Alfredisms

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Alfredisms: Remarks on the Unveiling of the Alfred-Wilson Memorial on N Road, Prairie Island, November 17, 2014

By Dan Tyler

Friends and neighbors, following an Australian tradition, I would like to begin by acknowledging and paying tribute to the traditional custodians of this land. The Chaui people of the Pawnee Nation practiced sustainable agriculture in this valley for centuries before European settlement. Like so many of us, they raised corn (or maize), which was not only a staple of their diet but which featured prominently in their cosmology. They also raised pumpkins, beans, and squash; and they hunted the prairie for bison, elk, and deer. (In respect of the latter, some of us still do that, too.)

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
October 20, 1992

I’m writing this in Hamilton, New York, while visiting Jonathan and Pat Kistler, friends for more than fifty years, and report without rancor or joy that some snowflakes floated in with a light, cold rain, descending out of a gray sky and hurried to the ground on a southward slant by a north wind, causing a housebound yesterday.

Alredisms

Unpublished Journal
September 2, 1992

I doubt the world will ever be rid of guns, warships, warplanes, or missiles, whether they be guided or helter-skelter, but it is a peaceful idea to consider this early September, peaceful morning in Polk, with a bit of ground fog, calm air, and a rising sun quietly shining on the foggy ground.

I know the fog will disappear within the hour, but the guns and fear they generate won’t. Fear has replaced hope, not only in nations where political turmoil has replaced civil order but even in these wonderful United States where a democratic government believes in the necessity of a strong military force because, as our president stated: “It’s still a fearful world.”

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
June 29, 1992

Tomorrow morning at six o’clock I crawl onto a Northwest Airlines plane in Omaha and, after changing planes twice—Minneapolis and Detroit—will arrive in Traverse City, Michigan, about one p.m. for a ten-day visit with my brother Ted and his wife, Cathy, at their summer home on Elk Lake. Either my planning wasn’t adequate or what happens is beyond planning (higher institutions of learning have courses in “planning”) because first—Richard Lindeberg, a first cousin and wife, Joanie; also Cora Jean, his sister, planned to be in Polk July 10 for a visit and meal at Coach’s Corner, and I had to write and tell him I wouldn’t be home until the 11th.

Alfredims

Unpublished Journal
April 11, 1992

Yesterday the afternoon temperature peaked at eighty degrees, and every person I met on Main Street appeared happy. Even I had to search diligently to find a growly complaint. Today I am happily complaining. The wind is out of the cold Canada north, and temperature is forty degrees; sky is cloudy, and the outlook drear. There will be things that go “clunk” in the night before April 12 dawns. I feel that in my bones. I discovered there is truth in the sayings of the elderly that they can feel a change in the weather. It is caused by atmospheric pressure.

Alfredisms: Mother Alfred, Part Three

Mother estimated that Dad Alfred had, at the most, five years of home life when he arrived with his parents, Nils and Elsa Jonsson, in the United States at age nine years. He was third oldest in a family of six children. Julius Anton was fifteen, Albert Theodor was twelve, Hilma Jenny was six, and Carl Emil three. John was born at Genoa, Nebraska, November 22, 1885. (This information came from Jerry Alfred, son of Anton Alfred, who lives in the state of Washington and adds that the Nils Alfred family came to America in 1884.)

I know Uncle Anton and his family lived near his brother Olof and his family at West Chicago. How near they were, I don’t know. I do know grandfather Nils was a frequent visitor at mealtime. Mother was a good, intelligent cook. She knew her spices.

Alfredisms: Mother Alfred, Part Two

One of my earliest memories is sitting in grandma’s lap and having my shoe strings tied. Why that should be a remembered event, I don’t know. Maybe it was something I didn’t expect. Maybe it only happened once.

When grandmother had one of her spells while standing, she would fall to the floor. Mother would put a pillow under her head, and we would step around or over her until the spell ended. Then grandma would stir, get back on her feet and continue to where she was going as though nothing had happened. The children all expected “grandma’s spells” and learned to take them in stride, even when it was necessary to step over her prone body.

Alfredisms: Mother Alfred, Part One

The New Yorker for May 22, 1995, has A Reporter At Large story by Andrew Solomon on euthanasia, which is based on his mother’s decision to end her life when she developed ovarian cancer and faced the prospects of a painful death. I have no intention of relating the details of that story except to say she did commit suicide with her family around her.

While reading the story “A Death of One’s Own,” I was reminded of my mother, who died at age 95. The last time I saw her alive, she was lying in her bed at the Covenant Home in Stromsburg, curled up in the fetal position. I told the attendant I’d be back in the morning. I should have stayed the night on deathwatch, but I was tired and the attendant thought the possibility was good she would still be breathing in the morning. “Your mother has a strong heart beat.” During the night it quit beating.

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
Aug. 31, 1992

Today is the last chance for a roasting bit of August heat, and the month is due to end cold with a 70 degree high. I never thought I’d wish for August’s sweaty days, but then I don’t remember having experienced an August as cold as the one this year. In the good old days when the Polk Progress was alive but financially sick, there were late summer mornings when the temperature on the thermostat was over 90 degrees when I unlocked the front door. This morning I turned up the thermostat to take the chill out of the shop. It showed 65 degrees.

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
Aug. 19, 1992

Most of the day was spent at Ashfall State Park and the drive there and back with Ed and Jane Dadey and the two resident artists, Ruth and Janet. Ten million years ago a volcanic eruption in what is now Idaho showered volcanic ash on an area that included northern Nebraska to a depth measured in feet, including a waterhole north and west of Royal, Neb., suffocating animals, mostly rhinos, and burying them in the ash, preserving their skeletons. Since the discovery, the waterhole area has been made into a state park and facilities built—visitors’ center, rhino barn enclosing the diggings, concrete walks, etc. The intention is to leave the fossil remains where they are, partially exposed and protected from the elements.

Alfredims

Oct. 14, 2013 is Norris Alfred’s 100th birthday, definitely something worth celebrating.

Two of the Prairie Fire crew visited Brian Tyler in Polk to walk the birding trail that Norris walked. Brian has painstakingly re-created the trail by poring over Norris’s writings, and other community members have contributed, including one generous soul who donated an original Norris Alfred bluebird box placed near the commemorative sign.

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
Aug. 4-8, 1992

Sunshine touched cobwebs under the front of the Progress office desk. I suspect sunshine could find cobwebs in all the nooks and crannies (what my sister, the late Lorna Dunlap, described as “crooks and nannies”) of this print shop, if it could reach them. Lorna was referring to cockroaches in her New Orleans home, which, accompanied by termites and mosquitoes, bedevil living south of the Mason-Dixon line. North of it too, I should add, although not in the quantities available for distribution in New Orleans. I remember cleaning out the Dunlap one-car concrete garage, scooping and sweeping the dirt into a pile and watching the pile’s surface squirm with insect life. The pile bubbled.

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
Oct 24, 1992

Norris wrote this piece while in Hamilton, N.Y., visiting Jonathan and Pat Kistler.

During the night, wet weather sneaked in with some thunder. When I heard the thunder, I wondered what the noise was. It didn’t sound the same as Nebraska thunder. It was a rattling rumble, out of context with treeless plains. A noise that echoed off the hills and filled the valleys. A thunder that bounced instead of rolling unopposed from horizon to horizon.

Aldredisms

Unpublished Journal
April 1, 1992

Sometime last week the Arborville Church was robbed of all the antique chairs. The church members have enough pictures of meetings in the church that show the chairs, there is hope they will get them back. This is based on the theory that persons who swipe such items sell them to some dealer. A tour of antique dealers’ stores might prove worthwhile.

Today and yesterday were cold with face-freezing wind from the north. Dr. Loschen called this morning to report the sed rate is now down to 50. Dr. Garwood had reported it as down to 70 or so when he tested my blood about a month ago. Normal is 20 or so, if I correctly remember what I was told when I asked. When it was first tested, the blood had a sed rate of a 100 or slightly under, and it remained high until last month. I will see Dr. Garwood on April 13 and hope to have more good news—a below-50 reading.

Alfredims

Unpublished Journal
March 20, 1992

Yesterday’s weather was more wet than dry. Today the sky is clearly blue, and the morning sun has an unimpeded chance to flood the terrain with sunshine. I’m writing this at 9 a.m. and, heeding the Progress Swedish Philospher’s admonition, “You never know how a day goes ’til it gets to the end,” I refuse to predict an all-day blue clarity overhead. Gloria Eckerson of Aurora called earlier today, and I promised to help her and Wilma Aalborg check bluebird boxes in the Platte valley where she maintains a bluebird box trail.

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
March 24, 1992

Yesterday I spent most of the day watching the sandhill cranes between Doniphan and Shelton, along the Platte River west of Grand Island. Pastor Bruce Berggren of the Swede Home Lutheran Church has been wanting to go birding with Lee Morris, and I arranged it Sunday evening with Lee, when he and Shirley, son-in-law Earl Fuehrer and four grandchildren came into Coach’s Corner just as I was finishing eating. I joined them to visit and told Lee what I was planning, adding, “I’ll call Berggren about 8 tomorrow morning. If he can’t go, you and I will go anyway.”

Alfredisms

Unpublished Journal
Nov. 29, 1992

Today marks a return to the gray days. Temperature is in the 30s and wind light out of the north. Three consecutive days of sunshine and cloudless sky was a winter treat worth mentioning.

Maybe the mechanical Babcock word printer and the electronic Brother word processor will generate a togetherness, but I doubt if an old letterpress printer will be a congenial third partner.

Alfredisms: Norris, a Moustache and Shades of Gray

By Brian Tyler

My late afternoon visit to the Polk Progress was at the invitation of the publisher, and I was not prepared for the multisensory assault of his office. The first wave was the strong smell of ink and solvent, followed by the clatter of a Linotype machine, and finally a visual of printer’s ink, gradually transforming the interior and its contents toward black. Equally stark was the December view across Polk’s Main Street through the front window. The John Deere Implement dealership and the IGA grocery store were closed and dark. Pickup trucks parked in front of the American Legion Club were muddy and utilitarian. Their rear bumpers defined 1971 with a Nebraska license (black lettering on a white background) and a bumper sticker that read “America—Love It or Leave It.” At 17 years of age, the world was only visible in black and white.

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