Why is Wonderful Grandma doing a Queen Mary imitation? Why does Aunt Ethel look so shy?

The Permanent Family Record
Or: The History Detectives (Amateur Division)


The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I used to look at this 1912 posed photo of my maternal grandparents with my mother, my Aunt Ethel and my Uncle Bob — each of them astride a burro — and wish I knew more about Bessie’s great homesteading adventure in Colorado. My mother looked so happy sitting next to her papa, and the Wonderful Grandma I never knew looks as though she is doing an imitation of an austere Queen Mary. Why does Aunt Ethel look so shy? So many questions.


“It was on that family trip when my mother (age 22) was offered a teaching job for $40 a month. She filed a claim to 40 acres, arranged to move a cabin onto the land, took a quick trip back to Iowa to retrieve her possessions, and returned in time to teach the fall term. She didn’t last quite a year before homesickness sent her back to Iowa, but her memories of that experience lasted her lifetime.

“She told us about riding horseback the five-and-a-half miles to the little one-room school where she had eight pupils. She said that sometimes when the winter storms were so fierce that the snow was too deep for her horse, she would hitch a ride on the handcar that cleared the railroad tracks. She had to build a fire in the pot-bellied stove before the children arrived, and she said some of them were ‘little scamps.’ My mom was a tomboy, and occasionally she would wiggle out of her shoes — until the day one little boy took advantage of her and dropped a tiny little mouse in her empty shoe. She said she ‘took the wind out of his sails’ when she just calmly lifted the mouse out by its tail and threw it out the door.

“She papered the walls of her cabin with the weekly covers from The Saturday Evening Post magazines, and she commented that they might now be worth more money than the cabin. She used to wish that she had taken a picture of that cabin, never knowing that her 10-year-old brother had done just that. We discovered this crudely framed photo along with his Colorado photo album after he died. (Thanks, Uncle Bob.)


“After my mother died, I found her 1912 diary and saw the notation from the day she filed the claim.


“In a strange twist of fate, she died on the 9th of September — exactly 70 years later, to the day. Thanks to electronic copies of old Colorado newspapers, I have found several mentions of ‘Miss Bessie Smith, Adams school teacher’ as she traveled back and forth to Iowa, with the town of Hospers misspelled differently each time.

“I love being a History Detective. The puzzle pieces are beginning to come together.”

Our flowers, ourselves
And: In memoriam

Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “Monday morning, I planted my marigold seeds. Monday evening, I went to Home Depot to purchase a watering can to give them a good start. On the way home, it rained.

“Lilacs and Marigolds:

“On the first Sunday in May, I travel to his resting place two hours away to lay lilacs on his grave. On the last Sunday in October, I take the marigolds I planted in May, to garland his grave.

“Someday I will join him there. Who, then, will bring us lilacs and marigolds?”

They’re out there!

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Too careful?

“We have had a few puzzling questions about things that can happen when driving in neighborhoods:”

“What to do when a school bus is making its morning pick-ups, and has stopped, its sign flashing? We have been so careful to stop, waiting until the sign is folded back again and the bus is about to move. Last week we came up behind a bus; expected to have a brief stop. Well . . . the bus just sat there, lights flashing, no children in sight, and we waited so long, with nothing happening. I even thought of walking up to see if the driver was all right, as a few minutes went by (very slowly). We could imagine the worst scenario: finally deciding to move, and a child suddenly appearing and getting hit! We decided to back up, turn around and take a different street.

“One other common Minnesota quandary: when everyone is being too polite at a four-way stop on a side street. We try to let the person on our right go first, or else figure which one came to the intersection first. Everyone waits . . . and waits . . . until finally more than one car starts moving, in frustration This happens so often. Do people realize what they should do, or are most of them clueless? [Bulletin Board says: All signs point to the latter.]

“I wish the yahoos who make a game out of driving would use their brains and just slow the heck down and quit trying to see if they can get a prize for scaring the rest of us. Those seconds they saved with idiotic moves won’t make that much difference.

Driving is not a right; it’s a privilege. Be kind.”

Know thy selfie!

The Subject line was the only line in this email from Tim Torkildson: “The things you can buy on Amazon.com!”


Our living (and/or dying) language

Aggie Girl reports: “Hmm, reading a technical book and it contains the following sentence: ‘The disbenefits of the structure may outweigh the benefits.’

“Disbenefits? New one on me. Apparently to dictionary.com, too.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul, reports: “Subject: Controlling the conversation.

“The latest message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:




Band Name of the Day: The Little Scamps

Website of the Day: Stay Calm, Dad!



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