Silver Threads  Spring/Summer 1998


   Editorial Bits and Bytes


       Remembering my Father, Tiller of the Soil
          Floyce Larson

       Remembering my Grandmother
          Pat Schade

       My Aunt Vi
          Jim Olson

       Nana's  Birthday
          Laurie Stone

         Editorial Bits and Bytes

With this issue we signal a change in format. We are going to a
quarterly publishing schedule and devoting each issue to personal
essays interspersed with short poems, each issue having a
general theme.

The theme I asked our writers to address for this issue  was "And
the Beat Goes On"- essays that deal with remembrance and
generational exchange.

The Silver Threads web page is temporarily down and we will
announce a new address for it at a later date.


Remembering my Father, Tiller of the Soil

By Floyce Thomas Larson

"Honor they Father." I have added my father's name to mine and
think he would have liked that, even though he wouldn't have
understood anyone using a hyphenated name.

'You have to clear the fields of stones every spring. But if you
try to get out every stone before you plow, you'll miss plowing
season," he used to say.  I've spent most of my life clearing the
"stones" each spring, even as my father, then getting on with the
rhythmic changes of my seasons.

For some reason, I never forgot how often we picked up those
dratted stones and loaded them onto a horse-drawn stone boat, and
how they always seemed to reproduce and multiply. I remember,
while plowing how he would strike a rock large enough to break
the plow and throw him to the ground. How, despite delay to have
the blade repaired, he persevered plowing seeding and when it was
time, reaping the harvest.

My father was a gentle, uncomplicated man with simple tastes. He
understood farming but not the ever-changing ways of the world
outside his small community in rural Wisconsin. In 1936, mother
insisted I was going to college, despite no funds during those
days of the Great Depression. My father remonstrated: "I don't
see why she wants to go to school when she can't even build a
fire in a wood stove." (To him, fire building was a necessary
skill). Nevertheless, my brother and I went to the University of
Wisconsin, Madison--40 miles from our sandy, 40-acre farm,  and
father helped mother scrape enough money to pay the first
semester fees of $27.50 each. I never looked back-- at least not
until later years. I was too busy stating a new life for myself
in the East, raising a family, moving on.

Last year I went back to my roots in the Heartland. I visited the
small cemetery where my father was buried and photographed his
grave. I wanted to show it to my children - the grandchildren he
never knew. I write this, trying to recall what I might tell
these children and their children about what he was like and what
his values were.

I wish I could remember more. I wish he could know about my
microwave oven and that I never  needed to learn how to build a
fire in a wood stove. I was aware that he was proud of my
progress in school and of my  job at the United Press Bureau in
Madison, even though he didn't understand a yearning for a girl
to go "so far" away, to have training for a career. Family,the
soil - sown and reaping -- church. Those were the important
things to him. Despite heavy chores, especially during planting
and harvesting every Sunday found our family of seven sitting in
the pews of The First Baptist Church. Father, his brothers and
grandfather, formed a family quartet, which was often called upon
to sing for services, weddings and funerals.

Watermelons were our big cash crop and every August found father
walking up and down the rows, thumping and inspecting the dried
"curl" on the vine, to determine~ which ones were ripe. He placed
his selections, white underbelly side up, out in the rows, where
we kids came along with the wagon to collect them.

These ripe ones were taken to town, where father parked his rig
on the square, and from there he peddled his wares, always giving
fair value, and replacing any that weren't totally satisfactory.
He came home each night tired, but with a full wallet.

Even though work on the farm was hard and never ending our family
enjoyed many fun outings. We went to band concerts at the town
square and grandfather conducted a singing school. With neighbors
and friends we arranged box socials and chivarees (a noisy mock
serenade and celebration put on for newlyweds).

On occasions like the Fourth of July, we cranked the ice cream
freezer. And on that day, father signaled the beginning of
festivities by shooting off a charge of dynamite in an old stump
he wanted to get rid of. (He was too frugal to waste a whole
stick of dynamite) A few of these activities are chronicled in
his diary, but most entries are of the weather, plowing grubbing
building fences, hauling manure, planting and harnessing. Missing
in his diary is any hint of how he felt about what was happening
on that day. The closest he came to mentioning anything other
than work was on my birthday, Feb. 22.

Then an July 22, the following year, another entry read: "Cooler
and fair. Our boy came this morning." I can only wonder if he was
pleased to have a son, after two daughters?


       Tiger Hunt

A small blond head bobs above
A serrated border, lining
The path between the fences,
Following the tiger's spoor,
Tipping toes, small hands poised to spring.
A darting grab rewards the hunt
With a handful of soft, yellow, wiggly fur
In which to rub the hunter's cheek.
The captive prey pushes a tiny paw
Against the Nimrod's chest,
But failing to leap free,
Licks its captor's nose.

Long Island, NY

Remembering my Grandmother
 by Patricia Schade  pasha1@gte.net ICQ# 4420718

Lately, I have been thinking more and more often of my
Grandmother and how much her spirit is still with me . To me, she
always seemed old. As a little girl, fond of pretty things,her
navy blue dotted dress, thick tan stockings and sensible oxfords
were the example of everything I never wanted to be. Yet, here I
am coming closer and closer to walking in her shoes. I know she
would be amazed by her children, grandchildren and especially her
great-grandchildren. She would be proud that many had shown the
same strong spirit she had; disappointed that some had shown so

When I asked her to tell me about what her life was like as a
little girl in southern Germany. She always said "Ach, you don't
want to know all that old sad stuff"....and made her self busy
with tasks that I wasn't allowed to interrupt...and I learned to
live in the present, focus on the task at hand and to not
complain about the past.

It always amazed me that she could add up several columns of
upside-down figures, at the grocery store as the clerk was doing
them right-side up on the pad on the counter. She explained that
poor children in her town had no money for paper and pen or slate
and chalk.... because of this...they had to remember all the
numbers and come up with a correct total or be punished for a
wrong one. ...and I learned that the lessons that were difficult
to learn might turn out to be very valuable.

Now and then she would speak of how hard it was for her family...
she had to leave school after the third grade to work for a more
prosperous uncle who could pay her the small wage that her family
needed so desperately. It was difficult to imagine having to
leave shool and work away from home at such a tender age...but
she just said " I had to do this, I had no choice" and I learned
that doing what you had to do ....for the good of your family was
important , worthwhile and admirable.

Maybe that's what it's all about....the choices you make and what
you do with the opportunities you have.She was only 16 when she
and her younger sister Anna boarded the Bremen for their trip to
America and the future.She had an older sister that was already
settled and had insured that she and Anna would not only have the
fare to come but would be no burden on the state if she were
allowed to emigrate. It was hard to imagine how I would have felt
being that girl or sending my own two daughters to another world
at such a tender age.....and I learned to take risks.

It must have been a long and frightening journey for the two
little girls but the promise of what lay ahead was more than
enough to keep them dedicated to the course that they had chosen.
When she first arrived the first goals were to get a job and
learn English and she set about reaching them with dogged
determination. I'm sure that the job in a restaurant cooking and
cleaning pots was not what she had dreamed of but it would help
her to not only survive but prosper in her new world and I
learned that no job is too small or insignificant if it helps you
get where you want to be.

The days grew into weeks and then years and when a nice young man
from Austria asked her to marry him....it seemed the only logical
thing to do. She would then have her own home, a family of her
own to take care of and some one to help her make the way .
Sometime I imagine that I am her....doggedly putting one foot in
front of the other..always striving for that wonderful place
where there would be security at last...and I learned fro her
that wishing doesn't turn desire into reality...but patience and
dedication can.

The round top trunk was always a curiosity to me with it's green
velvet strips between bands of wood and nailheads now blackened
with age. In it ,were bits and pieces of the years since she had
made the trip from Germany....There was a fur collar of some
unknown origin, black high heeled shoes with buttons, a long
white skirt with bands of ribbon, embroidery and open work. It
was the same skirt she wore in her wedding picture...the top long
since worn out and discarded I imagine.

There was another long wool skirt..one she had worn on the day
she arrived in America. Later, it's black, brown, tan and ivory
plaid became a skirt for me..Grandma did things for me to make my
life easier. ... pretty things she made, the few coins for candy
when she could spare them .... And I learned that by doing things
for others I felt very good myself.

I don't have a polka dotted anything nor do I wear heavy tan
stockings but sometimes I wonder if my Rebocks( the sensible
shoes of my generation) might be what my grandchildren remember
about me.....Or will it be the criptic little sayings I like to
share about the value of hard work, or responsibilities met,
accountability for what we do, the gift of ambition and the
satisfaction of always trying your best to do the right thing.

Thanks, Grandma.


           A Cow in the Living Room

by Eleanor M. Scott Maz13@aol.com

I was surprised when I saw a cow in the living room,
Though I should have foreseen it, I  know.
It started with a hole in the screen
Almost a whole year ago.
I asked my husband to fix it,
But he tends to let things slide by.
I was merely annoyed when the hole in the screen
Became the ingress for a fly.
One day as I ponder (wear and weary) over some  volume, I heard
Chirping, trilling and tapping
Then in flew an ebony bird.
The hole kept getting bigger
I nagged him then  about that
I really thought that he'd figure
'Twas mending time after the cat.

With the entrance of the poodle ,
I spoke with angry words,
But with all the mewing and yapping,
I know I couldn't be heard.
The raccoons and weasels perturbed me
Running in the screen and then out.
"Fix it now!" I started screaming,
Although it's not at all like me to shout
But he sat with his cross word puzzle
Making no move towards fixing the screen.
The house was full of wildlife,
More than I'd ever seen.

Well, maybe
He'll fix that screen.
I mean -really darling,
A cow.

My Aunt Vi
   - Jim Olson  jimo@discover-net.net

I was raised by a committee of aunts and uncles.  One of my
favorites was my aunt Viola, the second child in a family of
eleven. My mother, who died when I was three, was number ten.

Vi's parents homesteaded a section of land in western Minnesota.
As a mechanism for social mobility homesteading had distinct
advantages over the share-cropping farming model, but it had one
flaw, and that was the inability to pass on the newly gained
status of landowner. To make a homestead viable large families
were the rule but a section of land divided 11 ways does not
leave much of an inheritance, and as farm machinery replaced the
labor needs of the farm fewer siblings were needed at home.

Realizing this, my aunt moved north and and as a single person
participated in the last wave of homesteading in the states. She
ended up near the Northwest Angle, the northern most point in
the United States before Alaska gained statehood.  It has since
been linked to the mainland by a road, but at the time it was
isolated and accesible only by a boat trip on the Lake of the
Woods, embarking either from Warroad, Minnesota, or Kenora,

By some surveying error or political ploy the Angle jutted up
into Canada, a sort of minor  U.S. pimple or sword thurst
depending on your point of view.

As required by the homestead act she built a cabin on an island
near the angle,  acquiring all of the skills needed to survive
in that northern environment, and learned to love the life style
of the north. She became skilled at hunting and fishing, and
honed one of the arts she used to earn a living throughout her
life by taking a job as a cook at a   resort on the island.

She later taught me to shoot a shotgun and rifle, skills I never
developed to any degree, and regaled me with stories from the
north. I can recall stories about how venison in season or out
became the staple food of the early residents of the area on
either side of the border. She would even feed the visiting game
wardens, American and Canadian, "rabbit stew" and accept the
compliments on how good the "rabbit" tasted. Anything my aunt
cooked was a gourmet delight, and no sensible game warden would
risk losing a seat at her table by noting the remarkable
venison taste of the rabbit.

I can imagine one of them out in the woods, making his rounds to
apprehend some of the more commercial "poachers" in the area.
After a week or two in the wild he must have anticipated with
some delight the prospect of coming in to one of her meals, just
as I did later when she cooked for one or another of our
traditional family holiday meals. I never saw her refer to a cook
book or a recpie file of any kind, yet everything she did in the
kitchen resulted in a culinary treat.

She married a Jack Pine Savage (the name  more "civilized"
people to the south gave to the northern residents), but the
marraige ended almost before it began  with his suicide during a
period of mental depression. She left the northwoods, moving
south and east to Chicago where there was little to remind her
of her life in the woods.  She embarked on a career as nanny,
cook, and housekeeper to a variety of employers, spending many
years with one Chicago family where the children of the family
became the family that fate had denied her in her own marraige.

Later in life she returned north and married a  widower, a more
stable Jack Pine Savage. This "September Song"  marriage
proved successful and they lived together enjoying the northern
life for ten years before his death.

I got to know her in the various periods between jobs when she
stayed with her sister, my Aunt Jen, the chair of the committe;
and during her second marriage I would visit her  at Roosevelt,
Minn., using a Canadian rail line.  Toward the end of her life
she, too, developed a terminal illness and became yet another
charge of my Aunt Jen, the oldest of the 11 children.

But that's another story.


          Empty  Cup

In July, I will be seventy-three,
Which doesn't seem so old, to me.
Sam was eighty when he died,
The husband on whom I relied
For love and friendship through the years.
Now, having worked through grief and tears,
I wonder how to fill my cup,
And what I shall do when I grow up.

HRM1294 @aol.com


Nana's  Birthday
  by Laurie Stone  lauriejs@worldnet.att.net

"Whatever are we going to get Nana for her birthday?", Melissa

"I don't know", I answer my younger daughter, "but at this point
I rather think she's more interested in our company and what the
menu is than in presents".  This was approximately the same
answer I had given to our older daughter when she asked the same
question.  It is a subject that comes up at least twice a year;
birthday and Christmas, and, to a lesser degree, Mother's Day.
But Mother's Day is easy:  Nana is always happy with a hanging
planter of flowers on the patio, but outdoor flowers are a bit
tricky in Seattle in December and February.  Especially for a
lady just turning 97.

Time does not favor the indecisive, and the 22nd approaches at
the usual breakneck speed.  In the meantime our youngest
grandson, Sean, is having his landmark sixth birthday on the
11th, and that cannot be ignored. "Don't worry about Sean", his
mother Laurel said.  "We'll have a birthday party here for his
peers and the family will take him out for pizza for dinner, and
we'll do the big family celebration with Nana."

So it is settled.  The family has a neatly-bracketed birthday
celebration of the oldest and youngest all on the same day.
Sunday the 22nd dawns cloudy, but as the day progresses,
Seattle's traditional overcast parts and the sun shines brightly
cheerful, lifting everyone's spirits.  The spring flowers are
bursting out of the ground, and on checking the patio we discover
daffodils in bloom for Mother's birthday--the first time ever.

Meantime, at our younger daughter's house, preparations are going
forward at a frantic pace.  We arrive in time to help, to calm
the cook and reassure her that everything is beautiful:  The
birthday tablecloth, the birthday cake platter, balloons, special
candle holders, all the silly stuff our family can't celebrate a
birthday without.  And taking the indecisive way out, everyone
arrives with flowers for Nana--daffodils, tulips, pussy willows,
hyacinths, it goes on and on.  She loves them.

Almost lost in the crowd, little Sean wanders in with his arms
full of papers:  "Nana, I painted a picture for you."  Sean leans
toward the abstract school of thought, but his colors are truly
innovative and wonderful.  And lest I feel left out, he hands me
one:  "Grandma, I painted one for you, too".  Always a welcome
gift, and my frige can always use new additions.  Sean remembers
his manners, too, and hands our official hostess another one:
"Aunt Melissa, this one's for you!".

Preliminaries over and all our food contributions finding their
way to the table, we open the wine and toast the birthday boy and
girl, with milk for the under-twenty segment.  "To the oldest and
youngest!  May you live long and prosper!"

And then, of course, the presents.  Sean, digging through a pile
of gaily-wrapped books, mutters "Toys!  Where are the toys?"  and
Nana, dreamily unwrapping boxes of chocolates and other romantic
offerings, murmurs, "Oh, they're lovely!  Just what I was hoping
for!"  Yeah, right. But eventually Sean finds his toys, and Nana
actually finds a present she can use; a badly-needed leather

Everyone stretches, sighs "Ohhh, I ate too much!" and puts up
their feet for a brief interval.  Everyone except the cooks, of
course, who stay with it in the kitchen.  Suddenly Laurel looks
at the clock and says "DON! We've got to leave or we'll miss the
ferry!"  Sudden panic:  the ferry leaves from the Edmonds dock at
7:25; it's now 7:00 p.m. and the clock is ticking.  This is
always the signal for the boys to stall:  "Ethan, where are your
boots?  Sean, where did you leave your coat?" and as they tumble
down the stairs, a child bolts into the bathroom:  "I'll be right

"Ethan, we'll miss the ferry!  Come ON!"  But nature cannot be
denied; they finally zoom away from the curb about 7:07 for the
five-mile run through heavy traffic.  Somewhat amazingly, they
actually make the ferry.  And we all smile at each other in
relief and give Mother one more birthday kiss "for the road".



     The vines
     Must suffer some
     From mistrals, drought, and flood.
     Only then will ancient soils grow
     Fine wine.