ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Author: Loren Elkin (page 2 of 10)

Good Morning, Miss Dove



My family attended this movie at the Amery Theater in the mid-1950s, and I remember some of the images and scenes to this day. My mom had taught in one room schools during the Depression years, and she thought this movie would be fun for our entire family, all four of us.
Think of the strictest teacher you ever had, then add more strictness. Think of the Queen of England teaching a class and how that might turn out. Below is a description of her character and firm will among grade school kids, first through fifth grades. I’ve paraphrased the author’s words below, helping the reader get a sense of the regal Miss Dove.

On this school morning, in home-rooms the kids gauged the various moods of various teachers. When it came to Miss Dove, however, they dropped their speculation for one good reason: Miss Dove had no moods. Miss Dove was a certainty. She would be today what she had been yesterday and would be tomorrow. And so, within limits, would the students. Single file they entered her room, each greeting her with, “Good morning, Miss Dove,” and in turn she’d look directly at each and greet them with “good morning” along with their name. No informality in this classroom, and the kids would go to their appointed desks while Miss Dove stepped up on the platform that held her desk. The day’s lesson would begin.

Without giving away the story, the stoic and independent school marm develops a physical ailment which means she has to lower herself and ask for help and understanding from the community. In reading this book again, I have to say that author Patton nailed the teaching/ student dynamic. She either interviewed a number of teachers or she taught elementary school for several years.


Country Roads, Take Me Home

Country sideroad off of Hwy 46, north of Amery, Wisconsin.

Country Roads song made famous by John Denver

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River,
Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Blowin’ like the breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads
All my memories gathered ’round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine
Teardrops in my eye

I hear her voice
In the mornin’ hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Take me home, now country roads

Do You Know These Words? 1

This is my first attempt at a low key multiple choice vocabulary quiz. The questions are below with the choices, and click on Continue Reading for the answers. Let me note that these words were not fully in my vocabulary and if asked to define them without seeing them in context, I couldn’t do it. Context helps but isn’t always 100%.
The terms are uncanny, unabashed, dilatory, hoi polloi, and nonplussed.

1. unabashed—a) brave, b) self-critical, c) party animal, d) willing to take a chance, e) not easily embarrassed
2. dilatory—a) a time waster, b) a smart person, c) expresses self well, d) on time always, e) shy person
3. uncanny—a) normal, ordinary, b) brave in a crowd, c) more than ordinary, d) sense of humor, e) self- absorbed
4. hoi polloi— a) the commoners, b) celebration, c) exaggerating, d) fancy as in gifts, e) wealthy and powerful
5. nonplussed—a) confused and bewildered, b) poor at math, c) not easily impressed, d) lazy, e) boring


Continue reading

That Amazing Season, Summertime

(Recent Amery Free Press Column)
Growing up around Amery I found out that I could write my own ticket for what to do on a summer day. Not a bad ticket but a good one, an open ticket.
Both west of Amery by Donald Johnson’s farm and east of Amery near the Howard Stindle farm, many choices available.
But I’d like to sum up more memories from Jack Harkness who reveled, not rebelled, in the Amery culture.
Biking everywhere, beach swimming and lessons including water safety, and organized summer baseball. Fishing in Apple River or one of the lakes, and daily newspaper routes. The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Tribune bundles arrived at the Amery Hotel, and Jack and Greg T. delivered them.
The A and W Root Beer stand attracted all ages of kids, with root beer floats, hot dogs, quarts of root beer, and hot beef sandwiches.

Continue reading

A Matter of Priorities

The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.

Ben Stein


The Boy with the Green Hair

This movie released in 1948 stood out because of its title, and at this time green hair wasn’t a statement or a defying of authority. In 2nd or 3rd grade our entire class walked the two blocks from the Amery Elementary School to the Amery Theater on Keller Avenue, all to watch this strange tale. At the time I couldn’t figure out the message, but I know it stuck in my mind because of little Dean Stockwell at one point washed his hair with green soap. The resulting neon green can be seen in the accompanying photos. Self conscious, of course, he met with admiration from some of the girls walking by his house but later the boy bullies and adults made him feel foolish. This story was tied in with the large number of orphans that resulted from the 2nd World War, and no one having a solution to help them.

Just last week I checked this out from our Nekoosa Library, ordering it from the Wisconsin library sharing program that works so well. Again I watched it, and after viewing I still couldn’t figure out the film’s message. And I’m not sure if our elementary teachers thought we’d pull a good message out of it. If you watch this, please write and help me with the underlying theme. It’s a fun movie, and I enjoyed the 2nd viewing of it these 60 years later.


The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

by William Wadsworth Longfellow in 1840


Little Carl Goes to Sunday School


Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Amery, Wisconsin. The Sunday school teachers arrive early and figure out which classes they’ll take.
“I want to make an announcement,” Donette stated, serious as ever. “Carl’s coming today. His mom called.”
Scrambling, they made sure the 4th grade classroom had two teachers.
During class, Robyn wanted to get through to these 9 year olds that heaven wasn’t something they’d earn. They’d get there by God’s grace. A complicated concept for that age, but Beth and Robyn had a strategy.
Beth spoke up, asking them a question. “If I sold my car and all I have in my home, and I gave it to the church, would I get into heaven?”
“No,” they answered as a chorus, Carl the loudest and most serious.
“If I cleaned the church every day and mowed the lawn outside, would that get me into heaven?”
“No,” again. The kids weren’t sure where this was going but they knew the right answer was NO.
She asked a final question, wondering aloud if she loved her husband and kids a lot and was kind to animals, would that get her a chance at heaven.
“No,” they shouted louder than ever.
“Well,” Robyn asked. “How can I get into heaven?”
Some kids were confused about the correct answer, but not Carl. With a sneer on his face and a glare for both teachers: “You have to die first!!!”
Throwing his pencil down, he stomped out of the room, saying he’s got to find a cup of coffee somewhere.

Backyard Deer

We don’t see many deer in our neighborhood, but this one showed up across the street in our neighbor’s yard.  Fully alert and yet relaxed, it snacked on the luscious grasses back there.


Norwegians at the Blalock

During the years of the First World War the mansion became a medical hospital, and it became important when the worldwide flu epidemic struck. The years of the Blalock Asylum were over in 1915.

In late 1918 Turid and her mother Solveig knocked on the door at the Blalock and nursing staff welcomed them, but when asked questions neither could answer because they spoke Norwegian only. From the looks of Turid, though, she showed symptoms of the flu that ravished the US and the world at that time. The staff brought them in and gave them an area on the first floor, Turid being too weak to climb the stairs. Her mother slept nearby. Despite the nurturing and comforting care Solveig provided, Turid took a turn for the worse and died a week into January of the new year, 1919.

Solveig continued to work at the Blalock as a volunteer, slowly learning English and living at the mansion. No one knows what Solveig did with the body, the employees discovering one morning that Turid had disappeared. The best guess was that her mother took her into the massive basement and buried her body in the dirt floor somewhere.

Here’s the strange part. Solveig stayed with the medical building for nearly 5 years, and every month at the date of Turid’s death, for a time the above scene would be seen. They’d speak to each other in Norwegian but wouldn’t touch, and soon Solveig would be alone again for another month.



Toll Bridge: St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Recently on Facebook, someone posted this photo of a man who found a sign that at one time was used for a toll bridge. The current crossing, the modern multi-laned bridge, wasn’t always there to cross the St. Croix River between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The crossing is between St. Croix Falls, WI, and Taylors Falls, MN, both early settlements for settlers north of the even busier Stillwater, MN. It’s in Polk County, west of Amery.

Teams of mules in sets of 12 or more, 2 cents each to cross. Pigs, a penny. Passengers 3 cents each. Not sure what year the toll bridge operated, before 1900.

7th Street Port Edwards, the Blalock Mansion

My wife Marilyn and I moved to this neighborhood a year ago in April. Wonderful atmosphere and wooded area in back of our house that makes us feel like we’re living in a forest. We’ve met many of the neighbors but not all of them. When I ask about that mythical mansion within a stone’s throw from them, most plead ignorance.

In studying the background of the Blalock and the various roles it’s played for the citizens of this area and the county of Wood, I came up with a list of names of administrators, residents, orphans, and others involved in this imagined mansion. It turns out that many of the names of my current neighbors coincide with the names going back 130 years. Could there be a connection?

This will take more work and study. For the time being, I’d like to show you the neighborhood and the region of the fictive and stately manor.

The lot and foundation of the Blalock can be viewed across our front lawn, in the distance, on the other side of the red car upper center.

Here’s that stately estate, a painting that shows its declining years. At one time a family home, an asylum, a medical facility, a home for the Lepers for the Lord and other fringe groups, an orphanage, and finally an apartment for transients.

My project will be sharing stories from this palace and letting you get to know the characters who stepped into the mansion.

Also, I’m going to link the stories I’ve already written so far in this blog about the Blalock so you can read what I’ve written already. Be patient, I’m working on it.  Loren Elkin



Little Green Apples

A desperate tree in our churchyard in Nekoosa produces a few apples each year. Here’s part of this year’s crop.

And I wake up in the mornin’
With my hair down in my eyes and she says “Hi”
And I stumble to the breakfast table
While the kids are goin’ off to school…goodbye
And she reaches out ‘n’ takes my hand
And squeezes it ‘n’ says “How ya feelin’, hon?”
And I look across at smilin’ lips
That warm my heart and see my mornin’ sun

And if that’s not lovin’ me
Then all I’ve got to say
God didn’t make little green apples
And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime
And there’s no such thing as Doctor Seuss
Or Disneyland, and Mother Goose, no nursery rhyme
God didn’t make little green apples
And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime
And when my self is feelin’ low
I think about her face aglow and ease my mind

Bobby Russell wrote the lyrics, sung by O.C. Smith and others

Cancer then Critters

Alone at Culvers in Waupaca, the older woman ate her meal surrounded by cheerful families and groups . She appeared serious, even glum on this holiday Sunday but nothing else.

As she struggled to get up while holding her tray, I asked if I could help her. She appreciated it, standing up while I dumped the trash in the nearest bin.

Knowing not to ask the trite question “how are you”, I instead asked what she had planned for the rest of that day.

Almost as if she was primed for answering me, she opened up. “Just got through with cancer treatment so I’m back home now. All that’s behind me.” Not whining nor complaining, just matter of fact.

“Then I go home after weeks away and find something’s been digging out under my shed. Thought it was a groundhog, but it wasn’t.”

I had a guess but kept my mouth shut and listened.

“Come to find out there’s a mother with little babies.” Pause. “Skunks.”

In my mind I pictured four mini- football shaped black and white kits following mama skunk around the yard. Pictures are all I’ve seen of little skunks, never in person.

“Not sure what to do, don’t want them to spray.” She thought and then mentioned a live trap but knew that probably wouldn’t end well.

Little advice from me except to suggest she ask around her village of Wild Rose. “Call farmers, call friends,” I suggested. “They’ll have some worthwhile ideas.”

Wonderful lady, I wished her well as we went our separate ways. Cancer over, now critters to deal with.


Wildflowers at a Minnesota Church

My cousin near Nerstrand, MN, with July wildflowers for the special service. Lutheran of course.

“Our church had this week’s Sunday service at the Valley Grove Historic Church near our house. I picked prairie flowers to use in Grandma Olson’s flower basket. She loved providing flowers for church during the summer.” Cousin Linda W.

Just received this and saw on Facebook, will wait a day or two and then ask Linda if I can use her picture. (smiley face)


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