St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

West Sterling 1850s St Croix River Valley North of St. Croix Falls

    In the late 1960s, Mrs. Wirt Mineau of Eureka wrote a letter to Rosemarie Vezina Braatz, then a columnist for the Standard Press, that included some early West Sterling history which we excerpt this week  Hope Mineau’s grandfather had come from California with Gold mined from the 1848 gold rush there and decided to settle on the Minnesota side of the St Croix at Nevers and Sunrise.
   West Sterling 150 Years ago by Hope Mineau 
    West Sterling was not always a “desert land” as the pioneers told this story.  As long ago as when my grandfather Carmen P. Garlick came to Minn Territory it was an asset to this part of the upper St Croix Valley.  Dr. Garlick came to Taylors Falls and invested the gold he had mined in an old Spanish Settlement, adjacent to Sutters Fork bearing the name of Amador (now Placerville) in Govt land at $1.25 per acre north of Taylors Falls in Chisago Co.  In 1853 her brought Grandmother and 2 daughters and 2 sons including my father Louis then 1 year old, and lived that winter at Uncle John Daubney’s farm at Daubney Rapids (later Nevers Dam) while he built a sawmill at the mouth of the Sunrise River.  This was operated by water from a wing dam.

     Shortly after locating his family at the Minn side of what later would be Nevers Dam, Dr. Garlick with two others surveyed and named the township “Amador” for the Spanish settlement where he and 12 other men had mined gold.

       The pioneers from the east who settled here were men of vision.  They surveyed a railroad route across Amador and on across the St Croix River where there was an Indian settlement named Sebatana (place of softly babbling waters).  Dr. Garlick made maps and had them lithographed.  I found one in V Canadays’ father’s possession in 1934 and I believe that the Minn Historical Society now has it. 

       Mrs. Rudy Johnson of Almelund told me that when she did office work in Taylors Falls school, about the time it was moved to the new building she saw a map of the proposed railroad with townsites named Washington and Lincoln. 

     When the Garlicks came to Minn Territory they found Smith Elison with his partners, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Bates settled on Goose Creek Meadows near Sunrise. As a part of Mr. Elison’s many activities, he bought beef cattle to supply the U. S. Army at Fort Snelling in Civil War time and also for them during the so called Indian Wars west of the Miss. river.  Then later supplies for the railroad construction crews.   The beef were bought and sold on hoof and driven to the locations when needed and butchered there.

     At that time West Sterling was covered with a grass, the Elison’s said, much like the buffalo grass they found when in later years they farmed in the plains west of here.  Also there were acres of vetch.   All this made excellent pasture for cattle as did the oaks.  The oaks found on that part of Sterling were the same species as those on our farm 1 ½ miles east of Big Spring in St Croix River where the Chippewa Indians made camp fall and spring when they tribes of the Valley met for ceremonial dances on the Nevers flats two miles up river .  Some say acorns poison stock.  It may be some do, but from 20 years of experience in those hills in our Eureka home, I can only say if cattle have access to salt and water they will survive and fatten as do deer and produces a finer flavored beef than corn fed cattle.
   The early pioneers in West Sterling made use of the native feed and cattle were driven across at the ford in the fall or on the ice later to be driven to Fort Snelling.

   When the beef trade decreased the undergrowth increased; fires became more numerous and the top soil was destroyed, never to be restored as that grass never comes back.  An expensive lesson learned on the Plain States when they plowed up buffalo grass and got sand storms in pay.
     Since this cattle pasturing was done by New Englanders living on the west bank there was much land available for others, especially Scandinavians who made homes on the east side.  Some thirty years ago I was talking to one of the Anderson brothers (namely John, Charles Peter and Adolph) who migrated from Sweden about 1869 and settled near that old church at Trade River-Cowan Creek, West Sterling area.  Charles Anderson resided in St Croix Falls late in life when his son Andrew had a store here.  In our conversation with him and son and wife, the subject of that church came up and he told me “we all built that church.”  Everyone regardless of nationality brought materials and built a community church it appears.  He said later on people drifted away to other towns and churches but we stayed.  I asked him “Why did you stay?”  “Because it reminded us of our homelands back in Sweden—the evergreen and such”  
    Hope Mineau’s account tells us of Sebatana, an Indian settlement on the Wisconsin side of the river near Nevers Dam.  In Rosemarie Braatz’s wonderful booklet on Nevers Dam written in 1965 (which is out of print but now on the web at the MN DNR website at  ) there is this reference.    

      Mrs. Ernest Armstrong of Trade River, writes: "In 1850 there was an Indian settlement at the mouth of Wolf Creek by the St. Croix River. (This was called Sebatana, meaning "Place of flowing clear water".) Near the site which later became Nevers Dam the Indians had chosen a place as a ceremonial ground where they came spring and fall to pray and give thanks.  There were two Indian camps, one near the west bank of the river -- later this site was called Frawley's Trout pond, the other to the east, called the Big Pond. Years later in the woods and fields were found many arrow heads from these Indians."

2011 Autumn photo West Sterling
showing prairie remnants Section 26
     In an earlier Sterling history column I mentioned a story from my Grandpa Eugene Hanson,  who  lived near Nevers Dam on the River Road (Duane Larson’s place now).   Joe Lagoo, part Indian, walked along the ridge above the house to a point overlooking the river and told Grandpa that it was a burial ground for Indians.  The site is at the road to the south that goes east up the hill.  Last week we mentioned that Joseph Renshaw Brown ran a trading post for Indians near this site.  The story of the Spirit Rock along the River road may also tie into Sebatana.  It would be interesting to hear more stories of the local Indian settlements!

    More good reading on the Internet:  “TIME AND THE RIVER A History of the Saint Croix”  A Historic Resource Study of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway  Eileen M. McMahon Theodore J. Karamanski  2002 . This is a very complete history of the St Croix River with lots of illustrations!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Margo has chemo treatment 3

Margo is at chemotherapy session 3 in the photo above at Mayo Clinic Rochester.  She saved a seat for our next door neighbor, Nancy who has been in chemo since January 2011.  Margo often took her to 3-day treatments every 3 weeks (she continues to take them and is gradually beating her cancer). 

Nancy's husband Gary, who is a colonel in National Guard and has been active since the war to free Kuwait, was back on leave and so the four of us had a nice visit as the two  had their chemo.  
Mayo's chemotherapy center is on 10th floor Gonda, downtown.  It has individual and group treatment rooms to handle maybe 50 folks at a time.  There is free coffee, treats, and many volunteers coming 
around to visit and ask if you need support as well as many nurses and others hovering around while the machine slowly drips the chemo into Margo's port.
Margo gets two pre-treatment drugs to calm the stomach and to prevent allergic reactions followed by the two treatment drugs.  Tuesday we were in about 7:00 am and out by 10 am, headed over to do a little shopping and breakfast.  

Margo is tired after the treatment, does OK on Wednesday and then Thursday usually tired and a little nauseous, and then by Friday OK again.  This Friday she has research MRI to see if the tumors have stopped growing or maybe started to shrink.  Because she is in a research study (a clinical trial of a new drugs), she gets extra scans free as well as more people hovering and checking on her progress.  
Margo is doing well so far.  No sign of hair loss and no other problems.  Three treatments down and 9 to go in phase 1.  Then it switches to treatments every 2 weeks for 12 more weeks.

Our big project for the winter is to rid ourselves of a lifetime of accumulated stuff that we need to sort through.  When Margo's Aunt Lou passed away, and then when her parents sold the farm, we boxed up a lot of dishes, pots and pans, linens, tools, and so on and just hauled them and unloaded in the basement and garage here, without looking through the stuff.  So this fall and winter is the time to sort out things and pass along what should go to Goodwill, the incinerator, be used and generally organize that stuff as well as a great deal of things that we accumulated ourselves and never use--and then regain our garage and basement for more useful purposes!  Amazing how much stuff we have to go through!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Father Phillip Gordon, Chippewa Priest

From the Wisconsin Magazine of history 1919

The Wisconsin State HIstorical Society had the pleasure of a visit in the month of December from Father Philip Gordon, missionary to the Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin. Father Gordon was born at the town of Gordon, named for his father's family. His mother is a Chippewa and he himself is a member of the Bad River band of that nation. His Indian name is Ti-bish-ko-ge-zick, which means "looking into the sky," an appropriate term for a sky pilot, although he received it when a child, before determining his profession. He was named in honor of an uncle on his mother's side of the family. His grandfather was born at the old La Pointe village on Madeline Island and was interpreter for Father, later Bishop, Baraga, the early nineteenth century apostle to the Wisconsin Indians. The name was originally Gaudin, of French origin, but it has become Anglicized into Gordon.

Father Gordon passed his boyhood in the woods of northern Wisconsin; at the age of thirteen he was sent to St. Paul to be educated. Later he studied in Europe at Rome, Innsbruck, and Bonn. Now in the prime of life he is devoting himself to the uplifting of his people and to helping them to a fuller and richer life. When asked if he was interested in the old Indian traditions he replied, "Yes, but they must be preserved in books, not in men."

Father Gordon makes his headquarters at Reserve on Lake Court d'Oreilles; he officiates however at six chapels: one at Reserve; two on the Lac du Flambeau reservation; one at the mouth of Yellow River, for the St. Croix band; one on Mud Lake in Rusk County; and one at the Old Post, so-called, on the west branch of Chippewa River. This latter place is called by the Indians "Pakwaywang," meaning "a widening in the river"; it is about fourteen miles east of Reserve in section thirty-two of township forty, range six west.

Father Gordon ministers to the Court d'Oreilles band, the Lac du Flambeau band, and the St. Croix band of Chippewa, the latter of whom have no settled homes and many of whom are still pagans. He is an ardent advocate of Americanization and of creating in the Indians a desire for a better standard of life. Most of the Chippewa can read and write, over ninety per cent being literate. In the Court d'Oreilles band the oldest full blood is Anakwat (The Cloud), who lives at the post. Both he and Gaw-ge-ga-bi of Round Lake are much respected because of their age and wisdom.
The orator of this band is Billy Boy, who lives at Reserve and speaks beautiful Chippewa. Father Gordon says there is as much difference between the common language of the reservation and that of the orator as there is between the slang of our street Arabs and the literary idiom of our best writers. He says Billy Boy is a master of Chippewa; his language is sonorous and beautiful, full of original terms and lofty similes.

Father Gordon thinks prohibition will save the Indian race; improvement in manners and morals has been noticeable since this measure became effective. He is very proud of his boys who served in the European War, five of whom lost their lives on the battle fields of France. He is collecting their letters and reminiscences for the Wisconsin War History Commission and promises to write an article on "The Chippewa in the World War."

Recently Father Gordon made a visit to the Potawatomi Indians of eastern Wisconsin, who have been so long neglected both by the government and by missionary agencies. At Soperton in Forest County he met the representatives of this tribe, most of whom are still pagan, and discussed plans for a mission. There are about three hundred Potawatomi living in Forest and in northern Marinette counties, some of whom have recently joined this band from their Kansas home. Their only missionary to the present time has been the Reverend Erik O. Morstad of the Lutheran missions. The government recently acknowledged the claims of the Wisconsin Potawatomi to a share in the tribal funds, and it is hoped that they may be raised from the conditions of poverty and degradation into which they have fallen. Dr. Carlos Montezuma of Chicago accompanied Father Gordon on his visit to the Potawatomi. The former is a member of the Society of American Indians and, like the latter, an enthusiastic advocate of making the Indians citizens and responsible for their own development.

Carlisle Indian School Newspaper PA

Philip B. Gordon First of His Race to Be Ordained in the United States.

Philip B. Gordon (Ti-bish-ko-gijik), a Superior boy, will be the first Indian priest ordained in the United States, and with the exception of one, who was ordained in Rome, the first ordained in the world.

Mr. Gordon was ordained in the priesthood by the Rt. Rev. Joseph M. Koudelka, D. D., Bishop of Superior, at the Sacred Heart ProCathedral on December 8, 1913. It marks the entrance into the ranks of the Catholic clergy of the first Indian of the Chippewa tribe and the second Indian of any tribe.

One other Indian priest, the Rev. Albert Neganquet, was ordained several years ago at Rome for the diocese of Oklahoma. Mr. Gordon, however, will bear the unique distinction of being the first native-born American to be actually ordained within the bounds of the United States.

Philip Gordon is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Gordon, 171 West Fourth street, East End. His grandfather, Antoine Gordon, was one of the pioneer settlers of Douglas County and was closely related to the celebrated chieftain,Hole-in-theDay. Through the old gentleman's influence with the chief, a threatened uprising of Chippewas was prevented during the days of the Sioux outbreak in 1862.

Previous to coming to Douglas County the elder Gordon resided at LaPointe Island, near Ashland, and it was while there that he helped welcome Father, afterwards Bishop, Baraga, the Apostle of the Chippewas, on his first visit to northern Wisconsin as early as 1835. Sometime later Mr. Gordon moved to Amik on the St. Croix, last named Gordon in his honor. Here Mr. Gordon died about five years ago at the extreme age of 98 years.

Philip B. Gordon, grandson of A. Gordon and son of W. D. Gordon and A-ta-ge-kwe, was born at Gordon 26 years ago. He received a common school education in the Douglas County public schools and at St. Mary's Indian School, Odanah; then successively a high school, college, and university training at St. Thomas College and Seminary, St. Paul; the Propaganda University at Rome; Innsbruck University, Tyrol, Austria, and finally at St. John's Abbey, St. Paul. Besides Chippewa and English, Mr. Gordon speaks fluently German, French, and Italian.

Bishop Koudelka will ordain Mr. Gordon for his Indian missions, of which the most important are at Bad River, Lac Courtes Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau reservations with something over 2,500 Catholic Indians.

P. Rivers, of De Pere, Wis., was ordained at the same time. Ordinations took place Sunday and and Monday. The two young men have received minor orders and subdeaconship, deaconship, and the priesthood. —Superior (Wis.) Telegram.

Father Gordon visited Carlisle a year ago on returning from his studies in Europe. We were especially impressed with his earnestness, which foretells of a useful life in helpful service to his people. With the great inducements of the present day for material gain, our admiration is doubly stirred when we see a young man cast aside such opportunities in order to grasp the richer treasures of spiritual development and Christian service, and we commend this young man for his wise choice.

Small Pox among the St Croix Chippewa

Portaging canoes is the subject this painting by Thorsen Lindberg, on display in Milwaukee Public Library.
In 1854, a smallpox epidemic was killing the Chippewa along the St Croix River north of St. Croix Falls and a project to vaccinate them was underway. 
Excerpt from the April 20th 1854 St Paul Democrat Newspaper, a report by Dr. T. T. Mann, who was appointed by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to visit and vaccinate the Chippewa Indians on the St. Croix.   The area covered is likely the St. Croix Valley north of St. Croix Falls including Polk and Burnett Counties.

On the morning of the 25th March, J. H Day, M. D., with Paul Beaulieu, Government interpreter, left St. Paul in a two-horse conveyance, provisioned with an outfit for a long, hard service. On the morning of the 27th, they were compelled, from the flooded and broken state of the country, to abandon the team, and take into service two 'Coureurs des Bois' to assist in carrying their cooking utensils, bedding and provisions, and continued their journey on foot.

Some distance from the Falls of St. Croix, the party fell in with and vaccinated a small band of 21 Indians. These poor creatures were in a state of painful apprehension from the approach of small-pox; had sad stories to relate of the terrible effects of the scourge that had visited their people further up the country, and were very profuse in expressions of gratitude for the aid and security thus unexpectedly conferred upon hem by the Superintendent.

 Guided by reports as to the present most probable habitat of other bands, our party, after great difficulty and danger, on account of floating ice, crossed the river, and soon fell in with the mail carrier from La Pointe, who had traversed a real part of the Indian country. From him they lad the gratification to learn that the La Pointe county funds had been used in procuring the Indians in that vicinity vaccination, and carrying into effect such other sanitary measures as became necessary to arrest the pestilence. Out of his little isolated community twenty-seven perished, and the remainder are represented to be in a very destitute, enfeebled and needy condition. 

Again, the party fell in with a Mr. Ryan, who had witnessed to some extent the ravages of the disease. He says the encampments are all broken up and deserted; the bands, scattered in detached families, crept away in the most secluded, least frequented, and least accessible nooks of the forest. The Indian has become so frantic from dread of the contagion, that so soon as the malady makes its appearance in a lodge, the loomed victim is instantly abandoned to his fate, he terror-stricken families making the most precipitate flight, without waiting to identify the disease, frequently throwing away their blankets, and refusing to touch, or take with them anything belonging to the camp.

The sick were left alone in the wilderness, in the terrible conflict for life. The husband abandoned his wife, the mother her helpless offspring, the son his aged parents, regardless in the superstitious fear that fell upon them, of all the promptings of natural affection, and the obligations of duty in their wild disorderly retreat.

On the 30th, our party operated upon forty-five, and the next morning, a few others receiving the grateful intelligence of relief at hand, followed and were vaccinated. The mortality in this vicinity had been very great. Some distance further, toward evening, our party saw near a lumbering camp, a squalid old woman, who had crept from the thicket, as if in the last extreme, to seek assistance from any whiles that might be passing. She was the wretched remnant and only survivor of a large family. Crouched upon her haunches, by the smouldering embers of a deserted camp fire, covered with rags, her face hideously marked, her disordered hair hanging in knotted ropes about her shoulders, she sat motionless, steadfastly gazing upon the vacancy before her. Her family all lay dead, most of them yet upon the surface. She had hidden beneath dried leaves and grass, corpse after corpse, till her strength failed, from disease, want of sustenance and assistance, and she could bury no more. Even the stimulus of hope had died out. Abandoned by all her relatives, connexions and friends, she was left alone in the dreary solitude of the forest with no companion but death.

All that humanity could dictate, and sympathizing hearts prompt to arouse her to a sense of her existence, and call off her mind from its sad broodings over the picture about her, was done, but to no purpose. She looked at no one—not the movement of an eye, the motion of a muscle, nor change of position indicated a consciousness of the approach of strangers. The last tie that bound her to life had broken, her heart crushed, and she sat an almost inanimate monument of despair.

Continuing onward, whenever squads of Indians were met, they at once would eagerly inquire four party were fleeing from the small-pox, and when told the object of their visit, were not less gratified than surprised at the concern manifest' d for their sufferings by the Superintendent, recounting other acts of his kindness and thoughtfulness in supplying them with goods in their extreme destitution, and sending back a profusion f really sincere acknowledgments for the same.

The party now set off for Yellow Lake, where they expected to gain definite intelligence of other Indians from a half-breed there residing.  Here were a few, who were immediately operated upon, and by this time our travellers were so crippled by walking through marshes, copse, and streams, lat their sufferings were almost intolerable. They now learned the fate of the Puck-wa-wan band. At the breaking out of the disease, this band numbered fifty-four souls, all of whom perished but one.  At Clear Lake, a short distance further, out of two lodges thirteen died. Again the voyageurs push forward, and at night, Dr. Day writes of this tramp, ' I was so exhausted wading through mud, brush-wood, and clambering over fallen timber, that I felt it impossible to take another step, and that a man must be animated by a spirit or something nobler than a love of money to be enabled to relish such a trip.'

Learn that Indians are 30 miles up Tamarac. Snow falls eight inches—travel all day, Found encampments, and preparations for sugar making—all deserted. Still continue forward in pursuit. Mr. Beaulieu thinks they are not far distant. Dr. Day remains in camp, while Mr. B. travels on all night, overtakes and vaccinates forty-eight.

Having now, with almost incredible hardships and severe exposure, explored all the country within the prescribed limits of the instructions, operating upon all Indians discovered, and sending virus to many bands arid families beyond said limits, our party gladly turned their faces homeward, which trip was less painful than the outward, by being able to purchase a canoe high up the St. Croix, in which they reached the stage route.

In justice to the chief Nah-ga-nub, I should add, in his own language, his compliments lo the Governor: ' He wishes me to express his sincere thanks to his Great Father, for the interest he has manifested in our behalf. I am anxious to take him by the hand and shake it heartily.'  He goes on to say, and wishes it related, 'that the course of the present Superintendent gives him a superior claim to their gratitude and affections over all his predecessors. They can almost forget the wrongs inflicted by fraudulent devices of crafty persons, in their regard for the present Executive, and the confidence his benevolent measures inspire.' 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunrise Ferry School

 Sunrise Ferry School
    We excerpt this story from St Croix Falls resident, Rosemarie Vezina Braatz’s excellent book St. Croix Tales and Trails with her permission.  This is an excellent book that is full of pictures and local history!  The log school house referred was moved to Evergreen Avenue in about 1910, and in 1914 replaced by a frame building that still stands in the Sterling Barrens two miles east of the St Croix River on Evergreen Av.  Mom, Alberta, went to that school in the 1930s.  What we have is a school teacher's account in her own words.  The Orr family lived across from my cabin on Orr Lake, a few miles northwest of Cushing, WI in far NW Polk County.  Maggie Orr taught her first term of school at the site of the Sunrise Ferry, on the Wisconsin side of the River, not far from where she was raised, in Sterling Township. She was just 17 years of age. This is her story:

Click on the pictures for a larger view.
Original Sunrise Ferry School WI bank
at the Ferry Site on the St. Croix River West Sterling

Country School Teacher--by Maggie Orr O'Neill.  

It was September 1, 1889. I had finished the country school not far from my home and had attended grammar school for two terms to pre­pare for teaching. I applied for a little school about 11 miles from my home called the Sunrise Ferry School. It was near the ferry on the St. Croix River, which took folks over into Minnesota where they could go to the little town of Sunrise a mile or more from the river.

Ferry School was taken apart and moved to
Evergreen Av after disgruntled voters failed to
get permission to move it at the annual
school meeting--they just went ahead and
move d it anyway!
The families there were mostly Swedish and none wanted to board the school Ma'am. I rented a small room in the Martinson home one and one-quarter miles from school for $1 a week and furnished my own food. I could make tea or coffee on their kitchen range if I wished.

The schoolhouse was a hewn-log construction about 16 feet x 20 feet, which was banked all around with dirt for the winter season. There was a big iron box stove three feet long at the north end that burned jack pine wood pieces two feet long.

The teacher's desk was homemade, two feet by three feet, with a kitchen chair for a seat. The blackboard was four wide boards painted black and nailed against the wall. There were 10 long seats with a long desk in front of each made of unpainted lumber. The lower ones were in the front for the smaller children and the larger ones in the back.
Mom, Alberta Hanson and parents Eugene Hanson and
Nettie Carnes lived in the old Blair homestead in the
1930s in West Sterling.  Vertical log construction.
Located on Cowan Creek--buildings all gone. 

Grandma Carne's family ran the Sunrise Ferry from about
1909 until the early 1940s when it washed downstream.
Bootlegger;s had big cars to haul moonshine from the
barrens to the Twin Cities. The girls who ran the ferry
have all passed away now--and Mom is 90. Grandma
and brother Elza ran it in 1909. 
The barrens roads were "rustic." 
There was a long bench on which to set the dinner buckets and the pail of drinking water carried from a neighbor's farm about one-half mile away. Two long benches in the front of the room were for recitation classes. There was an alarm clock for timing and a bell for calling the children in from recess. The water to clean the school once a month was carried from the river, and I was the janitor.

The 38 children were of ages 5 to 17. The majority were from real old country Swedish families. The women spun their own wool and made their own clothing. The children had more than one pair of home-knit stockings to wear in their wooden shoes, which were lined up outside and were brought inside for the cold months.

From the November 20, 1913 Standard-Press: "Miss Lucy Orr, a school teacher near Grantsburg, while on her way to school last week, killed a Jack Rabbit that weighed 13 pounds."
The food in the tin dinner pails was mostly bread and meat, (or lard with plenty of salt sprinkled on it), was frozen nearly every morning in November on the way to school and often the drinking water also. Then children wore homemade footwear, moccasins, etc., but mostly sheep hide with wool inside for warmth and com­fort.

There were four Indian (half breed) children in moccasins who were eager and quick to learn. They expressed a great liking for me and I returned that affection. I loved all my pupils and never had any trouble, even with the older ones.

Perhaps I should mention that head lice was very prevalent in those days and I had to send notes home to par­ents with the suggestion that they might try kerosene in which to wash the children's hair.
The subjects taught were arith­metic, reading, spelling, language, writing, geography and constitution. The students ranged from the ABC class to a class of several who studied lessons from my own books. Those days most eighth graders didn't move on; they stayed and used the teacher's books.

I walked the one and three-quarter miles to school and back to my room Monday through Friday, with some of the children joining me as I went along through the woods. On Friday afternoon I walked the 11 miles to my home. I wore long skirts, high-but­toned shoes and never less than two petticoats. The first six miles were through heavy, dark, yellow-pine country with just a narrow wagon road and red sand almost ankle deep. There was no chance to walk outside the road because of brush and stickers.
I saw squirrels, rabbits and beautiful deer but not a living soul and I tried to hurry along to reach home before dark. The last five miles there would be a farmer's house every mile or so. When snow came in November my father or a brother came for me on Friday with a big team of horses and sled. Sunday they took me back with enough food to last a week.

During this month, I would, with help from the largest boys, keep a big pile of wood inside on which to dry our wet clothing after walking to school. We always carried extra things to wear when we arrived. Some of the older boys walked ahead through the three to five feet of snow to try to make a track for me and others. There were no plowed roads and the weather many Novembers was 30 degrees below zero. Then I wore heavy-lined skirts, not less than three yards around the bottom, several petticoats and heavy boots. I kept an extra all-wool petticoat at the school to put on when I reached there after going through snow and ice almost to my knees. I let the children out at 3:30 then because some lived two miles away.

The first year we had school in September, October and November, and then vacation and school again for April, May and June. I received $25 per month. My second year at Sunrise I received $27.50 per month and taught seven months.

The Martinson family, with whom I stayed the year before, had moved so I went to the Joe Lundquist home far­ther from school. I had a nice little room with a south window, a bed frame and a small table. My corn-husk mattress just filled the three-quarter-size bunk. I paid $1.50 per week, boarded myself and was very happy. But there were times, at night, when a mother would sing Swedish lullabies to a baby that I would feel lonely. I did learn to understand, to speak and even to sing in Swedish while living with those families.

My third year there in 1891-1892, I received $30 per month for eight months, which was much more than the average teacher was getting. That year I boarded with the Lundquists for $10 per month. I averaged between 32 and 40 children of all ages in the Sunrise Ferry School.

The first little log school at Sunrise Ferry, the friendly people and the love of all my students there gave me the happiest memories of all my teaching years.


Want to know more about the Sunrise Ferry?  The Carnes Ferry girls wrote a booklet on it that the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical society has copies of for sale at $5  each.  Two summers ago, I gave a last tour of the ferry area to Lila, the last of Mom's cousins who ran the ferry in the 1930s.  She passed away last year.   Someone borrowed the ferry charter from her, and never gave it back again--so I can't just go start a new ferry at the site without finding it ;-)   contact SELHS  Box 731 Cushing, WI 54006 or 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Margo getting into treatment routine and Russ Rambles

Could use a little rain at the Cabin to give the watermelons
the final push into getting ripe before it freezes.  It looked
like rain last week, but fizzled out with just about the amount
trickling down as the poor folks see from a tax break for the
The third week of chemo begins with more testing.  She is enrolled in a clinical trial (research) that adds an addtional drug and additional testing to the standard chemotherapy for breast cancer.

This week includes her treatment on Tuesday morning, about 3 hours of drugs dripped into her chest port along with blood tests, another biopsy of the breast tumor and an MRI.  The additional tests are all "free" as part of the research study--being done on Friday and will give her an early snapshot if any of the chemo is working--are the tumors larger, the same, or smaller.

The routine is: chemo on Tuesday, feeling normal on Wednesday, some tiredness and upset stomach on Thursday through Friday morning, and then OK through the next Thursday.  This will continue for the 1st 12 weeks of part one of chemotherapy.    She is optimistic, tolerating things well, and overly cheerful and pleasant.

I am down for the week to Pine Island, before heading back to WI for Friday and the weekend.  Friday, we have a celebration at the Luck Museum to watch the Luck Area Historical Society receive a check for $90,000 from the Albert Ravenholt foundation to build an addition to the library/museum for a family heritage center.  Luck is the center of the Danish community in Polk County, and we are putting together a resource room for local history and family research centered on the Danish culture.  The Polk County Genealogical Society, the Luck Area Historical Society and other groups are all helping to make this happen.  My role is a technical one--I am working to digitize old records, photos and documents to make them available online and at the Ravenholt Family Heritage Center (name not yet finalized).  The Ravenholt foundation is making this all happen.  You can read more about this amazing family at Ravenholt Family of Luck Wisconsin

With my myasthenia gravis, I gave up spraying Mom's apple trees this summer.  It is a shame as they are many very nice apples on the trees, already ripe and some falling to the ground.  Some are fine, some are wormy and some are blemished and wormy.  I made a few pies already, cutting around the worms.  I couldn't hold the sprayer nozzle up to spray them decently--muscles just don't work right yet.  If I spray every 2 weeks from July -September with Sevin, I normally get worm free apples, and the Sevin is about as mild a spray as I can find to use.  Seems that "organic" meaning "wormy" apples are not much in demand ;-)  However, there are a lot of them for the deer to eat--and they aren't so fussy.

Sent off another proof copy of the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writers book that we are getting ready for Christmas sales.  Need to have it finalized in a month or so to get it all ready.  I use's for book printing--looks like it will be about 300 pages and cost about $5 to print to be sold for $10 each.  I expect to give them as Christmas presents this year.  Lots of good stories and poetry by local authors, including some of my own Polk County Fair blue ribbon entries!

I am still waiting for improvement on myasthenia gravis.  Mostly I have lost the double vision and can function--just can't do anything physically vigorous without getting tired immediately and being unable to breathe.  MG makes "voluntary" muscles so they don't function right-you get one or two good pulls on the wrench or to open the jar, and then you can't do another one until you rest up for a while.  Very annoying and makes things like cutting wood and even walking something you have to think about ahead of time and really pace yourself.  However, the doctor says "be patient, things will improve."   She sees this as about 6 months to get things under control and balance--I am 3 months into diagnosis.  Probably the year I will put in a propane heater at the cabin so we don't have to bother with wood until we are both back to normal.

Visited with Ward Moberg, of Taylors Falls, MN this week.  He has been researching moonshining in the St Croix River Valley for many years.  I passed along some names of local folks he might contact and told the little I knew about it from local stories.  Phil Peterson, of St. Croix Falls has a new book out on the subject.  Northern Moon   Hope to pick up a copy soon.

The home I grew up in on Evergreen Avenue was for a time used for making moonshine and homebrew.  Dad bought the farm in 1941.  The big cattle watering tank had been chopped full of holes by the Revenuers, and carefully soldered up again to hold water.  The basement of the house has charred floor joists overhead from a still explosion there.  The basement of the older house, which was exposed when the water pipe trench from well to house went through it, had lots of old clay jugs for liquor storage in them.  We boys never tried making moon, but did have some explosive batches of homemade rootbeer!

 The 1920s Prohibition of alcoholic beverages pushed folks into making their own, some for home use and some for sales to local folks and some to sales for speak easy's in the Twin Cities.  Out in West Sterling along the St. Croix, moon-shining thrived as it was isolated, lots of springs for cooling water, and somewhat of a lawless area too.  Even after the repeal in the early 1930s, moon-shiners continued to make the product and sell it, competitive with the highly taxed commercial liquor trade. I think that the coming of World War II with sugar rationing, the economy doing better finally drove the last shiners out of business.

The mother bear and her two cubs came by the cabin again last week.  This time they managed to pull the garden hose loose from the faucet under the cabin (the cabin is up in the air on posts with a walk through underneath) and it ran the water all day while I was gone at the same time draining the hot water heater and burning out the element when it heated without water--so I am applying to the DNR for bear water system damage to get things fixed (not really--although I am starting to worry about all my nice pumpkins ending up as bear fat if I don't rescue them soon).  The pumpkins are orange and a lot of them this year; the squash, for the second year in a row didn't set.  I think they aren't gettring pollinated, as the vines are great, they bloomed all the time, it was warm, enough moisture but no squash.  Have to hire some bees I guess. A neighbor suggested using an electric toothbrush and hand pollinated the blooms--thinks the buzzing sound might help convince the flowers a real bee was visiting!

Nothing much exciting happening as we hunker down with the health side in focus for the winter.  We have Medicare and supplemental insurance (through Mayo where I worked) that makes things quite pleasant when the bills show up mostly paid.  I have nothing to gain from Obamacare except the peace that knowing others too might get decent medical insurance from the program--so out of feelings of guilt for how good we have it, I am very much in support of extending this to others and am not bothered that it might cost me some more taxes.  How people can feel happy about themselves and at the same time accept that others in our society don't have access to medical care is something I think is absolutely immoral, un-Christian and selfish.  Repealing Obamacare without an alternative, as conservatives are so eager to do, is much worse than just fixing what is wrong with it as we find out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Margo's First Chemotherapy Treatment FINE

Margo has completed her first chemotherapy treatment Tuesday and today is doing fine.  For the next 12 weeks, every Tuesday morning she goes in at 8:15 and has about 3 hours of chemo at Gonda building at Mayo Clinic, downtown Rochester MN.

The treatment begins with an IV needle stuck into her "port."   The port is a semi-permanent device that goes under her skin, just below the collar bone on her right side.  It makes a small lump in the skin.  The nurse pokes through her skin into this port which is directly stuck into a vein, so there is no hunting and poking each time to find a good vein.  Between treatments, the tiny needle hole through the skin heals up again.

This port is under Margo's skin just below her
right collarbone and goes directly into
a vein.  It can be left in for several years
if needed, and makes the weekly treatments
quick to start.  It is particularly sanitary
for vampires to use ;-)
The treatment begins with a corticosteroid to dampen immune reactions, some benadryl to stop allergic reactions, and something for stomach calming, followed by taxol to stop cancer cell mitosis (division--growth) and amg 386 to stop growing new blood vessels to supply food to the tumor.

The whole process lasts about 3 hours, sitting in a semi-comfortable recliner while the fluids drip slowly into the port.  During the process, Margo can have one visitor sit nearby and surf the net on Mayo's free guest wireless connection and his laptop, as well as update Facebook and his blog and occasionally ask "how are you doing," and bring her a cracker or cookies and something to drink.  There are 6 patients stations in the treatment room--so folks are coming and going all the time.  

The first treatment went very smoothly, and Margo has only a slight flushed face feeling today--no nausea or other pain or anything.  She is, however, milking it for all it is worth, sitting when she could be doing dishes or laundry.

After 3 sessions, the I-Spy-2  research trial she volunteered for will take a biopsy and MRI to see if anything is happening.  Without the research study, she wouldn't find out for 12 weeks, so this is a nice addition and it of course is free!

So, after treatment 1 of the first 12, things are going good.  She has to drink more liquids each day, but her appetite is normal, and we are sure that we already can hear cancer cells dying from the very first treatment!  

Our address in Pine Island is    15937 Co 27 Blvd Pine Island MN 55963.  Margo's email is

Monday, August 13, 2012

Updates and Progress and To-Dos

It took us from 1995-2001 to build our Pine Island home.
Some of it was home-sawn lumber.  It was a mixture of
hiring some folks and doing a great deal ourselves.
Of course, it is not done yet, but we like it very much.
Right now this end, the south, is in need of new siding.
I put big sheets of exterior plywood type siding on it
originally -- cheap, but not very good with the
weather.  Trying to figure out what to replace it with
that will "do me out."
Today Margo get's her "port" put in.  That is an under-the-skin tube that goes into a  vein and each week when  she goes in for chemo, they will poke a small needle through the skin into this port and infuse the drugs.  This is being done right now as an outpatient surgery at the hospital.  Then we have a few educational sessions later this

Tuesday at 8:15 is her first chemo.  We will know how she reacts the rest of this week.  Depending on that, we will decide whether we stay down here in Pine Island or travel back and forth to the cabin each week for the next 12 in phase 1 of chemo.  Margo has not had any issues with discomfort or pain or anything yet--as they come with the
treatments.  She seems to be handling it quite well.   It is good to have Scott helping support her with a dozen or more Mayo visits in the past week, as I can't always function well enough to help much, and sometimes can't see past my own problems.

She got a special recliner from the local Amish store.  It is has a motor to tip it back and forth and she likes it a lot.  It has one problem, it is a small size and I can't fit into it comfortably!   We are enjoying the 40 inch TV very much.  Last night we watched 3 commercial  free 1950s Alfred Hitchcock Presents through netflix online.  Really quite a good program--as I have forgotten most of the episodes by now.

We went to the Goodhue county fair yesterday at nearby Zumbrota.  It was a nice rural fair with lots of big tractors, veggies, 4-H and even an old school house on the fair grounds!  It is right across from the Zumbrota stockyards/sales barn where you can go and bid on a cutter/canner walking wounded cow and get it pretty darn cheap.  Then you bring it home, fatten it up and get some milk, and butcher it for your winter meat supply.  We are right next to a lot of farm fields, so probably could graze it on the soy bean field and blame it on the deer.  Saw a nice buck here the other day--we have a 5 acre woods right in the middle of farm fields so they sleep on ours and eat on the neighbors.  I have a friend who hunts here each fall--might join him this year.  Have to put a scope on a shotgun as that is all we can use down here for hunting.  I haven't hunted for 7 years now, so probably have forgotten how.

While Margo has her appts this morning, I had some too.  I had a bone scan and blood tests to get a base level as I go into long term prednisone use, which is supposed to thin the bones and push me into diabetes if things go normally.  So far, my blood sugar testing with a diabetic diet have kept me OK.  The prednisone hasn't worked yet to slow down my immune system enough to relieve the MG, however, the doctor says it can take as long as 6 months for this to happen, and if I take more than 60mg a day, I might have even more side effects that
I do now.  I still can't do much of anything physical, and count it a good day when I can walk around without going into hard breathing spell.  Good time to catch up with some of the computer stuff I have been putting off.   I support 3 local history websites that need some updating, do two newsletters, and am helping a couple people with books as well as have 5 of my own at different stages of progress.  I take enough medicine to see normally and type OK, so that makes things good.

Anyway, we are doing OK.  Scott is chauffeuring us around for now The 91 olds is in the shop for a new harmonic crankshaft balancer today--the rubber went out on this and the motor rattled something fierce at idle.

I am going to check with a neighbor who has a wheel for a WD with a tire on it he doesn't want--a spare, and mine down here has the back tires severely cracked and one won't even stay up --can see tube through several places.  Need to get the tire to stay up so I can root around the woods with the loader if I get the urge!

The project this week has been to get rid of a lot of old electronic equipment I had squirreled away in the basement and garage.  With the recycle store in SCF taking most of this stuff along with Frieberg's Gone Green in Frederic, I can  haul most of the stuff and get rid of it for free or even get paid for it.  I took apart a few old pcs and
stripped them down to save the power supplies, memory, drives, and cards to prepare the rest for recycling.  Scott replaced all the smoke detectors (10 years old).  We had about 10 of them all wired together in the house from when I built it--and they were starting to moan that they were getting old and needed replacing.    They all go to the recycle store too.

Hope to see you sometime soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cushing Fire Department History Project

I have started to work on a history of the Cushing Fire Department--to be 50 years old in 2013.   Here is some information from an interview with Bud Larson a few years ago.  He passed away since I talked to him.

    I can tell you the story of the fire dept.  Walter Johnson, Curtiss father, the house burned down.  He called luck fire dept.  They charged Sterling $1200 to come out and watch the house burn down—mostly burned by the time they arrived.  Dad was really angry at them.  Charge $1200 for getting there to watch the building at the end of burning down.  Dad was really storming about it.  Dad was the town chairman of Sterling then.  I told Dad “why don’t you have a meeting with the people in Sterling—we could run a fire department.”  “Oh no, there isn’t enough of a crew here to run one.”  “Well you can at least try” I said.  There was a meeting and the people voted almost 100% in favor after they heard the story of what it cost for Walter Larson’s fire.

   So Sterling went ahead.  The crazy thing is that Bill Skow built the fire truck for $1600, only just $400 more than the bill from Luck of $1200.  So Dad said we will put up the building and so Sterling started the building.  After it was going, then some of us in Laketown went to the town meeting and agreed to take 2 miles of Laketown into the Cushing fire department. That went along for many years and then they decided to go clear east to Danny Jensen’s.  They wanted to come in so they could get closer service. Then the County came along and said that since we fire departments were dividing up territories we should figure it out.  So now we have a territory all the way south to I, north to the Burnett Co line and all of Sterling.   There is a mutual agreement with all the other fire departments that for major fires we all help out.

    The fire department started with the fire truck Bill Skow built for us and a water tank truck put together.  Later we got more equipment, vehicles, and EMT and first responders.  Then we had to build a bigger fire department. We bought from Nick.  Just a year ago there was a wing for meetings and for smaller vehicles.

Last year there were 147 ambulance runs.  There is more activity on that than fire.

    Bud Jensen was first fire chief.  Then the guy who bought out Nickie was chief for a while.  Then Larry got it.  Merle was voted in after Larry resigned.  Merle is now.  It is a lot of work to keep everything working.  I am still considered on the department.  I was on because of Dad—I was 18 then.  Louie Baker, Bud Jensen, Ed Olsen, Bud, -- about 8 of us originals.  They gave me a plaque for 40 years.  (I am 76)

    Skow then went on to build one for other towns too.  It was a good truck  Until 2 years ago it was around—finally they sold it for scrap.  The main fire truck now is $170,000.  Taxes come from ¾ of Laketown and Sterling. Eureka buys into it each year.  We have more firemen in Cushing than most places around – we have 30 now and most are young and first responders too.  There were 6 who came from me when I had heart problems. 

    I have 11 stents and a 4-way bypass.    Keeps me from doing much with the fire department anymore.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rock Show at Frederic

Concrete rhubarb leaf ash trays
You never can have too many agates
Many facets to rock collecting

Beal Schmoozes

Margo and Kathy complain about their husbands

In charge of Door Prizes

Evie gets around pretty good after her back injury
just hope Dan doesn't buy too many rocks she has
to carry to the car!

About a dozen outdoor stands with agates and fossils

Some agates are priced at $700.  Bought, sold and traded
Bring in your bucket and get an offer--you will be
surprised how valuable they might be!

A valuable agate has bright colors, lots of lines, and not much
white crystal.  Cut or polish it and the value goes down most of the time

I've been serious about this for about 9 years now.  My hobby took over!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Counting Pills

 The old drinking song goes "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-nine bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall..." 

I was thinking about that as I waited impatiently for my refill of mestinon, the drug I take for myasthenia gravis that lets me keep breathing and otherwise functional, to come by mail all week long. It finally got here today--800 pills, a 100 day supply. 

I had gotten down to two days left (16 pills) and being so dependent on them, got more nervous each day as they didn't come in. The problem is my insurance company and its vast array of administrators looking over my shoulder hire extra people just to make sure I don't have any extra pills on hand--they must think I will go into business selling them or something. 

My doctor does her best to fudge the prescription: "take 4-8 60 mg pyridostigmine per day as needed" knowing that I take about 6 each day along with a time release overnight (sometimes). The pharmacy says my insurance allows me 100 days supply per prescription, but only a few days ahead of running out. So, as I have been increasing my number per day, with the doctor's OK, she has written a new prescription each time--that states the higher dose. 

I can't fill the new prescription until the actual count of pillsxdays on old prescription + pillsxdays prescription 2 + pillsxdays prescription 3 add up and show I am almost out. When I renew my prescription (my pharmacy lets me do it through the internet), the phamacist says he has to call the insurance company and update/negotiate them into reality of a patient with no more pills left. Isn't it wonderful how private insurance companies are so eager to keep us on the edge of a relapse to the hospital! 

Anyway, I have my 800 pills, good for 100 days at 8 per day, hopefully giving me a cushion for a few extra weeks if I just take 6 per day so I won't run down next time. God how awful it is to be so dependent on the pills that you don't dare run out. Prednisone is the same--a gradually increasing dose, and if you run out you go into withdrawal too. I guard my pills and fill the 99 bottles and spread them around so if I happen to lose a bottle or one gets stolen, I have a stash on hand. Just like the drug addicts. 

I suppose it could be worse--not have insurance and have to scrape up the money myself. My vent for the week!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Margo Buys a TV and Chair

Friends Judy and Dottie
 joined us at the Polk County Fair
Old School house.  They
got ribbons on Genealogy
projects.  Margo and I
got a dozen ribbons too!

Margo has been handling the last few weeks since she found out that she has breast cancer very well.  She had been calm, rational, and optimistic.  The many tests and visits with many doctors at Mayo Clinic in Rochester have been somewhat overwhelming, but also reassuring as we see the tremendous effort to pin down the type and extent of the cancer and plan the treatment. 

We have a home near Rochester, about 25 miles from the downtown Cancer Center at Mayo, and that and because I worked there for 25 years, means that we have done our family doctoring and specialty doctoring at the Clinic for all that time.  It is a place with people who inspire confidence.

At the fair this week, we visited with our Cushing neighbor, Joyce, who is 5 years into her own cancer battle, and doing quite well.  She said “When I go to Mayo they must have a notice on my medical records that says I am to be treated special, because they surely do treat me as if I were the most important person they have to see.”   We have felt the same way.

Margo has found that she has triple negative metastatic breast cancer at stage II-III.  There is one large tumor in her left breast, and a few smaller ones as well as at least one lymph node found with abnormal cells.  It was found with her annual mammogram although we had also thought we found a change in the breast too-a kind of long lump that was noticeably different than the rest of the breast.

Triple negative means the cancer cells do not have estrogen, progesterone nor Her2 receptors.  This determines the treatment, and can make it more difficult to treat. There are many types of triple negative, so the cancer therapy has to be varied to find the right kind of treatment that is effective with her particular cells. 

The cancer is fast growing and that is both good and bad.  It is good as the cancer cells are more easily killed than the normal ones with treatments that kill fast growing cells, and bad as it has come on rapidly and continues to grow.

As far as the testing could determine, it hasn’t spread beyond possibly one lymph node nearby.  “We can’t be absolutely sure where cancer cells have spread—maybe a few here and there, so our treatment will be to assume there might be some and treat the whole body instead of  just the breast.” 

Chemotherapy comes first to try to shrink the tumor before surgically removing it.  Margo starts chemo every Tuesday for 12 weeks beginning August 13th.  The first drug is Taxol, derived from the bark of Yew trees.  She will have 12 weeks of weekly doses, and then an evaluation before phase 2 of chemotherapy with stronger drugs.  After that an evaluation and surgically removing the breast (or lumps) and lymph nodes followed by radiation to again attack any fast growing cells.  The treatment is about a year long total.  Her prognosis now is about 85% likelihood of being alive in 5 years.  It is still unknown how well her cancer will respond to treatment, so the statistics are overall for everyone with her condition.  Being younger and otherwise healthy is certainly a plus.

The main cancer doctor Margo will be working with is Dr. Tufia Haddad. After she talked to us about Margo’s condition, I asked her if she knew an Anne Haddad, a woman I had worked with closely back in the 1980s at Mayo in digestive disease research.  “She was my Mom,” replied our new doctor.   Anne got breast cancer in at age 40 and within 6 months had died from it, leaving Tufia, then 18, determined to make a difference. She went through college, worked at Mayo in research, then to medical school and residency, then as an oncologist at the University of MN.  Recently she moved to Mayo and back to her home town of Rochester.  She enrolled Margo in a clinical trial that adds an additional promising treatment drug to the normal treatments.  

We both knew her mother quite well and it wonderful to see her daughter taking on her mother’s killer.  Dr. Haddad is about the age her mother was when cancer struck her down—a loss that was very personal to me at the time.  I was introducing computers into Mayo research, and Anne was one of those who embraced the change and made my job easier.  Tufia's mother would be very proud of her. 

Our son Scott lives with us at our home in Pine Island.  He works winters and generally takes the summers off and has been available to help.  He has been wonderful in taking on both Margo and my recent health problems, ferrying us to appointments and being supportive and taking care of our home there.  It would be quite difficult for us otherwise. 

Margo is settling in for a year of treatments.  She and Scott went “comfortable chair” shopping this week and ended up with an Amish built recliner that she liked very much that includes a motorized tilt unit that lets you move from lying back to upright with a press of a button. 

They go to Wal-Mart today to pick up the 42 inch flat screen TV we ordered online.  Our old 19 inch was fine for occasional watching, but with Margo and me both limited in physical activities, we thought that we would blow a few hundred and get one we could watch from our chairs without binoculars to read the online guide.  We have a ROKU box that gets many internet channels, online Netflix, and get many local channels from the antenna including Iowa and MN public TV stations.  We already have high speed internet and Margo and I each have our own laptop—so our entertainment center is quite well stocked for a long winter.

Margo and I were talking about health and health insurance and how that we were insulated from the costs of our care having both Medicare and a supplemental program (I continued my insurance through Mayo Clinic when I retired—high cost and high benefits—so between the two we are well covered).  I wonder what it would be like if you didn’t have either and had the same problems?  That worry would certainly make this harder.  I think that is why we are so supportive of the Obamacare initiative—knowing there are 40 million folks out there who don’t have insurance, mostly because they can’t afford it.  Those who want to get rid of it seem not to have any solution for the problem, just a get rid of it and let the poor folks go without for fear the rich might have to share a little.  

That is absolutely not acceptable in a society that is as rich as ours—which of course then moves us to the idea that the tremendously unequal distribution of earnings between the rich and the poor, those who can and can’t afford medical care, is immoral.  What I can’t understand is how many of my friends, who claim to be Christians, can accept this as the way things should be, and want to get rid of what benefits are dribbled out to poor folks now.   I think they have lost sight of what Jesus taught us.

So, with Margo beginning her year-long fight against cancer, we are hunkering down for a hard year, but optimistic things will come out good in the end.  Whatever the outcome, we plan to try to enjoy the life we have left to us. 

 I am 3 months into my own less pressing battle with myasthenia gravis.  As you may recall from previous posts, this is where your own immune system creates antibodies that get between nerve endings and muscle beginnings and block the signals to move the voluntary muscles (breathing, eating, talking, arms, legs, fingers…).  

The design of human bodies is flawed -- no one who understands how things work or don't work and screw up all the time, could possibly believe an intelligent design theory!  Much easier to accept an evolutionary trial and error process, with lots of errors along the way.  Problem is that we pass on our genes while still young and healthy, so no selection is made for longevity. Only way to solve that I can think of is having very old healthy men be fathers of children--and sadly, that rules me out. 

I am not improving nor getting worse, but coping.  I take medicine 1 to function on a daily basis and it brings me up to just able to do the things one needs to do to live, but not able to do much beyond the minimums.  I can walk, see, drive, talk, eat, type, breathe, etc.,  as long as I take this stuff.

Medicine 2, prednisone, is to shut down the immune system from making the crappy antibodies.  If that stops, then my muscles will work OK, however, of course, one doesn’t get along very well without an immune system, so the goal is to run the immune system lower and cope with some antibodies and some immune system—a balancing act that will be with me the rest of my life.  Right now my immune system is still too robust, cranking out the bad stuff, so I am continuing to increase the prednisone and watching it push me into diabetes—trying, so far successfully to limit my diet just like a diabetic including the blood sugar testing. My problems are chronic and I can cope with them, and our attention is focused on Margo’s battle for the coming months.     

Saturday our Rock Club has its big rock show at Frederic WI at the high school on hwy 35 north of town.  Margo hopes to be there as a host.  Saturday is also Doc Squirt Day in Cushing, so I need to put out a display of old pictures and books from our history society.  Maybe will see you at one or the other.  So many wonderful friends stopped by and wished us luck last weekend at the school house museum at the fairgrounds that it was like a reunion!  We plan to stay as active as possible while in our dwindling years.