I was a little guy spending a wonderful day with my Grandma; Bertha Lively. I remember that we were sitting at the Round Oak Dinner Table when there came a knock on the Rear Porch Door. My Grandma got up and looked out the West Rear Window to see who it was. She then went to the Rear Door and I ran to peek out the West Rear Window. There on the sidewalk was a Rail Road Box Car Hobo who had been walking the rails south to Moorhead, Minnesota. I will not call him a Bum but he asked politely if “We had some Food for him”? My grandma knew how to handle him and with respect she said “I will bring you your lunch if you haul out this garbage and dump it on the River Bank North of the house. She then pointed to the Well Cover Platform and said “I will meet you there when I get your food Ready”.
The man dumped the garbage and looked a little thin. He was not a threat but rather a Lost Soul looking for a Chance to get it Right. My Grandma had experience: the Great Depression, and was very happy to help someone who was experiencing Hunger Pains that she had gone through as a Child. Grandma showed no fear and knew that her 410 shotgun was behind the Kitchen door with a round in the Barrel for her war on Tom Cats in the Farm Area.
The Man sat waiting on the Well Cover and Grandma made him a White Bread Sandwich with a side of Potato Salad on a big plate. She took it out to him and said “Hope this will tide you over”! The man said “Thank you very much Mam” and began eating with great energy and smiling at me in the window. He ate slow and the smile on his face was a lasting memory when I think of seeing a Hungry Homeless Person. Grandma was very quiet because, you know, past thoughts and experiences in her life were at the front of her Memory: a tear in her eye told the story that only she could state and discuss.
My home town; Beltrami, Minnesota, was a Farming Community. We had a Cattle Corral in town where the Farmers brought in their Winter Feeder Cattle for shipment by Train to St. Paul, Minnesota. Us kids loved teasing and talking to the Steers when the Corral was full and the Great Northern Railway hauled them off; Southbound, without a Boarding Pass or Ticket. Many of the Cattle Cars brought to my town had Rail Riders in the car already. They were Hobos, hitting the rail, heading South to the big Twin Cities Area. Their bags were filled with their personal items and possibly a snack to eat as the big old Diesel Engines roared down the tracks to pick up more cattle cars full and box cars full of grain, also headed to St.Paul to make Beer or Cheerios.
I remember sitting with my Color Crayons working on a Mickey Mouse picture talking with Grandma who was sitting in her rocker looking out that West Window. Grandma was proud of her family and her Grandchildren but the harsh reality of the past came to grab her heart every so often. I remember Grandmas story at the lake Cabin one time about what it felt like to be hungry as a child, and the necessity to go to the neighbor’s corn crib and chew on a corn cob to tide her over until supper. She also told of some of the Looting and Stealing back in her Illinois home town and she was firmly planted on upholding the law. Grandma had raised three beautiful Daughters and taught them music and dance on an old piano in her living room. Sunday night when Liberace appeared on the T.V. was a sacred time and all visitors in the house were required to keep their mouth shut! Boy was that hard!
Very often my Grandfather took me to town with him to eat at Elsie’s Cafe. We ate the Luncheon Special and were very happy after the desert; fresh pie was brought to us. The whole meal was $1.50 with pie and ice cream to top it off. One Friday my Grandmother made Hamburgers filled with Cottage Cheese in her Sunbeam Frying Pan. I remember my Grandpa and I not eating the concoction and I remember Grandma saying “that recipe was not the best”! We agreed and grandpa and I went into town for lunch: Hot Beef Sandwiches followed by Banana Cream Pie with Maple Nut Ice Cream. We came back home and Grandpa took his daily nap and grandma said the Fox on the ditch bank would have a great treat after she threw the Cottage Cheese Burgers over the edge of the ditch bank! Poor Fox!
Country Living was fun because there were no rich dudes or social clubs after World War II. We had a City Hall with a Flag in the holder where the American Legion used to hold their meetings. It was rewarding as a child seeing my Mom and Dad both saluting the flag at the same time and saying their pledge of allegiances to the U.S. Flag. There were various living rules in the Country that I still practice today. It was OK to drop in to someone’s house whom you knew for minor conversation. It was OK to smile at people you didn’t know and wish them a great day. It was OK to say good things about people behind their back even though you had a couple of bad brushes with their friends. It was OK to bring an idea to a group even if you hadn’t researched it 100% for accuracy and failure. It was OK to offer your help to those who were too proud to admit they needed help in solving or completing a project. It was OK to talk to people about serious events that may have affected their lives forever. Oh! Yes! It was OK to make a Traveling Rail Walking Hobo a Sandwich and also tell him to “Have a Great Life” with a smile on your face! The greatest OK for me is to refer to God as my Leader and seek Salvation in a world that I did not build, but I pray daily that I will be able to understand why things happen and I was not informed. AMEN!!