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Ernest Reimers Family
By Arlyce Reimers Stroh
(This story brought back many interesting and forgotten memories to Donna.
Thank you Arlyce. Well done.)
Ernest Johannes Reimers, the son of Adolph Ernest Reimers and Minnie Clausen, was born January 1, 1915. Mary Olive Reimers, the daughter of Emma Pederson and George Washington Kingsnorth was born February 28, 1913 at Emmet, North Dakota.
Ernest and Mary were married October 14, 1937 at the Underwood Lutheran Parish by Pastor E. Oscar Johnson. They lived on the Adolph Reimers homestead, located a quarter mile south of Birka Lutheran Church.
Their son, Gary Bernarr, was born May 28, 1938 and a daughter, Arlyce Jean, was born December 16, 1941.
Winters were especially rough in the late 1940's and the rural school teacher would board with the Searl Petersons, who lived 1/2 mile south of our farm. Other times the teacher stayed in the schoolhouse basement and kept the fires going. The snow was so deep, frequently, that the county would only grade or plow the main roads, such as the gravel road which ran by Birka Church. Ernest would park his automobile there, by the mailbox, and walk the 1/4 mile across snow-covered fields to get to it and the mail.
To get to school, which was about two miles straight west of Birka, Ernest would have to hitch up two half-wild horses (one a black and the other a sorrel or chestnut color) to a flat-bed on which he'd built wooden sides. This was filled with straw. Then everyone was wrapped in as many woolen scarves, hats, and blankets that could be found. Both the boys and girls wore black buckle overshoes. A tarp was tied over the top of the wagon to protect its occupants from the wind and cold. Hopefully everyone stayed warm, but it was still cold. This was a way of travel to school. Sometimes Victor Leidholm would bring their kids and pick us up with their sleigh for various outings.
In the spring, when the snow melted, the road near the house would become a small river in places. Daddy Ernest would carry me across while Gary, my brother, who was bigger, would carefully navigate the stream. Of course, the road would be impassable for use by automobile, with its deep ruts and mud, so again our car would remain by the mailbox near the church. So we would walk back and forth. And, it frequently would be easier to walk across pasture land rather than attempt to travel the muddy, rutted road.
As we were growing up, there was a lot of visiting among the neighbors. The neighbors were all very supportive of one another. Some of our neighbors were the following families: Mabel and Searl Petersons, George and Clarence Swansons, Billy Carlsons, Gradins, Pearl, Rudy and Norman Lundbergs, Rosebergs, Victor Leidholms, Clifford and Jennie Carlsons, Floyd and Rita Leidholms, and Marvin and Amanda Thybergs. A little farther away were Swansons, Ecklunds, and Steinwands. The Adolph and Godtfred Reimers' farms and Freilo Petersons lived closer to the Missouri River.
Some of the farmers would catch catfish in the Missouri River and try to raise them in their cattle's watering tanks. I thought them really mean-looking with their huge "whiskers."
When Ernest was a small child, he was involved in an accident while playing with a dynamite cap that he'd found. The explosion blew away all the fingers of his right hand except for the little finger. Although he would say, years later, that there were times the hand ached and he could feel the fingers, he didn't let that handicap hinder him from anything he really wanted to do. He did all the wiring of our home and farm buildings, after the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) brought electricity to the rural area. Before that time there would be one kerosene lamp, and everyone would sit around the table in the evenings, or carry the lamp with you when you went from room to room.
Nothing was so cold as getting up in the mornings, after the fire had died down. I remember we had to bank the fire every night before we went to bed and sometimes during the night. In the mornings, we would dress over the one big furnace register in the livingroom before the house would warm up again.
Each year one event that we all looked forward to was the annual Basto Mid-Summer Community Picnic held down in the Gradin Grove (near the Missouri River and farm later known as the Freilo Peterson place.) (Donna remembers the heavy traffic and all the dust created by the cars passing right by their house.) The picnic was a huge pot-luck affair with all the homemade foods, pop, and candy anyone could hope to eat. (Donna adds that the Birka Church Ladies' Aid did most of the work and food preparation. Swedish favorites were staples. There were pies, cakes, fried chicken, and even homemade ice cream cranked right on the spot to accompany all the many pots of coffee, consumed on even the hottest Mid Summer Picnic day.
Everyone had a great time. Hundreds of people came from all over the country, young and old. There was usually a program for entertainment followed by games such as horseshoe pitching, and softball. Many people just caught up on the news or gossip.
Every summer, our family would go to the State Fair at Minot, North Dakota. We would stay with Kingsnorth relatives and usually pack a picnic lunch, and visit the Roosevelt Park and Zoo if there were time left over after attending the Fair.
Favorite childhood pastimes included scoop shovel sliding in the winter and swinging on a rope and board swing behind the house, beside the slough. But, I was always afraid of all the garter snakes in the grass.
We had a huge metal, flat bottomed rowboat, that Ernest said they had used at one time on the Missouri River. Gary and I used to paddle around the old slough in that boat. You would have to carry along a bucket to bail our the water.
Ice would keep in straw packed down in the well. We would make home-made ice cream with it.
Another fun thing was swinging back and forth on heavy ropes from one cement ledge to the other side, over the pigs and their waste. Boy you wouldn't want to slip! There were lots of barn swallows that had their mud-packed nests in the pig-house or pig pen. There was quite a sparrow population in the barn, up in the haymow. The boys liked to practice their target shooting up there.
Ernest became interested in flying an airplane and took the necessary training through Clifford Beeks in Washburn where he obtained his private pilot's license. He later took instruction in Bismarck and passed the test for his cross-country license. He had a black plane with yellow trim and called it, "Crow."
The North Dakota fields made such a pretty variegated patchwork when viewed from the air. Although my mom and I were uneasy watching him from the ground, he would occasionally practice "loop the loop" manuevers. A couple of times he flew us to school. In winter, when no one could get to town, he would pick up and deliver mail to the neighbors.
Denver Roseberg, a neighbor, also flew as did George Swanson.
One time, in the winter, Ernest and Norman Lundberg walked to Falkirk, which was seven miles, stopping at farm houses on the way to warm up as they went. I believe our farm was thirteen miles from Washburn.
Another hobby of Ernest's was photography. He would take his own pictures and develop them in a darkroom he had set up upstairs, enlarging and tinting the pictures also. He was always looking for unsuspecting "victims" he could use for some new technique or idea he wanted to try out. Winter was a good time for this hobby, as farming was slower and usually trips to town were non-existent with all of the roads blown shut or blocked from some recent snowstorm.
It's a good thing we had a full pantry of canned goods in our basement. Fresh vegetables were packed in the cellar and other staples were on hand. The farmers were quite self-sufficient when they were not able to run to the store every week or so.
In the winter, we were privileged not to have to use the outdoor toilet. Dad had built a wooden seat over a bucket, which did have to be emptied, but at least it was down in the cellar, by the furnace where it was warmer than having to brave the blizzards. The only thing I didn't like about going down there was part of it was dirt floor, and the lizards loved it!
As we were growing up through the years, one family we were especially close to were Jennie and Clifford Carlson with their son, Clayton and daughter, Jeanette. Jeanette and I were in the same grade and Clayton was a year older than Gary. Our families would spend many weekends and holidays together. They moved from their farm into Washburn in the early 1950's.
Gary and I would stay overnite at our friend's neighboring farms. I recall when I stayed at Faye and Larry Leidholm's and I believe it was Ron Leidholm who showed us the fine art of "hypnotizing" a chicken. This consisted of holding the chicken on its back and holding its head so it would follow your hand with its eyes until it was out of it.
On weekend nights, we'd all sit around Rita and Floyd Leidholm's kitchen and listed to our favorite radion programs. "The Big Story," "Only The Shadow Knows," "Inner Sanctum Mystery," "Grand Old Oprey," "Fibber Magee's Closet," and all the great westerns such as "Roy Rogers," etc.
One time, Jeanette Carlson was staying with me and we went "swimming." Actually, neither one of us could swim, but the water was never very deep, but was plenty muddy. We couldn't actually see the bottom. There was some old car metal or something and Jeanette got a deep gash in her leg. She carries the scar to this day.
The year that there were only five children attending our rural school (the Weller school district, I believe), they decided to close it and begin busing the Children to the Washburn School. Those last five children to attend the rural school were: Faye and Larry Leidholm, Calvin Swanson, Gary and Arlyce Reimers.
For a couple of years we rented houses in Washburn during the winter months and spent the rest of the year working on the farm. In 1952, the farm was sold by auction and we bought a house in Washburn.
On August 23, 1953, during the night, a violent thunderstorm occurred with lightning striking the steeple of the original Birka Church. The church burned to the ground. The congregation quickly organized and made the decision to rebuild.
Ernest worked construction on high power lines across Montana, Minnesota, North and South Dakota. He also tried a stint of working behind a desk, when he did drafting for the North Dakota State Water Commissioner in Bismarck. But because the outdoor life was more to his liking, he returned to construction work.
Mary worked at the Washburn Hotel for a couple of years.
(to be continued)