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Monday, December 22, 2014

~Her Back Steps~

My uncle John and Aunt Jennie lived in a handsome house
that faced the highway in front and whose back pasture ran
all the way to the Great Northern railroad tracks in back.
It was just outside Cokato, Minnesota.
Among the aftermaths of the Depression were the tramps,
or hobos, who rode the boxcars and cooked in tin cans over
an open fire in hobo "jungles."  Some were derelicts and
drifters. But many had left families, striking out for places where
there might be work, maybe even a fresh start.


One of those jungles was near the tracks just past Uncle
John's pasture.  So most of the men found their way to 
Aunt Jennie's back door.  "Could you spare a bite
 to eat for a hungry man?"

Uncle John owned the local butcher shop.  While things
were hard for them, too, there were always soup bones
and ham bones, and even sliced meat for a thick sandwich
on home-baked bread.  They sat on her back steps and ate,
next to the cosmos and zinnias she watered with her dishpan
water, soap and all.  She heard their tales and her heart ached
for them, especially the young ones on the road for the first time.

And they repaid her kindness.  Mostly they made baskets of
willow branches, notching the corners together like a log cabin,
forming elaborately curved handles.  Sometimes they sold them,
making enough to buy a little gilt or varnish to touch them up.

Aunt Jennie's living room and sun parlor had dozens of house
plants in willow baskets, even plant stands fashioned of
willow boughs from the brush that grew up and down the tracks.
Before she married, Jennie had been a cook in the Cokato Hotel.
Chances are, no fancy guest there ever ate better bean
soup than she served the hungry men on her back steps.

               Notes From A Scandinavian Kitchen
               A memory by Florence Ekstrand

I will be posting a few more excerpts from this book,
Mom gave it to me years ago, only now did I pick it up to read.
The title of the book is
"Notes From A Scandinavian Kitchen"
Not only does it contain recipes from the old country
but history from the old country as well.  Little did I know,
I thought it was just another cookbook.
The stories are amazing, being the history buff that I am
I was pleasantly  surprised!
 Mom's mother was a an immigrant from Sweden,
she came to this country as a young child,
settling in Northern Wisconsin.

                       Connie

3 comments:

  1. What a treasure. Reading such stories makes me even more grateful for all I have.
    Merry Blessings

    ReplyDelete
  2. Morning Connie, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful stories, love them. Blessings Francine.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed these stories very much. My grandfather came from
    Stockholm when he was 8 years old. They settled in Iowa and
    were farmers. I have a book of quilts made in Sweden since I
    am a quilter. One of this months primitive magazines has a
    feature of Christmas in Sweden. Thanks. Julia

    ReplyDelete