Grandpa Hanson comes particularly to mind this time of year because November 20th was his birthday and November 30th was when he left us for a better world.
Grandma Hanson was a driving force whose strength and activities and acts of kindness so often come to mind, that there are times one tends to put thoughts of Grandpa Hanson on the back burner until fall rolls around. I am reminded of things I know and experienced through him, along with stories about him related to me by others. I will try to picture in your mind the pictures I have of him in mine.
My mother looks at her square hands and thinks of her dad. His too were square, but with more calluses, slivers and blemishes, because a farmer’s life back then was hard. She remembers how warm and safe she felt when he held her in his lap, touching her with those work-scarred hands. She tells me of the many people who "knew him when," who tell her how much he was appreciated. He was a good and willing neighbor, always close at hand when someone needed him. He had 4-H connections and those 4-H boys and girls — now grown — have come forth to tell how much me meant to their life.
This is the time of year there was wood to put up, used to keep the house warm in winter. The big circle saw was used to cut off chunks of wood to be split and stacked. Butchering of meat for the winter was also a big event. There was slaughtering the livestock, which was then hung in the end of the corn crib until it was cut up and wrapped — because by that time of the year it was cold enough to do so. There weren't home freezers back then, but individuals could rent space in the locker plant in town.
Farming was different then. The farmer was more than a hard laborer; he was the veterinarian, the animal obstetrician, the one who mixed the homegrown grains, slopped the hogs and pitched the loose hay in the old barn. He was a carpenter and fixer of small things. He turned the sod behind a hand plow with one horse for power and he picked corn by hand, sometimes on moonlit nights when need be, because there never seemed to be enough hours in the day. He recycled the field by turning out pigs and cows and other livestock to glean the fields for anything that might have been missed.
There were straw sheds constructed using a woven wire base. He blew straw over it, making a cozy shelter for young stock for which there wasn't room in the barn. Farmers had to crack the ice (before tank heaters) in the cow tank so the cattle would have for water to drink when they were turned out for exercise, which helped to make it easier for barn cleaning.
How about separating the milk and cream by hand using a hand turned separator? Or milking by hand until a gasoline engine could take its place and run a milk machine, or using the tractor manifold if the power went out? Such progress. Cattle to feed along with young calves, sheep and cats to feed using a bottle. So many things come to mind.
There are mental images of Grandpa in his bib overalls, sometimes closed with a nail if the button was gone from the suspenders, and his denim jackets. He also wore long underwear and often one piece which may have included some wool content that controlled arthritis some but froze as a stiff skeleton of cloth on wash day on the clothes line in winter. He also wore yellow work gloves and a sheepskin coat as he delivered cream to Ellendale, often criss-crossing open fields and cutting fences because snowdrifts were too deep on unplowed country roads. It was a five-mile trip that not only involved the cream but also served to pick up things at the old grocery store, or mail that was undelivered, both for this family and neighbors.
It took the better part of the day going by sleigh and there were still chores to do when he got home. Sometimes there may have been a little time to read the paper before turning out the kerosene lamp and going through a cold hallway on the way upstairs to a not-so-warm bedroom. Flannel sheets and hand made quilts were used on the bed to help keep one warm so they could sleep through the night in preparation for dawn and the chores of the next new day.
Perhaps at one time the bedroom was shared by an incubator that hatched the chickens for the coming year. The eggs had to be rotated carefully and at a certain time. It was easier to buy them hatched and one could hear them peep in their boxes at the post office. Yes, they came parcel post and they peeped to let everyone know it. Later the chickens were ordered from the hatchery in New Richland. It was a big time labor and worry saver. Weather could raise havoc with a new batch of chicks in a brooder house warmed with a little kerosene burner. Many trips were made to the old chicken house to check on them to see if they were warm enough or had crowded together, which might make them smother. Of course every one of them had to be handled, their beaks dipped in lukewarm water so they would learn how to eat and drink.
Thanksgiving — “Giving Thanks Day” — is a time to reflect upon our blessings, not only our food, but our family and well-being. It is a time to reflect upon what we have seen in our lifetime, and the lifetime of those who came before us. I thank our hosts who so unselfishly "gave us this day our daily bread." I also thank my Danish ancestors for their traditions handed down and for memories too good to lose. Here in Minnesota, we know who we are, who our parents were, what they went through. That’s not true for much of the U.S. today. I think we would be a much better nation if we had that sense of our place among family, neighbors, and country. I thank my family for being there sharing the love and joy of Thanksgiving and instituting the beginning of the Christmas season. And most of all I thank my God for all.
Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements. In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us.
This week’s birthdays and anniversaries:
• Thursday, December 19th: LaJune Hagen, Kathy Peterson, Jerry Thompson, Sheryl Tracy, Loren Haroldson, Cheryl Utpadel, James & Barb Bremmer, Chris & Jennifer Paulson, Jerry & Bev White
• Friday, December 20th: Corlyn Paulsen, Kyle Johnson, Laurie Swift, Deb Whelan, Odean & Andrea Johnson
• Saturday, December 21st: Audriene Nelson, Nancy Rich, Liz Wangness, Darin Rhodes, Brandon Hagen, Dave & Tammy Peterson, Duane & Cheryl Lembke
• Sunday, December 22nd: Destiny Rita Hill, David Arends, Pam Cook, Gary Dobberstein, Tracy Dulas, Julie Jensen Wichman, Ed Nelson, Nikki Toft Schumaker, Barbara Zamora, Bryce Hanson, Jamie Jensen
• Monday, December 23rd: Vicki Richards, Jonika Otto Wing, Jess Dunlap, Paitin DuBois, Julie Cornelius, Keith Severson, Carol Schultz, Sophia Swift, Burt & Carla Scripture
• Tuesday, December 24th: Christmas Eve! Barbara Mrotz, Brooke Reese, Craig Paulsen, Anna Louise Fuerniss, Susan Oolman
• Wednesday, December 25th: Merry Christmas! Mitchel Gale Evans, Krista Lee Hardyman, Tom Reitveld, Makenzie Butler
• Thursday December 26th: Nadine Strenge, Gerald Edwards, Tom Hanson, Joshua Kasper, Jill Peterson Otterbein, Nicklas Hanson
• Friday, December 27th: Sue Bailey Billbray, Colette Hemingway Moudy, Mikkel Iverson, Jamie Hagen, Scott Christensen, Carly Titus, Stacy Osmundson Titus, Ron Peterson, Shannon Peterson Pederson, Brad Bothum, Joe Anderson
May your find joy and pleasure all around you on your special day!