ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Month: June 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Ezmirelda at the Blalock

This miniature human came to the Blalock family when the mansion was first built, the doll of 6 year old Robyn Blalock. Unfortunately this little daughter of the original family died of cholera in the early 1890s. Ezmirelda had her own room in a special area under the main floor staircase, and she remained there through the asylum years, the medical facility years, and the orphanage. When the Blalock was torn down, one of the workmen took possession of the little lady. Over the years some claimed that she brought luck, others not so much. More as additional information is learned and the workman / owner is found.

A Contest of Minds on a Flight

Freckles. Tired and cranky but  mentally sharp.

Warning. This is longer than I’m used to posting, and also I can’t cut it halfway in and ask if you want to read the rest. I hope you enjoy this test of wills.

A tired and cranky lady boarded a plane and found her assigned seat. Next to her would be a young fellow, to her a preppy looking fellow who it turned out did not lack for confidence. Bragging came naturally to him.
All she wanted to do was rest quietly and sleep on the three hour flight. He tried striking up a conversation, but she didn’t respond. Eventually he asked her a question.
“I’ll answer any question you ask me. Try to stump me, and if I can’t answer the question, I’ll give you a hundred dollar bill. Then I’ll ask you a question. If you can’t answer, you give me $5.”
She thought for a moment, agreed to do it, but laid down the law: then no talking after this contest. “You first,” she orders.
He asks first. “I’m thinking of an item that is black and white, then when a person is done with it, it’s red.”
She thinks as hard as her tired mind will let her, she knows she’s heard this one before. Her dad not only teased her with the name Freckles, he’d pose riddles like this.
Just before the agreed upon 5 minutes, she shouts, “I know.”
Mr. Smarty Pants now puts on his droopy, serious face.
“The answer is a newspaper,” she tells him. “Black and white, newspaper print, and ‘READ’ when the reader is done with it. Not the color red.”

Her first smile, she snatches the $100 bill from his hand.
He doesn’t look all bright and cheery now, but he asks for her question.
She asks in a clear voice. “What goes up the hill on 3 legs and comes down on two? I’ll give you fifteen minutes, meanwhile I’ll take a nap.”
With internet access, he searches on his computer, texts friends, and searches for the answer for the full 15 minutes. Fifteen blessed minutes to rest. He even goes over the time but figures she won’t notice.
Finally, with reluctance, he gives up. Handing her the $100 bill, he asks her: “Okay, what goes up a hill with 3 legs and comes down with 2?”
She give him her $5 bill, saying simply: “I don’t know. That’s your second question.”
“Now let me sleep.”
In her dream, her dad tells her he’s proud of her. “Way to go, Freckles.”

A Pesky Little Mirror


The mountaineer found a small mirror, the first he had ever seen. He looked into it with surprise and exclaimed, “What? It’s a pitcher of me old pappy.”
Feeling sentimental, he hid the mirror under the bed. His wife saw him hiding it, and when he left the house, she took out the mirror. Looking at it, she snorted, “So that’s the old hag he’s been chasin’.”

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A simpler version of this story has a primitive man looking into a pool of water, surprised by what he saw. He went home and told his wife that while he was at the pond today he saw the face of his father staring back at him.

 

Lovely Little Arriana

This red springer spaniel is quick as a whip and aware of everything that goes on.  Arriana is a fast learner and a joy to have around the house. We once had a springer spaniel who kept getting out of our backyard enclosure. Couldn’t figure it out, so we looked for holes in the fence and came up empty. In a most stealthy manner I positioned myself out of her view to watch her behind the backyard gate. Sure enough, like an Army Ranger going through an obstacle course, she slowly climbed the welded wire fence, jittery and unsteady. After making it to the top, she jumped over. It was a contest and she figured it out.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has had experiences with this breed.

Actually I got this photo from Pixabay and really like it. If you’re ever searching for good photos, cheap or even free, check the Pixabay site. It would be great to help them with their collection by submitting your best photos, but they have tough standards and aren’t easy to crack.

Popcorn on a Sunday Afternoon

Comfort, nostalgia, and peace of mind.

Have you felt that drowsy feeling when the dinner things are through?

It sort of creeps upon you in spite of all you do.

And there’s nothing that will quell it or dispel it quite as soon

As a dishpan full of popcorn on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Popcorn really has a way of making us feel great.

All the folks forget they’re sleepy when they reach and take a plate.

So remember when it’s snowing on a Sunday afternoon.

Just a dishpan full of popcorn puts the world right back in tune.

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Poem by Harold Rowley in a book of Amish recipes. This goes back (notice I resisted using the word hearkens) to a time when Sunday for the Amish and other religious followers meant performing only essential farm chores. Their goal was to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” A simple pleasure that meant so much. Popcorn.

For our family growing up near Amery, WI, popcorn became a treat on weeknights. The ordinary evening became a little bit special.

Hunger and Desperation

While touring Oslo, I visited Norway’s National Museum of Art several times. “The Scream” and other paintings by Edvard Munch have their own room on the 2nd floor.

The first time at the gallery the above painting grabbed my attention and my imagination. Not sure which artist painted this nor do I know the time period it depicts or its title. What I do know is that it’s not a settling, calming painting. The artist projects the city, hunger, cold, and uncertainty. There’s a section of Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan’s Gate,  that looks like this area. Also, in looking at it again I  notice that it’s women/ housewives competing for an allotment of milk. If you had asked me about it away from the painting, I recall a number of young people vying for a spot in line. It appears the young here are marginal and frustrated in this hectic scene.

 

Letter 1 to Madison

Grandma Elfie writing at her favorite table in the dining room next to the window that looks out on the barn and driveway. Bob Artley drawing

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.

Lord Byron

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My dearest Madison,

Sorry I haven’t written for awhile, I have no excuse. I’ve been very busy but should never be too busy to write to you. First, I’m so proud that you’ve just finished one year of college, that is an accomplishment that few in our family have done. Your Grandpa Leonard attended ag school in Madison for a short time but never thought of any more college. My story, you know, was to get out working in Marshfield right after high school and taking a few night classes.

I’ve had a fun spring, one filled with much fellowship with friends from church. I’m not sure what I would have done without them. They came out to my place right from the beginning, and made sure I didn’t get too down in the mouth. Leonard passing right after Thanksgiving meant getting through the winter on the farm, but I don’t know what I’d do without neighbors and those friends. More on that later when I see you.

Glad to hear you’re working at the grocery store. I’m guessing you make a patient and friendly check-out clerk. The ladies here at the IGA are so fun to talk to, it’s like a meeting of old friends when I go grocery shopping. And just lately I’ve worked a few hours each day at the Thirsty Bookworm on the corner right across from the gazebo. Dan needs help cleaning and sorting through books as they come in.

No word yet from your mother about romances in your life. And you won’t tell me either, would you Sweetie. I’ve continued to see my new friend Fred a little, and we sit together at church. Sometimes a group of us goes out after church for Sunday dinner. This summer I might meet one of his sons.

Enough, Madison. Just wanted to tell you I’m getting along, limping along some days and skipping on other days. Give me a call some evening, I’m up until 9:30 on most nights. Let’s plan on you coming up for an overnighter or two this summer, just like old times.

Grandma Elfie

 

Parker’s Summer Adventures

St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Bloomer, Wisconsin.

Some of you who have followed my writings me may recall my reference to a boy named Parker, Prince of Bloomer. His life to come is one of my fictional ramblings, and on this post he’ll be the 4th grader just freed from school for the summer. Along with his friend Wally Schemenauer, they have the world at their beckoning in this city south of New Auburn. Wally’s dad had a key to the towers at the Catholic church in Bloomer, mainly the entryway to north tower. Now they have the key. The steeples shown here loom high above the city and the area farms, and the boys’ refuge and “campground” in this warm season is the highest steeple, on the left.

Carrying backpacks filled with necessities to be listed later, they made secret trips to the steeple. Often entering when no one watched, sometimes after dark, they set up their little hideaway 60 feet above the main street. From this perch they’d view the business section of Bloomer and some of the area homes. They haven’t said this to each other, but openings for summer adventures and mysteries loom ahead for the young lads. More to come.

The Power of Writing

 

A small drop of ink produces that which makes thousands think.

Lord Byron

 

String Music at the Blalock Asylum

Music was thought to heal those who made their way to the Blalock, and music lessons by beings from another world were common and accepted. Here beautiful Wendy, who came as a depressed and isolated lady after the death of her beloved mother, takes her first lesson from Beth Adrienne. Only coming out at night, Beth Adrienne was one of the best cello teachers and music interpreters that the Blalock had.

Music at this time of night calmed the members of the asylum, citizens and staff alike. Cassie and Wayne, photo below, worked on the grounds and cleaned the hallways, but the music lulled nearly all into a blessed night’s sleep. More later on the development and growth of Wendy as resident cellist.

And Beth Adrienne? She’s still alive and working her magic at some of the country’s best schools for orchestra, teaching all manner of stringed instruments.

Caretakers Cassie and Wayne. See earlier story about them.

 

Tribute to a Great Father

 

My dad wasn’t a great communicator, wasn’t outwardly affectionate, and wasn’t a person who did a lot with me as a kid.

On that cold dark November evening as I drove to the hospital the night he died, I thought about my relationship with him and what he meant to me. Trite but true. “I didn’t know what I had until he was gone,” which summed up my feelings then and on to this day.

One thing my dad HAD, if I can label it that way was: He Was There. He was around. He and my mom attended my football and basketball games, he attended church with me and came for the church programs. We ice fished a few times, we went to Amery on winter Saturday mornings to deliver eggs and get feed. A couple times we went to the Andersen Corporation summer picnic. Oh, yeah,  a couple Sundays in the summer we ushered together at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. And after Dad died my mom told me that one of the few times she saw him weep was when he watched my confirmation in that church.

He worked hard, he didn’t have a temper, and he presented himself to me as a solid, moral person. What more can I expect or ask for, a wonderful example.

The photo above shows us standing in one of the harbors / villages in Door County, maybe Sister Bay or Ephriam. My wife told us to stand over there, in front of those boats, and in hindsight the background was great. This is the closest we came to hugging, but I remember a firm handshake after graduating from UW-Superior after the ceremony. My dad, Harold Elkin. What more could I ask for.

Lester the De-Stressor

When life gets hectic and worries pile up, take time to relax, take a break, and look at little Lester. Intelligent and studious for a dog, but he takes himself too seriously. Few friends, but that doesn’t bother him. He operates best when alone.

And best of all for us, he doesn’t realize how unique he appears to humans.

 

Contented Cows that Understand Norwegian

 

Norwegian reds on the farm of our cousins on Fjelberg Island on the west coast of Norway. The law requires that cattle are outside at least 50 days in the summer, no kidding. Feed comes in on a ferry, and soon they’ll begin chopping grass/hay and shooting it into their 2 silos. The Nordhus Farm.

Them there’s mountains in the background on a neighboring island,  a beeeyoutiful setting.

The Red Badge of Courage . . . . the setting

Photo from the encampment of the Union Army before the Battle of Chancellorsville, the conflict Stephen Crane uses in his 1895 novel, The Red Badge of Courage.

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the roads, which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army’s feet; and at night, when the stream had become of a sorrowful blackness, one could see across it the red, eye-like gleam of hostile campfires set in the low brows of distant hills.

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Crane wrote this Civil War novel after interviewing soldiers who had fought in this battle and reading accounts from other sources. It’s the story of young Henry who deals with the confusion and fear of fighting the Confederates in this 1863 Virginia battle.

Our Tuesday Morning

This painting hangs in the Norwegian Naitonal Gallery in Oslo. The somber tone struck me from the first time I saw it.

So, after reading Revelations once again, I asked wife Bente what she wanted to do.

She said, “Well, it is Tuesday, you know.”

“Oh, yeah. Taco Tuesday. Should we go together or do you want me to pick up a few and bring them home?”

“Let’s read Leviticus and then I’ll decide, depends on how I feel.”

“It can’t get any better than this. can it.”

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