ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Month: April 2017 (page 1 of 3)

Apple River Church Music for March

Another wonderful night of music, the March session. Deb is making the list of musicians, angels are practicing in the small classroom, and Ken is looking more distinguished than ever. Last Sunday of each month, an hour or more of gospels and songs of strong feeling. I’ll place the list of songs at the end, at the spot where you can read more if you want, but for now I want to sum up the night and remind you that the next “concert” will be on the 30th of April. Be there before 7:00, the warm-ups are enjoyable.

Guitar, autoharp, piano, harmonica, 4 part harmony, mandolin, flat guitar (photo left), and combinations of all of these. Ernie played a wicked harmonica, and the piano solo of “Blessed Assurance” had the ringing sound of the theme from “Chariots of Fire”. Engaging. Sue and Lois anchoring everything with their piano accompaniment.

A couple readings for variety, and the night of free entertainment felt so fulfilling. Much better, by far, than being home watching TV. The list of songs is included below, click to read the list if you want to.

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Truly, a Sick Man

My Uncle Art fought in the 2nd World War in the Pacific,  but later he traveled back to the Philippines, trying to re-establish friendships and good times from the war. His carefree life would be dangerous to us if we read the details, eating anything and everything, spending time with world-wise women, and traveling in bug infested environments. Turns out he got sick, as you would expect, but he tried to get back to the states to recover. At the airport in San Diego he collapsed, oblivious to what was happening to him. An ambulance took him to the best hospital in the area, and for a time he lay in a coma.

Waking up one morning, unfocused and bleary eyed, he realized he was alone in a hospital room. A Bible was nearby and several boxes of tissue plus an ice pack for his head. In front of him also was a telephone next to a phone number, his doctor’s number. Feeding tubes kept him alive, but he knew he had lost a good deal of weight. Slowly dialing the number, he reached his doctor; he asked the doctor what was wrong with him.

“You’ve got several diseases that we can determine, several we don’t know what they are, and others that are extremely rare.”

Asking if he’ll recover, the doctor wasn’t sure but hoped to keep him going and get his body to take care of the nasties that were moving through his body. When he asked the doctor if he’d see him in person, the doctor broke the news to him that it was too dangerous to enter the room. Only attendants and nurses with haz-mat suits had been inside his hospital room.

“What should I do?” he asked.

“Just rest, and we’ll be feeding you pizza, lefse from relatives in Wisconsin, tostadas, and more pizza.”

“That’ll cure me?”

“Yes, and also  . . . .”

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The Pilfered Ring

Why the word pilfered? Because it’s a gentler word than stolen. But I did steal it.
At a home in Amery where my parents and friends had coffee and conversation one Sunday afternoon, we kids hung out in the bedroom. In this room there was very little to play with, but there was a jewelry box. Lovely jewelry, piles, and maybe a little gold and silver.
Ten years old, I could have written a brochure on immaturity. Then the theft. Sneaking the lovely, shiny ring out of the jewelry box and into my pocket, I had no idea what I’d do with it. Of the three kids playing that day, I was the only thief.
Mom and Polly Linden had been friends in teacher training in Polk County Normal, and they were bosom buddies, sister-like.
Two days later, at suppertime, Mom answered the phone. She was talking to Polly, and as she spoke she looked over at me. When she hung up, she asked point blank if I had stolen anything. Polly had discovered a ring missing, and Mom grilled me about it. At first I denied it, but that didn’t last long. Admitting to the act, she told me to get it. Up to my room I went, and soon brought it down. That, I thought, might be the end of it. But no.

(this was written as a recent column in The Amery Free Press)

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Roller Coaster Shock

The next time yer on one of dem fancy schmancy roller coasters or thriling rides, grab a handful of nuts and bolts from your pocket, tap the person ahead of you (a fore the ride starts) and ask if he knows where dese go. “I found dem under your seat.” Then put dem away right after he, or she, starts screaming and calling for a ride helper person to come over. Then sit back and enjoy da ride, keeping your innocent look and shrugging.

To My Forgiving Mother

I was your rebellious child,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

By Wendell Berry

Not Enough Bacon

Too big to take a bite? Maybe it’ll be easier if you get rid of that the top bun..

Special Twins at Blalock Mansion

During the years the mansion operated an orphanage for the state of Wisconsin and for Wood County, as many as 100 kids came through the system. Every room housed orphans, classrooms, and washing / dining operations. The twins Madison and TyAnn came together around 1900, but unfortunately in 1902 TyAnn died of typhus. Madison adjusted poorly to her sister’s death, but eventually she found the pond out front a convenient place to talk to TyAnn.

This photo taken in 1904. The pond held fish and aquatic plants in the summer, then in winter it became a small skating rink for the orphans.

7th Street Port–Intro

Background of 7th Street. Where the house stood now sits an empty lot.

The quiet and sedate street south of the water tower in Port Edwards has not always been so serene. Now with fairly new houses and a varied group of residents, they probably don’t know the history of this peaceful area west of Ripple Creek. Long before the settlement of the Village of Port Edwards, a farm stood in the area of this aging house. From “normal” farm to burial site to orphanage to a religious sanctuary to an odd cult, it saw its share of adventures. “If these walls could talk” is a cliche, but I’m hoping to get some answers, little by little.

Originally the Martinson house, then the Blalock Mansion, and finally the Miller Mortuary and House of Worship, it went through several owners and served a variety of functions. A few portraits remain, such as the Kuhlka family  below–husband Slade, wife Rhonda, and daughter Renee. It appears normal, doesn’t it. There’s just one problem. The Kuhlkas arranged for a photographer for the 12th of September, 1898, but that morning Renee passed away. They had the photo taken nonetheless. Memories. More to come.


We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.

Paul Bloom


Put a Candle in the Window


Put a candle in the window
‘Cause I feel I’ve gotta move.
Though I’m goin’, goin’
I’ll be comin’ home soon
Long as I can see the light.

Pack my bag and let’s get moving
‘Cause I’m bound to drift awhile.
Though I’m gone, gone
You don’t have to worry
Long as I can see the light.

Guess I’ve got that old travelin’ bone
‘Cause this feeling won’t leave alone.
But I won’t, won’t
Be losin’ my way
Long as I can see the light.

The actual name of this song is “Long As I Can See the Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. A great rendition is a version sung by Joe Cocker, putting a lot of feeling into the words.

Finding General Grants

Steve jammed on his brakes when he saw the bag on the ground, we didn’t. Paul and I kept biking down Keller. It looked like a bag holding garbage. Waiting for him at the Amery Depot Park, he yelled but we couldn’t hear him down past Dalley Dale’s Standard Station.
“It’s a thousand dollars,” he yelled as he biked closer. “A thousand dollars!”
Paul and I laughed because we thought he was joking, but he biked up to us and pulled out a handful of cash. All the bills were $50 dollar bills.
“Twenty of these bills,” he said as he showed us the face of U.S. Grant.
Never had we seen so much money at one time. That General Grant, such a wonderful, beautiful man.
We all stopped making any sounds, any comments, anything at all for a minute. Each in our own way imagined having that much cash.
“Shall we advertise?”
“Do we bring it to the police station?”
“Could our families use it?”
“Vacation, anyone?”
More silence. Without a word we figured we’d make good use of it, we’d take care of it better than anyone. Anyway it was probably some rich guy who lost it.
Since we each had good math skills, we knew without discussion how much we’d each receive. No talk necessary here. Evenly divided we knew, all for one and money for all, or however that saying went.
“Who gets the extra dollar?”
“Steve. He found it.”
The jury has decided. Case closed, settled.
We each got six President Grants. After riding uptown, Steve walked into Union State Bank across from the Amery Theatre to get change for the rest of our payout.
Dividing it further on that hot August afternoon felt great, like nothing we’d ever done. Steve handed each of us a rubber band that he found in the bank. We each rubber banded our money.
Now for a treat. To the soda fountain at Danielson’s Drug Store to get the biggest malt they had, maybe two. And, not just a nickel candy bar, the dime size. Maybe a pound of cashews or deluxe mixed nuts to take with us.
After our brief celebration, we went our separate ways and never mentioned the money again.
A simple plan. I wonder what Steve and Paul did with theirs.


Journey by Book

There Is No Frigate Like a Book

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul!

—-Emily Dickenson

It is fitting that Emily Dickinson wrote about journeying by book. She spent most of the time in her room, a recluse and only in touch with a special few. Here’s information I found, with an option to read more.

Emily Dickinson grew up in a prominent and prosperous household in Amherst, Massachusetts. Along with her younger sister Lavinia and older brother Austin, she experienced a quiet and reserved family life headed by her father Edward Dickinson.

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To High School in a Sleigh

Sunday afternoon, time for me to head back to college in the late 60s. The weekend was over, back at it. For me at 20 years old I felt that “back to work” anxiety that many of you might feel on Sunday night.
My mom probably felt that same way when she attended Amery High School, but in her case she was 15 years old. During the weekdays of the school year she’d stay with a family in a house on Harriman, across from the current telephone company office. The walk for Mom from this boarding house to the high school would be less than 5 minutes.
Emma Larson, one of 8 siblings living on the Larson farm north of Apple River Park School on E, decided that after 8th grade graduation she’d attend high school. Emma alone in her family did this, spurred on by a love of reading and learning, and anxious to become a teacher. She attended for 4 school years, graduating in 1927 with a class of about 30 students.
When I picture her riding back and forth to her home by sleigh or wagon, I tried to imagine what it was like. On Friday afternoon I could see Grandpa Ole Larson, during the winter months, hitching his workhorses to a sleigh. After noon he’d head south with piles of blankets and a few other necessities to drive to Amery and pick up his daughter.

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Rainy day, Chicago, Illinois

The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.
The ideas and items used by members of a society.

Accidents on Record 100 Years Ago

Barn raising in Polk County in the early 1900s.

Gunshots, dynamite, fingers and arms cut off, big toe shot, and horse/ railroad mishaps. Polk County accidents from 1910 is a short but painful list to read.

While researching deaths in the 1880s in Polk County, I found a record of unfortunate events that happened after 1900. State mandate, county board requirement, intern? For some reason, a short list, a baker’s dozen, of these became permanent county statistics.
No discernible pattern. Two fatal, 3 dynamite related, gunshot to foot, pulleys, horses, and shingle saw sliced off a finger. At a hoop mill a pulley injured a worker’s arm, and in another case a mortar box slid from a wagon and landed on a kid. The most gruesome would be the railroad wheels running over the upper legs of a railroad worker: fatal. The other death-causing event happened when a team of horses ran over a man who then died from internal injuries.
Why these injuries were recorded probably will never be known, but someone or some government body wanted to keep track. It gives a snapshot of pain and deforming accidents early in our county. Today these types of injury records, and treatments, would be handled in clinics and medical centers.
This was a column for The Amery Free Press in 2016.

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