From the miscellaneous drawer - Lesson learned

by Anne Swenson

In the long ago summer when the old homestead burned on the other side of the hill, I learned a life lesson which stayed with me. As usual I was staying with my aunt (my mother's sister) and uncle for part of the summer.<BR><BR>The farm house which burned had been my uncle's childhood home but had long since been abandoned. It was reached by walking from their newer farm home, through the meadow with fields of corn and hay on either side. <BR><BR>The old homestead's windmill still drew water for the milking cows and sheep grazed in the front yard which had a long time past had been the playground for my uncle. Did he have siblings? Perhaps a sister. I didn't know his family well. <BR><BR>There was a bad storm the night of the fire and I had awakened in my small room under the eaves of the white clapboard house to see the flames rise over the hill, not far from Spoon River where the cows grazed in the timber. <BR><BR>I was perhaps six or seven and the scene captured my mind, although I could not see it, of neighbors hurrying to the fire to see what could be done. Of course, I wanted to go, to see the drama first hand but I was told to go back to bed and that, while my aunt and uncle were gone, I was to do nothing but go back to bed. I reluctantly obeyed because it was what I knew I had to do. <BR><BR>If only I had recognized what I had to do and not do later during my stay there that summer. <BR><BR>The big war was on and all three of their children were serving in Europe. The men were in the U.S. Army and their sister was an Army nurse. <BR><BR>It was in her room where I slept. <BR><BR>She was a petite woman with tiny feet and it was the era where young women wore high heels, but not women who were serving near battlefields in Europe. They left their high heeled shoes at home. <BR><BR>Yes, that was where my cousin had left hers - in the crawl space under the eaves. The very place which my favorite, beloved aunt not only forbade me to disturb, but also made me promise to absolutely respect my cousin's privacy and possessions. <BR><BR>Six or seven year olds are yet children, curious and easily bored or perhaps on that day I was avoiding a poignant farm scene which involved butchering for the family larder. <BR><BR>Whatever the excuse I had, it was not artful sleuthing which brought the wrath of aunt Grace down upon me. Instead it was the sound of small feet in tiny shoes resounding through the wooden floor into the kitchen below where my aunt was working. <BR><BR>She charged upstairs and caught me trying to slip the shoes back into the waiting boxes. <BR><BR>"I never laid a hand on any of my own children," she said, "but you have disappointed me terribly." And although she spanked me, it was not that which made me cry. <BR><BR>It was that she had an expectation of respect from me for things which were hers and her daughter's, and I had lost her respect. It would take many walks with her down hot, dusty roads before I was able to regain it. <BR><BR>If I had had a grandmother, I think she would have been like Aunt Grace. Someone from whom there were so many lessons to learn. Lessons which are harder yet to teach.<BR><BR>* * *<BR><BR>In the Ely Echo of July 30, 1975, Larry Grahek, an All State pitcher and outfielder, had signed with the University of Minnesota Gophers. <BR><BR>Sawmill Days in Winton was to kick off with a parade on August 3. <BR><BR>There was a controlled burn on Snowbank Lake which later got out of control.<BR><BR>Floyd Lindvahl became the American Legion Post 248 commander.<BR><BR>The front page headline read: "BWCA Comedy Theater at Auditorium August 12" and noted that the "St. Paul Legislative Laugh Show" was to be a public hearing on H.F. 922, the Boundary Waters Protection Act. Writer Bob Cary noted that it would be Rep. Bud Philbrook (DFL-Roseville) versus Rep. Doug Johnson (DFL-Cook). Johnson was proposing HF 1183 which sought to create a "Greater Metropolitan Canoe Area" to encompass the Twin Cities.<BR><BR>A year later, the Ely Echo of July 28, 1976 had news of another Winton Sawmill Days for the nation's Bicentennial. Over six days there would be contests, races, parades, dances and fireworks.<BR><BR>Tom Coombe had filed for the position of Ely mayor.<BR><BR>And the Forest Service stated that the quota system was working well.