Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who's Your Daddy? Your Cousin? Your Great-great-great-great grandather?

Part of our journey's purpose has been to spend time with those we love, reconnect with friends and family and to explore our roots in this great land. We have seen those we have been missing and reunited with family that we have not been with for many years.

We had a wonderful visit with my Dad's brother, Uncle Russ and his wife, Joanne. Cousin Jodi and I spent the day browsing shops near St. Louis. That evening we were joined for dinner by her family including beautiful twin daughters, Amanda and Erin and granddaughter, Nora. They brought their charming and handsome men with them with the exception of Tim and Jodi's son, Tom, who had class that night.

Shari, Doug's daughter and her husband, Ryan moved to Indianapolis last February. Shari knows that to keep her Dad around it is a good idea to have projects. She did an excellent job and now has a remodeled bathroom and new brake pads on her car and they had a wonderful time working together. Shari so resembles Doug in so many ways!

Our very best go to Deanna and Ron Larson and their son Tim and his wife Mary. The family owns a publishing company and Ron has long been a text book author of college and k-12 math books. We spend a lovely evening enjoying their hospitality in Erie the night of the 21st. We were all saddened to hear that Ron's Mother, Harriet Larson passed away in the night. I often think of her Christmas letter last year and all that I have heard about her. What a remarkable woman! I can only hope to ride my last camel in Eqypt at 95 and to be spoken of so lovingly as is Harriet. Sorry for no pictures.

I have long heard of Doug's cousin, Steve, who is an artist now living in upstate New York formerly from New York City. We contacted his mother, Betty, to obtain an address for him. She told us that he owned a wall paper company and that some of his wall paper was in the White House. But I did not imagine that Steve's company was selected to produce the wall paper used in the restoration of the Lincoln Bedroom. He produces original wall paper for museum quality restoration. Not only is he artistic, he is an excellent chef. It was fun to go through the business and see the house they built.

During our travels we went to Bishop Hill, IL where Jan's Swedish ancestors came to exercise religious freedom in the winter of 1847-48. The Bishop Hill Colony was one of several religious communities in that area including the Amana Colonies (German), the Mormon Colony at Navoo and several Mennonite Communities. The Bishop Hill Colony included many notable historical members not the least of whom were Carl Sandburg's sister (who taught school) and Olaf Kranz, the well known primitive artist. Olaf Kranz painted life at Bishop Hill including portraits of notable First Settlers. Jan's Great-great-great-great Grandather, Han's Dahlgren, was among those and his portrait hangs today in the Bishop Hill Museum. If you knew Jan's father, John, you can probably see the resemblence.
As a note, we met a man who knew Jan's Great-great-great Uncle Hans who was the son of aforementioned Hans and who died in 1949. The man told us a story about Hans and commented that Hans was both a good farmer, a good neighbor and a character. As the story goes, Han's came to the bank to purchase the Root farm which was located south of Bishop Hill. He placed a bag on the counter. When the banker counted the money, he told Hans that there was too much cash. For a moment Han's looked puzzled and then he replied, " I must have picked up the wrong bag."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This Land is Our Land

As we left British Columbia and our summer on the boat, the view from the Sydney Harbor was spectacular. The next part of our journey is a trip across the continent where we are daily reminded of our great diversity. We left Olympia on October 4 early in the morning on a spectacular fall day.
Our first stop was Manson where we lunched with dear Maria and Lia and had dinner with old friends. The excitement of harvest was everywhere. Bob harvested grapes as others harvested apples. Our thanks to Nicki and John for their hospitality and how wonderful it was to see the Castrodales and the Barkleys for dinner. Happy Birthday to Kristina.
The next part of our journey took us to Bozeman, Montana where we were reminded how early winter can come in the foothills .
Doug spent his first six years on the family farm in North Dakota. As we spent the night with the farmer, Charlie Shope, who bought the land from Doug's dad. Charlie's stories, the wheat, the cattle and the oil rigs made North Dakota come alive for us. Doug's grandfather lost part of his land to the flooding of the area through a new dam. The trees he planted on Aunt Sarah's farm still stand.
Next we went to Gimli which is in Manitoba. Early in the 20th Century the Canadian government gave the Icelanders the right to establish their own government in Manitoba. The first settlers arrived in the 1880s. My family settled their in the 1920s but times were hard and they left a few years later. Several years ago my mother's family were reunited with a sister who remained in Gimli and her two children, Judy and Gary. We visited Aunt Violet in the assisted living - how much she resembles her sisters and her mother. The picture of Gary and me bears some family resemblence.
Our good friends, Mary Lee and Jerry hail from Wisonsin and we were privledged to spend several days in the 1905 farm house where she lives on the dairy farm her brother and his son work. It has been in her family for 6 generations. Our wonderful visit was cut short a day by several inches of snow and more in the forecast. Winter comes early to the prairie states.

I don't know what kind of farm people we might have been had we stayed on the prairie in either Doug's North Dakota or my Manitoba. But our lives would have been very different that much is certain.