"Out of my Head"


Grandma Boisjolie

Reflecting upon my childhood, I have come to the conclusion that the pioneer character of my father's family explains his mobility and his attempt to farm on the hostile Plains.  His people were French Canadian in origin and while knowledge of their background is limited, we do know that Grandma - Rosalie Houd - had come as a girl of seven from Montreal to Kankakee, Illinois, in an ox-drawn covered wagon, and had experienced Indian attacks.  Grandma's branch of the family disliked the flat Illinois prairie land and continued north before the Chicago fire to Belle Prairie, Minnesota, a French settlement near Little Falls, where Grandma met and married Joseph Boisjolie.  Grandma Boisjolie was a unique personality - tough, resourceful, and amusing.  She smoked a corncob pipe from the time she was eighteen, but was completely scandalized when women started to smoke cigarettes in the twenties.  When challenged about her double standard, she simply replied, "But that's different."  She was fearless, and raised five highly individualistic sons; my father, the fourth, was born in 1869.  Although Grandma was illiterate, as was my father, she loved to play cards and could calculate very quickly.  She never did master cribbage, however, and described the "15-2, 15-4" counting system in some of her choicest expletives.  Grandma had a reputation for swearing in her own patois of French and English; my husband's brothers still amuse my children and grandchildren by telling how, as youngsters, they hid behind trees and threw stones in the vicinity of Grandma's cane pole as she fished from the bank near her small cottage on the Mississippi River at the foot of the dam in Little Falls.  The motive behind this mischief was to hear Grandma swear because she could "cuss better than anyone in town.”  Grandma died in 1934 at the age of ninety-two.  She had danced a jig at my wedding and was "modern" in many ways.  She loved the automobile, colored her hair, and smoked in bed, but she refused to believe that one day men "would fly in contraptions in the air.”  One of the few times she was forced to admit she was wrong was when one of the home town boys, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., proved her so in 1927.

Seasons and Survival

My father came to North Dakota around the turn of the century during the period historians call the second "Dakota Boom", a period reflecting the national trends of prosperity, railroad expansion, and eastern European immigration, all of which assisted the expanding and demanding market for wheat.  Three times in the early part of the century my father went farther west, and once moved the family to Montana, Idaho, and Washington.  While I remember living in those places, my earliest recollections were of our life on the farm around Ayr, North Dakota, near my birthplace of Tower City.

Among my sharpest memories of the northern Plains is the severity of the winters.  The winter season was long and cold, and blinding blizzards were periodically expected.  In the fall my father would string a line from the house to the barn so that he and my brothers could find their way to feed the stock.  One time the blizzard was so fierce that they could not get out of the house; the stock went without food and water for three days.  After a blizzard, paths had to be shoveled to the watering troughs where the ice was chopped and water pumped in.  Of course, the water would freeze again so the process was laboriously repeated.  Many winter days were bright and sunny but crisp and cold.  I remember temperatures between thirty-five and forty below zero, but we still went out to play and still went to school.  We also hung clothes out to dry in the winter even though they sometimes froze before we got them out of the basket.  Usually we left them out overnight and would bring them in stiff the next morning and hang them on a clothes rack next to the heater to thaw.  How I loved the good fresh smell they had, quite a difference from today's dryers.

We looked forward to summer, although hot spells with temperatures in the nineties and hundreds were distressing because of the lack of shade.  Spring was our nicest season; we enjoyed picking prairie flowers and joyously awaited the abundance of prairie chickens in the summer.  Fall was the season for a variety of wild game.  It was not unusual for us to roast a dozen or more wild ducks stuffed with Ma's delicious bread dressing.  Duck season meant work for me, however, as I was delegated the job of helping my maternal grandmother, who lived with us for a time, pick the feathers.  What wonderful pillows and ticks they made! Unfortunately the settlers' indiscriminate use of the wild game has led to the near extinction of some species, particularly the succulent prairie chicken.

As a farm family we usually had an abundance of food, although not always a variety.  We had fresh meat when we butchered, and that generally meant pork rather than beef until the later years.  A staple was salt pork which was a basic ingredient for many of the French foods my father demanded.  In those days no one ever heard of cholesterol, and when I think of my father's diet which was excessive in fat meat, eggs, and sweets, I naturally am skeptical about current nutrition warnings.  My father lived to be ninety-three, and every morning of his solid-food life he ate three or four large French pancakes - thin crepes made with a generous number of eggs, fried in lard, and served with maple syrup.  Pa usually ate the first pancake plain and sometimes substituted brown sugar and honey for syrup on the others.  My mother, who was of Polish descent and who married at sixteen, simply had to learn to make the French dishes.  She never complained about making breakfast because she said she always knew what to prepare.  In her sixty-five years of married life, she literally wore out metal mixing spoons which became thin and knife-sharp, and I vividly remember the day she put a hole in her cast iron skillet from the turning of the pancakes.  When in 1962 my parents moved into a home for the aged, the pancakes were no longer available.  This fact, along with the safety rule which prohibited the old men from lighting their own pipes, were, I am convinced, the reasons for my father's "premature" death a few months later.  The futility of a day without "panacakes", as he called them, and the humility of a woman lighting his pipe were simply too much for his male ego.  But I do attribute his longevity to his excellent eating habits, if not the nature of his diet.  He insisted upon his three meals a day at 7 a.m., 12 noon, and 5 p.m.  He never snacked between meals and he never overate.  Furthermore, he walked daily until his nineties; in North Dakota he frequently walked to town and back, a roundtrip distance of eighteen miles.  He was never overweight, but consumed ample supplies of alcohol and tobacco, contending that if he could not enjoy the things he liked, he would be better off dead anyway.

Returning to the subject of food on the farm, I remember that our table was replete with dairy products, home-baked cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, and bread.  Fish was rare except in later years when the folks would go by car on fishing trips to Minnesota and preserve their catches by salting them in crocks.  I remember my introduction to certain "new" foods on the prairie such as soda crackers packaged in wooden crates, jello, and bananas.  When the latter two were combined I thought that was the creme de la creme of desserts.  Because bananas had to be "rationed" among us five children, we were led to believe that eating more than one a day would surely kill us.  Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare except in growing season.  Apples were available in the fall and oranges and nuts were anticipated for Christmas.  My father learned to eat celery in 1918 when he took my mother to Rochester, Minnesota, for gall bladder surgery.  After Ma recovered, she was expected to raise celery, but she did so with only minimal success.

Work and Play

There was plenty of work for everyone.  As soon as I was able, I had to milk cows and feed chickens.  Some of my special chores included turning the separator and churning butter.  I very much disliked the latter job.  I had to work in the cellar with a belly churn.  I was always glad when I heard the butter go PLOP. Another distasteful job was cleaning the chimneys of kerosene lamps.

My older sister worked out a great deal, and in the fall she worked a cook car for threshers.  This involved preparing meals for twenty-five to thirty men.  Great quantities of cooking were done.  It was not unusual to rise at four in the morning to begin the day's work which might include the baking of a dozen pies.  I was "flunky", helping my sister with such unglamourous tasks as washing dishes, setting the table, and peeling potatoes.  Threshing was an interesting time because many strange men came into town to "earn a stake".  On rainy days they played poker in the haymow.  Some lost all they made.  I liked this time of year in spite of the work, - it was always fun to climb the strawpiles.

Another important time on the farm was butchering.  Each of us has a task to perform.  Ma cut up all the meat.  I had to cut the lard for rendering.  We used every part of the pig, and thus had "treats" like head cheese and blood sausage.  I didn't care much for the cheese, but did like the sausage, and willingly performed the duty of catching the blood and stirring it so it wouldn't get too thick.

Secondly, despite time-consuming and backbreaking tasks like hauling water from the well, activated by a windmill, and washing clothes on a washboard, we seemed to find time for amusement.  In the summer I rode my horse Bluebell, my prized possession, and froliced with Puppy, my fiesty dog.  Puppy got into enough mischief to create needed excitement.  Once he tangled with a wolf which Pa had to shoot from the stonepile.  Another time the dog confronted a badger which I helped him kill with the aid of a big stick.  He chased cows and horses, and when he disappeared after getting kicked in the head by a horse, we gave him up for dead.  But one day about two weeks later he reappeared from under the porch and went back to chasing the stock.  He could take care of himself in any situation, including blizzards when he would simply "dig in" the snow and stay there until the sun came out.  Puppy helped with my favorite summer pastime of snaring gophers.  I would set a snare around a hole, whistle, and when the gopher popped up, Puppy would strike.  Pa paid me a penny a tail for my trophies.  I averaged about twenty gophers on a good day.

One day was not so good.  Pa was seeding wheat with a drill and four horses.  He left them for a moment to help me, and the horses took off, breaking the equipment and injuring themselves on the barbed wire fence.  I played with all the farm animals except the pigs, and spent much time with the kittens, especially the "bob-tailed" litter that my devilish brothers had so fashioned when they were first born.  I even agreed to my sister's job of feeding the bull when we were home alone.  She was afraid of all the animals including the lizards in the cellar, so I was the one sent down to get the potatoes.

Given my father's illiteracy and my mother's fourth grade education, books and newspapers were not priority items in our home.  But we spent endless hours poring over the one book that was always there - the Sears catalogue.  My favorite pastime was making up orders which of course were never sent.  What opportunities for the imagination the catalogue provided!

Much of the family leisure time was spent playing cards at neighboring farms, distance and temperature notwithstanding.  Whist was the most popular card game.  Card playing often went on until three or four in the morning, with a break for midnight lunch.  Small, sleeping children were bundled up and carried out to the sleigh, sometimes in thirty-below-zero temperatures.  When we visited near-by farms (two or three miles away) we would take a lantern and walk.  One time we all fell on the lee at the moment of my father's warning to "watch our step".  Dancing was another popular "neighborhood" activity in any season of the year.  Barn dances were common, and I remember when we had one to initiate our new barn.  In addition to square dances, we also did the fox trot, polka, and waltz.  All families and all ages participated.  The music was generally an organ and/or fiddle.  My cousins were talented on both these instruments.  Occasionally someone had an accordian, but alas, Lawrence Welk was in another part of the state! In homes where there was a piano we would gather around it and sing.  As we got older we kids would stay overnight with our friends and play guessing games until the wee hours of the morning.

For all our remoteness, we had much company.  Seldom were invitations issued; people just came.  We always had company for dinner on Sunday - uninvited, of course -which meant that my mother did vast amounts of cooking, seven days a week.  My father never wanted to eat elsewhere for Sunday dinner because he thought no one could cook as well as Ma.  This should have been a compliment for my mother, but how she would have enjoyed a Sunday as a guest! Our place was an especially popular one to visit after my mother served French pancakes for midnight lunch on one card-playing occasion.  When in 1917 we got an Edison phonograph with cylinder records, the company increased even more.


At this point in my life we were living near Binford, North Dakota, in Griggs County where my father finally did settle after several abortive attempts to farm or ranch out West. We lived on one farm, and then moved to another which had an exceptionally nice two-story house, and then moved back to the first farm and its cramped quarters and treeless expanse.  Today all that stands there is the windmill surrounded by acres and acres of golden wheat with heads of a size and quality far superior to anything we ever raised.

Our acceptance into the "society" of this hinterland is interesting because we were truly a minority.  We were a French Catholic family with a funny name among Norwegian and German Lutherans, and as such were very much a novelty and viewed at first with a great deal of suspicion.  No doubt it was the natural neighborliness in an environment that craved companionship and my mother's cooking which accounted for our acceptance.  We were included in the Lutheran Ladies' Aid gatherings which I always enjoyed because of the games such as "The Needle's Eye", "A Pig in the Parlor", and "Skip to My Lou" - and those wonderful lunches.  My mother made a hit with her Sunshine Layer Cake which she made “out of my head" -she never, used a recipe - and which to this day is a favorite birthday request in our family.

The absence of Catholic churches in most towns or their mission status in others, the difficulty of traveling on poor roads, and my father's indifference to churchgoing (although he was proud that his parents were part of the group which founded the Belle Prairie church in 1880 with the famous pioneer Father Pierz as first pastor), make me wonder how we ever got any religious instruction at all.  But my Polish mother was devout and determined, and somehow managed to make sure we were all introduced to the sacraments.  I never will forget my first Communion in Wimbledon, North Dakota, thirty miles from where we lived.  We marched to the altar with lighted candles.  I was last in the procession, probably because I was older and taller than the others.  My partner was sick, and when she weaved around the turn, her candle caught my hair and veil.  Everyone in the church rose in panic, but the bishop waved them back and calmly tore the veil from my head and beat out the flames.


My education consisted of eight grades in a one-room school.  School was at least three miles away and we walked - rain or shine, cold or snow.  On exceptionally cold winter days we were allowed to take our team, Belle and Tulip, and a covered sled, with just one window for the driver.  When it was stormy we depended on the horses to get us home and they always did.  In later years the school district provided a larger covered rig which picked up all the children attending the school.  The floor of the cab was covered with straw for warmth, and in the center stood a small oil burner.  One day the rig tipped over in a snow bank; the straw caught fire and I got my muff singed.  These cutters were the forerunners of the school bus; later in North Dakota the horse-bus, on wheels in spring and fall, was as familiar a sight as the yellow school bus is today, although the horse-drawn rigs would never pass a safety inspection.

There were never many children in a rural school.  My school "souvenir" from 1916 lists twenty, and four were from my own family.  Six families were represented in the other sixteen.  Some times a grade was vacant or had just one child in it.  The curriculum centered around basic skills, especially the three R's and geography.  Music was the only enrichment" subject.  The rural schools in North Dakota during this period were rated as very inferior in quality of education.  However, my daughter who is a high school teacher claims that I write, spell, and punctuate better than many of her students from highly advantaged suburban schools.  We probably had fewer distractions, though, and we were reared with the attitude that getting into trouble at school meant double trouble at home.  Like all kids, we looked forward to recess, but our favorite games of "Pump, Pump Pullaway" and "Chickens and Geese" would appear quite tame and laughable to today's youth.

The teachers were usually young, single women with little or no college education.  One year my teacher was a young man, Arthur K. Olson.  Teacher turnover was frequent, probably because the salary was pitiful and there was little opportunity for social life.  The school did serve as a center, however, for a number of rural social events, such as the popular basket socials which were held in the schoolhouse.  One time my cousin and I had a double basket, and had to eat with the two old bachelors who got it - which had not been our strategy, but we were expected to play by the rules, and we did.

The school Christmas play or program was a major event.  One year I sang a solo, "Sweet and Low".  That was not exactly a Christmas song, but I remember the warm ovation I got.  The closest we came to any kind of "pre-school" was when very young children participated in school programs.  When I was three I sang "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" and recited "Little Miss Muffet" at a school program.  I don't remember that ovation but was told the audience applauded with gusto.

School provided other learning experiences also.  When we lived on the second farm with the nice house, we went to school in town.  There I remember trying on another girl's hat and coming home with head lice.  Because I had very thick hair, the extermination process was difficult.  My mother rubbed my head with kerosene to get the nits out.  Shampooing hair was a problem under normal conditions because water had to be hauled for all the stages.  We used Fels Naptha soap for our shampoos.


We had few clothes in those days so any one who had anything different - such as that infamous hat - was a novelty.  Most of the time we had one outfit for everyday and one for Sunday.  In winter we wore long underwear, long black stockings, and high button shoes.  It was a nuisance to get all of those layers on neatly.  My mother made most of our clothing, and her burden was lightened a bit when she ordered a sewing machine in 1917 from Straus and Schram on Stony Island in Chicago.  The machine arrived by freight.  What a big day that was! We couldn't imagine anything coming from such a distance.  The first thing Ma sewed on the marvel was fly nets for the horses!

A real treat was going to town to shop for dress material.  We ached to order ready-made clothing from the Sears Catalogue, but my father was reluctant to let us do this.  "What if it doesn't fit!" he would ask.  It never occurred to us that we might send items back for exchange.  I was permitted to order shoes from the catalogue for my eighth grade graduation.  They were beautiful but too short.  I would not admit this, however, so suffered the life of the shoes and retain a bunion in their memory to this day.


Going to town was a major event.  With a horse and buggy it was a day's outing, and such trips were occasionally made to buy staples - flour, sugar and salt.  The special treat was a bag of jellybeans.  And there was the momentous occasion of driving to Fargo after we got our Ford.  I could not imagine a grander city in all the world than Fargo, and at night the patterns of flickering lights were the ultimate distinction of our prairie world.  (Recently while in North Dakota, I reacted with comparable enthusiasm to the splendor of a display of Northern Lights, a common but unheeded occurrence in my childhood.)

Most of our introduction to the sophistications of the outside world, however, came from the latest selections in the wagon of the itinerant peddler Charlie who appeared every year with the spring thaw.  His covered rig was laden with all the amenities of gracious living: shoe laces, dry goods, ribbon, and lace.  We were always fascinated by the bright colors and fine textures of his goods and were thrilled if Ma's purchase included a ribbon or two.  We looked forward to Charlie's visits because he was jovial and darkly handsome, and had a mystique about him that suggested to us that he was a gypsy.  I learned later that he was Syrian and that Syrian people eventually settled in Glenfield, North Dakota, where they live to this day.  Charlie loved to trade horses, and my father often traded with him.  We always served him a meal and watered and fed his horses in partial payment for the goods we bought.  Another visitor who appeared without warning was my Uncle Joe.  He was a bit of a scoundrel who traveled with a wagon full of bulldogs and a different "wife" for each visit.  Needless to say, my mother did not appreciate his visits or his women, but we kids liked his dogs which were trained to do tricks.  I especially remember the dog Ring who was very smart.


In spite of land booms, strong wheat markets, and the ever-present railroad to bring the two together, the everyday life of the North Dakota farmer in the first three decades of the century was more often poverty than prosperity.  The purchase of our first Ford automobile in 1917 would seem to suggest an economic upturn for us, but in those days a car was not as costly as a good team of horses.  The automobile did much to quicken the pace of our lives although this more rapid transportation was not without its drawbacks.  After my father broke himself of the habit of hollering "Ho" every time he braked, we made more trips to the fields, to the neighbors, and to town, but an outing was sometimes delayed or even cancelled when the car got stuck in the gumbo.  North Dakota had no paved roads and few graded ones in 1917.  When an auto became stuck in gumbo - the rich, black soil of the northern Plains that becomes sticky when wet - the only thing to do was to wait for the "enlarged" tire to dry, and then chop the mud off with a hammer.  In spite of these frustrations, however, the American love affair with the automobile was certainly present in

North Dakota where it helped to overcome the excesses of isolation and remoteness, and eventually led to greater consolidation of schools, churches, and other public facilities.  A few years after we got our first Model T, we got another Ford with white wire wheels and a tire in back.  This, we thought, was the absolute ultimate of modern civilization.


Long distance travel in North Dakota was simpler than it is today because of the railroad.  James J. Hill and his Great Northern is a classic story of the self-made man with an idea.  In our part of the state, the competitor, the Northern Pacific, served whatever needs we had to travel by train.  The two occasions I remember when we relied on the railroad were the times when someone in the family was ill and had to be taken to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.  One was when my middle brother was not able to walk because of an infection on his leg, and went to Rochester for surgery.  The other time was in 1918 when my mother had her gall bladder removed.  On both occasions my father accompanied the patient.  When my mother was hospitalized, my father witnessed the numbers of patients who were admitted to Mayos with the flu, and the numbers of dead who were wheeled out almost as fast. He had word sent back to us on the farm that we were to stay inside and not socialize, a warning that went unheeded.

Fortunately during my growing-up years, we were healthy and seldom needed medical services.  Dental care was out of the question.  Whenever we got a cold my mother rubbed our chests with skunk oil or goose grease and covered them with a woolen cloth.  We did have the services of Dr. Truscott who made the rounds with his horse and buggy; I'm always reminded of him when I see Doe on Gunsmoke.  He delivered babies now and then, although many births occurred without a doctor in attendance.  My mother was often called upon to assist a delivery as a midwife, and she served in this capacity at the birth of her first grandchild.  Emergency surgery was quite primitive.  When my youngest brother chopped off the end of his little finger at the first knuckle, a doctor was summoned, and the finger, hanging by the skin, was painfully sewn back on without anesthetic or a shot of any kind.  On the other hand, when my sister cut her arm at school trying to raise a window with an ill-fitting pane, she was given chloroform while the doctor stitched her arm with common thread.


While I did not realize the significance at the time, surely one of the unique political developments in the history of the United States was occurring in North Dakota and that was the growth and activity of the Nonpartisan League.  The League was formed in 1913 by Arthur C. Townley and was an outgrowth of turn-of-the-century reform movements such as the Farmers' Alliance, Populism, and Progressivism.  The debtor farmers, of course, were willing to listen to and even support any "radical" reform efforts which sought to free them from exploitation by the "outside interests" - railroads, banks, and other capitalistic creditors.  I remember my father talking admirably about William Jennings Bryan and his convincing rhetoric and powerful oratory.  I also remember my father's more skeptical interest in William Langer, the future Depression year’s governor of North Dakota, and other Nonpartisans who walked along side Pa while he plowed and argued the merits of the League.

The League was successful during the World War I years in getting control of the state government and passing "socialistic" legislation which created such institutions as the Bank of North Dakota (praised in a July of 1976 article in the Washington Post) and the State Mill and Elevator at Grand Forks, and which strengthened the state hall insurance program.  Hail, incidentally, was a frequent curse of nature which in just a few minutes, could ruin a very promising harvest. The Nonpartisan League was far more successful in North Dakota than in neighboring Minnesota where its support of a Republican primary candidate for governor, Charles A. Lindbergh, in 1918, probably contributed to his defeat and the demise of his political career, but where in the forties, Democrat Hubert Humphrey forged the remnants of Nonpartisan with other farmer-oriented groups to form the very successful Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party.  Thus some of the agrarian concepts which literally grew out of the roots in the Grassland, have helped to shape the political philosophy of the current Vice President and Secretary of Agriculture of the United States.


Politics, however, and North Dakota's unique response to the forces of the times, did not concern us much as we continued to work and play in a world that seemed simple and natural.  A break in the routine occurred on holidays which were awaited with anticipation and joyously celebrated.  The "biggest" day in the year was the Fourth of July.  We would spend it at Red Willow Lake, one of the few natural lakes in our part of the state.  Each of us would get twenty-five cents to spend the whole day.  I usually spent my quarter on five ice-cream cones, evenly spaced throughout the day.  There was always a ball game, fireworks, and dancing.  My sister's boyfriend was the catcher on the local team, so we gave it our wholehearted support.

Halloween was the kids' day for mischief which seemed to know no limits.  The morning after there was never an upright outhouse in the whole area.  One year my brothers and their friends put a cow in the schoolhouse basement.  Oh, what a mess! Christmas was a time for treats such as oranges, candy, and nuts by the bushel.  I do not remember ever getting toys except for a homemade rag doll.  We never had a Christmas tree although there was one in the schoolhouse with lighted candles.  What a fire hazard that would be considered today.  The Christmas season was a time for sleigh rides for the teens.  We put hay in the bottom of a bobsled, and with foot warmers and fur robes we would be toasty warm as we sang in rhythm to the sleigh bells.  The song "Jingle Bells" still recalls a very vivid picture for me.  Sometimes we got out to "hitch" behind the sleigh, only to be forced to let go and then do some fast running to catch up.  I still think we had more fun than kids do today.

Changes of the Twenties

My adolescent years coincided with World War 1, and even though my brother named one of his calves "Woodrow

Wilson", the whole experience was remote to me except for two instances.  One was the scarcity of staples such as flour and the poor quality of dark flour we had to accept and about which my father bitterly complained; the second was my sister's fiance, the ball player, showing up at the house in uniform before he departed for France in March of 1918.  I remember what a straight, serious soldier he was, and how my brothers teased my sister by performing military marches around the house.

My interests in the teen years were not much different from those of any young girl.  I became very style and clothes conscious, and was eager to earn my own money so I could buy extra clothes.  The women in our rural community were anxious to try the new bobbed hairstyle, although at the time they had never heard of the heroines of those Minnesota authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis.  One day my aunt came over and bobbed my mother's hair.  We waited for my father's reaction, expecting it to be rather explosive.  But he liked it, so I got mine bobbed too.  Later in the twenties we learned to marcel our hair.  This required heating the marcel iron in the lamp chimney, another defection from common sense safety standards.

My first job was picking potatoes with my cousin.  We did plenty of laughing and singing as we picked, and this made very hard physical labor much lighter.  We worked as a team and filled about sixty sacks which we had tied around our waists.  My first purchase with potato money was a rose-colored dress with rabbit fur around the hem and cuffs.  I thought I was really the epitome of high style.  To complete the fashion, I also spent seventy-five cents for a box of Winx, an eye makeup.  For a while, my cousin, sister-in-law, and I ventured to the big city of Fargo to work in a sanitarium.  The other two cooked and I fixed the trays and ironed the doctor's shirts.  He was pleased with my work.

As the twenties - and I - matured, we moved, first to southwestern Minnesota and then to Little Falls where I met my future husband when he was home on vacation from Inland Steel.  And while I do not regret for a moment the suburban life-style of my married years in the Chicago metropolitan area, I am well aware that they were vastly different from my first twenty-three years.  The society that my children and grandchildren experience is so changed that they look upon my childhood as "dull", "too much work", and "unreal".  But we survived, because that was our challenge, and while I can't say that we prospered in any material sense, we were an active if naive part of the growth and vitality of a national people searching for the good life - the American dream - in the hard heart of the North American continent.  Our energy and hope eroded dullness and boredom; hard work only to "do without" did not kill us but rather prepared us for Depression and War; and, as I look back, the most enduring reality is still that black, sticky gumbo and lonesome landscape, today one of the richest wheat-lands in the world, and that bracing fresh air which still breathes pure and free.

Eva Boisjolie Wenzel

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 115 

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