Skip to content

11/29/2006 – News

Volume 123, Number 43             Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Larson gets nice buck
Gannon Larson of Leeds is shown with the buck he shot with his 40-70 Sharps in the Duck Mountains in Canada recently. The buck has a magnificent rack. Larson farms and raises elk.

Book relates some early Benson County life and history

Brinsmade native Richard Hofstrand has written a biography of his Swedish grandfather, an early immigrant and homesteader in Benson County. The book uses a format of letters to Marten’s sister back in Sweden. A sample letter dated Saturday, May 1, 1886 reads:
Dear Bengta,
This Dakota Territory is the land of opportunity. Minnewaukan is booming. The town now has new stage and livery routes. The Fort Totten stage runs a round trip every day. The Turtle Mountain stage heads north on Tuesday for St. John, then on to Dunseith. It arrives in Bottineau on Wednesday, then returns here. Round trip fare: $12.
The town also has three trains a day with telegraph service, and daily connecting boat service to Devils Lake on what those in town want to call beautiful Lake Minnewaukan. The town has over 400 people. It is the county seat. It has a bank, a newspaper, the Dakota Siftings, two general stores, a grain elevator, a drug store, a livery stable, two blacksmith shops, a wagon and carriage shop, two lumber yards, a butcher shop, a school house, a doctor, a lawyer, a real estate agent, four saloons, and four brothels. The Siftings reported that the "Celebrated Enchantress of the North Shore" — that’s what this woman calls herself — has arranged to build "the fourth place of double-distilled iniquity in town." Last Saturday an attempt was made to clear the town of a place called The Ebony Palace. For some reason the job was postponed. I wonder why! This is indeed a new Chicago.
With affection, Marten.
The 308-page book — With Affection, Marten — contains more than 50 photos, sketches, and other black and white illustrations. The book is available from Bench Mark Publications at 1613 West William Street in Champaign, IL 61821 at a cost of $24.
Editor’s note: What follows is an interview with author Richard Hofstrand. He is a native of the Brinsmade area and is the son of the late Leslie and Dorothy Hofstrand. He is a 1958 graduate of BCATS.

Interviewer: I had a chance recently to talk with Mr. Hofstrand about his book, With Affection, Marten. My first question was, why did you write the book?
Hofstrand: Let me say from the start that I didn’t write it for money, unless you consider less than a dime an hour a fair wage. Most people will never know how much time it takes to research, write, re-write, and re-write again a book like this. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad I did it, but I didn’t do it for the money. But to try to answer your question, I guess I wrote it for several reasons, but three mainly.
The first was that as a kid growing up on Marten’s home farm, I was surrounded by artifacts: old machinery, old harness, old tools, old pictures and, even more important, old stories. All of these were connected in various ways to my grandfather, Marten.
Marten was, in many ways, what change experts term an "early adapter." He would try technological advances before most others in his community. For example, when I was growing up in the 1940’s before rural electrification, most people used kerosene lanterns. We didn’t. We had electric lights! We had electric lights because of a 32-volt generator in the basement of our farm home. We even had a radio, a vacuum cleaner and a clothes washing machine. That was Marten’s doing. My family lived better because he was willing to take risks on a new technology. And that’s just one example; there were similar things around the farm.
The second reason I wrote the book was to give definition and meaning to old pictures. We had albums and shoe boxes stuffed with old pictures. We had pictures of relatives dressed up in dresses and suits for special events. We had pictures of Marten’s farming operation. In sum, we had pictures of prior times.
Today when I walk through "antique shops," I often see baskets and boxes of old pictures. When I look at the backs, the only thing I see is a hand-written price and maybe a photographer’s mark. Seldom do I see a description of who this is, where they are, why the picture was taken and when. These are pictures from a time long gone when we dressed up to get our pictures taken; a time before snapshots. We don’t do that any more, except maybe for a wedding, a baptism or a graduation. Snapshots are common and cheap. If you factor in the law of supply and demand, pictures today are common and cheap. As a result, they’re not valued as much as they were when they were rare and expensive.
And the third and final reason is probably the most important of all; to record the old stories. As a kid, I was surrounded by these old stories. I remember sunny summer Sunday afternoons watching as a strange car slowed down on our road, turned into our drive, and proceeded slowly up our driveway. The car was strange because it was unknown, and in our small farming community in the 1940s, we knew everybody’s vehicles, but we didn’t know this one.
Dad would stare intently to get a glimpse of the driver as the car pulled slowly past the windows of our front porch. From this front porch, he could see everything — well at least everything he wanted or needed to see. As the car continued past the porch, Dad would rise from his easy chair and proceed through the house, squinting out each window at the foreigners as they passed slowly by. Finally arriving at the back porch windows, Dad would say something like, "Well, for cripes sake. I think it’s old what’s-his-name!"
By now the car had stopped, and Dad was outside and approaching the car. Sure enough! It was old what’s-his-name. Old what’s-his-name had been a hired man here on the farm decades earlier; Marten had hired him. And, lo and behold, the woman with him — his wife — had been a hired girl here during the same time.
The visitors would climb from their car, shaking hands through the open car windows as they emerged. Everyone talked excitedly and simultaneously, as if afraid each might die before getting his or her story told.
Within minutes, Dad had invited them in for coffee, a vital local custom. Anticipating this, Mom had started the percolator and was searching her secret hiding place for a few cookies to serve. As the visitors approached the house, each stopped, became silent for a few moments, and looked around with that look of seeing sights and hearing sounds, and maybe even smelling smells, in their memories. It was obvious they had returned to review and renew memories of long ago, memories of when they worked here. I could almost see and hear the sights and sounds playing in their minds.
Once inside the house and seated around the kitchen table, the coffee flowed and the cookies were passed. The discussion became lively again:
"Whatever happened to . . . ?" "Remember the time that . . . !" "Do you ever hear from . . . ?" And after each introductory declaration, a story with finite detail flowed freely. There were stories about my grandfather, my grandmother, other hired help, and Dad’s siblings. My younger brother and I listened in entertained awe; this was a welcome respite on an otherwise boring afternoon, at least for pre-teen kids like us.
Within an hour, Dad, the former hired man and hired girl, with my brother and me close behind, would be outside touring the farmstead. She would motion toward the grove of trees — "My gosh, how they’ve grown." He would stare at the barn — "It was red when we were here, not white." She would spy the cook car — "Gracious did it get hot in there when we were making dinner!"
For them, small things had changed, but the big things were the same, and each view brought another round of recollections of former times. We listened with curiosity.
Over the years, several former hired workers stopped in to get another look, probably at their own past. Some had worked on a threshing crew for only one season. Others had stayed on for several years. When they worked here as young people, their experiences had been new, fresh, and intense. Now decades later, they returned for one last look. They seemed to want to recharge their memory batteries. My brother and I continued to listened.
And over even more years, friends and relatives shared more stories about our familial background, our lineage, our history, and our community. Family get-togethers on the "home" farm relived former times. The stories were told and retold, each time with seemingly greater enthusiasm and zest, maybe even with embroidered detail.
Well, I’m getting long winded here. Let me get to my point. Without warning, that all waned. Some people moved away. Others died. The times changed. There were no more strange cars in the driveway, fewer familial gatherings, and less and less retelling of the old stories. And like a thumb that once throbbed with pain, once the pain is gone, the pain is forgotten. So, too, the stories stopped. Would the stories be forgotten? The challenge for me was to not forget the stories.

Interviewer: How did you go about writing the book?
Hofstrand: It all started back in the late 1970s when two of my sons started taking music lessons.
Each lesson was a half hour long a couple of days a week, and never at the same times. I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the music store. The magazines were old and there was no television. So one day, I took a pencil and a pad of paper with me. I remember that Alex Haley’s book, Roots, had just come out. I started to write down one of the stories I remembered from my childhood. As I wrote, I recalled other stories, so I made notes in the margin. When I finished one story, I’d look back in the margin, get a reminder, and start another. After about a year of lessons, I had drafted all of the stories I could recall, and my margins were empty. So I guess you could say I wrote the book while I was waiting.
The next step was to type up the stories. As I typed them, I rewrote them. This step allowed me to add detail, clarify thoughts, expand stories, and improve the writing. Bad writing is easy to write but hard to read. Good writing, that is writing that is easy to read, is hard work.

Interviewer: What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Hofstrand: I guess the most difficult task was to check and cross check the accuracy of details, especially to reconcile certain aspects of oral history with related documents and records.
I never knew Marten; he died about 16 years before I was born. But over the years I had the chance to interview many people who knew him, especially my dad and my dad’s older sister, my aunt. All I needed to do was show them one of the old pictures, and they’d tell me in excruciating detail who it was, when it was taken, why, where and sometimes even by whom. And then that story would remind them of another story or two. The oral history flowed. My job was to catch it and write it down.
Then I’d find some related documented information. Sometimes the oral renderings matched the related documents; sometimes they did not. Sometime the oral history was correct; sometimes the documents were correct. And sometimes even documented information could not be corroborated. Let me give you an example of the latter. In April of 1884, the Dakota Siftings reported that Marten and his two brothers, John and Goodard, purchased Lot 13 in Block 42 of Minnewaukan and erected a shack in which to live while staying in town. But when I tried to cross check that with the Register of Deeds office in the Benson County Courthouse, the first record on that lot was when Dwight Wilburn deeded it to Johnson Nickleus on August 15, 1885, over a year later. How did Dwight Wilburn get the lot? Did Marten and his brothers actually own the lot at one time? What happened to the prior records?
Were there any prior records? No one seems to know. Researching can be easy, but doing accurate research is very difficult. For me, checking and cross-checking the accuracy of historical details was rewarding but difficult and time-consuming.

Interviewer: Are there any surprises in the book?
Hofstrand: Now that I think about it, yes there are. There is romance and beauty, and a bit of humor. A common stereotype is that the lives of squatters and homesteaders was solemn and grim. I suspect that the work was hard and the days were long. But even with that, finding humor and beauty and romance are essential to the human spirit. For example, when Marten builds his claim shack with a dirt floor, he soon realizes that he has built it over the burrowed home of a gopher, who now must scurry in and out the open door. He even names the gopher Sven.
Marten often saw beauty in the sky, especially the sunsets and the Northern Lights. And he knew the placement of several stars, including Venus, which shone brightly in the clear night sky. He even saw beauty in winter’s sculpted snowdrifts.
And romance . . . Before emigrating, Marten meets Ella, his bride-to-be, at a bridge dance in Malmo. In the early 1880s, the Swedes held dances during summer evenings on the two bridges that spanned Hamn Harbor — these bridges had hard surfaces and lights. Marten’s and Ella’s courtship began there, but continued for years.
Over those ensuing years both immigrate, but at differing times. They see each other frequently, but she always rejects his proposals of marriage.
But one evening, Ella is searching the tall grass of the prairie for her milk cows. Her long skirt gets soaked and heavy from dew. Marten happens upon her and offers a ride on his ox. She accepts the ride. He proposes marriage. Ella accepts.
Marten tells the story better than I just did, but you get the idea.
In another instance, Marten and Ella strolled the decks of a side-wheeled steamer called the Minnie H on the placid evening waters of Devils Lake.
Romantic, huh? Especially for the frontier!
Interviewer: How could schools use your book?
Hofstrand: I suspect there are several ways the book could be used with students. Probably the easiest is to have it available in the school library as a reading and research resource.
But let me tell you how one school used the book.
A seventh grade teacher in New Sweden, Maine began by having a few pupils each day read aloud a letter from the book to the rest of the class.
Next, each pupil wrote a message in a class-wide letter to me, the author. They asked questions and made statements about the book. I, in turn, responded to each of them in a class-wide letter back. Next, each pupil was assigned the task of relating what was happening in the book to something else that happened about the same time in US history. And finally, each pupil took a phrase from the book and drew and painted a picture about that phrase. They even sent me several of the posters, as well as pictures of each pupil displaying their poster. Using the book as what teachers term a "primary source document," pupils were learning to read, to write, about American history, and about art.
From a literary perspective, the book serves as an example of epistolary writing, in that it’s in the form of a series of letters which tell a story.

Interviewer: Have you written other books?
Hofstrand: Yes, I have, but in sort of tangential ways. I’ve helped both my mother and her sister write their autobiographies. In my mother’s book, "Remembering Again: An Autobiography," she chronicled her trials and joys of growing up in a Norwegian-English-German community, teaching in a one-room rural school, being a farm wife and mother — all on the prairie of North Dakota, and then retiring in Arizona. She embellished the book with black and white photographs, poems, recipes, sketches, observations on the times, and other of her favorite things from the years 1912 to 2003. It was published in January of 2006, has 256 pages, has a glossary and an index, is in what is called a demi — that means it measures 5?" x 8?" — trade softback with an ISBN 0-9610892-2-9, and sells for $9.95.
My aunt’s book, "The Days of My Life: An Autobiography" by Audrey Kent Berrington, chronicles growing up in that same community on the prairie of North Dakota, becoming a registered nurse, becoming a Navy wife, living, working and raising a family in Hawaii, touring the world, and retiring in Arizona. The book contains over 110 black and white photographs and illustrations from the years 1917 through 2006.
We published it in 2006, it has 336 pages in a demi trade softback size, and sells for $9.95.
My other books have been job-related. For over four decades, I delivered occupational education and training in both the private and public sectors. For the past two decades, however, I’ve focused on training sessions for workers in the private sector. To help with that training, I wrote a series of technical manuals called "The SOFT TECHNOLOGIES SERIES: Skills for Career Success," which are books that teach both prospective and experienced workers how to perform broad-based, generic occupational skills that are vital for success in today’s and tomorrow’s global economies. These include:
* "KnowHow: How to Learn on the Job." The purpose of this book is to develop occupational competence in learning job knowledge and skills from on-the-job experience. The book describes the benefits of learning on the job, the five-step process for identifying and mastering skills, and numerous aids for remembering what was learned.
* "GridWork: How to Get Organized on the Job."
The purpose of this book is to develop occupational competence in using over 30 systems to organize, classify, and retrieve technical information, tools, materials, and merchandise.
The book describes the alphanumeric system, grid system, and other systems, how to use such systems on the job, and how to keep up-to-date on new systems.
* "GuessWork: How to Do Estimating on the Job."
The purpose of this book is to develop occupational competence in estimating, for example, approximating time, dimension, cost, and value. The book describes how to anticipate and predict, use the five-step process for estimating, and appreciate the value of making technical estimates.
* "Right to Know: How to Protect Oneself From Hazards on the Job." The purpose of this book is to develop occupational competence in knowing why protecting oneself on the job is important. The book describes how to identify the three major types of on-the-job hazards and how to use appropriate protective devices and techniques, and gives examples of how workers in various occupations protect themselves from hazards.

Interviewer: Are you writing other books?
Hofstrand: I’ve just finished drafting another book with a working title of Views from the Hill: On Philosophy, Photography, and Farming in the ‘50s. In it I try to draw meaning and philosophical considerations — life lessons, if you will — from seemingly mundane experiences I had while farming with my Dad in North Dakota in the 1950s. What makes the book special is that it contains full-color photographs that my Dad took of these experiences. I expect that the book will contain about 250 pages, a glossary, an index and will be a demi trade softback with an ISBN 0-9610892-0-2, and will sell for about $20.

Richard Hofstrand

Oberon 4-H’er gathers lots of coupons to help military
Jakob Schmid of Oberon has contributed 14,252 coupons to help military families stationed overseas as part of the Farm & Home Improvement 4-H Club’s service project.
National brand coupons are clipped and deposited in a box at Tracy’s Market in Maddock. The coupons are collected by the Theo. A. Togstad American Legion Auxiliary Unit 123 of Maddock and sent to help military personnel and their families stationed overseas.
Nine-year-old Jakob has submitted more than 1100 coupons per month since the early fall of 2005.
His dedication to this cause has been supplemented by the efforts of his grandmothers, church friends and Veloy Vallier, a family friend he visits at the Maddock Memorial Home each Wednesday.
Jakob is the son of Pam and Tom Schmid of Oberon.

Jakob Schmid

Schmid family enjoys typical Thanksgiving
The home of Norma Schmid of Minnewaukan was probably typical of many homes in the area on Thanksgiving Day.
Four hours after awakening to a frenzied Thanksgiving morning, Norma Schmid’s first guests arrived at 10 a.m., bearing pie and ready to eat.
The turkey was roasting in the oven and the good dishes were set out on the white lace tablecloth.
"About three hours until dinner," said Norma, basting the turkey. With three hours to go the guests resorted to pilfering the candy dish. Then with 2:57 left to go they decided to occupy their time. Daughter Carrie Iverson set herself up as the second cook in the kitchen. Grandchildren Rachel, Sarah and Keenan took the hyperactive Labrador on a walk. Son-in-law Kevin, drawing from previous experience, stayed as far away from the kitchen as possible.
Other guests began arriving, Son Carl came bearing walleye. Sister Dorothy Hovden brought buns, pie and an angel food cake. Son Milton and his wife Nita brought olives (because Nita likes them), a green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and baked squash. Oh, wait! They only tantalized the other guests with tales of the baked squash, saying it wasn’t done, but in all probability they’d finished it off before they came.
The turkey was finally done and it was beautiful.
After a photo shoot of Norma smiling with the turkey, looking at the turkey and pretending to lick the turkey, the food was on the table.
Dorothy was forcibly escorted to a seat at the main table, having made a run for one of the TV trays. She was then coerced to sing the table grace. After a chorusing "Amen," the family set on the food like a starving hamster on a granola bar.
Half an hour later everyone declared themselves stuffed and ready for dessert. Out came Dorothy’s beautiful angel food cake bedecked in candles.
The birthday song was sung for Nita. Milton ran home to get homemade ice cream and his dog, Button. After further stuffing themselves with cake and ice cream, nobody had any room for Sarah’s pie. Which is OK, because it was eaten later.

Norma Schmid with her turkey.

Leave a Comment