Mahoney may have said it best, "Think of Fargo as ICU. We watch 24/7, we limit visitors."

May you be in wellness.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


27 MAR 2009

I have a little more sense of security for the neighborhood right now. Why, you ask.

We live two blocks from the middle school they are using for evacuations from other parts of the city.

Tom was able to get a generator at Menards and a back up sump pump if ours, which is now nine years old, fails. The vehicles are filled with gas and can be used in the generator.

We agreed the generator was first line defense to protect the heating system. It is a difference of $600 and $6000 or more dollars. We can also run two sumps, if necessary.

The Fargodome is full of sand bags. The dome is in North Fargo. No one except from North Fargo is encouraged to go to there to work. Why? Because of the traffic ban on major through routes needed to breeze through town with trucks and heavy equipment.

Although there is no water in the areas that were evacuated last night, it was the best move for the safety of the people living near the river and in an assisted living building.

Meritcare moved 170 patients out of Fargo to hospitals in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Bismarck, and Sioux Falls. This impressive effort was done in six hours. The shot of a line of ambulances, helicopters, and buses was impressive. Trauma centers at Merit Care and Innovis remain open. Innovis is much higher ground and will not close. Two commercial planes are landing at the airport today to carry more vulnerable adults to additional facilities as far away as Iowa.

The dike patrol, which is police, fireman, city employees, and 1,700 National Guard, will walk 58 miles of river and canals looking for problematic areas. One of the problems is the bags were placed on frozen ground, the water level as thawed the ground making seepage from underneath a possibility. We need to realize the troops are also bringing in equipment.

Volunteers filled a half a million sand bags yesterday, a huge step up after filling just 3 million in five days. They will remain in the dome until called for as at 12 degrees, even cooler than yesterday, they will freeze like bricks.

The phone rang last night after we were a sleep. It was the RED CODE which is a recording asking for help. They can dispense 60,000 calls in minutes. It was not near us, rather by the water and waste plant. Actually, the message was to tell us what was happening, as at the latest news conference last night, the no volunteers were allowed to sand bag after dark for their safety. It took awhile to understand that. We opened the laptop and read what we had heard on the phone. It was a fitful night, and as I told Shirley, Tom and I held hands all night, lest we float away, we were going to do it together.

One of the things I admire about the people in charge is how they crush any rumors that may start. For example, when parts of Moorhead, our sister city was to evacuate, the rumor was the power company was going to cut their power whether they stayed or not. The power will remain on unless the owner requests a shut off. And of course, you can throw your breakers yourself, just don't be standing in water when you do it, DUH!!???

A twelve year old who was sandbagging at the dome, told Senator Pomeroy that he was doing this because it was his duty. And that is why Tom was there too. That is why another person butters 6,500 sandwiches.

His name is Tim Mahoney. He is general surgeon at Innovis. But for now, he is a well spoken, get on his toes type of leader who stands shoulder to shoulder with our mayor. Between the two of them, it is known we are focused on saving what we have protected and the cold weather is a break for us. Walaker said Fargo had everything thrown at us except a tornado, from the audience someone said he better not say that out loud. He promised he wouldn't.

And so dear people, for now, it is stand and defend. For us, that means installing a plug in the sewer drain, learning how the generator works. Make ready the second sump pump and stay well, hold hands and hug. We don't think our house will be compromised but we had to think it through. Think about this, we don't have little kids and pets to worry about it. The two of us will just creak to a vehicle and get out of Dodge.

Peace to all who enter in.

Friday, April 3, 2009


26 MAR 2009

The snow continues. The feel real temperature is minus 3. The wind is blowing. Sandbagging continues. Buses to carry people to sights are coming from all over, as are individuals. Two bodies equal four arms times thousands. It is more overwhelming to try to realize the amount of support for Fargo than it is to be overwhelmed by the water. Fargo is doing everything they can, with the support of family to family and group to group, and good communication.

The NDSU basketball players here in Fargo, played the Jayhawks from Lawrence, KS in March Madness last week. Those same players are now sand bagging. According to the article in the Lawrence Journal World, "This is a no-brainer for us,” said Saul Phillips, head basketball coach, in a statement. “People need help, and we’ve got able-bodied guys. Anybody that has been around our program knows how well the community supported us, and they need us now. They’ve got us.”
Dennis Walaker, our mayor, told the Salvation Army representative, That any time you see the Salvation Army and the Red Cross working side by side, we know it is a disaster." Yes, it is potentially that real.
Evacuation plans are laid. No matter where one lives in this huge area that has been affected know to move valuables to higher levels and shut off your water to save the laborious hours of cleaning the water system if it flows overland to your property. People who have sand bagged their homes are expected to watch their dikes and report seeping. Dumpsters with sand bags are near. Frozen sand bags, you ask? Drop the bag on the ground, the sand will break up.
It is all about family helping family and groups helping groups. Anytime you see Bison shirts and Fighting Sioux shirts working side by side, you know the people are coming together.
Fear may be a good motivate. Panic doesn't load sand bags. Everyone in the lines at the filling stations and on the dikes themselves are spending their energy going shoulder to shoulder one bag at a time.

If there is a prayer, it probably would be for those who complain to understand this isn't about their trash or street not being cleaned off after the great snowfall. It is about being vigilant one more day, then one more day, one sand bag at a time. That's what the prayer is.

It is like having a sick child. Although we protect them as best we can, we are agog until the fever breaks. When they come into complete wellness, THEN we can breathe.

Vigilance. On guard. Waiting.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


24 MAR 2009

Snow and wind today. Water level is 35+. We hope for a crest below 42. Tom will fill bags again tonight. Baggers are supposed to call first.

Cars go by on our street through the slush left from sump pumps being run into the street. There won't be any street cleaning until the temorary dikes are finished. No trash pick up, either. Good we don't have a set of triplets with poopy diapers!

Although other cities may have water restrictions, Fargo does not. I am hopeful to get another load or two finished, including Tom's sand/mud jeans.

While out last night, he ran into Kaitlin and her mother. IMAGINE! 10,000 sand baggers and Tom meets his Monday night baggers! Don't you love it?

Better snow than rain.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009


The next few days will be my flood journal while I get notes and equipment ready for a really, truly exciting genealogy adventure.

March 24

Fargo has several permanent dikes, just not all the way around the city. We have incredible support from the universities, National Guard, city crews, and plain old people like Tom who filled sand bags last night; first between a 14 year old and her mother and next between two 'convicts' from the Cass County jail. He was not out in the lightening and thunder but waited for the bus in the rain. His body was cold when he crawled into bed about 11 PM. I spooned in behind him and told him to keep talking about his experience until he felt sleepy, no doubt it was exhilarating to be part of the masses.

If humans can save a town, this group of organizers will make it happen. They have live new briefs throughout the day and those in charge update the rest as well as the city. Yesterday they hoped to fill 300,000 bags, because of the quality of the spirit in this town, they did 450,000. People are coming from all over. An NDSU representative, at the news brief, said college kids are coming from St. Cloud and other cities within 150 miles are on their way.

According to the ponding map, if the dikes break, we are safe here in 6th Avenue. That only means the house is okay, the infrastructure of the sewer system may still be compromised. Before that happens, however, they will shut it down.

One man, interviewed earlier in the week, dropped his sandwich he had gotten from the Red Cross. On a twisted note, doesn't that give new meaning to SANDwich?

In all the concern, there is much praise to all the folks that have come together for the common good. Tom's sister, in Grand Forks, offered us bed and board.