Category Archives: Journal

Comments on the book Lone Survivor

I ripped through Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor in a couple of days. It was fascinating and captivating. I’m amazed at what people go through to become Navy SEALS and part of me wishes I had decided many moons ago to pursue that occupation, one that I see as the most serious and demanding there is. The book goes on to give a very detailed and personal account of Operation Redwing, a disastrous mission in Afghanistan that left 19 service men dead and a single survivor, as the name suggests.

There are a couple of main themes in the book as I implied above: the rigorous training of the SEALS, the life of a professional warrior, the brotherhood of the service, the complexities of the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and the unbelievable chaos of a mission gone very wrong. I congratulate Petty Officer Lutrell on his service to our country, his bravery and professionalism in the execution of that service and for writing a very honest and chilling account of the operation.

Where he goes wrong has been oft-commented in the reviews I’ve seen: his blame of the ROE on “liberals”. I personally am totally willing to trust highly trained professionals like the Navy SEALS to make decisions in the field. I don’t think that alleviates those professionals from being accountable for their decisions. It is clear from the language expressed in the book that Luttrell has nothing but contempt for the local people. The fact that he was saved by these local people is ironic. I personally would gladly trade the lives of 3 Afghan shepherds for the lives of 19 US Special Forces. The problem is: you can’t know that in advance. There have probably been a lot of shepherds killed who posed no threat, who held the same good will towards the US as the people who saved Luttrell. Others have probably been spared with no ill outcomes. Hindsight on one disastrous mission is not in any way proof that the ROE are unreasonable.

Here I am, a liberal, who basically agrees with Luttrell, being blamed for creating the situation that he survived. Yet he says that all of the members of the team had doubts about the mission. Why were those doubts not acted upon? Why did they not have a communications plan, a drone or plane keeping them in contact? Why didn’t they have a plan in case they were spotted by locals? Why wasn’t the Quick Reaction Force  (QRF) ready for insertion? Why didn’t they have a plan to insert them in the safest possible way?

I know hindsight is 20/20 and I know I have no business second guessing the Navy SEALS. Nothing goes right all the time. This was bad luck, somehow, and I personally hold Luttrell and his entire team blameless. They did the best they could and I doubt anyone could have done better. We’ll never know.

I only wish that Luttrell was a bit less accusatory towards half of the people of this country who supported his missions and his  buddies just as much as the other half. The worst sin we can make is deploying our service men and women without specific, achievable goals. We are duty-bound to scrutinize the violent arm of our country, the one that the Navy SEALS fulfill. I don’t understand why Luttrell seems to disagree with this.

Read the book. It’s a valuable insight into the front lines of Afghanistan. Men like Luttrell deserve our respect.


New Blog

My blog got hacked by some pimply fucktard with low self-esteem and friends who think he’s a loser. Even his parents hate him. So he took his rage out on my blog. Die in a fire, idiot.

But I’m back! I’ve tried to import my old posts. Let me know problems if you see them. Currently I’m running a default theme but I’ll fix that eventually.

Thank you for reading by blog! Hopefully Google will update all my links eventually.




As you can plainly see, I haven’t been blogging much lately. I still enjoy long(er) form writing and I intend to keep writing on this blog. I’m sure it will continue to emb and flow a bit. My RSS feed is still screwed up, so most people aren’t paying attention anyway! One of these days I’ll get that fixed up. You know the story about the cobbler’s kids having crappy shoes….

I am still sharing my thoughts, though, mainly on Twitter and a little on Google+. You know what to do!

Cooperation over competition

In another thread I am having a conversation with “carter”, who seems to be a smart and thoughtful person, and a fellow rocketeer, by the look of it. The following is a response to one of his comments that I felt deserved the spotlight of its own post, especially considering how rare I blog these days.

He said, among other things:

I’ll admit there is a sweet spot for taxation and regulation.

How should we figure out where the sweet spot is? This is perhaps my prime problem with the “small government” rhetoric of the Right. It would be lovely if we could set a certain policy, run the experiment and then rewind, use a different policy, run the experiment again, etc. and really truly find out the right amount of taxes and regulation to make for the strongest economy. We can’t do that.

So instead, like astronomers, we have to observe different experiments in action and then try to normalize them somehow and get our insights that way. What are the other experiments? They are the other countries that are also experimenting with varying degrees of taxes and regulations.

The odd part about this is that the US is an anomaly. There is no Westernized country more conservative than us. There are none with lower taxes. When you look at the other thriving economies of the world they all, every one of them, have more taxes and regulation.

The Right likes to point to this and say – see! We are on to something here in the USA! Less taxes and less regulation make for a stronger economy. Unfortunately that is a statistically insignificant sample of one. There are a lot of other factors that have contributed to the strength of the American economy besides the conservatism of the last few decades.

So I’m glad we agree – there is a sweet spot for the level of taxes and regulation. You think we have erred in one direction and me the other. I really try to imagine your view as correct. I do trust people to look after their own best interest. I do see how the government screws some things up.

The reason I end up disagreeing with you is this: homo sapiens rose above the bloody fray of survival of the fittest and started cooperating in larger and larger groups. While the law of the jungle certainly applies, a stronger “law” has led to the great success of our species: cooperation. We all do better when we all do better. I can’t escape this ideology and economists have been unable to prove me wrong. I think we should put our efforts into making government better (for we are the government, after all) rather than trying to dismantle it.

I have written elsewhere on this blog why I think progressive taxation is fair and smart. Moving from taxes to fees is regressive. For certain things, I think it is viable and useful. But our government is so more than a service provider.

I also agree that Amy’s child safety law had ridiculous unintended consequences.

Thanks for the great conversation.


I recently read Sebastien Junger’s book War. It was captivating because of the real life-or-death action and thought-provoking because of the deeper central idea. If you think about it, for the last 100,000 years, anatomically modern human beings have been struggling for survival. Many times, what was trying to kill them was other human beings. Junger quotes a statistic that 15% of pre-civilization human beings were killed by other human beings. Because of this, core to our culture and, to some extent, our nature, is the concept of the war party. Young men gathered together to go fight and perhaps die in defense of their people.

This is an interesting and powerful notion and Junger’s book brings it to life through the eyes of young soldiers stationed at remote outposts in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.

We see this instinct prevail in non-war ways, too. Men get together to hunt and fish, party or work and they bring to the dynamic these macho ideas of brotherhood and self-sacrifice that have been part of our existence since before we were human. To sacrifice for the tribe is the highest and most honored value. In spite of the seeming contradiction with “survival of the fittest” it appears that we are evolutionary descendants of those willing to sacrifice for tribe.

I’m going to Restrepo tonight, which is the documentary Junger made while writing this book, and I can’t wait. I’ll report back.

don't talk about sex

There is a weird disconnect going on. I love weird disconnects because they are saying something. I don’t know what this one is saying.

We all like sex. Our culture is permeated with sex. And yet we never talk about sex in a real way. We joke about it and we might share a few details with our best friend. But we never really talk about it. It’s off the table. I wonder why that is. How often do you and your partner have sex? What’s your approach to masturbation? Do you like oral sex? Do you swallow? Anal? Do you like to dress up? Or role play? Do you trim or shave your privates? What’s your favorite position(s)? How about a play-by-play of the last really great sex you’ve had?

All of these topics are off limits. We can all answer those questions. There are interesting thoughts that are associated with those sorts of topics. We could learn from each other, learn about each other and understand better this very weird overlay of sexuality that is a major part of the human story.

Some of you maybe think I’m some sort of a perv already because I broach these topics. Even though most of us are sexually active people, admitting that you take an interest in sex can be perceived negatively. In the wrong context, talking about even the most normal sexual acts can get you fired or sued.

Why is this?

I think there are interesting sexual topics that are under-discussed because of this weird disconnect. I’m not just talking about the sorts of preferential questions I mentioned above. Sex is deeply hardwired into our conscious and unconscious behavior and it is fascinating. But please don’t talk about it.

sparkfail had a sale. Everything was free, you only paid shipping on the first $100k they sold. They have a blog post congratulating themselves about it.

This is a hilarious act of denial. Their site was virtually unavailable during the sale. I was not able to accomplish a single thing at any point over the course of 90 minutes. Further, they encouraged people to put things in their shopping basket the night before but then they cleared all of those shopping baskets right before the sale. If you look at the twittersphere, for every happy person there is probably 10-50 unhappy people. sparkfun’s technical inability to keep up with interest turned what could have been a great promotion into a PR disaster.

And they congratulated themselves for it. They congratulated their IT department for it. Their system didn’t work for 99% of visitors and they are happy with that.

It’s fucking bizarre.

Let me add — I know how hard it is to scale for massive concurrency on a site. Sometimes surprises happen or weaknesses are revealed in big web operations. I’m forgiving of that. I’m not forgiving of bad planning or shoddy execution.

The bottom line: sparkfun achieved their goals. Customers did not. That is backwards.

My Life As I Remember It By Nora Dafoe

My Life As I Remember It
By Nora Dafoe

Chapter 1 – Childhood
My mother tells me this story about my birth. My dad was running a grain elevator at Pleasant Lake near Rugby, North Dakota. My mother cooked for the men that worked there. We lived in a house with a dirt floor. The rooms were divided by curtains. I was the fourth child. (Ed was 8, Mary was 6, and Katherine was 3.) Mom knew I was about to be born; she called to my father to come home and put up the heater. It was a cold and stormy day, November 12, 1915. The doctor’s name was Fisher. My mother was a midwife and delivered all the babies in every community, but when she had a baby she called a doctor. We were all born at home.
My first memory is when we lived on a place called Jerusalem. It was located on the Fort Totten Indian Reservation. It was a beautiful house on a hill; there were trees to the west and south. We picked June berries, choke cherries, goose berries, and wild plums. Devils Lake was west of the house; we used to swim there. It was a salty lake so it was easy to stay afloat on it.
My cousin, Alfred Hultgrin, came to stay with us because he was having trouble in school. Mom worked with him every night. He had to do his work before he could go out to play. The school was only one half mile away, a little east and north. The folks left this place because the land was so poor that they couldn’t make a living. They moved from there to the Swank farm near Hamar. This is where Ann was born.
I remember one time all the relatives were gathered together on a Sunday afternoon. This was an occasion many times a year. Walter, Mom’s brother, and Mabel, his wife, had five kids. Uncle Emil and Aunt Annie, mom’s sister, had eight kids. We had seven. We had been playing and Alfred had been teasing me. I always hated to be teased. Someone came out with a camera to take our picture. I didn’t want to be in it, but I had no choice. We were told to stand on the running board of the car. I was crying and put my arm over my face. We have that picture. I was very stubborn and had refused to be in it. Yet, in spite of my stubbornness, I guess I wanted to be in the picture, so I covered my face to conceal the tears.
I remember one time my mother had fixed the dinner buckets for the kids going to school. She used to make large white sour cream cookies. I sat watching her and asked for a cookie. She said there was only enough for the kids’ dinner buckets. Later in the evening I got into one of the pails and took a cookie. I crawled under a cot we had in the living room to eat it. It was discovered what I had done. I was pulled out by the leg and received a whopping good spanking. But, I remember the taste of that cookie; as a kid, I would say it was worth it.
I had looked forward to starting school. I loved watching the others do their homework. We loaded ourselves into the buggy and drove to the school two miles away. This school was west of our place on a very bad road. We drove on this road last year when Katherine was here and it is still a poor country road. The name of the school was Minco # 1. As we arrived at the school, someone came out and asked me if Ed was my brother or my cousin. I said, “My cousin.” Everyone laughed. I was so embarrassed that I refused to go into the school. I sat all day under the buggy. Miss Boyle was the teacher. My mom gave me a good talking to that night. From then on I loved school.
I was nine years old. We had all had the mumps. Ed had them so bad he almost died. My mother was pregnant and also had the mumps. The baby, Margaret, was born. Everything was fine until she was nine days old. She was born December 14 and died December 23. My mother was so sick. We had returned to school and came home this day to find the doctor there. My dad was holding the baby and crying. We all took turns holding Margaret and crying. She died that day. The funeral was Christmas Eve. There was no embalming in those days. The priest was angry because he had to come to Tolna on a stormy day. He lived in Lakota. He took it out on my dad. We were all heartsick. They decided we would not go to church in Tolna until that priest was removed. We joined the parish in Warwick. That is the reason Ann and I made our First Communion at the Mission in Fort Totten. We stayed there and studied for a week.
We had another baby two years later. He was born November 19. We were all looking forward to this baby because Margaret had died. We all came rushing downstairs in the morning to see baby Robert. They said the doctor had trouble in the process and the baby’s neck had been broken. How we cried. He was laid out in a box in the north bedroom. I can still remember how cute he looked.
My mother had a girl helping us by the name of Rose Wilhelm. Every night she stole my pillow. I disliked her as long as I can remember.
I attended country school for eight years. We walked spring and fall. We usually went barefoot and so did everyone else. Later, when the field work was done, we could use horses and go in the buggy until freeze up and later went in a covered-in sleigh. When the grass in the pasture was gone, I rode horseback to school and took the cattle with me. I would watch from a school window and go out and turn them around. After school I would take them home with me. We took our lunch and all ate out in the woods at noon. There was a large grove of trees east and south of the school. As we walked, we would run our legs off to get away from neighborhood bulls.
Another thing that frightened us was the gypsies. They came through, spring and fall, in their big white wagons. When we saw them coming, we would run home as fast as we could. They would take chickens, ducks, and anything else they could find. We were also told to never ride with strangers. Because of these things, we were fast runners at County Play Day. I won first prize for many years in the 100 yard dash and later won the races in the Eddy County Play Day.
Everyone took part in declamation and spelling contest. Two years in a row in seventh and eighth grades I attended the county spelling contest. I won first in the county and took part in the state contest. That was a thrill, my first big trip. The county superintendent took me; we attended the State Fair. I won sixth in the state. I went down on the word “dying”. I spelled the wrong one. I forgot to ask the pronouncer to give the definition. This was in Grand Forks in 1930.
There were always eight grades in school. The teacher combined 3 & 4, 5 & 6, and 7 & 8. There were usually from 30 to 40 kids in the school.
I played the pump organ for the students to march in, in the morning, and out, in the evening. I can still play the march that I played then. My brother, Bud, was very good on the guitar and won first place in a music contest.
We had one teacher, Roberta Hoffman, who taught us many folk dances. Some of them were Sailor’s Horn Pipe, Irish Jig, and the Minuet. We had costumes for each of these. I have a picture of myself in a minuet costume.
One time we had a run away with the covered-in sleigh. Ann sat in the doorway and wouldn’t jump. I ran behind screaming at her. In time the sleigh hit a telephone pole and the horses had to stop. She cried and cried.
We always had a Christmas program. The teacher used sheets for curtains. We also had a last day of school picnic. We had a big program. Then we always did the May Pole Dance. We had costumes and colored ribbons. There was always free ice cream bought by the School Board. At this program, I played the Hawaiian or steel guitar. If it rained on that last day there were many sad kids.
We graduated with the whole county at Minnewaukan. That was a big day. All of the eighth graders attended this.
When I was in the fifth grade, the teacher said that if I did the work of the sixth grade, she would pass me to the seventh. I passed all the tests, but she didn’t pass me to the seventh. I asked her why and she said, “I didn’t think you could do it.” I had trouble trusting the teachers after that. Later, when I attended high school, I took six subjects every year. At the end of three years, I was all done. They couldn’t stop me from graduation. I never told anyone what I was planning. I attended college one year and then started teaching. Actually, I should have just graduated from high school.
All of the Carroll children worked in the field and milked cows. Katherine and I used to shock grain and try to yodel. We got so we were pretty good. We would laugh so hard at each other. One time Mary and I were stacking sweet clover. We got so tired and would pull and cry. Sweet clover gets all tangled up.
One time, as I was herding cattle, they got away from me. I returned home and my dad said, “Don’t come home until you bring them with you.” I looked and looked; it became dark. I didn’t dare to go home. I rode my horse, Dan, up into the Blue Mountain area. I remembered reading in a book about a way to find animals. It said, “Get off the horse and look toward the horizon. There is usually some faint light coming through.” Sure enough, I saw the feet of the cattle, but when I tried to get on the horse, I couldn’t. The wolves and the coyotes were roaming and crying. Suddenly I remembered something else I had read. “Get the horses head down and get on over the neck, then jerk the bridle and up you go.” Sure enough, it worked. I gathered the cattle and hit for home. My parents were very frightened; my dad never made that ultimatum again.
Our Christmases were very good. My mother was a wonderful cook. We always had plenty to eat. My dad would make wooden toys for us, such as tops, boxes, and spinners. We would each receive one thing. We opened our gift Christmas Day. Sometimes we had our relatives over and sometimes our neighbors (Dell Willis).
The next important holiday was the Fourth of July. We would all go to one of the parks…Wood Lake, Stump Lake, or Red Willow. We would bring a big picnic lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, lots of pickles, and nectar. We would have to go home about five to milk the cows. Then the young folks would go back to the dance. Each family had only one car, so we would go with our brother, Ed, and meet the guys there. The date would be to be taken to supper. Supper (lunch) was always served at midnight.
When we were younger, we would get together at the farm. My grandfather and grandmother Anderson would come in their buggy. He would have a bunch of fireworks in the back.
One of the things I hated to do was baby-sit the younger ones. When you walk around a dark house out in the country carrying a lamp, it is pretty frightening. My parents were both very musical. My dad played the violin behind his back and under his leg and did a very good job. He also would entertain by doing a soft shoe dance. My mother would chord on the organ. They played for all of the dances in the community and also in the Hamar Hall. As I got older, I went along. Many times I played the accordion with them. My brother, Ed, played the guitar. Those were good memories.
One fall I had to stay home from school and plow. I was only nine years old and not very big. I would jump on the foot lever to get it out of the ground. You had to do this at the end of every furrow.
Feeding threshers was a big event. The big crew would move in. Sometimes they would stay for a couple of weeks, if it rained. My mom, with our help, did all the cooking. We usually served roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, pickles and pie for dinner. In the afternoon we took sandwiches and cake and a big pot of coffee out to the field. For supper we had fried salt pork, fried potatoes, vegetables, pickles, fresh bread and cake. Usually there were around a dozen men. It was exciting, but there were lots of dirty dishes to be done. We would have to carry the water in from the well, heat it on the cook stove, and use P&G soap. The water would get very greasy before we were done. We always kept the reservoir on the end of the stove full of water. As the cooking took place the water was heated.
Our Sundays were quite eventful. We would go to Mass in Tolna, nine miles away, and later Warwick, ten miles away. The dinner would be put in the oven before we left for church. What a good smell to come home to! In the afternoon my parents always took a nap. That meant we had to stay out of the house. We could read, but we couldn’t do any type of sewing on Sunday. (That was a sin.) Our farm was a gathering place for kids. We loved to skate. When we were little we made our skates out of gallon pail covers. We would play baseball, kick the can, pump pump pull away, or hide and go seek. About four o’clock my mom would have lunch ready for everyone. It was always fresh bread made on Saturday, cold meat sandwiches with large bologna, potato salad, jello made with bananas and whipped cream, and nectar. Then everyone would go home. It was then time for chores.
Every Christmas we sold Christmas Seals to help tuberculosis patients. The one who sold the most got a prize. I would always ride to Charley Harthrop’s farm and he would always turn me down. I knew he had money, so I never gave up. I never liked these people.

Chapter 2 – High School Days

The summer before I started high school in 1930, I was fourteen years old. My two sisters, Mary and Katherine, had made a batch of candy and took it upstairs to our bedroom and locked the door. (All five girls slept in one room, three in one bed and two in the other.) I wanted to get in and they wouldn’t let me. I started kicking, but it did no good. Finally, my foot went right through the door. My mom spanked me until she was played out and then called my dad. He brought the strap and also spanked until he had to quit. They tried to make me say that I was sorry. I refused because I thought my sisters were in the wrong. I remember saying, “You can spank me until you kill me, but I will never say I’m sorry.” Needless to say, that was my last spanking.
That fall I started high school in Hamar. I stayed with my grandparents who lived in Hamar. I had a small kerosene stove and cooked for myself. I brought food from home. Mom or Ed would take me in on Monday morning. I would walk home Friday after school.
Each fall Mom made us two new cotton dresses. She made our winter clothes from clothes my Aunt Kate sent from Canada. Kate was a maid for a very rich family. We had the most beautiful wool skirts and sweaters of anyone in the school. Audrey and Blair were the names of the kids Aunt Kate took care of.
There were only twenty-seven kids in high school. My class was the first to graduate from Hamar, 1933. Our main events in high school were basketball and singing. We won the county basketball championship when I was a senior and went to the regional where we got beat by one basket. I played both forward and guard. Every year we were in the County Music Contest. When I was a senior I won first place with a piano solo and first place playing a duet, and our quartet won first. Mrs. Cowie was our music teacher. She wasn’t a part of the school, but she helped us in her home. I took piano lessons from her when I was in the grades. Later, I took from Mrs. Dutee in Warwick. Mrs. Cowie told my mom that I learned faster than any other student she ever had.
All during high school I belonged to 4-H. Mrs. Rupert Odegaard was our leader. She was a dressmaker and so was mom, so I became a good sewer. My senior year I won the free week long trip to the State 4-H Conference in Fargo. We stayed at the Powers Hotel. I was so happy. That is where I got my first hair permanent. My teacher the next Monday in school said “Look at that fuzz.” I was mad at her for days. I was feeling pretty special until then.
We always did a lot of ice skating and dancing. Every Friday night there was a dance someplace. We would go to Hamar, Tolna, Pekin, or McVille. Usually one of our brothers would take a load of girls. We would always have dances promised ahead. During summer vacation we would attend either dances at Red Willow, Wood Lake, or Stump Lake, or barn dances at Kavanaugh’s barn near Devil’s Lake. That is where Katherine met Larry. We always met our dates at the dance. There was always a lot of drinking and fighting outside, so we had orders to never leave the hall or barn unless in a group to go to the outside biffy. We were forbidden to drink and none of us ever did. Only bad girls did that.
I made high school in three years. I was anxious to get making money. I took six subjects each year and challenged one, a half year of grammar. We wrote State Examinations and I passed.
We had our senior banquet in New Rockford. Mom had made me a long grey crepe de chine dress, trimmed with pink. (Later, that was my formal for college.) We didn’t have a prom because none of our boys danced, but I attended the prom in Tolna with a Schindele.
During my senior year in high school, my brother, Ed, took Ann and me to Hamar on Monday morning, April 10, 1933. My grandfather was lying dead on the floor. Grandma had been staying out on the farm because she was sick. I truly loved my grandfather. He came from Sweden. He would talk to me for hours about coming over on the boat and being a butcher in Minneapolis. Grandma also came over all alone when she was nine. She came to an aunt in Minneapolis. She worked in a laundry where she used the fluting iron on starched shirts. There they met and married.
The summer after I graduated, I wanted to earn money to go to college. I worked on Dr. Drew’s farm for Mrs. Warren. We cooked and washed for eighteen men. She washed by hand. She did the washing; I hung up the clothes and ironed the men’s shirts. We got up at five in the morning and worked until ten at night. The only time I got off was Sunday afternoon. Usually on Sunday, a bunch of us would go roller skating at Wood Lake. There I met some boys from New Rockford who told me about the college at Valley City. (My sisters had gone to Mayville College and didn’t get jobs. Mary did teach her second year, but Katherine never did teach.) I earned three dollars a week at Warrens.
Before I go any further…what and why did I herd the cattle? I started doing this about the age of 9. Mary, Katherine, and Ed worked in the fields. It was beginning to be the dry years. The pasture would dry up and there wouldn’t be any grass for the cattle. I would graze them along the roads to a tree claim near the school (Minco) or go up to Blue Mountain about three miles away. I rode a horse and took a sack lunch, a pail of water, a good book, and a piece of twine to snare gophers. (To snare a gopher, we made a slip knot, put the circle over the hole and, when the gopher put his head up, pulled fast, caught him and hit him with a stick to kill him.) We could sell gopher tails for a half cent a piece. In those days an ice cream cone cost a nickel. I would be gone all day. I always loved to read. Some of the books that I read many times were Little Women, Black Beauty, Call of the Wild, Rover Boys, and many Zane Grey books.
Times kept getting harder; the dry years and sadness hit. In the fall of 1929, the banks were closed. I remember Ed had been taking in wheat each day and bringing home coal for the winter. He hadn’t paid the coal bill and planned to do it the next day. We lost the money we had in the bank and, besides, the bills weren’t paid. Everyone lost except the banks and bank directors.
I remember being in the front room when the collector for the bank in Crary came. The folks had borrowed money there. The debt was six hundred dollars. My folks had only two hundred that they could pay. I heard the banker say, “Of course, that will only pay the interest.” I was good in math and knew different, but in those days kids were taught to not butt in, as it was called. I thought at the time, “I’m going to get an education. Nobody will ever do that to me!”
I used to haul grain from the threshing rig to town. We used wagons and a team of horses. I would make three trips a day to Hamar. I got so that I knew how much dockage there would be in a load of wheat. One time the elevator man said it was 18%. Again I was angry and knew I would handle my life in a better way.
All of these things led to our losing the farm. We had 320 acres. The bad years hit and we lost the farm for three years taxes.
The folks moved to Hamar in the fall of 1935. My grandparents owned a little place across from the school. My mom took care of my grandmother, so she got the house. She took in roomers and boarders to make a living. There was a small barn there, so she had a couple of cows and sold milk and cream. She also had chickens to eat and also sold eggs. Those days, my dad was sick with very bad arthritis and was in bed most of the time.
Many farm kids had to learn to milk cows. That was a job I hated. The cow would switch her tail and it would hit you in the face as your hands were busy milking. In busy seasons we girls would have to do the chores. My hands would be so tired after milking five or six cows and then carrying two big pails of milk into the back shed and separating it in the separator. The skim milk would come out one spout and the cream the other. We used what cream we needed (lots of whipped cream on everything) and the rest was sold to buy groceries and pay the bills. We usually took our cream to Fairmont Creamery in Devils Lake and would bring home five gallons of ice cream in a big freezer to be eaten over the weekend. Three or four of us went with the folks each time. We would have hot beef sandwiches at Grandma’s Eat Shop. Those things were our reward for working so hard.
The folks usually took us to the County Fair and to the Ringling Brothers Circus. There were many things we couldn’t do, but we were luckier than a lot of kids. We always had a lot of music in our lives. My dad played violin and my mother the pump organ. They played for all of the country dances. Later, Ed, Katherine and I played with them…Ed, guitar, Katherine, violin, and me, accordion.

Chapter 3
October, 2002
Many years later I found this book and found the time I quit writing. I am now 86, soon to be 87.
The day the banks closed was like a hit in the head. My brother, Ed, had been to town to get the last load of coal for the winter. He was supposed to write a check and pay the bills. He had decided to do it the next day. That day the banks closed! Coal not paid for, a fire had burned our hay stacks, no feed for the cattle. My parents were crushed. My brother had stayed at home to help through the depression. He left soon after; he was in his twenties. The President of the United States started the Conservation Corps. One member of a family could work and send the money home to help the family.
I started high school in Hamar. My grandparents lived there. I was determined to graduate in three years. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. My third year I had taken all the subjects and passed the County Tests. They couldn’t stop me.
I worked for three months on Dr. Drew’s farm, helping cook and wash for 18 men. I made $3.00 a week. I entered college at Valley City State. I went one year and then got a school to teach at Rocky Mountain, near Sheyenne, North Dakota, where I met Art. Now I could help the folks.
Just before my second year of teaching, my parents and Grandma Anderson moved into Grandpa’s house, a little house across from the school. Grandma slept in their bedroom. Mom roomed Ted Nelson and Jimmy Flaagan. She made ten dollars a month. It helped them keep alive. They had a cow and chickens. We all helped what we could, but everyone was broke.
I taught a country school near New Rockford for two and a half years. Art and I saved money so we could go back to school. We walked three miles to school for $80 a month. We went to see the folks whenever we could. I had no transportation; Art came up weekends and we went to see his folks at Sheyenne and mom and dad in Hamar. My dad wasn’t well. Grandma died the year we went back to school in Valley City. It was a rough life for the folks. “Work hard all your life and end up this way.”
During the next year, we moved to Forman with Avis, 2 years old, and Peggy, one year old. A so, so life. We lived in a small place. Art was Principal of the school and made $110. Try to feed four on this.
We then moved to Sutton. Art taught for five years and I taught for two. At that time, married women didn’t teach unless you kept it quiet or the school needed you. They needed me so they asked me to teach.
When Grandma got sick she moved in with the folks on the farm. Ann and I stayed with Grandpa in town and went to school. One Monday morning we walked into the house and found Grandpa lying on the floor by his bed, dead from a heart attack. Then one year later, the folks moved to town.

Chapter 4
College Days
The next year, I attended Valley City State Normal College. I loved every minute of it. I roomed with Betty Paulson first and then Agnes Kjelland. Agnes and I are still friends. She lives in Leisure World and we live in Fountain of the Sun in Mesa, Arizona. We have come a long ways for two poor little country girls.
I loved college life and would have loved to go four years, but I needed to get to work. I lived at Foster’s rooming house with eighteen other girls. We cooked for ourselves. Mom sent me canned meat, butter, and large sour cream cookies. My allowance was $1 a week to buy bread at 5 cents a loaf, and, once in awhile, a 25 cent hamburger.
I dated lots of boys and had a very good time. My teacher, Mrs. Benson, told my mom I was a very smart student, so I just had to go to college. Here I am many years later with a Master’s Degree.
I did my student teaching at a school named Norma. It was hard work. I built the fires in the morning, taught several classes, and cleaned the school after school. My supervisor, Sebby, had it pretty easy. Later in my life I had several student teachers. I gave them guidance and tips for their own classrooms.
At the end of that year, my first year of college, the folks and Katherine picked me up at Valley City and we drove to Hankinson and she was married to Larry Fay. She had one year of college, but she never taught. Mary had gone back to college to get her Standard at Mayville. For some reason, I preferred Valley City. My whole life would have been different (if I hadn’t gone to V.C.) There I met many friends and on Hobo Day, on a blind date with Mel Hill, I was introduced to Art. The next fall I went to teach his home school. I danced with him and he bought my basket at my school basket social. Sixty-five years later I am writing this story. The choices we make in life determine who we are and what we become.
The summer after Katherine’s marriage, Ann, Bud and I took care of the crop. I had been to summer school in Valley City and came home and went into the harvest field. Bud cut the wheat and Ann and I shocked it. Then my uncle came with a threshing machine. When my folks paid the bill, there was nothing left. My mom had delivered all their children at no cost to them. I wondered how they could take the whole crop, but they did. I guess a midwife’s labor was free. Mom delivered all the babies in our community. Then she had to have a doctor when she needed help.
That fall, I changed jobs and went to Superior Township for $80 a month. I stayed at Settelmeyers. I ran into their baby, Kent, here at Fountain of the Sun many years later. I stayed there for 2 ½ years, then later, a half year. I was very lonely in this school. My first school everyone was friendly and entertained the teacher.
By the end of the second half year, we had Avis and Peggy and moved to Forman. We had some good friends there… Crandalls and Bettings and Tillyahs. We played bridge. No money, so you make do. They needed a teacher, so even though I was married, they asked me, but I didn’t teach there.
Art was the principal in Forman. We stayed two years. There was a little conflict between Art and the superintendent. Rosscup was a little jealous of Art, so we left and moved to Sutton. We rented a little old house and later found a larger one. We fixed it up and then she raised the rent.
We had many friends in Sutton, especially Bob Paintners and Manvel Andersons, and later, Kolpins. Art was superintendent for five year, then we needed more money so he took the elevator job. That’s when I went back to teaching. Only one in a family could teach; the community thought that was too much money for one family. I made $110 a month; there was no raise the second year. We paid $40 a month for a baby sitter, but we saved $1000 between the two of us, Art in the elevator and me teaching. This money was used to buy our first house we ever owned when we moved to Valley City.
My violin teacher, Knute Froysa, sold us their house for $10,000. We loved the house. I took in roomers. We rented out three of the five bedrooms and gradually became home owners. This house had our first bathroom and running water. By this time we had four kids, Avis, Peggy, Denny and Carroll. I went back to college, got my degree, and taught in Valley City for thirty years.

Chapter 5
Births of Our Four Kids

We were spending the summer at High Stantons. Avis was an easy baby. I started having cramps about four in the morning. Art and I drove into New Rockford. I was in the hospital for ten days, a nice long rest. Stantons worshipped Avis and spoiled her.
In the fall we moved to North Valley and lived in a little house on a farm. Art taught the Getchell school. At Christmas time my old Settelmeyer school fired their teacher and called to see if I would come back. We wanted to go back to school, so I took the job. Stantons took Avis for the next five months. They called her Molly. Along in March I discovered I was pregnant. I didn’t tell anyone for fear I’d lose my job. After school closed for the year Avis and I moved back to our little house. Mary stayed with us and drove into Valley City and she and Art went to school.
On August 27, Peggy was born, fourteen months after Avis. My mom had come down to stay with us. Art was out working on a threshing rig. Mom called the doctor and he came out from Valley City because there was staff infection in the hospital. Peggy was quite an easy birth and she was a good baby.
Then we found two rooms in Valley City, Sunde Apartments, and both of us went to school. We had no furniture, just an old bedstead from the attic and a mattress we bought for $3. We had a crib for Avis and a bassinet for Peggy. We also had an old table and some orange crates for shelves. We made it. I got my Standard Degree and Art got his Bachelors Degree. He worked every night from 4 until 12 at the dry cleaners. He made enough to pay our $15 rent. Art got a scholarship and I drew out my teacher’s retirement to pay our tuition. Everyone was so good to us.
On to Forman. That story is in another section of this memoir. Then on to Sutton for seven years. Denny was born when we were there. There was so much snow that I went up to New Rockford on the train and stayed at Mabel Marins. Art came up on Good Friday with Avis and Peggy. Denny was a big baby at 10 ½ pounds, so he was a forced birth. Art about split his ribs to have a son. Then the war was on. My brother, Bud, was in the 7th Army as a gunner and fought his way through Europe.
Before we left Sutton, Carroll was born, another cute little baby. She was a good baby, except right at first. She wanted to be with me wherever I went. When I went back to teaching in Sutton, she didn’t like her babysitter, so we took her up to Hamar and she stayed with my folks.
Art has written stories about each of the children and sent it to them. In these stories, he covered most of the events they took part in.
While Carroll was a baby, Art was drafted. He went to Fort Snelling and passed. They gave him a card that said if he ever needed to go they wanted him to work in science. The rules changed, so married men over thirty with four children were not needed.
We moved to Valley City. I returned to school and took Carroll with me. She and I were voted the “Outstanding Student” that year.
The folks were coming down to see our home. Art was going to get them. My dad’s birthday was near, May 7. We got a call that he had fallen over dead. Carroll was staying there and ran for help. This happened May 5. It was a sad time for us. Mom tried to stay in Hamar, but she couldn’t stand the loneliness, so she moved in with us.
Four years later, mom met Frank Braulick and married him. They had fifteen years together. Every Sunday they got in their little gray car and came to our house for Sunday dinner. Then they would go home and rest. She was 64 and he was 69. We had a nice little wedding for them followed by breakfast at our house. Then, Leonard and Cedonia Braulick, Art and I, took them to the “Treetop Room” in Moorhead. Whenever I hear “Melody of Love” I think about them.
Four years later, Ann, Ricky and Jerry Sletten came to visit us. Ann had Post Partum Blues. She was with us for six week. One day at Braulick’s house, she was cleaning a spot on her dress with gasoline in the basement and she caught on fire. She inhaled the gas fumes as she put her hands over her face to protect it. She died the next day, a terrible death. The school closed, out of respect for me, for the funeral. Ann was my friend; we were confirmed together. We kept Ricky for two years, then Harold married again and came and took him. Harold’s sister took Jerry, the baby.
Now, several years later, Ricky has killed himself. He left two beautiful daughters and a grandchild. He and his wife were separating and he couldn’t handle it. Peggy and Dale, Art and I went to the funeral in California. Poor Ricky. I wish he’d stayed with us.

Chapter 6
Back to Work
Mom was living with us in Valley City, so I decided to look for a job. I called the school to do substitute teaching. I taught sixth grade for a few days. They liked me, so when an opening appeared in the fourth grade, I finished the year and then was hired full time. What a break! At that time married women weren’t hired. I taught fourth grade for fourteen years. I loved that age, but I was anxious to explore other ideas. I took a course from a man who wrote on my paper, “Why don’t you go into counseling?” That was my answer. I attended evening classes and finally three summers at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and received my Masters in Counseling.
I started the idea of elementary counseling in North Dakota. I visited Norma Randolph in California and then had a workshop for the teachers in Valley City so I could involve them. I worked in this area for sixteen years and ended up receiving the Glen Dolan award as Outstanding Guidance Counselor.
My granddaughter, Gayle Klinkhammer Nelson, is carrying on the tradition as she is an elementary counselor in Jamestown.

Chapter 7
Graduation of our Kids
Avis and Peggy graduated from St. Catherine’s High School the same year, 1955. Peggy made two grades in third and fourth grade. They were in the same room. They have always been good friends. Avis went into a nursing program right in Valley City; she became May Queen. Peggy went to Valley City State and became a Homecoming Queen attendant and received many other honors. Both of them were good students. It was nice to have both of them in Valley City.
Denny graduated from St. Catherine’s in 1959. He was voted Outstanding Boy. Carroll graduated from St. Catherine’s in 1962. Her top honor was Homecoming Queen. I missed it as we were at the Teachers Convention.
We started the band at St. Catherine’s. We didn’t want to send our kids there when there wasn’t a band. Denny had gotten a start on the cornet at the College School. Father Dawson said, “Okay, start one.” So we did. It gave all the kids a start in music. They all took band in college. Denny and Peggy became music majors. Carroll was also in the band, but she majored in English, library and speech.

Chapter 8
Our Many Trips
We took our four kids on many trips. Seeing the country is part of education. My whole family left North Dakota as they married. They all moved to California. The Depression had forced our family to leave the farm. There was no hay for the cattle, no rain for the crops, so they left. I was lucky and had a cute school to teach. So Art and I stayed with our folks.
As we made a little money teaching, we would go to California to see my four sisters and two brothers. We stayed in motels and cooked our own meals and made the trip in three or four days. We visited Bud, My World War II brother; my sister, Gertrude and her two kids; Ann and her two boys; Kate and her two girls; Mary and her two boys and a girl; and Ed and his boy and girl. Now, in 2002, they are all dead except Gertrude.
We made many trips to California and saw many beautiful things along the way…Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park, Old Faithful, and the Black Hills, besides many memories with each family. Now I still visit with some of the nieces and nephews and this is 2002. Diane and Gertrude came to the lake. Eleanor and her husband came to Arizona. Donald and his wife spent some time here last winter and life goes on.
Canada, 1950
I don’t know why we didn’t take a trip to eastern Canada sooner. My dad, John Thomas Carroll, was born in Tarrelton, near Oshawa, Canada. He had one brother, Dan, and three sisters, Kate, Nellie, and Mary. Nellie died young. After my dad’s parents died, the oldest son inherited the farm, so the rest had to get out. The girls went to work for different people, but my dad took his violin and migrated to the United States. He stopped on the Iron Range in Minnesota, worked in the mines, and, later became a logger and rode the logs down the river. He finally ended up in North Dakota. He stayed at Boyles, friends of his cousins, the Beauclairs. He met my mom, Selma Anderson, and they married. Thus we began.
Pa died in 1949. I was so sorry we didn’t make the trip sooner. We took mom and our family of six and went to eastern Canada. We spent most of our time with Aunt Kate. She had married a widow with older kids. We went to see Aunt Mary Halliday. They had a convenience store in Oshawa. They loved our kids and later came to see us in North Dakota. They had a son, Cleve. Uncle Dan was dead, but we met and liked the Carroll relatives.
Art and I took a trip to California with Kenny, Carroll, Mark, Peggy and David Berntson. Along the way we stayed in motels and cooked some of our meals. One place we really wanted to see was the Grand Canyon. We arrived as the sun went down so we couldn’t see the canyon. All the lodgings were full, so we all stayed in the station wagon and slept as well as we could. We got up at 4:00 A.M., walked down to the rim of the canyon and watched the sun rise. It was beautiful and, needless to say, we were thrilled.
Our destination was the Disneyland Theme Park in Anaheim, California. We loved Small World and the other attractions and were happy to be there for the 75th Birthday celebration. It was so crowed, but we had a wonderful time.
On our way home, we visited our California relatives. Art and I stayed first with Mary’s family and then with Kate. Carroll and her family spent most of their time at Mary’s in Los Gatos.
World’s Fair in Knoxville
Another trip we took with Berntsons was to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. We all stayed in a campground in a foldout camper (Ken and David slept in the station wagon.) Again we were crowded, but we enjoyed the many international exhibits at the Fair. We even had a police escort one night when we got lost.
On the way home we visited Opreyland in Nashville. We saw many good shows, but the one that the kids really enjoyed seeing was Loni Anderson. Carroll said that when Loni walked on stage, it was like turning on the light; she was just glamorous. Such is fame.
Our camping place wasn’t very nice, but you can’t let one incident spoil your whole vacation. “This too shall pass.” The kids were very good.
Alaska, 1967
Peggy and Dale Koppelman and Art and I drove to Alaska. Dale’s parents and Avis took care of the three kids. Kurt was a baby. Peggy had some female trouble, so some rest was recommended.
We drove to Prince Rupert and took a ferry. The sights were beautiful. We slept on the ferry, car and all. Then we had the car to drive to Don’s in Anchorage.
We had many trips while in Alaska. Don and Lois Dafoe and we four went fishing for salmon. We stayed in their cabin in the woods for three or four days. I was so cold I never wanted to go to Alaska again.
While we were in Alaska, we were in an earthquake. The dishes moved in Lois’s china cabinet. The ceiling lamp also swayed. I counted it almost six figures. Before we arrived in Anchorage, they had had a bad quake. One area had slid right into the ocean.
We also rode on the Moose Goose, a small trip that took us to see some of the sights. We went out on an ice flow or glacier. You can almost see it move across the land. After about three weeks, we drove home on the Alaska Highway. We drove straight through.
Eastern United States
We had been saving money for this trip. Three weeks was quite a while. We drove and stayed in motels, made coffee and sandwiches, and did some cooking.
We stopped at Niagra Falls. What a thrill. Denny and Carroll were a little scared when we rode on the Maid of the Mist below the falls. We drove on to New York City. We stayed on the outskirts in a motel and came into Manhattan each day.
Some friends of ours, Myrtle and Don Lawrence and family, lived in Brooklyn. We spent one day with them and went to Coney Island. This was the first time I had eaten scones. So good. Two soldiers tried to pick up Avis and Peggy at the Statue of Liberty, but we said not this time. We spent a lot of time checking the emigrants’ part wondering how my grandparents made it when they were so young. Grandma Cecelia Anderson came alone at the age of nine. Grandpa Pete Anderson had come earlier. Later they met in Minneapolis and married. Later they move to North Dakota.
Carroll, Peggy and I went to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes while Avis, Dennis and Art took the subway to see a ball game.
On the way home, we stopped at G.T.A. and had a feast. You don’t order big meals with six people. We finally returned home and got company from Canada the same day, one day early. Ouch!
Trips with the Grandchildren
We took all of our grandchildren on special trips when they were ten to twelve years old. Our deal with the kids was that we would pay for everything except their spending money. They needed to have some responsibility.
Our first trip was with Gayle Klinkhammer and Lori Koppelman. We went east and to Disneyworld in Florida. They could ride as much as they could get on. They would ride, run back and get in line and ride again. We went to see the Kennedy Center where they shot off the missiles. We planned to go to New Orleans, but the girls decided they had seen enough.
The next trip was with Dennis Klinkhammer and Michael Koppelman. Art and I were sent by the Lions Club to the Black Hills. We took our pop-up camper and took the two boys. We saw all the sights, the Presidents, the “Story of Christmas”, the Passion Play, and many other things. I fell out of the camper and cut my lip with a knife. Needless to say, we were all frightened.
The next trip was arranged for Kurt Koppelman, Connie Dafoe, and Mark Berntson. At first the two boys thought it would be better to just take them. Grandma stepped in and said, “Connie goes.” They all three had a good time. We went to Six Flags, Chicago, and the Arch at St. Louis. Art and I enjoyed these trips, too, because we chose new areas for us too.
Peggy Berntson and Rob Dafoe took the next trip. They had always been good friends. We went to see the beginning of the Ringling Brothers Circus. There were too many smells, but they enjoyed all the circus machinery. We also stopped at the Wisconsin Dells. This is a beautiful place. I think we saw everything. One special thing they liked was the bumper cars. Just before we left, Rob said, “I’m supposed to treat you.” I said, “You don’t have to.” He quickly said, “Wait a minute.” And he ran back and spent the money.
The next trip was with Nancy Klinkhammer and David Berntson. We went to Valley Fair. They were game for everything and did all the rides. They were a little younger than the others had been. I went with them on the Log Flume water slide. Going down near the bottom, we hit a bump. I thought I was going to die it hurt so much. I tied my ribs with the strap off my purse, so that ended the rides for me.
The last trip was for Kim Dafoe. We bought her ticket to Alaska to visit with her sister, Connie, and family. She has become very close to Connie. We thought the trip would be too hard on us. By that time I had a bad back and Art had had heart surgery. But Kim got her trip.
After Art and I retired, he and I and Peggy and Dale went on a trip to Europe. Art and I had been there before on a tour (1972). The first place we landed was London. We hurried and bought tickets to see “Miss Saigon.” It was wonderful. In Paris we went to see a show that cost us a hundred dollars. Once you arrive at a place, you will never be there again, so spend it.
We went to Monte Carlo; it had changed. The gambling casinos were different. The landscape was beautiful. Princess Grace lived here. What a life. We attended an Italian dinner in Rome. One person on our tour got up and danced. Everything was Italian. We saw the fountain where “Three Coins in a Fountain” was filmed. Even though it was dry, we tossed coins in it. We laughed and laughed and Dale took a picture.
When we were getting ready to leave at a sort of airport, Peggy and I thought we wanted to pick up a few things. Dale and Art went down the steps at the air port. We didn’t know they had gone. We asked the men at the gate. We couldn’t understand them. I was scared. Finally we went down the stairs and found them.
It was a wonderful trip.

Chapter 9
Our Children’s Weddings

Avis had met Tom Klinkhammer. Yes, I introduced them. I taught at Ritchie Elementary and Tom was teaching vocational education at the high school. I happened to sit at the same table eating lunch one day at school. I said, “Avis has a nurses’ formal coming up. Would you like to meet her and be her date?” They went to that dance, then the high school prom, and were married the day after Christmas.
The day of the wedding, December 26, 1959, was a bad day because there had been a storm and all the roads were icy. None of the relatives from New Rockford and other out of town places could make it.
The wedding turned out very nice. Avis had bought a beautiful dress. The bridesmaids had red iridescent dresses. Peggy and Carroll were attendants and Denny was an usher. Pat Ludwig was also a bridesmaid.
I also had a red dress. Mom and Frank were there. The reception was at the church. The meal was at our house. Mabel Hill and Charlotte Gessner helped me make the food and serve it.
Avis and Tom left on their honeymoon, but didn’t get very far because of the slippery roads. They both had to be back to work. Avis was nursing and Tom was teaching. So were all the rest of us. Tom’s folks finally made it in spite of the storm.
Peggy and Dale Koppelman’s wedding took place on a rainy day. She and Dale went to college together in Valley City. Peggy went to teach in Hazen, ND. While there she became “Miss Hazen” and entered the Miss North Dakota contest. She did a wonderful job with her tap dancing, but only one person can be the winner.
The wedding took place on a very rainy, cool day. We had tables set up in our back yard, flowers, river and all, but had to eat in the house. I had forgotten to plug in the chicken hot dish, so I had to go back, plug it in, and be late for the wedding.
Peggy wore the same dress that Avis had. Her bridesmaids were Barbara Kelly, Avis, and Carroll. Laverne and I almost had matching dresses, dark tan with white flowers. Many relatives attended, including mom and Frank.
They went on a honeymoon trip to the Black Hills of SD and stayed at a place they had seen before, Sylvan Lake.
They went to Ashley to teach. Peg was an English teacher and Dale was music. (This is written in November, 2002, so I have forgotten some of the happenings. Peggy got her Masters and became a librarian.)
Denny met Paula Oltman when he was teaching in Hecla, South Dakota. The wedding was in August, 1966, in Valley City. The reception was at the Country Club. The dinner was at our house. Mrs. Oltman brought food. Paula was a beautiful young girl. In their second year of marriage she was riding a horse, was bucked off, and had many severe injuries. Life was one operation after another. Finally, they were divorced. They had two children, Connie and Rob.
About two years later, Denny met Denise Forness, another very beautiful girl, and they were married. They had a cute house in Aberdeen and, eventually, Kim was born. Denny had Connie and Rob also. For some reason this marriage dissolved and he ended up in Arizona. Connie was married and Rob had joined the Navy. A little girl needs her mother, so Kim stayed with Denise.
Denny taught for two years at Queen Creek, Arizona, and met Darlene. They were married in Las Vegas. They have rented here in Fountain of the Sun, but just recently have bought into the park. It is nice for us to have them here. Now, the question is, “How long will we be here?” Art has macular degeneration and we are doctoring about this and thinking every day, “What next?”
Carroll did not wear the same wedding dress. She was teaching at this time and wanted her own. Mom said, “I guess she can have it if she wants to.” Mom died two days before Carroll’s oldest son, Mark, was born.
Carroll and Ken Berntson had their wedding on April 1, 1967. The EBC Hit Parade was on and all their friends were back for it. Kenny played in the Hit Parade band the week, and even the night, of their wedding. For a change, we had a nice day. We had made flower decorations and pastel cloths for all the card tables at the Elks where the reception was held. Everything turned out fine. Mom and Frank and many relatives attended the wedding.
Because it was Hit Parade time, Carroll and Ken didn’t have a honeymoon at that time. She went back to teaching at Agassiz Junior High in Fargo and he went back to teaching in Buffalo. Carroll had just been Miss Valley City and attended the Miss North Dakota event in Bismarck.
(Nov. 14, 2002. They have both retired from teaching and are living in Fargo. Kenny works for Schmitt Music and Carroll baby-sits for her daughter, Peggy’s, children, Ty and Jada, in an emergency.)

Chapter 10
My Friends
In grade school we attended school at Minco Valley, a rural school near Hamar, North Dakota. We walked two miles to school. There were seven kids, first Ed, Mary, Katherine and I, then the older ones graduated and it was I, Nora, Ann, Bud, and Gertrude. Ann always stuck close to me.
My friends were Berna Jarme and Helen Halstead. My teacher in the First Grade was Miss Boyle. I sat under the buggy all day and cried because someone had made fun of me for saying Ed was my cousin. I ended up skipping a grade, but really didn’t, so I did high school in three years. I was anxious to start making money. I did spell in the State Spelling Contest at the fair in Grand Forks.
I attended high school in Hamar. I played basketball and played in the regional. We won second. I also attended the country music contests in New Rockford. I won first playing a duet, “Robin’s Return,” with Alvira Quam. We always won first in a quartet.
My best friends were Ila Christofferson and Iris Brudeseth. I stayed with my grandparents, Cecelia and Peter Anderson. They had migrated from Stockholm, Sweden.
Then I attended Valley City College for one year. I loved it, but finished going to summer school and later if life two years. We had moved to Valley City. My Freshman year my friends were Myrtle Cartwright, Madeline O’Keefe, and Agnes Kjelland. I hooked up with Agnes again in Arizona.
Later, as we returned to Valley City and I returned to college, my friends were all music students because I was majoring in music. They were Jim Ployar, Lloyd Nelson, and Star. I see Starr here at the alumni gatherings.
When I went to graduate school, Leone Osmon and I ate together every noon and I had coffee every night with Juanita Leason.
In my first teaching job, I really didn’t have a friend. I spent most weekends at Stantons. In Superior Township for 2 ½ years, it was Mary Settelmeyer and Mrs. ?. In Forman, where Art taught and I stayed home with Avis and Peggy, my friends were Lois Crandall, and Betting. We had a bridge club. In Sutton my best friends were Elayne Kolpin, Lillian Paintner, and some neighbors. In Valley City, I had many friends. I taught there for thirty years. Church friends were Marie Ukstead, Evelyn Sherman, and Ann Loh. Other friends, usually parents of children I taught were Mabel Hill, the best (I taught her both her daughters), Norma Ludvigson (I taught two of her daughters), Charlotte Gessner (taught her two daughters), Lorraine Ludwig (taught her son and daughter), McCrea, Noles and others.
After retirement my best friends are my daughters, Avis in Valley City, Peggy at the lake, and Carroll in Lisbon and Fargo, and now we’re in Mesa and Denny has developed into one of my best friends.
All the years we lived in Valley City I spent a great deal of time with Avis. It was good having a daughter in town. We always respected each other’s privacy. We made dinner dates etc., but didn’t just drop in to eat. We were both working, me teaching and Avis was a nurse.
In Valley City my father had died and mom was living with us. She said she just cound not stay alone in Hamar. We had a big house, so we welcomed her. Later she met Frank Braulick, they married and had fifteen happy years together. She also was my friend.
My mom helped me get my education, even taking me to town in the hay rack. I stayed with my grandparents from Sweden in Hamar. Later my teacher, Mrs. Benson, told my mother that I must go to college. I cooked for myself. She sent me canned beef, butter, and homemade cookies as often as I needed food. Bread was 5 cents a loaf, oranges 1 cent a piece. The whole year cost me only ? Tuition was 12 dollars a quarter. My dad wasn’t well, but he helped on the farm. These were the depression years.

Chapter 11
My Mom
From an early age, I loved to be half sick. Then I could sleep at the foot of the folks’ bed. My mom would move her feet, we’d take our pillow, and cuddle in.
We walked two miles to Ninco? School. I became a good runner because we had to run to get away from the neighbor’s bull. In winter we drove ourselves in a covered-in sleigh. In fall and spring, we rode horseback and herded the cattle on the way. When we arrived home to a cozy fire, there was always a treat, either left over pancakes or mom had baked. She baked seventeen loaves of bread twice a week. Yummy to eat with syrup or honey. We raised bees and had three new hives a year. We stored them in their hives in the dirt basement. We also stored 100 bushels of potatoes, carrots in sand, and eggs in egg crates.
Who did all this work? My mom! She also made all of the clothes for her seven children. She was a dress maker. She also sewed for others. Then she was also a mid-wife and delivered all the babies in our area. Most families had five to as high as nine children, but when mom had a baby, the doctor was called and she’d have to hire a woman to help for a few days. For the neighbors, her services were free.
Grade school in a rural school was cook as the kids say now. I spelled in a state spelling contest in Grand Forks. I made a dumb mistake, so I only won fifth. Mom took me to Minnewaukan to compete in a music contest. I won in piano.
Later, when I attended high school in Hamar, staying with my grandparents, mom often took me into town in the ray rack. We lived five miles away. Then on the way home, she would stop at the tree claim and load a load of hay to take home for the cattle. My dad was home to do the chores and to take care of my grandmother. Ann, my sister, and I stayed with grandpa. He owned the pool hall and spent every night playing poker.
I finished high school in three years. The depression had arrived and I was anxious to make money. The folks had been swindled out of the farm. No one was going to do that to me. Later, as I became a counselor, I told my classes how and when and why I decided to get a good education.
Mom was my person to admire and help. After my dad died, she tried it alone. After a year she came to live with us in Valley City. My thanks from her was, “I never thought I’d have it so nice.”

On Happiness

I heard a great speaker on MPR — Daniel Gilbert talking about happiness. I highly recommend that you listen to it. A lot of things in the talk struck me and kept me thinking.

In particular, he talks about how married people are happier than unmarried people and that men in particular are much happier when married than when unmarried. He also claims that people with children are unhappier than people without. He is talking about averages based on polling, so individual cases vary wildly, of course. But still, as a married man with children, I found it quite thought provoking.

First of all, I totally understand why married people are happier. As much as we might like to fantasize about being single and alone, being alone gets old. Sharing our lives with a partner is something that is deep in our bones and I’m not surprised that people with a committed, loving partner are happier than those without.

But the kids thing surprised me. Kids bring such strong emotions into our lives. You literally fall in love with your own kids and it is very rewarding and very satisfying, in a way. Yet I totally understand, after thinking about it, why people with kids poll less happy: freedom. Or more accurately, the lack of freedom. Kids steal your freedom and it hurts like a bitch.

Marriage changes your freedom a lot, but we all know where the Emergency Exit is. We choose to be married and we can unchoose it whenever we want. Kids, though, are forever.

I totally love my kids. They are by far the most important people in my life. I wouldn’t unmake them in my unhappiest moments. But I get it, kids hurt.

10 ways you can help parents enjoy dinner out with their kids

Some lucky people don’t have kids so some things just don’t occur to them. That is understandable. This little post is to enlighten young waiters and waitresses on how they can help a family with kids who are eating at their restaurant.

1. Seat us where we won’t bother other people without dooming us to the shitty table by the trash cans. Any good restaurant should contemplate where to put families with small children so they can enjoy themselves without being self-conscious.

2. Don’t put spillable things right in front of the kids. We had a waitress set 4 full water glasses directly in front of our (then) 2-year old. They were spilled instantly. Do we even have to mention this one? The same goes for the sharp and/or expensive things. Keep all that shit away from our kids. We’ll do it for you, believe me, but if you are aware of it you can save yourself a lot of trouble and mess.

3. Have enough high-chairs so we don’t have to hold our babies in our laps. Complain to your boss if you do not.

4. Get the kids something to eat right away. Breadsticks, carrots, ANYTHING.

5. Give the kids something to do. Crayons are perfect.

6. Be flexible with the menu. Say Yes when we ask for some plain noodles or a simple chicken breast. We are not the first people to ask this. You shouldn’t have to ask your boss or make it seem like some BFD.

7. Bring the kids’ food out first. Do not bring the kids food at the same time as the expensive entrees of the parents. We want to eat hot food, too.

8. Keep things moving. Families with small children don’t want a 2-hour dinner. We need to order, eat and leave in under an hour, generally speaking.

9. Be fun and friendly to the kids. Try out your extra-cool goth vibe on someone else. We are all here to enjoy ourselves. If you don’t like your job, quit. But if you are waiting on my family, treat us to a good time.

10. We’re messy. We know. We will tip you extra for the trouble.

The childless reading this might be thinking — don’t the parents have some responsibility in all of this? Of course we do. We do all 10 of these things every freaking day. We compensate daily for the wait staff that doesn’t get this stuff. We are not really asking for extra special treatment. It’s just that everyone, the servers included, have a better time if there is at least some cognition about this kind of thing.

Finally a bonus item for the other patrons of the restaurant:

11. We know having young children nearby can be annoying when all you want is a quiet dinner. Welcome to Earth, where you were once a noisy, messy child yourself. Cut us some slack.

Thank you!


Here is what your sig should say:

This email may contain confidential material. If you were not an intended recipient I obviously fucked up and it is my own damn fault. It is insane to assume that I can bind you to some agreement based on my own inability to send a fucking email. I should be fired. Immediately.

Bah AND Humbug

I’m finding the Holiday season quite annoying this year. I have very fond memories of Christmas when I was a kid and I do enjoy seeing how much Myles enjoys the holidays. He sings Christmas carols and watches the holiday specials and loves the Christmas lights.

The bah humbug, for me, comes from the fact that Christmas has become this unwieldy cultural tradition that lasts a month. Christmas should start on 12/24 and conclude on 12/25. That’s it. No, we have to celebrate Christmas with every possible mother and father every single year. So this year we have my family Christmas on the 20th and then Cindy’s extended family Christmas on the 25th and then Christmas with her Dad on the 26th and then with her Mom on the 27th. That is just ridiculous.

I also hate the mindless spending that goes on. I don’t buy many Christmas presents. It’s not that I’m not generous, it’s that I hate the spending warfare that goes on. I don’t think we should spend a lot of money at Christmas time. I’d rather get a book or a photo and kids would be fine with one new toy or two. I’m forced practically at gunpoint to bring home a car full of plastic crap every year.

We do this to ourselves. We pile all these events into this one tiny little timeframe because we have escalated what was once an intimate and modest and quaint little holiday into a multi-week hell of running around spending money.

I have no war on Christmas on philosophical grounds. I’m an atheist and I don’t care who celebrates what, when or how. But I do feel a minor war coming on practical grounds. We’ve gone too far. It’s not fun anymore. I’d prefer the holidays be…smaller.

Photographers suck

(OK, sorry for the inflammatory title — just trying to get your attention!)

I think the financial model that most photographers adopt is ridiculous. The problem is, they don’t charge for what I do value and they charge a lot for what I don’t value. I have 2 examples to illustrate this.

We went to Smirk for a photo shoot with the kids. It was $100 for the sitting. We went there and there was a nice studio with lights and equipment and the photographer and her assistant did a nice job with the kids. It took about 30 minutes.

Then it came time to buy photos. First of all, they didn’t want to give us any proofs. They wanted us to come to their studio to choose photos. My wife insisted they give us proofs so they gave us crappy inkjet proofs on plain paper.

Then the price list — if we wanted a digital copy of a single image, $125! So to get digital copies of 10 photos would be $1250! Are you fucking kidding me? All of the print prices are like this, too. They act like their prints are original works of art that they own.

Here is my objection: Having a studio with lights and equipment is expensive. Having talent to take pictures is something I’m willing to pay for. Charge me for these things which I value! Copying the image to a CD is not something I value. I also don’t consider photographs I paid you to take to be your property, they are my property. That’s why I paid for your time to take the pictures. If you charge me $100 for the things I value and $1250 for the things I don’t value, I will think you are an idiot.

Here’s my other example — we went to a wedding. The wedding party paid a lot of money for a very good photographer. Said photographer then charged $10 per 4×6 print. Know what Apple charges for a 4×6? $0.12. snapfish charges $0.09. Why in God’s name would this photographer, who was paid very well for their time and expertise, charge 100 times the cost of a normal 4×6?

I highly value the skills of great photographers. I will pay for it. But in the age of digital photography, they have to get over this notion that they make money on the prints. The age of darkrooms and hand-crafted prints is over. Charge for the time and the expertise, do not charge for making me a goddamn CD.

Things greater than yourself

Most of my readers know that I am an atheist. I’ve written about it extensively but let me summarize to say — atheism is a movement of hope, rationale and enjoyment of life. It is not an outlook which is depressing or fatalistic.

There are many people I love in this world but, if push came to shove, it is hard to predict who among them, if any, I would actually die for. It is easy to say that I would die for my awesome wife or my brother or sister but if the moment were to arrive, without time to think about it, I cannot really predict what I would do.

This is not true of my children. I would absolutely and without a moment’s hesitation die for them. My kids are a higher purpose, of a sort, for me. They need me, they love me and they are wonderful lovable little beings. They are without question the most important thing in my life.

I’ve written before about my belief that life without children is a wonderful thing. I don’t think parenthood is necessarily greater than any other lifestyle choice. But once that bridge is crossed I think all but the most selfish losers quickly find their higher purpose in their children.

The tension is — there is much I want to do in my life. I to not intend to be a servant to my children. Yet my life has been unquestionably enriched by their presence.

And finally — I think perhaps the only good thing about religion is that it gives people a little humility about their place in the world. I don’t need religion to give me that, personally, but the realization that there are things more important than yourself is one that is quite necessary in this world.

Blog overdrive

I noticed I haven’t been posting too much here lately and it’s because I have been posting elsewhere. I added The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast to my blogroll. Check it out! It’s going to be really cool and I need your help to spread the word.

We also have a few new things over at Slacker Astronomy.

And did you check out my iPhone app, Bubbler? GIVE ME $0.99 NOW!!!!!

Spread a little too thin sometimes…

New dorky theme

It was bumming me out that the tag cloud didn’t work on my old theme. Turns out it relied on something that doesn’t work on newer versions of WordPress. So I picked a new, random and nice little theme for now. It’s a little too cartoon-y for me, so I’ll work on it a bit.

But I just don’t really care about the look/feel and I’ll probably just change it a lot for no reason. Read the words and be kind to the rest!

Apple Sucks Too

Apple is the latest company to release a product without having enough supply to meet demand. If this is a marketing tactic it is the dumbest goddamn marketing tactic I have ever heard of. You still can’t buy a Wii, for example, from WTF, guys, do you know anything at all about business? Now Apple can’t keep the new iPhone 3G in the stores. Did you not know the launch date was coming up? Whose job was it to make sure you could actually sell the goddamn phones? Fire that person.

In the past when Apple had popular product launches you could walk in the store on Day 1 and buy it. Now Apple has joined the ranks of companies so stupid they let supply limit their sales rather than demand. There is a phrase for this: bad planning.

I love me a good Internet controversy

Here is the synopsis:

1. Two writers from Jezebel go on a comedy show hosted by Lizz Winstead, a co-creator (or something) of the Daily Show.
2. The show turns out pretty lame and uncomfortable and not that funny.
3. Lizz Winstead proceeds to lambast the Jezebel writers (and cross posts it on the Huffington Post), accusing them of being drunks, idiots and bad role models. The commenters hog pile on.
4. One of the writers, “Slut Machine” aka Tracie Egan, links to a video of Lizz Winstead acting like a complete bitch.

It’s all fascinating and hilarious, IMHO.

Here is my quick analysis:

1. It’s unfair to invite people on a comedy show and then grill them and expect them to be role models for 15-year old girls. I say all sorts of stupid things when I’m trying to be funny.

2. They said some things that sound pretty stupid unless you think they are funny, which I kinda do. Like she said “I don’t get raped because I live in Williamsburg, and all the guys there are pussies.” and “And I know it’s an irresponsible thing to say, but it’s (pulling out) The Most Fun Way Not To Get Pregnant”. That’s hilarious. Unless you think rape can never be funny and jokes about unsafe sex are deeply harmful to young people in light of the current AIDS epidemic.

3. With that said, I’m sure Lizz Winstead is a smart and well-meaning person but instead of writing this off as bad humor she interpreted it as some major failure in these young women and I think it was unfair.

Buckle the fuck Up

From MinnPost:

Just 23 percent of Americans live in rural areas, and their roads carry less than half of the nation’s traffic. Yet they account for more than half of the nation’s vehicular deaths, according to a report issued this year by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. In 2006, for example, 55 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities occurred in rural crashes.

One reason is that more rural residents shun seat belts, according to the national report. Last year 84 percent of American in urban areas said they buckle up compared to 78 percent in rural areas. A University of Minnesota study reported in December found that pickup truck drivers were the least likely in the state to use the belts.