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Saturday, January 31, 2004


On January 4, 2004 I submitted my first blog entry. I was urged to do so by my two children, John and Becky. I wasn’t sure I could learn to post and publish but writing has always been in my blood. I have had to call on them a great deal this first month and have learned from some of my mistakes.

I never wanted to get into the computer thing. I’ve always loved to type and my electric typewriter was good enough for me. John kept urging me, George didn’t pursue the issue and Becky was on the fence. I think finances might have been her objection.

When I married Rocky almost 3-years ago, he brought a computer with him and that started my quest. It was hard to ignore something that could make my writing easier. I was dragging my feet with the blog but thinking about the family history piqued my interest. I decided I would take the time to learn what I needed and begin.

I began the first blogsite with a poem my mother had in her diary about the new year unfolding. Since my first month of this new year is over today I decided to share some thoughts I wrote in 1986.………for that new year.

Thanksgiving and Christmas lay behind as islands in a sea of memory. The new year, just passed, is much like a buoy observed from a ship’s rail. A marker of distance. Wise ships see them and adjust their course as wise men observe calendars and adjust their time. I have used up fifty-three calendars and am nearing the return cycle to begin a fifty-fourth. I am a ship leaving port and steering across watery highways to distant shores. There are destinations and schedules’…all is planned and made ready. Whether the winds be favorable or foul I do not know. I sail the same for I have no choice. The shadowy days ahead on my calendar are voids of space and future - waiting as distant port calls. Beacons of light and buoys guide me across the days. As a single journey is begun in trust, not knowing if we shall reach our destination safely, so is each day lived. Take hold of trust and welcome each day.

I have now turned 71-calendars and owe a debt of gratitude for health and the excitement I still feel about living. I have had enough good times to give me a sense of humor and enough bad times to stretch the stuff I’m made of. I am rich in family and friends here and beyond……..I have loved deeply and been loved. Life seldom gets better than that…………..

Tomorrow I begin introducing my mother’s family.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Friday, January 30, 2004


To conclude the Andersen family writing I would like to offer a little information about Fontenelle. You will see the name spelled Fontenelle as well as Fontanelle. The historians do not agree on the spelling so you will find it both ways.

In 1854, the “Nebraska Colonization Company” was formed in Quincy, Illinois. Soon after, wagons of settlers came across Iowa and through Omaha till they reached the Elcorn River. They decided to locate on the river banks. Their hope being the river would be navigable and thriving business would ensue. They met with Logan Fontenelle, the Omaha Indian chief, and each family paid him $10.00 to protect their interests in the site until they returned with the rest of their company. An effort was made to get the territorial capital located at Fontenelle but this effort failed. They were however granted a charter to build a college. Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches had been built by 1860. The first stock of goods came to the new settlement in 1855 by Wm. Davis who also kept the first hotel. It was a double log house called the “Fontenelle House”. The manufacture of brick was started in the summer of 1855 as well as the first sawmill.

A college was constructed by Congregationalists and named the Nebraska University. The first building was built of cottonwood logs but burned in 1865. Then a two-story building 30 ft. by 50 ft. was put up to take it’s place. The college struggled and was moved to Crete, NE. Later it became Doane College.

Without a railroad Fontenelle never flourished into the dreams of the settlers, but roots go deep into the fourth and fifth generations who call it “home.” Familiar sounds come from children playing, a rooster crowing, a calf calling it’s mother, or a hymn being played on the carillon bell tower of the church.

No one can put a monetary value on the sights of autumn leaves of the oak trees, or the comfortable feeling of waving to a neighbor as he bicycles down the road. Horseback riders would never pay for a trial ride more scenic than the Fontanelle Oaks area. Let the rest of the world progress…..the residents like Fontanelle the way it is.
(The above information was taken in part from the Washington County Nebraska History book.)

I am humbled when I am shown the effort made by early settlers and our own family to literally carve out a home, community, State and nation. I am convinced we take it too much for granted. I’m wondering if they would feel it was worth it if they could see where their foundation led.

I’m thinking they would. They came to this country from all over Europe and the East. They came because they had the heart and strength and a vision for greatness. We are here because of their fortitude and because they gave us birth. Our beginnings were like their beginnings. We came from the land and they came FOR the land. Somehow we all took root and made America what it is. May it always be……………….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 29, 2004


We come to the last of seven brothers. Robert Erik Andersen was born March 19, 1906. He came along after grandma and grandpa were through adding to their farms. He was frail and sickly, of slender build and not like the other boys. Grandma protected him from the hard work and kept him at the house. Of the seven boys Sophus and Robert always stayed with someone. When grandma and grandpa moved to Fremont, Blair and Omaha, respectively, Robert and Sophus stayed at the farm. Emil stayed with them until mom and dad were married and farming the old Boston farm. Emil tired of watching after the boys and moved to Blair. Mom and dad then moved to the Andersen farm at Fontanelle and were there until the farm was lost in the depression.

After the farms were lost, grandma and grandpa moved to Omaha taking Robert and Sophus with them. They remained together but times were not good. Losing the farms and the bank closing with their money was a bitter blow in their old age. After years of sacrifice and hard work they were unable to cope with their losses. One day grandpa got up from his chair and went down under the front porch and hung himself. He was 84-years old. Robert drove over to our house to tell us and we hurried to console grandma. She was now left with two sons to care for and the sorrow of grandpa’s death.

All the years of Robert’s falls and seizures were finally diagnosed as epilepsy. His spells were getting worse and he had fallen and broke his arm. He was admitted into the hospital during one of his worst seizures. The next day my mother called the hospital to see how he was doing. She was told that he apparently got up and put his clothes on in the night. He and his clothes were gone….they assumed he went home.

Of course my parents didn’t believe this and called the other brothers to help look for him. They got everyone they could think of to spread out from the hospital and search the area for him. They called the police and put an article in the paper. They looked for days to no avail. My dad always thought that uncle Robert died that night and they took his body for science. The hospital had asked Dad to sign a paper when he admitted Robert. It was to release Robert’s body to scientific study in the event of death. Epilepsy was just beginning to be diagnosed and they needed more data for study. Dad refused.

There was never any closure for the family. In all these years since he has not been seen or heard from. If, like dad thought, he was taken for science I hope his life benefited others who were helped by the study of epilepsy. He was last seen on May 8, 1943. He was 37 years old.

The Andersen family had their share of triumphs and defeats. Grandma and Grandpa came to this country with dreams of owning the land they farmed. Like many before and since, they came through Ellis Island, viewed the Statue of Liberty from the railing of a ship and worked hard to live their dream. They succeeded in a land they couldn’t speak the language of nor understand. They raised seven sons and accumulated sections of land. They were rich in substance but the boys were raised with the mind-set of a dominate father. Grandma and grandpa didn’t have the social problems of fitting in like their children did. Whereas the boys had to blend in with other immigrant children and those born in this country, grandma and grandpa were surrounded by Danish friends and neighbors. They made several trips back to Denmark and narrowly missed boarding the Lucitania once. A
ship that was torpedoed on it’s crossing by a German submarine.

The boys were taught English but at home grandma and grandpa continued speaking Dane, getting the Danish newspaper, and reading a Danish Bible. There was always a separation of Dane and English for the boys growing up. They were dressed like Danes and the boys hated it….they wanted to be like the others they associated with. Once living away from home that was the first order…..to buy clothes that didn’t broadcast their foreign heritage.

After grandpa and Robert were gone grandma was never the same. Dad brought her home to live with us and uncle Emil took Sophus. When we moved to Missouri we brought Sophus with us. Grandma died two years later in Nebraska. She was 87-years.

To conclude, my cousin Dale and I are the only two left of seven men and their families. There may be one cousin left, in Florida, but we don’t know if he is still living. We only know he retired in Florida some years ago. Dale and I have always been close but closer still knowing we are each other’s link to the past. Danish blood runs in our veins mixed with the pride of being born in America………………

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


When we arrived back in Omaha the folks advertised our home and it sold quickly. It was then we realized we were on our way to Missouri. Dad sold his car and bought a ton-and-a-half truck to haul our household items. The first week in May we were on our way. Louis and uncle Sophus rode in the back part of the truck sitting on kitchen chairs and covered over the top with a tarp. They had quite a trip seeing everything backwards and watching traffic from the rear. Somehow or other it was all an adventure and we were game for whatever it took.

By the time we got to Liberty, Missouri we lost a rear wheel on one side. Louis and Sophus were privy to the whole thing as it happened. For a time it rolled behind the truck and then passed us on the driver’s side when dad noticed it. He got the truck stopped and we were stranded for a time until dad could get someone to fix the wheel. John has access to this event in one of his blogs where it is described in detail. You can read that account here.

All in all we finally made it to the farm and began taking inventory of needs to be met. The chicken house we were going to live in had been built but hadn’t had chickens in it yet. It was a matter of fixing a few cracks and making some rough cupboards in the kitchen etc; In no time it was livable and our basic needs were taken care of.

Dad bought a team of horses, three cows, some pigs and ordered baby chicks. It was unbelievable to think in 1945 you would be living anywhere in America with no electricity, running water or a bathroom…….but that was reality. We cooked with a wood stove and heated the house with wood. That meant cutting trees and sawing and chopping. We learned that a pile of wood by the front door was a good thing.

Mom and dad really enjoyed it all as I think about it. They loved their newfound freedom and the scenery was unequaled by Nebraska standards. Dad plowed and planted corn in the pasture but no one told him that the area always had a dry June and July. The corn that was so promising when it came up wilted and died for lack of water. Dad was devastated. In three and one half years he had spent all of his savings and could not make a living on the farm. In 1948 he sold the farm and moved into Willow Springs where he went to work for the Missouri Department of Transportation. He was a field mechanic for 15-years and then retired. Mom and dad enjoyed years of travel, fishing, hunting, gardening and yes, running water, electricity and indoor plumbing.

Dad aged well. He finally learned to give his body some rest and he always had a ready story or a yarn to tell. He was better than textbooks when it came to explaining how to do something. He fit in with the area where he lived and appreciated the difference in culture and terraine. He was a humble man who lived his life the way he wanted…..and he was never afraid of hard work.

One day in November he came in to rest from cutting a stump down next to their trailer. He asked mom to call and tell me to come for coffee. I was busy but for some reason I felt I should go. When I arrived dad told me all about their new dishes they bought that morning as he poured me a cup of fresh coffee. We visited until about 4:00pm when I said I should go home and get my clothes off the line.

Dad stood up and said, “Well, I guess I’ll go back out and finish that stump. I should be done about 5:00pm. That’s quittin’ time and it’s Friday night. That’s a good way to finish up the week.” I followed him out and told him to be careful…I started down the walk and turned to tell dad goodbye. He gave me a big grin and with a wave of his hand said, “So long”………….he rounded the corner of the trailer and disappeared. I was out of sight and down the road when he fell to the ground with a fatal heart attack…………

I am so glad I was given the opportunity to visit one last time with dad. We had such a good visit ………..good enough to carry into eternity………..

Dad died November 15, 1974 He had just had his 71st birthday in October. Tomorrow I write about the last brother.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


World War 11 was grinding down to an ensured victory and mom and dad were wiped out emotionally. In my (almost thirteen) mind I didn’t realize the pressure they had been under. I would soon graduate from the eighth grade and my brother, Louis, would complete his sophomore year of high school. When you’re that age, big changes are not in your thinking. At least ours.

A man worked for dad that was from Mountain Grove, Missouri. All he ever talked about was how great life was in the Ozarks. The more he talked about “home” and how cheap it was to live there my dad would become more interested. Soon he was to the point of asking questions……….and then began talking to mom about it. Mom thought it was just talk for a while. She lived only 25-miles from her family at Blair and didn’t want to move away from her mother and sisters.

Winter was turning to Spring and dad was ready to give up the business and head for Missouri. It was just a matter of time till he talked my mother into it. Of course the decision left a lot of naysayers within the family. No one wanted us to leave. Dad had an aunt and uncle at Ava, MO. that he wanted to visit and scout around for property. He found out where they were located and we left Omaha right away to see them. Dads uncle was a brother to his mother and he had not seen them for years. They had a picturesque place south of Ava at a small community known as Evans. (It is no longer there.) To get there one had to traverse winding roads with steep drop-offs on either side of the car. It was gorgeous, unspoiled scenery. It is as clear in my mind as the first time I saw it. Beautiful oak and pine trees flanked both sides of the road and the sun would glint down between the leaves. Everything was green with recent rains making the creeks run full and clear. The rocks….rocks everywhere. It was amazing to all of us. We would round a curve of sheer limestone walls with purple wild violets blooming at ground level. My mother’s interest was growing with each curve.

Uncle Hans and aunt Annie Bonnickson tearfully greeted us as we emerged from the 1940 Ford. They had not seen family for many years and were overjoyed with our visit. We were fed and treated with bountiful Danish hospitality. Later in the afternoon we went outside to be shown their property. They led us to the back area where a small waterfall was spilling over rocks and cascading down the creek. Moss grew on the rocks next to the water and tadpoles played in little protected pools. I feel sorry for people who have never seen such glorious displays of natural wonder. One cannot imagine how beautiful southern Missouri was in 1945. Unspoiled, untouched and natural………

We stayed with uncle Hans and aunt Annie for several days. They went with dad to look at land for sale but dad wanted land he could farm on. He was unable to locate anything with enough clearing on it so he could make a living at farming. After leaving their home we drove on to Mountain Grove and looked further but still found nothing that suited dad. He noticed an ad from a Strout Realty at Cabool so we ended up driving over there to check out what they might have.

Dad told the realtor what he had in mind and Mr. Roderick thought he had just the place. He took all of us in his vehicle north of Cabool and then east about 18 miles back off the main highway. We ended up at the small town of Tyrone, drove on through, and came to a farm about ¼ mile on down the road. The farm had 80-acres with the front half of it cleared and in pasture land. There was a large barn in good shape, red with white trim; a pond in the pasture and another up past the barn. The problem was ……there was no house. Dad fell in love with the farm but mom was dubious about living quarters. There was a chicken house in fair shape and dad thought we could clean it up and live there until we were able to get a house built. No amount of doubt on mom’s part could sway dad away from that farm.

We went back to the realty office and dad closed the deal. Had a vote been taken I think my brother and I would have sided with mom but dad was not to be denied. After the paperwork was finished we started back to Nebraska where dad couldn’t get rid of the house and most of the furnishings soon enough. His heart was in Missouri where there was an 80-acre farm waiting………the roots of his boyhood had been jerked up and he was heading south………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 26, 2004


We lived in the trailer for a couple of years. In the worst of winter we would wake up with frost on the inside plywood walls. Dad heated it with a stove that you would normally put in a brooder house and the smell of kerosene was always in the air. I would still be in my bunk when I could hear dad leave for work. As he walked from the trailer to the car I could hear the crunch of each step. I remember feeling sorry for dad because he went to work in the dark and got home in the dark. These many years later I wonder how mom kept her sanity in such small quarters and with so little to make her life easier. She cooked on a kerosene stove. Every time she cooked, she would have to pump up the pressure and then light a match to the burner. Periodically she would have to pump again to keep the pressure up. My dad had built the trailer in such a remarkable way…it was compact and filled every need. We each had a place to put our clothing, the kitchen held the necessary items for feeding a family and we all had a good bed to sleep in. During the day, mom and dad’s bed folded against the wall and there was a bench all along the length of it. A fold-up card table was placed by the bench for one of us and three folding chairs for the rest made it possible to eat our meals comfortably.

Baths were taken in a “wash pan”, and commonly called a “spit bath”. This simple bathing kept us all clean and we children didn’t know any different. It was just the way it was. Dad continued working at the Dodge Street Garage working 12-hours a day for a total of seven years. He earned a dollar a day and felt it was comparable pay for the time….many didn’t make that much.

Uncle Ted was laid off at the U.P.Shops and uncle Emil was out of work. They both got together and decided to contract labor from several plumbers around Omaha. They wanted dad to go in with them and it was a hard decision to make. Dad had steady work and wasn’t much of a gambler. In the end they talked him into it and the three of them bought basic equipment for what they would need and embarked on their own business.

They started out with just a few plumbers but they were all hard-working and delivered on demand. Soon their reputation got word around and more and more plumbers called for their services. They could no longer manage the work by themselves so began picking up workers here and there and put them with a shovel. In those years the ditches were all dug by hand but eventually they were able to buy a large compressor and mounted it on the bed of a truck. They were then able to get through the concrete on city streets without having to break it with sledge hammers and sheer strength.

Uncle Ted was called back to the Shops so dad and uncle Emil stayed with the business. It went well enough that mom and dad bought a modest older home further out of the down-town area. In between jobs dad and some hired help removed the old crumbling plaster off the walls down to the bare slats. Dad had an acquaintance come and re-plaster all the walls and ceilings. We lived in the trailer parked out in the yard until we could move into the house. I can still envision how proud my folks were to have their own home. It just as easily could have been a palace in their eyes. By the time we moved I was in the last few months of the third grade and my brother, Louis, was in the sixth. We went from Central Grade School (across the street from the Joslyn Memorial) to Clifton Hill Grade School near where we lived.

The years were good to the business but as WW11 came along and all the young men were drafted everything became more and more difficult. My mother was inundated with volumes of book-work and dad and uncle Emil were stretched from pillar to post trying to be at all of the job sites when the City Inspectors would come to OK the jobs. Sometimes they would have to dig deeper to have the correct “fall” for the water or sewer lines, if not, they could fill the ditches and go on to the next job. It was always a hassle to get the inspectors when you needed them. Dad hated waiting around and paying men who couldn’t do anything until the inspectors Ok’ed a job. At times dad would run home for supper and then we would go with him to put lanterns out on each open hole around town. The lanterns would have to be filled with kerosene and ready to go each day…..then picked up each morning. As I write this and think back to it all, I am amazed how much of it had to be done by hand. All of these things now would be done in short order without the many steps in-between.

During much of this time my dad worked so hard digging ditches he would spit up blood. He had stomach ulcers and never felt good. Mom had what would now be called a nervous break-down. They only knew one way to get things done and that was to give it your all. At this same time a huge building surge was going on south of Omaha which was called the Belleview addition. Dad and uncle Emil and their crew were responsible for the labor on the complex. By the time they finished that project they were all in bad need of rest and change. On a ledge in the garage I have one old kerosene lantern of dad’s that used to be put on the open ditches. It is rusted and past use. When I stop to look at it I see my mother and dad in the prime of their life following a dream. Soon life as we knew it would change for all of us……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, January 25, 2004


The Old HutchThere was a large farm sale shortly after mom and dad were married. They needed a cupboard for the kitchen to store supplies in so they decided to go. Mom’s maternal grandmother asked to go with them so she rode along. They looked around the furniture items and found a pie-safe and a cupboard or two they thought they could use. When the sale begun they were able to get two practical pieces and were ready to leave when gramma Bovier spied a beautiful hutch. It had four doors on it……the top two had glass fronts and the bottom two were wood fronts. Over the top was a pretty scalloped and scrolled piece that made a nice finish to it. My mother loved it but said nothing. Gramma made an excuse to stay longer and when the hutch came up for bid she bought it. Of course, she gave it to mom and dad and said it was their wedding present.

It went to the Boston farm with mom and dad. Then it went to my maternal grandmother’s attic when mom and dad moved to the Andersen farm. It rested in the attic until I grew up and married. Mom told me about it and I asked if I could have it……and so it was freed from gramma’s attic and taken to Shawnee, Kansas. I put my “good” dishes in it….Franciscan Apple dishes that I bought piece by piece and dearly loved.

Later when we moved to Smalltown, Missouri it was stored in our garage because we retired in a mobile home. The piece was simply too large to fit in any room. When Becky married Hank she enjoyed it for several years in their home but when the divorce happened it was moved back to our garage. Some years later, John and Barbara married and eventually bought a home with large rooms. It was time to ask if they would like to have the old hutch. They got it as far as Vicksburg, MS. where Barb’s dad would have it refinished. It was there for some time before being ready to travel on to Covington, LA. to finally end up with the youngest great-great-grandchild of gramma Bovier.

The next visit we made from Smalltown to Covington we got to see the finished product. There on a wall as the single focal point stood the old hutch. Inside were the Franciscan Apple dishes looking quite at home as they had many years ago in Shawnee. The sweetest part was when John opened the bottom door to show me a piece of a metal tobacco can that had been cut and nailed to the far corner of the hutch. Dad had designed the project to keep out a mouse way back there on the Boston farm. I was so happy to see that the man who refinished the hutch had the heart to leave it in tact……………some things are just not meant to be fixed………

Until tomorrow when we return to the story of my dad..

Essentially Esther


Spring planting was hard work. Dad’s team was hooked to the plow and dad followed behind guiding it. Mom would come to the field often with cool well water and a lunch. Spring turned to summer, summer to fall and winter and back to springtime again. They were getting a good start. It was hard work but they were proving to themselves they could make a living at it.

Time went by and my brother, Louis, (named after dad’s oldest brother Louie) was born. He came in the fall, after harvest, on October 9th, 1928. He was a big 9-pound baby with mom’s pretty brown eyes. They stayed on the Boston farm until Emil decided to leave the Andersen “home farm” at Fontanelle. Emil had been staying there with his two younger brothers, Sophus and Robert, but now wanted to live in Blair. He was never cut out for farming and my dad loved it. Grandpa and grandma Andersen wanted mom and dad to farm for them and take care of Sophus and Robert. So the move was made and mom started cooking for dad and his two brothers, herself and Louis. If grandma had reservations about mom being able to hold up under the hard work of a farm she had been mistaken about my mother’s fortitude.

This was a carefree time for them. Mom’s sister, Mary, would come to the farm on Friday nights and they would all play cards until late. Mom would always have something to snack on and aunt Mary would bring things with her. It brought them all close together and was a nice break from the daily routine of the farm. Aunt Mary was teaching school and going to college in the summer to secure her teaching certificate.

When the stock market crashed in 1929 the whole world changed over-night. Grandpa Andersen had sold most of his farms to Danish friends who could no longer make payments. Grandpa held the second mortgages on all of them and kept making payments in their place. When the banks closed the money was gone and soon the farms were gone. My dad had tried to reason with Grandpa before it was too late but he wouldn’t listen. By the time he realized what was happening it was too late to save any of it.

One day the bank representative came to the farm and told my parents they would have to vacate because the farm was going to be taken over by the bank. Grandpa who had owned sections of land was now unable to even save the home place. My mother and dad put their personal things in the car, picked up my brother and drove into town. The banker gave Sophus and Robert a ride into Blair where they were left with my grandmother and grandfather.

Mom and dad drove to the Stricklett’s and told them what had happened. My great-grandmother Bovier had a nice little rent house in town and she told them they could move there. My dad had always been very fond of her…..she was one tough lady. One day I shall write a post just about her. So my parent’s moved to town and lived in the rent house. Dad was able to get work at a green-house there and later he worked at the city water works with the husband of one of mom’s cousins.
By the time I was born, work was drying up all over. Dad hauled two loads of oats to pay the doctor for assisting in the birth. My mother told me years later that Dr. Burr was a country doctor who didn’t believe even in giving an aspirin for pain during delivery. She lay for a day and a night and he feared he would lose mom and me both. I was born weighing 12-pounds 2-ounces, on May 28th, 1932 on Saturday night at 10:00 pm.

Later I was given the name Esther Belle after my maternal grandmother and my mother’s sister, Inabelle. I was born the night my aunt Inabelle graduated high-school and her own birthday was the previous day.

Men were flooding to the cities looking for work so they could send money home to their families. Dad was looking for work as well and drove to Omaha with mom and my brother. I was a toddler now and left at grandma Stricklett’s while dad looked for work. Mom told how they lived in their car parked in an alley. She stayed with Louis in the car and dad looked for work. He finally got a mechanic’s job in a small garage working for less than a dollar a day. He would stand in line to get bread for them to eat in the car until he would be paid.

Finally they were able to rent an apartment down-town near the garage and I joined the family. The hard work and being cooped up in an apartment all day with two small children was hard on everybody. My dad decided to build a small trailer so we could live out in the fresh air and be more independent. He was able to do this and work long hours as well. Dad was able to rent parking place in the yard of a large old home just ½ block from the Joslyn Memorial. He worked hard and a customer told him of a better job at another garage. Dad was now getting a dollar a day and worked 7-days a week in a cold, dark garage but he was thrilled. Other men were on the street, away from their families not knowing where their next meal would come from. At last we had a good clean place to live and food. My folks were survivors……they had known a lot of hard times…….but I never heard them complain. They were grateful and never thought about it any other way…………..

Tomorrow opportunity knocks for the family,
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 24, 2004


My parents returned to Blair the next day after their marriage. They arrived at the old Boston farm where they would begin housekeeping. Dad’s brother, Emil and his wife Helen, had been living there up to that time. The Boston farm was owned by Helen’s mother but Emil was not a farmer and the land lay unattended. Mom busied herself getting the house in order and putting wedding gifts in place. Dad was making the rounds of the buildings and preparing to check fences and get his team of horses moved, ready for Spring planting.

The next week Blair’s two newspapers printed the news of their wedding. Mom saved the clippings and the yellowed paper tells the story. I’m including it word for word because of the unusual way it is written.


Miss Dorothy Stricklett and Mr. Francis Andersen were married Monday afternoon, March 16 at Council Bluffs, by Rev. Henry Delong and went at once to housekeeping on the Malcolm Boston 120-acre farm about one-half mile west of town.

The bride is the dauthter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stricklett and is a graduate of the Blair schools of the class of 1923. She has been employed at the Racket Store part of the time since her graduation and has made many friends by her quiet and modest demeanor.

Mr. Andersen is one of seven sons of Mr. And Mrs. Hans Andersen now of Fremont who formerly lived on a farm near Fontanelle . Both young people are industrious, enterprising and worth-while citizens who will no doubt make good. They have the best wishes of their friends in their new venture.


Francis Andersen and Miss Dorothy Stricklett were married in Council Bluffs Monday by Uncle Henry DeLong. His brother, Theodore, who works in the U.P.Shops in Omaha, accompanied them to the Bluffs to witness the ceremony. The newlyweds honeymooned in Omaha for a day, staying at the Fontanelle, returning last evening and went to housekeeping at once on the Malcolm Boston farm, located just west of the Crowell Home. His brother, Emil, was living there but has moved to his father’s farm, the old Carpenter farm, near Fontanelle. Mr. and Mrs. Hans Andersen have moved to Fremont.

Dorothy is the daughter of Mr.and Mrs. Peter Stricklett, was graduated from the high school with the class of ‘23 and has been working as clerk at the Blair Racket Store off and on most of the time since. She is a quiet, faithful sincere girl whose many friends whish her a happy and successful married life.

Francis is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Hans Andersen, is also a quiet hard working young man of sterling integrity who is sure to make a valuable citizen in any community, so we welcome the establishment of this new home in our midst.

In this day and age we do not offer a character profile in the wedding commentary but perhaps it would be a good idea. There were two other clippings with the previous two. One with the story that the Fontanelle Hotel had closed and all of the furnishings had been sold. The other was an article mentioning the death of Jack Crowdy, the man who was with mom and dad on their first date. Sadly, not only the old landmarks or friends are gone…………but my mother and dad as well. To view these old clippings and piece together the memories I have will be the last written about our family. I am determined to make it truthful, factual and personal. These are not “make-believe” posts. They are about real people who lived real lives and who made every effort to make it good. They have handed the trust to me to end it well………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 23, 2004


March 16th came….the wedding day. Dad left the farm with his suitcase and what money he had saved. The road to Blair seemed endless that morning. He had his best clothes on and was wondering what Dorothy would be wearing. The car came up the hill to the Stricklett house and the sisters were watching for it. They called upstairs to Dorothy to hurry down, Francis was coming. Grandma Stricklett was extra pensive that morning. Dorothy was only twenty years old and had been her first child. She had helped with the housework and the younger children. It wasn’t just that…..she knew her little girl was leaving and embarking on a huge undertaking. She seemed so young to live on a farm with all the work that was sure to follow. Still, they would be near. Francis had rented the farm next to the Stricklett’s. It was just over the hill from them and the fences joined. It was the old Boston farm; owned by the in-laws of Francis’s brother, Emil. Since Mr. Boston died some years earlier and none of the children wanted to farm it she moved into town and married uncle Alfred (dad’s older brother). She wanted to keep the farm so decided to rent it.

Dorothy came down stairs with her beautiful dress on that Grandma Stricklett had made by hand. It was a work of beauty. It was a creamy white silkish material and had pale pastel embroidery down the front. The dress was mid-calf length. The under slip was just as pretty and with Dorothy’s auburn hair and brown eyes she was beautiful. Dad gulped nervously when he saw her coming ……..he couldn’t believe that soon they would be married and on their own farm. Life couldn’t be better.

All of Dorothy’s siblings came to tell her goodbye. Mary, the one next to herself, then Inabelle and Sally. Sally would be lost without Dorothy. She was only 3-years old and idolized her older sister. Next was grandma who was having a hard time trying not to cry though her heart was breaking. The couple then went looking for grandpa Stricklett to tell him goodbye. They couldn’t find him at the barn, garage or anywhere. Dorothy had been grand-dads favorite. She used to follow him in the row he was plowing with old Danny. She would walk barefoot behind him with little bare feet and follow him back and forth. She loved being outside with papa. Now came the day he had been dreading. Dorothy was as much a part of him as if she were his own heart. Grandpa was a gentle, quiet man and Dorothy had the same qualities.……..he would miss her more than the sun each morning. He couldn’t say goodbye. He hid in the haymow until they were gone………..

The drive to Omaha seemed short they were so excited. They found the place where they were planning to get married but found the waiting time would be too long. They were told they could find a minister across the river over at Council Bluffs that was also a Judge. They could obtain a marriage license there and he could also conduct the service. Beginning to feel pressured they hurried over and found the office he presided in. However, the lady they talked to said they would have to have a witness. Uncle Emil was to have met them in Omaha but he never showed up. Dad could see their only chance to get married would be to get his brother, Ted, to come and witness for them. Now, near panicking, they went back across the bridge to Omaha and drove straight to the Union Pacific shops where uncle Ted worked. Dad went to the front offices and asked who he would need to talk to so Ted could leave work to witness for them at their wedding. The lady at the desk took them to the office where the “head boss” was and Dad told of their plight. The boss told his secretary to have Ted Andersen sent to his office. Meanwhile, dad and his little bride-to-be were watching the clock fearing they would never make it back in time for the wedding to take place.

Presently the door opened and Ted came in the room holding his hat. He looked like he was about to be fired, dad said later. When Ted noticed his brother and Dorothy sitting there he frowned. The boss laughed and said, “Andersen, your brother needs your help today. It seems he’s trying to get married and doesn’t have a witness. You’re to leave right now and go straight to the office of Judge Dean in Council Bluffs. They don’t have much time so get your stuff together and leave right now.” Uncle Ted was relieved about not being in trouble but couldn’t resist saying, “I think they’re a couple of damned fools.” He wasn’t happy at all but got to the car as fast as he could.

Once more, back over the bridge at top speed, it was now near closing time. Dad was extremely nervous and uncle Ted was trying to talk them out of getting married. They and their reluctant witness rushed into the office of Judge Henry DeLong. He signed the necessary license and married them 5-minutes before closing time. They took Ted back to his car and headed for the Fontenelle Hotel. There they had a fine meal, and registered for a room. Dorothy was so overwhelmed with the excitement and beauty of it all, she sat at the desk and wrote a letter to her mother and dad. It went something like this,
“Dear Mama and Daddy, We have a swell room at the Fontenelle Hotel and it is so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything so grand. Tomorrow we go to the farm to start our life together. I am so happy. Love, your daughter, Dorothy.”
My grandmother saved the letter and it is in my mother’s things somewhere. I shall come across it again one day. I am looking at their marriage license as I write this with a clipping tucked inside. It reads of the death of Rev. Henry DeLong shortly after he married dad and his bride. He was 90-years old when he married them and died later that year. The license also carries the signature of Theodore H. Andersen. Because of that document Dorothy became my mother but then…………I’m getting ahead of my story.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 22, 2004


By the time they got back in the car and all minds were clear, Dad asked what everyone would like to do. Dorothy had not dated before so remained quiet but Mary spoke up and said, “How about going to the movie? “ Mary was the more outgoing one and had always led the way for Dorothy’s decisions. Dad and Jack thought that was a good idea so dad backed away from the curb and started up the street towards the theater. They were able to get in for the beginning of the movie so all settled down and Dorothy was introduced to silent film. She loved the excitement the organist created as the film continued to flick on the screen. She couldn’t believe her eyes as the hero and heroine moved through the story……she was captivated with the make-believe world.

Dad wasn’t paying much attention to the movie. To be in the company of the ‘candy girl’ made the movie seem less interesting. He was pleased that she seemed to be enjoying it so much. It made him feel good to sit next to her. He knew he wanted to see her again as soon as he could……he never wanted the night to end. When the lights came on the four of them stood up and exited the theater along with the crowd.

The car made it’s way up the hill to the Stricklett home. Dad was at a loss as to proper manners so stayed in the car while Dorothy and Mary exited. Jack got in the front seat with dad as the girls disappeared through the door of the house. Reluctantly, dad backed out of the driveway and eased the car down the hill. By the time he dropped Jack at his home it was time to head back to the farm. His mind, captive to thoughts of Dorothy, kept him entertained as he made his way along the dirt roads towards home. He sensed his life was no longer his own. A tiny, fragile young woman named Dorothy now held the key to his heart.

Summer and Fall passed, winter claimed the land. Dad and Dorothy, sometimes Mary and Jack would climb in the car and go on picnics, to the Fair, to the river………whatever. They just had such great times together. Dad’s car was no longer a strange sight at the Stricklett home. He met Dorothy’s mother and father and respected, even admired them both. They were good people, well mannered and friendly. Dad went from feeling nervous and ill-at-ease to being comfortable and accepted. Dad took Dorothy on drives all around the country to see places of interest. More times than not they would get stuck in the muddy roads, or stuck in snow that drifted across the roads or chocked with dust. Dad still hadn’t given up the urge to race a brother or friend if they happened on the road with him. Dorothy’s life was now far different from the life she had known. If dad thought he was smitten with Dorothy she felt the same. More and more she wanted to be with him all the time. She had gone to the farm and met Dad’s mother and father. Grandma Andersen liked Dorothy because she peeled potatoes very thin. Grandma was very thrifty and noticed this right away. Her conversation with dad later was conditional, however. “I don’t think she is strong enough to do the work on a farm. Why don’t you marry a good strong Dane girl?” Dad countered with, “I don’t want to marry a mule to work, I want a wife, she’s the only one for me.” By Valentines Day dad had asked Dorothy to marry him and of course, she said yes.

Dad’s older brother, Ted, thought he was crazy. “What do you want to get married for? Girls are a dime a dozen…….don’t tie yourself down to some nagging woman.” His younger brother Robert, and older brother Sophus who still lived with grandma and grandpa really liked Dorothy and thought it was a good idea. They were happy for him.

And so…….it was time to set a date for the wedding. They planned to go to Omaha and marry and stay one night at the Fontenelle Hotel. It was in that day, a place of extravagance and luxury. The very thought of staying there even for one night would be grandiose to them both. The date was set for March 16, 1925. For a farmer, marrying in the Spring before planting time was necessary. The hard work on the farm would begin soon and they needed to be settled by then.

Tomorrow we revisit their wedding day. I promise it will be a story in itself.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Dad was getting to the place where movies and cars weren’t the only things on his mind. He found that the farm-work, the passion for fast transportation and even movies lacked something. He kept thinking about the girl at the Racket Store. He could see she was different from most women he’d observed. She didn’t paint herself all up and she glowed from within; a different kind of woman than the farm girls he knew. She was delicate and shy, someone to be protected. He dreamed of having her company, just to be around where she was. He planned going back for candy next Saturday night…..maybe before the show.

He couldn’t know that she was just as taken with him. His tan from working in the fields was apparent and complimented his gray eyes and blonde hair. He looked strong and honest and she liked his almost bashful demeanor. He certainly was different from the boys she went to school with that were either brash and full of themselves or bullies. She hadn’t seen anyone to arouse her imagination like this farmer who came in after the movie on Saturday night. She hoped he would return again this coming Saturday.

The week passed with each of them day-dreaming about the other and finally the big night arrived. It had a little more drama than either of them figured on. Dad got into town after all the chores. He took extra time to be as presentable as possible. All the way into town his heart was racing at the very thought of her. He drove up Main Street and spotted Jack, a good friend of his. Jack was waving to him to pull in to the curb where he was standing so dad made the necessary loop and came back to see what he wanted.

Jack hurried up to the window and excitedly said he had a date with Mary Stricklett, a real “looker”. The problem being that she wouldn’t go unless he had a date for her sister Dorothy. He wanted dad to make the foursome but dad immediately declined. It wasn’t til Jack said…….“they both work at the Racket Store and will be off in a couple of hours,“ when dad’s interest peaked and asked, “which one works at the candy counter.?” Jack said “that one is Dorothy”……..dad couldn’t believe his ears. “ Are you sure she would want to go with me?……does she know who I am?……..how do you know she’ll go? “ Jack promised to go back to the store to tell Mary it was all set up and make sure Dorothy would in fact go along.

Dad was having a hard time keeping himself from driving back to the farm. He couldn’t believe this pretty girl would actually consent going with him. If she did, he wouldn’t know how to act, what to say………he could think of all kinds of reasons she’d turn him down. He was suffering serious doubts when Jack came back with the news that Dorothy would go since her sister was going also. He was thrilled and scared at the same time. He and Jack waited until time for the girls to get off work and then went back to the Racket Store.

The girls came out together and the guys jumped from the car to open the door for them. Mary sat in the back seat with Jack and Dorothy sat up front with dad. They just got settled good when Dorothy realized she didn’t have her pay-check in her hand. The owner of the store paid the girls when they left and she had it when she got in the car. That immediately sent chills up dad’s back. He’s thinking, “Oh no…she’s going to think I took it or lost it or something“…….he was having real withdrawals as she searched on the floor of the car. They all four got out and began looking inside and out…..finally dad found the check under the car where it fell when Dorothy got in. He retrieved the check and handed it to her and her relief and smile warmed dad all over. As dad would tell the story it was at that moment he knew he wanted to be with her the rest of his life. He would look at Mom with merriment in his eyes and say,”…….she looked so little and helpless I just knew she needed me to take care of her….I was a goner’ from then on.” And he was. They were inseparable from that day on………….but that will all have to wait until tomorrow.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


From the eighth grade to coming of age at twenty-one, dad saw lots of work. Grandpa had acquired several farms by now and rented out some of them, sold some of them (but held the second mortgages) and the boys did all the work. I remember him telling me that grandpa spent more and more time in town hob-knobbing at the tavern but controlling what was done at the farm. Dad and his brothers were beginning to see that their dad wasn’t making the most of the crops they planted. He would often sell grain or hay to his Danish acquaintances rather than marketing for a better price. Dad tried to tell him that pop-corn for instance had a better market value than field corn. Grandpa wouldn’t listen and bought more field-corn to plant. In a rare display of non-compliance dad traded some of the field corn for pop-corn seed. On some of his inspections grandpa was puzzled as to why some of the corn in the back-field was smaller. He made several visits and never said anything. When the time came for harvest he personally had the pop-corn picked separately. As dad predicted the pop-corn brought twice as much as the field corn. He never gave dad the money even though he realized dad was right. It was a lesson to dad that “the old man” was in charge and it didn’t pay to cross him. Grandpa would live long enough to regret not listening to reason.

By the time dad was in his teens his older brothers had their own cars. They were in love with the automobile. It absorbed whatever time they had away from work. The stories they told of trying to race trains, horses and buggies, each other or any one on the road they met, were constant. Dad would tell of the first automobile he ever saw with such reverence it was almost a spiritual experience. The Andersen boys all had a car before anything else. Dad would go into a rendition of the different “makes” back then, which brother owned what, their escapades…….and his voice would trail off as he re-lived the scenes in his mind. Dad had a steady string of automobiles. He said anytime he lost a race with anyone he would determine to get a car like the one that beat him. He always wanted a faster one so he could “leave them all in the dust”. He mentioned cars I’d never heard of before….it seemed he could remember every car he ever owned. Of course with such punishment to their vehicles it was mandatory to be able to fix them. They would repair, fix it faster if they could and go try it out. Their interest was endless.

Finally, dad is a car-owner himself and that meant going into Blair to see what was going on. He loved movies and always saw a show when Saturday night came. He could remember every movie he ever saw and repeat the dialog right off the screen. Of course movies were different then……..there was an organ to play appropriate music for the flick and one had to read the conversations rather than hear them. None-the less they held dad and his friends captive once a week. After the movie he would always go down the street to the Racket Store to buy some candy to eat on the way home.

As he walked around the counter looking at the selection he became aware of a pretty little girl behind the counter. He couldn’t help noticing her big brown eyes, long auburn hair and tiny figure. She looked like a young doe that would run any minute if anyone were to pay too much attention to her. He was lacking in any confidence when it came to girls and could only ask for a nickels worth of chocolate covered peanuts. He gave her his money and walked away with his candy wishing he could think of some reason to stay. On his way back to the farm he munched on the candy and kept thinking about the girl behind the counter. He thought of himself as a “dumb Dane” that no girl would be interested in. That night a young woman with doe-like eyes went to sleep thinking about a shy handsome man who liked chocolate covered peanuts.

Tomorrow brings unexpected opportunities.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Monday, January 19, 2004


My dad was born October 18, l903 and given the name of Francis Bonnick. I mentioned earlier his middle name was shortened from my grandmother’s maiden name of Bonnicksen. He was born at the Nacora farm and was the sixth son. To a farmer this was better than a hired hand…… a son would be with you for a lot of plantings. By the time dad came along the farm was in good repair both fields and buildings. There are pictures of grandma and some of the boys at different times in the front yard and there are flower beds and the things that tell me they now had time for some “extras”. Grandma wore nice dresses on days when they would be having company but still helped with outside work when she was needed. Dad had lots of attention getters with older brothers around.

Dad’s younger years were spent near the house. I have only one story about his pre-school days. He would laugh and tell about a time grandma was washing and busy with getting clothes on the line when the older boys saw their chance for some fun. Grandpa used to make his own beer or whisky, I don’t remember which. He kept it in the cave so the older boys got a fruit jar and would slip in and get some of it to drink. Then they left the jar and went innocently on their way. Ever so often they would come back and get another drink. Dad noticed all this and so the next time they went away, he got the jar and put some of the liquor in it…..and drank it all. He was standing on top of the cave and all of a sudden he collapsed and rolled all the way to the bottom right in front of grandma. Of course he was out like a light. Grandma rounded up the boys and they got a thrashing while she took dad in and proceeded to make him throw up.

Of course I heard about how far it was to walk to school and how they had to go through fields that had wild bulls that would chase them. It doesn’t mean much until you get older and realize just how far a couple of miles is to negotiate with blinding snow and freezing temperatures. He told me once that they all got an apple for Christmas and he was so proud of it he wanted to take it to school to eat with his lunch. He carried it in his hand all the way with his mittens on. When he got to school the apple was gone. His hand got so cold he never knew when it slipped out and dropped. With snow up to the top of fences there was no hope of ever finding it on the way home. The story really impressed me and I never forgot it. I felt sorry for dad.

School days were tolerated but dad and his brother Ted, hated going. They much preferred being at the farm where the older brothers were. To create diversions from their boredom they and the other older boys at school hatched up mischief and carried it out. They would lock the girls in the out-house, they put a frog in the bucket of drinking water…..they made mud balls at recess and took them into the building in their pockets. The minute the teacher’s back was turned they would throw them up on the wall above her. After the first half-dozen were thrown she threatened them soundly……then the second volley came. Needless to say the boys regretted their actions. In one of the school pictures dad pointed out the clumps of dried mud on the wall where the mud-balls had hit. Dad and uncle Ted would tell these stories on different occasions and one of my brother’s favorites was when the big boys at school threw shotgun shells into the pot-bellied stove. They would slap their knees and laugh anew at their memory of a terrified young teacher herding them all out of the building until the last shot exploded. How we loved to hear their stories and share in each experience ……for it was almost as real as if we were there. I heard those stories so much I began prompting them at times as if I had actually been there. My dad and his brothers could certainly entertain us all with their antics. I remember mama and aunt Beulah laughing until the tears ran down their faces. Oh how I wish I could relive all that again…..to see those dear ones reliving wonderful events that were so heart-warming.

Dad and uncle Ted only went to the eighth grade. From then until they left home on their own, they worked the farm for grandpa. Their education sounds to us like it was cut too short for them to be able to make a decent living but my dad could out-figure me any day of the week ………and all in his head. With my city schooling, pencil and paper I was no match for him. Think of the great inventors, business men, builders-all who only went through the eighth grade in a country school house with a bell on top and a young scared teacher to teach. With this and the likes of this they built the strongest nation in the world.

Tomorrow we find dad loses his heart.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, January 18, 2004


I fully intended to begin writing of my dad today but something came up to change my mind. Most of you have read Becky’s blogs in which she has mentioned the family of Bob Crudgington. They lived on this road before my mother and dad did. At the time my parents moved across the road from them in a mobile home, the Crudgington family had a mobile home on the other side. They took my parents in and loved them as their own. Their three young children thought of my folks as their grand-parents since their real ones lived over on the East side of the State.

My folks were renting space for their mobile home but wanted to buy property. Dad was almost ready to retire and he wanted a yard and garden to tend; and he wanted to live on the end of town they now called home. Bob came up with a solution he thought would sound good to my dad. He had an acreage which he used for pasturing a few cows every year. He suggested that dad buy a corner of his property and move the trailer there. Dad thought about it but he wanted more land than Bob wanted to sell. In the end, dad decided that 90X100’ was probably enough. So move they did and spent some good years as neighbors. My folks eventually met all of Bob’s extended families and enjoyed visiting with them.

When we moved on the same road in our retirement years Bob and his family still lived there in a house they built some years earlier. Much time has gone by since then. My dad passed away, my only brother and my mother. Bob’s family all married and lived reasonably close, grand-children came along. I was widowed four years and then married again. My present husband drove for a company that transported patients to medical appointments and Bob’s mother was one of his passengers. He took her for dialysis treatments for a time, of course growing quite fond of her and being concerned for her.

Last evening a friend called to tell us Madge (Bob’s mother) had passed away about 6:30 pm. I was sitting in church this morning thinking of Madge and the Crudgingtons, of my folks, and all of us collectively. The minister was talking about how we all effect each other’s lives and how that impact continues long after we are gone. Who do you want to personally touch with your life? Who have you touched with your life? Life happens and we either make it good or a regret. While we are here there is still time to remember good folks like Madge and her family and there is also time to make our own legacy better.

Tomorrow I begin writing about a man that put my back-bone in place. He taught me to be tough when I needed to be and gentle when it was called for. Life and love are circles to which there is no beginning and no end.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 17, 2004


Uncle Ted was a handsome man. He looked like Rudolph Valentino, the silent screen star of the flapper era. Like all young guys with a car, a paycheck and nice clothes, he was never at a loss for pretty female companions. Just when he was thinking himself as the un-attached bachelor he met a beautiful woman who was just as well-dressed, nice looking and happy to be single as he. This was a different kind of woman than he had been used to. Before, women would pursue him and want to be his steady. Beulah Wright was not anxious to win him over at all. She was working for a photography business in Omaha and was good at her occupation. She was highly independent and didn’t need him around.

Of course this was a serious afront to his manhood and charm. He spent all his time trying to win her over. He brought her to the farm where they had great week-end visits with my Mom and Dad who were on the farm at that time. They would go hunting, play cards, make bon-fires down in the woods, go fishing from the creek bank and picnic. My mother and dad liked her a lot as did the rest of the Andersen’s. She finally agreed to marry uncle Ted and it was a nice family wedding. I have pictures I will have John post later in this section.

Life was pretty unpredictable as far as income and jobs were concerned. They bought a home and knew it would be a challenge to pay for it unless they had steady work. When uncle Ted was laid off from his job at the Union Pacific shops where he worked they decided to start their own business.

My cousin, Dale ( that some of you have met on his new blog) sent me information on their Owl Film Developing business. With aunt Beulah’s knowledge of photography and uncle Ted’s ability to make anything they made a “dark room” in their basement to develop film. Uncle Ted had a motorcycle with a side-car and he would go to the businesses where it was pre-arranged to pick up and deliver their processed film. Dale related a funny story about his Dad on a return trip one day. There was a terrace in front of their house and the driveway was rather steep. He thought he would scare her so he put his pedal to the metal and zoomed up the drive-way with a deafening roar. This was followed by a loud crashing noise. She was in the house and came running while he quickly closed the front garage door. She inquired about the noise and he nonchalantly said he hadn’t heard it. It was some time before she learned the truth. Andersen’s didn’t talk much about pranks that went awry but the garage had a large patch on the back side after that.

There were several times uncle Ted didn’t have enough seniority to keep from a lay-off at work during the depression so he went West to work on construction at different times. He worked on the Boulder Dam (name was later changed to Hoover Dam) and also on the Keystone Dam at Ogallala, NE. We liked to hear stories about that when he would talk about them.

Growing up we were at uncle Ted and aunt Beulah’s a lot and they came to our house a lot. We would always have a good meal and my favorite thing was to listen to the family stories told over and over with the same attention to detail and laughter that followed.

Dale told of a small car his dad built for him that he could actually drive around the neighborhood. Uncle Ted could make anything and even made two power mowers before they were ever on the market. He was the only “musical” uncle and would play the guitar and sing. He never failed to play “It ain’t gonna rain no more” and we children would always sing along with him. Aunt Beulah played the piano very well and I loved those times at their home.

When I was 10-years old they had a son, my cousin Dale. He was the only little kid I ever liked at that time and I adored him. When I was a little older I got to baby-sit him and since I was a dumb little kid myself, I loved to scare the wits out of him. I’m sure he has been in re-hab a lot for those early refractions.

Uncle Ted retired from the Union Pacific Railroad and he and aunt Beulah moved to Missouri and later to Arkansas. We were able to visit when we came home on vacation and it was always good to see them. I am glad my children were able to grow up knowing them because they were always so special to me.

Uncle Ted died in his favorite chair after dinner one day on February 26,1966. Aunt Beulah found him with a magazine in his lap that he had been reading. It was a Hunting and Fishing magazine so I like to think he was preparing for that last big catch. Somewhere he and his brothers are probably fishing right now. Aunt Beulah lived up into her 80’s and was a joy to us all. I still have my favorite cousin Dale: sad to say we are the only two left from seven brothers and nine cousins. This is why I write our story.

Tomorrow we begin on someone I know a lot about. My dad!
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Friday, January 16, 2004


Theodore Hans AndersenTheodore Hans was born April 22, 1900. I always thought it was neat that his age went with the years. Where it was easy to forget the other uncles birth years I could always remember his. Grandma and Grandpa had acquired several farms by the time he came along and though he still had to help with the farm-work, he did go to school.

School in those days was quite a different proposition. A small white frame building with a bell on top to ring the beginning and end of each day was the structure. The teacher was a girl not much older than the students who had more than likely graduated high-school the Spring before. The interior was one large room with a pot-bellied stove for warmth in the winter and windows to open in the heat of Spring and Autumn. Coat hooks lined one wall and there was a shelf over those where students put their lunches. Over-shoes were placed under the coats on the floor.

Nebraska School RoomThis young teacher would be expected to teach grades one through eight. She was expected to keep order, be a pristine example in the community and do her own janitor work. Nearby farmers would cut wood for the stove and provide supplies but she was on her own after that. If she was pretty, more than likely the older boys attending would gladly offer to carry wood in for her. If she was not. …..you can imagine….she was on her own. If she was considered to be mean she was open to pranks of all sorts and her life was a nine-month miserable existence. If you were a fan of “Little House on the Prairie” you have the picture.

Uncle Ted didn’t like farming even as a boy. He didn’t like anything Danish and it was his plan to become “American” as fast as he could. School provided the knowledge and opportunity to sample that a few hours a day. Summers were spent in the fields to plant, cultivate and harvest……cows had to be milked, pigs, chickens, geese fed and watered. The windmill kept the horse tank full so that water needed for the animals was convenient to the different pens.

The boys were dressed very well now but as Danish boys. They hated long stockings and knee pants topped with sailor shirts and a cap. The pictures I have of them at this age look “like they just got off the boat.” My dad shuttered at the thought of how they looked back then.

Not much is known about uncle Ted’s younger life. He rarely talked about it to anyone and even my cousin Dale didn’t know anything he could offer. What we DO know is after he left the farm and went to work in Omaha. He applied for work at the Union Pacific Railroad and was hired. He loved the city life and bought clothes and a car as soon as he saved enough money. He wanted to be as far away from farm life as he could distance himself. That isn’t all bad, it was just a choice. To some it is bone-weary work for a hard master who is never satisfied. To the ones who love farming, they put their whole self into it and became part of the land. America needed both.

Tomorrow we learn about uncle Ted’s life after the farm.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 15, 2004


When uncle Sophus came into the family he had 3 older brothers. He was born November 23, 1898. He would be the last one of the children to be born in the 1800’s. Sophus was left with the ‘boys’ a lot when Grandma had to help Grandpa with outside work. One of them dropped him when he was still a baby and at the time no one thought too much about it. As the days went by he was slow developing and slow minded. In the Andersen family no one went to the doctor; it was too far away and would cost money. Therefore any medical need was ignored so far as a doctor was concerned. They did have home remedies they used but recuperation time was kept to a minimum. Everyone was needed to do the chores.

In this day and age anyone mentally or physically handicapped was an embarrassment to the family. They were kept at home and out-of-sight when neighbors came to call. For this reason, Sophus never went to school. Regardless of his inadequacies he was a hard worker and never seemed to know he was different. He had a quick and easy laugh, at times laughing so hard he would shake all over. As I mentioned in a previous post we children all loved to be around him. He was more like us and when we came to the farm we spent a lot of time with him and his cows. I have a picture of him with a pet calf he raised. He is smiling and holding the rope around the calf’s neck. When my mother and father married, he gave them the (by now a cow) for a wedding present. Knowing how he loved his animals it was a sacrificial gift…..but given with great pride.

Uncle Sophus lived at the farm with Grandma and Grandpa until they moved into town years later. When my mother and dad married they came to the farm to take care of it, make a home for Sophus and a younger brother, Robert. It was quite an undertaking for my mother….dad too I would imagine. That will all have to wait until I write about them.

When the days at the farm came to an end Sophus and Robert both went to live with grandma and grandpa in Omaha (NE). There wasn’t much for any of them to do and they were never prepared for inactivity. Life was harder for them all then than it had been on the farm. Work was all they knew and old age was not a welcome guest.

After the death of grandpa and Robert (youngest brother) uncle Emil took Sophus to live with them and we took grandma to live with us Later, we changed, bringing Sophus to live with us and Grandma to live with uncle Emil and aunt Mardelle.

Sophus came with our family when we moved to Missouri and was happy to again be on a farm with animals. We were on the farm from the Spring of 1945 until Christmas 1948. My parents then moved to town and brought Sophus along. He was with our family until my parents were no longer able to care for him. He lived in a home for the aged and was 62-years old when he died of a ruptured appendix and peritonitis July 28, 1961. He is buried in our town cemetery close by the graves of my family.

Uncle Sophus missed a lot in life because of his mental and physical condition so far as normal thinking goes. But he took each day as it came, did what he was able to do and never held any grudges. In reality, he was probably spared the anxieties and frustrations the rest of the family dealt with to pursue their dream. I know he was one good man who died without an enemy.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Aunt Helen and uncle Emil had three children. Doris, born September 29, 1925, Billy Dean born 08-27-28 and Harold Gene born 01-21-36. Aunt Helen hadn’t been feeling well for some time and then found she was pregnant.. When Harold Gene was born it was discovered that she had breast cancer. In 1936 that was a death warrant. The only thing I can remember about her is that one night all of the immediate family members were standing out in the lawn of the hospital. The thing I remember is how unusual everyone was acting. I asked Mama what was wrong and she told me aunt Helen was very sick. The family took turns going in to see her. When one came back, another would go in. This continued until quite late. It’s strange how some events impress children and leave a memory. That is the only thing I can recall concerning her. I don’t know if she died that night or later but three months after Harold Gene was born, aunt Helen died. She lived her whole life in Blair, Ne. and was only 31 years old.

Uncle Alfred and Helen’s mother had been married previously so they could be a family to raise Harold Gene. (I mentioned in an earlier post that Helen’s mother had been widowed for some time and that she and my uncle Alfred had married.) Doris and Billy were only ten and seven when their mother died. Uncle Emil moved to Omaha and kept them with him.

I do not remember Doris and Billy until I was about five years old. Uncle Emil and my folks were living in trailers on the west end of Omaha. They rented space from a farmer who raised asparagus to market. My mother was the only one home to watch after the four of us. (Doris, Billy, my older brother Louis and me.)

Uncle Emil did the best he could with the kids but it was hard to work and raise them as well. Had it not been for my mother it would have been worse.

Uncle Emil frequented a certain tavern and I think it was partly because there was a lady bar-tender there that gave him an ear……as good bar-tenders do. After courting her for some time, they were married. Aunt Mardelle had two children of her own, Gary and Claudia so with Doris and Billy they had a full house. It wasn’t too many years until the older kids married and moved on……..and uncle Emil and aunt Mardelle had a child of their own. Raymond was born when they were both middle-aged and stayed with them into their retirement years.

Aunt Mardelle was good for uncle Emil. She saved money and paid the bills while she brought order into the home and family. They had pretty much been loose canons up till then. At one time they moved to Missouri in a rural area and he and my Dad had a saw-mill together. They operated that for some time before he sold out and went back up north to Omaha. He continued contracting jobs from plumbers until he retired and moved back to Missouri.

This time they bought property around the resort area of Kimberling City. He was quite a craftsman and they enjoyed making things and selling them. They were living there when Silver Dollar City was starting up and when he found out they needed someone to demonstrate running a saw-mill he applied for the job. He was a natural. He wore striped overalls and always had a home-made cigarette hanging from his mouth . I can see him yet. He was a rascal and his eyes held a mischievous twinkle except when he was serious……….not too often. He was employed there as long as he was able to work but eventually he had to give it up. Aunt Mardelle had been ailing for some time with a bad heart condition and he was bothered with various age problems.

They moved back to Omaha near Raymoad and were there until aunt Mardelle’s death. Uncle Emil stayed with Raymond and the other children in the area until his health declined. His last years were spent in a nursing home. Where most people dread this, it was fun for him. He had the gift of adapting no matter what the circumstance. He liked the food, the nurses and the other folks living there. He enjoyed life right up to the last and lived into his 90’s. It happened that he was the last of the seven boys to die. That tells me that where the others worked their lives away that it’s probably a good thing not to take life too seriously. Uncle Emil never let work get in his way of a good time often at the frustration of his patents and brothers. Somewhere there is a special place for the habit-breakers and the ones who stop to smell the roses. I think after his escape from certain death in France he decided to live life his way…….it’s a fragile and fleeting thing………for him it lasted a long time.

My cousin, Doris, married and had two sons. She too had breast cancer and died when she was only 37-years old. Billy married and had several children by his first wife who was killed in a car accident in Oklahoma. He married a second time and is retired somewhere in Florida I am told. We have no way of knowing where. Harold Gene married and had a little boy……….he served in the Army and died of cancer while still in the military. He was only 26 years old. I have no information on Raymond.

Uncle Emil had a lot of tragedy in his life but somehow found a way to resist being a victim. I think he deserves credit for that.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Emil Andersen WWIIn order of birth, uncle Emil was third. He was born on a cold February night, on the 23rd day in 1896. Grandpa had opportunity to sell the Nacora place and move the family south to the Nickerson farm. It was more settled and farming was better. He was able to get more land with the money they had saved and there were buildings on the property. Louie was 7-years old now and Alfred was four…Grandma still had to help a great deal with the outside work so she had full days. She would have to draw water from the well, heat it and wash clothes by hand in huge galvanized tubs. Bedding was aired during the winter, not washed. She continued to milk part of the cows as Louie wasn’t able to milk her share yet. She made butter to sell, they ate lard on their bread. Nothing was wasted and everything that could be turned into money was utilized. The savings were put aside for more land someday and more animals.

Emil was healthy and grew up having to entertain himself as the older brothers had. There was no time for coddling babies. Alfred had to look after him at times when Grandma, Grandpa and Louie were doing their barn work. There was always something to do at the barn. It was back-breaking to shovel the manure when it was frozen and the barn-yard had a huge pile of it to be put on the fields in the Spring. There were calves to feed from a bucket which took time and the weather was always a factor. Grandma knit everything they bundled up in. She made stockings, stocking caps, scarves, mittens…….all of that. When she found time I cannot imagine.

Uncle Emil’s life followed along the same line’s that Louie and Alfred’s did. He had work to do and by the time he was 10-years old, the two brothers had left the farm. He and his younger brother, Sophus, had to stand in where they left. It wasn’t easy and there were no rewards. Life was hard for everyone, not just the Andersen’s. Some of their neighbors had given up and gone back to the “old country”. The Andersen’s were resolved to stick it out.

Emil was still at home when he joined the Army. I do not know if there was a draft then as there has been since but he went just the same. He finished his training and was in New Orleans ready to ship out for Europe. He had had a bad cold and the day he was to board ship the doctor ordered him to stay in the hospital. He had double pneumonia. As he recuperated in Louisiana word came back that his company had been gassed in France by the Germans. He never went overseas and when the war was over he came back to the farm.

It was a short stay. He had grown away from the farm-life that was so demanding and unrewarding to him. He had enjoyed the freedom of being “on his own” and having some money. Gambling and drinking was fun that he wanted more of. He finally left and followed work wherever he could get enough money to last a while. He often went down to the river shanty’s to gamble and play cards. He was never going to farm again….life was too short to work that hard.

With all of his carousing he met a pretty girl named Helen Boston. She was unlike the other women he had known up til then. Her parents lived at Blair, Ne. and had a large successful farm. Helen was still living at home and was a quiet girl with a good upbringing. Uncle Emil was smitten and pursued her until she agreed to marry him. She was only 17-years old in 1922.….he was a worldly twenty-six. Sadly, their marriage ended tragically after only fourteen years.

Tomorrow we find out the “rest of the story.”

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 12, 2004


Before we begin with uncle Email we have one little story about uncle Alfred that is too good to keep. I talked with my cousin Dale this morning and he related something I had never heard (or else forgotten) . I know you have seen movies of the old barn-storming days with flyers from WWI coming home and doing stunts around the country. They would fly into small towns and put up posters of their “air show” and also give rides for X-amount of money.

It seems uncle Alfred was privy to this and went out to the edge of town where the planes were gathered. He was looking a plane over when the pilot came up and with great bravado asked uncle Alfred what he thought about the plane. In his usual way, he thought long and hard before he made an answer………..”Weeelllllllpp!….I believe ………….I could fly this thing”. The pilot was amused and said, “well why don’t you get up in the thing and try?” Without a word, uncle Alfred climbed in and looked at the control panel for a little bit. The pilot is sneering with confidence and offers, "I'll even turn the prop for you." Oblivious to anything around him uncle Alfred reached for a knob, gave it a healthy pull and the engine started. The pilot was a little taken back but not impressed. While it was idling uncle Alfred continued looking at the panel…….he pulled another knob and the plane began slowly wobbling down the field. By now the pilot has his full attention on the situation at hand. As the plane got to the end of the field, to the horror of the pilot, uncle Alfred made a wide turn and after some hesitation, the plane started full-throttle towards him. By now the pilot was running towards the plane waving his arms but uncle Alfred increased his speed and flew over the head of the frightened man. He flew circles around the field for some minutes before setting the plane down once more on the landing field. Of course, there were a few bumps but he brought it back with a little dust knocked out of it and killed the engine. The greatly relieved pilot jumped up on the wing and yelled, “……..you S.O.B..!!! You did it!!!” Uncle Alfred crawled out of the plane, grinned at the pilot and said……..”yuuup”. He walked across the field, got in his car and drove off.

Some years later, my cousin Dale, had the opportunity to ask uncle Alfred about this. Dale had heard the story repeated many times by his Dad so he wondered if it were really true? Uncle Alfred thought about it for a while …….”yuuuup”. “Well, weren’t you scared?” Dale continued? Another hesitation…………..he sat smiling to himself studying his hands……then he looked over at Dale and said……..”nope”.

It is my desire to personalize our family as much as I can. The above story pretty well sums up our uncle Alfred. He truly was a quiet, humble man…..not given to wild stories and never bragging on himself. He lived his life……..he didn’t talk about it much.

Tomorrow, enter uncle Emil. Until then,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, January 11, 2004


As I think of uncle Alfred I remember how quiet he was. He was a listener and thinker. He was born March 12, 1892 at the Nacora homestead and shared the hardships that were endured by Grandpa, Grandma and uncle Louie. It was back -breaking work but he never talked much about it. Whatever hardships he survived were private. When the family moved to the Nickerson farm life was decidedly better. There was a house and “out”buildings, a well and a cave to store food. The work never changed in any way except for the location.

Winters are harsh in Nebraska. Temperatures drop off the chart and wind rages unmercifully. The early settlers had to tie ropes between the barn and house so they wouldn’t wander off course and become lost in the fury of a snow storm. Lanterns were the only light available to use in the barn-work as they helped their stock give birth or to do the milking. The smell of kerosene would fill the barn and occasionally the snort of cows or horses would break the silence. Little talking was done as grandpa and the uncles put corn in the feed boxes or pitched hay down from above. All care was given to the animals because they needed the calves to increase the herd and the horses to do the work. Great pride was taken by every farmer in how well his team could pull heavy loads or work the fields. Snow would drift above the barn doors at times and have to be shoveled before they could do the chores. Winter starts early and is late in leaving Nebraska.

Alfred, like his brother Louie, left home to work at other farms. There were younger brothers now to take up the work he would leave. As soon as he made enough for a start somewhere he left the farm-life behind and began a small repair business. That meant living far from the life he had known before. Year’s went by and he never married, content to live alone and work with the machinery he liked to fix. Soon his world was to change beyond his own imagination.

His younger brother, Emil, was married and living in Blair, NE. Emil’s wife, Helen, was dying of breast cancer and they had a 9-month old baby that would need care. Helen’s mother, Nettie Boston, had been widowed some years before and offered to take the baby (Harold Gene). Uncle Emil kept the two older children, Doris and Billy, with him. Alfred and Nettie somehow came together at this time. She was fourteen years older than Alfred and kind of a strange woman in a way….but that didn’t seem to matter to uncle Alfred…he wasn’t much of a conversationalist and he liked someone talking to him. They were married and made a home for Harold Gene and kept him until he was grown and joined the Army. Nettie died in November of 1959 at 81 years of age. And so it was that Alfred became a father-in-law to his own brother by marrying Helen’s mother.

In later years Alfred retired and moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas. He lived for some time with his younger brother, Ted and his wife Beulah, and after that in a mobile home park. He drove along on several family trips that my mother and dad made along with my own family. The kids enjoyed him and his strange ways were a novelty for them. They lovingly parroted his usual remark to any subject you might be talking about. There would be a long silence and then after thinking it over he would slowly say, “y-uuuuuuuuu-p”!! His bright blue eyes would sparkle and he would have a grin on his face. I remember he had a beautiful complexion…so smooth and soft with pinkish cheeks. It was the perfect compliment to his white hair.

My mother and dad made the 100-mile drive to see him once a month. They would take him to dinner, help him do some shopping and have a nice scenic ride in the area. Dad never forgot how Alfred rescued him at the train station long ago in Nebraska to send him home. When my dad died I kept the monthly ritual until uncle Alfred’s death on Christmas Day in 1980. He was 88 years old. He died holding the thoughts and whatever dreams he might have had within.

Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 10, 2004


It is Saturday morning and frosty outside. It’s a good time to have a cup of coffee and visit about the uncles. Do the Danes like coffee? If you know the English like tea then you know the answer.

The oldest brother, Louie, had the worst of times. Grandpa bought land at Nacora, in northeast Nebraska. It was on an Indian Reservation and life was cruel even in the best of times. Grandpa had dug out the side of a hill for protection against the weather. When he sent for Grandma he had the barest of necessities in which to live. How she managed Louie with the hard work they had to do is a mystery.

Any money they had went for cattle and a team of horses. The first building on the property was a barn and Grandma worked along side of Grandpa to complete the structure. Louie was pressed into work beyond his years and was expected to work like a man and think like a man.

Little is known about those times because Louie was eventually hired-out to other farmers. We do know he married and had two sons. Years later he was able to own his own farm and made a living from it. Young men all over the country were breaking away from their families and striking out on their own. Some eventually returned to stay while some never came back. In Louie’s case he never came home again.

It seems strange that families could lose track of each other so completely. How many times did Grandma wonder where he was and if she would ever see him again? Did Grandpa ever regret farming him out? Like so many of the people who put their life into the land, little is known or recorded of them. Still, we owe them respect for doing all they could with so little. What were Louie’s dreams? Did he realize any of them? Was he happily married and did he enjoy his sons? How did he die…..a farming accident, failing health or old age? These things are known and recorded only by God. For now we will have to let that be the end of his story.

I quizzed my Dad about Louie and some of the other relatives to find out how they fit into the family picture. He told me that his folks never talked of them and boys never thought about things like that. Even he knew little about his family history. This is why I am trying to record what I can remember for my own children. Once family members are gone, much knowledge is lost. We each owe a debt to those who have gone before us.

Essentially Esther

Friday, January 09, 2004


Uncle Sophus was to be the last child born in the 1800’s. By now there were three sons ahead of him; Louie, Alfred and Emil. Farmer’s always wanted sons to carry on with the work and later, the land. Grandma would not miss her turn at milking even after delivering a baby the day before. It was expected by my grandfather and she never refused. Sophus was delivered by a mid-wife from a near-by farm. Women didn’t have the luxury of painless child-bearing or going to a doctor miles away. Farms were isolated tract’s of land closed in by fences and the mind-set of the owner.

One of the brother’s was holding Sophus when he was very young and dropped him. He was never taken to the doctor and was never quite “right” after the fall. As children we knew uncle Sophus was different and when I was old enough to ask about him I was told he had water on the brain. I’m sure it was a supposition by the family and never pursued. Sophus had the intelligence of a 10 or 12-year old. He always liked children and felt comfortable around them. We liked him a lot because he was always smiling and pleasant. He was a hard-worker and produced without resentment or question. All he ever knew was hard work in those days. He loved the animals and spent a lot of time with them.

Uncle Ted came along in April, 1900. It was always easy to remember how old he was because “he went with the years” as my Dad said. He joined the other sons working on the farm. There was little time for fun and frivolity in those days and chores were expected at a young age. However harsh the demands of the parents and the land the boys did find time for pranks on each other and at times, the animals. As Grandpa turned more work over to them and was absent from the farm more, the fun increased. Of course not at the expense of the work which was ever present. Uncle Ted was a very handsome man and seemed to be more inward than the other brothers.

My Dad, Francis Bonick (middle name taken from Grandma’s maiden name of Bonicksen) was the sixth of seven sons. He was born October 18, 1903. By now life was essentially prosperous for my grandparents and the younger boys were sent to school rather than kept home to work. They were becoming more “American” all the time and so school was a vehicle to that end. Grandma no longer allowed them to speak their native language at home. Dad said later it was like trying to tame a pack of dogs. He and his brothers were without a clue as to social requirements.

The youngest brother was Robert. He was always sickly and excused from the hard outside work. Naturally the other boys took exception to this but had no recourse. Since he was the last child, the older children had faced hardships and harsh elements he knew nothing about. Grandma always favored Sophus and Robert and I’m sure it was because they needed her more. They both stayed at home with grandma and grandpa as long as they lived.

During the time the children were born and growing up my grandparents moved from their first settlement at Nacora, to the Nickerson farm and finally to Fontanelle. The land was rich but unyeilding and was slowly conquered by men from all over Europe with their fine teams of horses. We called them neighbors.

Tomorrow we begin to follow each brother through his journey.

Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 08, 2004


John surprised me yesterday by adding family pictures. I am amazed that he can be at work in Louisiana and put the pictures into my post. However, computers and people who use them so efficiently amaze me as well. I aspire to travel the higher road into “computer-land”.

Today we will meet some of the uncles. We know the least about Louie. My Dad and uncles lost touch with him almost from the day he left home. It was common in the early 1900’s for boys to set out on their own, usually as hired help on farms. It was not a good life. They were worked hard, fed poorly and paid little. However, most were anxious to strike out on their own and left home as soon as they had the opportunity. Louie had little schooling because he was constantly needed on the farm. He began working for neighbors and then hired out further away, finally taking him beyond family communication. He was the missing Andersen. I remember my Dad wanting to find him in later years. He had a sketchy idea of where Louie and his family were. He knew he had two sons. My uncle Ted and aunt Beulah went with us to find Louie and his family.

They had a farm in northeast Nebraska, near Sioux City, Iowa. He had been fairly prosperous at farming. He was a very quiet man who greeted my Dad and uncle Ted as almost strangers. It had been years since they had seen each other. It was hard for any of them to show emotion because it was not thought “manly”. We spent the afternoon visiting and when it was time to go, they shook hands. My father and uncle didn’t know until my grandmother’s death that Louie was only a half-brother. They never saw each other again.

My uncle Alfred was the first generation American. He was a shy man and thought long before he spoke. He had a beautiful smile and twinkling eyes. In later years he told me he had farmed out like Louie but ‘the old man’ (grandpa) would come and collect his wages. Most immigrant families were ruled by a dominate father without question. Alfred knew he would never be out from under his father’s thumb unless he got away as Louie had. He caught a train and went to Sioux City where he found work and for the first time received money for his labor. My Dad told the story that once he wanted to go home with Alfred and find work. Dad was very young and inexperienced. After a week he was homesick and wanted to go home. He made enough money for train-fare so Alfred took him to the depot and then went to work. By the time the train came, Dad’s money was lost to some card sharks hanging out at the depot. He was scared and beyond knowing what to do when he looked up and saw Alfred coming. Dad said Alfred gave him his week’s wages to buy a ticket home and stayed until he was on his way. Dad never forgot that inexpressible act of kindness.

Uncle Emil was a wild and self-indulgent man. My grandfather’s favorite because he was a lot like him in his youth. He didn’t like hard work and preferred making his money by scheming and gambling. Grampa called him “versotten” (satan) and would laugh. He got by with things the other boys never could because he amused Grampa. He was a womanizer and liked alcohol. In short, he was the black sheep of the family. He finally married a woman named Helen Boston. She was the daughter of farmers whose farm lay beyond my maternal grandmother’s at Blair, NE. Uncle Emil was never a farmer, he preferred the city. Aunt Helen and uncle Emil had three children, Doris, Billy and Harold Gene. Three months after the last baby was born she died of breast cancer. The year was 1922. Uncle Emil moved to Omaha with the two older children and Helen’s mother took the baby to care for. Uncle Emil was later married to Mardelle Ustick who was a bartender at his favorite bar. She was a straight shooter and rough around the edges but took uncle Emil to task. She straightened him out in no time and they combined families. She had a boy and girl and they later had a child of their own, a son named Raymond. She made it all work, somehow, even though she took on a wild bunch. She certainly earned family respect. They remained together until death took aunt Mardelle first and uncle Emil lived to be in his ‘90’s. Mama used to laugh and say the good Lord wasn’t ready for him and the devil wouldn’t have him. As with all scally-wags he was likeable in spite of his faults and he did it his way.

Until tomorrow when we meet more brothers.

Essentially Esther