May 25th…“DID ANY OF YOUR ELDERS EVER SAY SOMETHING THAT, AS A CHILD, MADE NO SENSE?”
During World War I, John P. Madsen was a soldier in the “Battle Of The Spruce”……..trees, that is. As a young enlisted Army G.I. of that Great War, John was deployed from his Home State of Minnesota to the destination that his “Uncle Sam” sent him to almost 2,000 miles west to Fort Vancouver, Washington to work in the Spruce Lumber Mills on that base.
The thousands of fighter aircraft used during that war needed a strong, yet light, wood in their construction. So, rather than fight in the trenches of France, these young soldiers, alongside John, “fought” in the forests and lumber mills to cut, saw and send that Spruce lumber to factories for those planes to be built. When peace finally returned to the world in 1918, John Madsen was released from military service and returned to his treasured Home State of Minnesota.
Quaint are the ways of the dear generations who came before us and we were about to witness that gentility first hand. You see, our ‘Grandpa’ John was one of those tender souls who we enjoyed, loved and admired for his effervescence and joy for life. Even in the midst of his senescence, John Madsen held the joys of youth within him even as his mortal body succumbed to poor eyesight and the common maladies of old age. In John’s mid to later years, he had helped out as a hired hand with our father on our farm there near Kiester, Minnesota. With time, we became so enamored with him, as a family, that he was revered and adopted into our hearts unanimously.
Having served his nation in World War I, John, in his encroaching senior years, was able to take up residence at the Minnesota Old Soldiers Home in Minneapolis. While health was still with him, and now being well into the age of his 80’s, ‘Grandpa’ John would put on his thick, “coke bottle bottom” eye glasses and point his handsome 1953 Chevrolet in the direction of our farm for many a happy visit.
As if it were yesterday, I can still see ‘Grandpa’ John’s green Chevy banking down into the graveled north driveway of our farmyard. With his driver’s window rolled down, I could see John’s thick, “coke bottle bottomed” eye glasses looking down to grab his columned gear shift and place it into a lower gear as he circled around to the backside of our home for parking near our back pantry door of the kitchen.
We all loved this sweet man for his youthful exuberance for life, even though, at the time, he was well into his 80’s as far as age. In the mornings, after a hearty farmer’s breakfast, I’d be watching him do some arm swinging calisthenics to limber up for the day. With food in our tummies, Candi and I’d step out the back door of our home with ol’ John to accompany him for one of his walks. Having taken a few steps into the morning’s fresh air, John would lift up his arms (as if to God Himself) and say out loud with gusto to the world in general, “GOOD MORNING!!!!” It was just us and John, but he enjoyed life so much, he just wanted to tell the world around him how grateful he felt for another day!!! 😉
On one of those daily strolls, we noticed that John had stopped in the middle of our farmyard and perplexed our little minds with what he said next. “You children wait here for a little bit while I go visit ‘mrs. jones’ in the woods.” Now the woods John was referring to consisted of the deciduous trees that made up our farm’s windbreak that sheltered us from winter’s blast of wind storms and snow. Sister Candice and I had explored those woods thoroughly during our childhood and had never seen a lady that lived out there. In our innocent ignorance, we had no idea that John was referring to the outdoor family outhouse (toilet) that was in the form of a tiny building next to our chicken house. That tiny building had a deep hole dug into the ground under it and we all sometimes went in there to “doo” our “dooty” (to say it gently)….hehehe 😉 Operating out of the paradigm of his earlier generation, John must have thought it too crass for our young ears and minds to simply say he was going to GO POTTY!! Instead, he chose to gently separate himself from us in order to answer ‘nature’s call’ and then would return to continue our walk together. In retrospect, I surmise that old John must have suppressed a giggle or two as I pressed the issue regarding his departing our company. I asked him, “Can we go, too, with you and meet “mrs. jones”??? To which “Grandpa” John wisely replied, with a smile, “No I don’t think so………she ONLY talks to me!!”
Reminiscing about the ways of learning life still create a smile for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son 😉