St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Decorating the Graves

When Dad was a youngster, the folks in the country celebrated "Decoration Day," the day that cemetery plots were renovated and flowers planted in the ground near the marker, whether it be a fancy stone or a wooden cross.  

Nowadays Memorial Day is the widely used term and a remembrance of soldiers who died in wars or those who fought and have passed on takes precedence over the more general view of the day.  

Following several generations of my own family, Margo and I spent the day visiting the graves of grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents  -- those who are buried in Barron County, the homestead location for the Hansons and Lystes (Dad and Mom).  

We brought along our seedling geraniums, somewhat small yet and not in bloom, cleaned out the pots, added some new soil and nutrients and planted 3 geraniums in six planters in 4 cemeteries, stopping to visit relatives as we made the tour.  

After the 33F morning start, the afternoon turned out to be pleasant, and it was a nice day to be touring the rural country roads.    I took very few photos, distracted by other thoughts today. 

The Maple Grove Baptist cemetery where most of the Norwegians from my grandmother Paulson's side of the family.  Probably half of the folks here are from or descendants from Vikna, Norway -- a rocky island area half way up the Norway coast--folks who were subsistence farmers and fishermen.  

Although the geraniums look small and are not blooming, they do much better than putting out nice store bought blooming ones.  These are unsprayed and have no hormones that forced little plants to bloom far earlier than they should have -- so they will do fine if it rains enough. When we pull up the stems and roots of last year's plants we can understand how well they thrived (or not) last year.  They did not do well last year -- must have had some long dry spells. 

Uncle Lawrence Lyste's grave -- WWII soldier.  His children haven't been out to add flowers yet this year -- probably worried about the frost and waiting until Saturday.  The little stone directly behind is Grandma Clarice Nelson Lyste Burns in the Otterholt cemetery, town of Prairie Lake

Driving on Hwy D between Hillsdale and the Otterholt Cemetery, a few Amish farms are of interest.  Above is the rural school house with a pile of slabs (sawmill across the road) for firewood and an outhouse.  Below is one of the large plain Amish houses.  Large houses for large families.  

We visited distant cousin Norman Larson near the Arland cemetery where the roar of frac sand trucks from two nearby sand mines was intrusive.  One mine is directly kitty-corner across the intersection from the cemetery with the church sandwiched between mine and giant sand pile.  The roads to the cemetery were closed so we had to circle around to find a way there.  All being upgraded to handle hundreds of semi-trailers of sand heading to drying plants and railroads. 

Norman is in his 80s and lives on a dairy farm that he and his nephew run.  "I don't do much more than count the calves in the pasture each Sunday on my way home from church -- getting too old for hard work.  My nephew and I have been in partnership for 30 years and he has mostly take over."  

Sister-in-law Connie's mother, Donna, lives on the way to Grandpa and Grandma Lyste's graves, and a whole lot of uncles and aunts of many generations as with grandparents -- all in their own section of the cemetery at the New Scandinavian Lutheran Church a few miles east of Hillsdale.  

The name has been around for 100 years or more, but the church is actually only a few years after the old one was burned down by vandals.  Robert, Hallbert, John... Lyste brothers of grandpa lived well into their 90s and I met then sometimes on visits.  However, grandpa died of pneumonia at age 50 in 1930.  

"You know Margo, if grandpa had lived to be 90, he would have died in 1970 and I would have gotten to know him," I mused.   Of course that isn't true.  Because he died when his family of 5 children was from a baby up to 9 year old Mom, the family broke up and was adopted out and that is how Dad ended up meeting mom -- through the adopted family.  So they would have never married and I would have been somebody else -- totally different and likely much better than I turned out.   But such is life. 

Donna was at home and doing well.  We visited a while and gave our usual gift we bring for each stop -- a bottle of this year's maple syrup.  Donna is in her 80s too.  The stops we make along the way have dwindled as folks die and if we don't do something about it we may have none left--so need to consider the next generation of folks we visit now.  

On the way back we drove through Barron and visited Dottie, one of our Polk County neighbors and fellow members of the Polk County Genealogical society.  She was having some heart problems and decided to head to Mayo Clinic hospital in Barron after several tries closer to home.  She was sitting up and feeling much improved and optimistic these doctors were actually figuring out something that would work and get her ready for her and husband Russ' (another Russ) 65th anniversary next month.  

Finally, we wandered north on the way home to Cumberland and stopped to visit 2nd cousin once removed, Albert Hanson on the way to Luck.  He was doing well.  "Frosted last night here, 28F on my thermometer."  He has apple trees too that are in full bloom and frosts are not good to get apples pollinated and set.  We didn't have time to visit, but promised to stop in on the way home from one of Margo's Barron Mayo therapy sessions soon.  

I look forward to this every year, having started riding along with my parents, then driving them with my brothers and later with Margo.  Last year I took Scott along, as he should know where his ggg grandparents are buried too.  

Filming the street signs to make a map for Scott for the days when he will take over Decoration Day duties.
The color of the day was verdant green -- the trees mostly leafed out and giving up their mild shades for the summer green.  Grass lushly green with yellow dandelions wonderfully adding contrast.

  The Amish were pasturing some horses along the highway.   One Amish young woman was getting her mail at the box along the highway.  She was dressed in a blue long dress -- the blue that a RIT dye would make and a black cap.  Very neat and prim looking, but tight enough to show womanliness.  Odd how the throwback image creates a yearning for something lost in memories of long ago.   Of course, I didn't take a photo, as Amish have a Biblical injunction of photos being "graven images" strictly forbidden.  
Margo handled the trip well, and although she stayed in the car except for lunch and Dottie's visit, seems to be back to enjoying the extended drive again.  When you whole life has been centered around avoiding pain, as it gradually recedes, things open up again.