Back in the day, Carlie Wagner’s grandmother, Joie Somage, showed athletic tendencies herself
BIT OF A TOMBOY — Country Neighbors resident Joie Somage admits she had somewhat of a tomboyish side as a youngster, riding horses bareback, climbing trees and stacking hay. (Star Eagle photo by Rachel Rietsema)
BASKETBALL MILESTONE — Carlie Wagner (3), Joie Somage’s granddaughter, is congratulated by coach John Schultz after scoring her 2,000th career point Saturday. (Star Eagle photo by Chris Schlaak)
By RACHEL RIETSEMA
Country Neighbor resident Joie Somage’s birth certificate isn’t what you think it would be. Neither are her prescription bottle labels, White Pages listing and check blanks.
Her daughter Jane’s comment at age 10 sums it up well: “The pill bottle fell out of the cupboard and I asked, “Who’s Shirley?”
After Joie’s laughter subsided, she carefully explained to her little squirt how her middle name in fact became her first name at a very young age. And, that as they say, was that.
The goings on inside the Somage household still continued on as crazily as ever too.
“I remember that my mom used to bring coffee and desserts to everybody under her hair dryers,” Jane said. “I remember being 3 years old and carrying hot cups of coffee in my hand too.”
Yes, this ex-hairdresser had a bit of chaos ensuing throughout her home-based salon on a daily basis. Four children can do that to a calm situation you know.
“We had a white Pomeranian dog that sit on the old lady’s laps,” Jane said. “It was chaos. She had to listen to us fight behind the wall in the house. That was her biggest pet peeve.”
Joie continued, “The business of cutting hair just kind of blossomed on me. I shouldn’t have been in business, but they just kept coming.”
Her appointment book often filled up in the evenings too, as truck drivers and men of many professions decided to stop by for a quick haircut.
“She sometimes cut people’s hair until midnight,” Jane said. “During the day, she was up there doing pin curls and putting in blue dye.”
Before she started her magic on others’ locks, she was actually quite the tomboy. Nothing seemed to stop her when it came to farm work.
“I would get the hay bales on my knees and hoist them from my stomach onto the stack,” Joie said. “I was better helping Daddy than Mom. I could stack them six high.”
She took a fancy to horses too. Just so long as they had somewhat of a gentle nature that is.
“I wasn’t really good on horses,” she said. “Kit was so gentle though.”
Being overly cautious around these intimidating creatures didn’t seem to prevent any scarring memories however. There were two mishaps that she can remember.
“When they know they are on their way home, they will take off on you sometimes,” she said. “One Shetland went tearing up the middle of the road.”
For some, the absence of a saddle might make things more petrifying. Not for her.
“I could ride bareback better,” she said. “The horses were so wide that my feet wouldn’t dangle, but my legs were strong so it was O.K.”
Or so elegantly put by her daughter, “She was a little stud. We would race across to Kenny’s grocery and she could beat me. She could climb a tree with the best of them and jump the highest too.”
Perhaps coincidentally, Joie’s granddaughter, Carlie Wagner — Jane’s daughter — is a junior at NRHEG High School and one of the most sought after college prospects in the nation. She also won the state high jump championship last spring.
Joie, at around 19-20 years of age, recalls a most comical incident while relaxing amidst her favorite treetop.
“When her dad and I were dating, I lived in this apple tree,” she said. “So one time I was up in the tree when he arrived way early. He got out of the car with a big bouquet of lilacs behind his back. I thought, ‘You look stupider than I do!’”
Her own mother, Emma, even admitted that she along with the rest of her four sisters weren’t that entirely lady like.
“My mom always said my brother Kurt was the only one that sat like a lady,” she said. “There was Muriel, Lorraine, Kurt, Lois, Phyllis and me.”
She continued, “My mom and I would tangle once in a while, but for the most part, we were real close.”
Unlike her sisters, she got to spend a lot of one on one time with her mom in the kitchen or wherever. That’s what the “baby” gets to do, she guesses.
“All my sisters were talented in some way,” she said. “I wasn’t a machine sewer like them. But, my aunt Eden said to me once that my mother had said how I had the most sensitive taste out of all five.”
This refined culinary taste of Joie’s also transferred into a different kind of art many years later.
“Sometimes writing poems was hard work, fun or both,” she said. “Many nights I sat up writing and could hardly hold up my head the next day.”
Jane continued, “People would come over and ask her to write a poem for their daughter’s baby shower, dad’s 80 birthday party or whatever. So she would sit up late at night after she got us monkeys into bed.”
If that wasn’t enough, this wife, hairdresser and writer seamlessly took on another role. This time it involved quite a bit of flour.
“She baked a lot and cooked many suppers and meals like homemade beef stew and spaghetti, buns and rolls,” she said. “Her gravy was the best. I’m the gravy connoisseur now because I always watched how she made it.”
Her husband John contributed a great deal to their family success too, according to both Jane and Joie. Nothing stopped him, not even embarrassing matters.
“He would bring home a box of Tampons if we asked him to,” Jane said. “See my dad worked in Albert Lea and we were stuck in little Hartland.”
And, factor in her mother’s lack of a driver’s license.
“I was near-sighted as a bat for one thing so I never have really driven my entire life,” she said. “I figured there were enough people on the road. They shouldn’t put me on there too.”
Apparently, this vehicular immobility still doesn’t bother her in the least bit. As long as she is surrounded by family, everything in her book is more than good.
“We had so much at our Christmas get together this year,” Joie said. “We have so much fun together, laughing all night.”
Jane added, “Her grandkids are everything. All those squirrely kids can lay on the couch here, eat and watch movies.”
Her best friend at Country Neighbors makes life just that much sweeter. Actually, “she is a kick.”
“Evie Standke and I just took to each other,” Joie said. “I’ve been at Country Neighbors for six to eight months now. I like my room and can see the weather well and everyone gives me my space.”
Now on her 18th year as a New Richland resident, this Emmons township native only has one more utterly important thing to say.
“My kids are Susie, Michael, Robin and Jane,” Joie said. “I hated the name Jane because of those 1st grade reader books. It was Dick and Jane this and that. But when I got to naming her, I liked it. It’s been good though. She has been Hurricane Jane, Calamity Jane and Jane the pain.”
And Joie has been there for it all.