Local writers reflect on youth as spring blooms into summer

At the beginning of each calendar year, members of the literary nonprofit Dunn County Writers choose a theme for the group’s annual booklet. This year, the theme is “North Dakota Notebook: Life on the High Plains.”
Monthly meetings provide writing exercises that speak to the booklet’s sections. For “North Dakota Notebook,” the writers have chosen six sections to focus on during 2017. It makes sense that the first is all about kids!
In March, guided by DCW Board President and agricultural journalist Colette “Koko” Gjermundson, several writers put pen to paper on this topic.
Here are some excerpts from the writing that resulted. These pieces may read in their entirety in the finished booklet, to be released in December 2017. To learn more about Dunn County Writers: dunncountywriters@hotmail.com.
Up, Up and Away
by Ruth Granfor, Dunn Center
The yard was large with bountiful trees and green grass. The grass was neatly mowed and fun to run in. The swing set sat on the east side of the yard. The frame was made out of metal and painted bright red. Its four metal poles were secured into cement on the ground. The swing set was solid and did not rock.
Two swings were made out of chains with thick wooden slabs for seats. The chains were attached to the center pole, which stretched across the top of the frame. One swing seat was painted white and was a little higher than the red swing, but they were side by side. The ground below each was worn into the dirt.
We would sit on the swings, our hands gripping the twisting chains as we went around and around in a circle. When the chain was tight: Let loose and spin, spin, spin, so fast, until the swing came to an instant stop!
“I can go higher than you can!” one of us would yell.
“No you can’t!” was the automatic reply. The challenge was set.
Sometimes we sat on the wooden seats. Sometimes we stood on them. And then we would swing. Higher, higher, higher! Up and away!
Suddenly we jumped. Flew through the air. Boom! Landed on the grass… ready to go again.
Full Circle
by Julee Gartner, Rural Killdeer
Nothing in my life prepared me for the adventure of raising my own children—not my childhood, which had its own magic; not taking care of other people’s children; not even college classes on childhood development. Children were something I knew I wanted, but I didn’t even know how encompassing that need was until we brought our own babies home. The tiny little human that comes into your care and changes your life and your heart and embraces your very essence is powerful. And you think: How will I manage to raise this baby, this child of mine, to become someone’s mother, someone’s father? Will I find a way to help this person make his mark upon our world? And then…
It’s a funny thing about kids…they seem to be everywhere in your space and even in your hair…and then, in a flash, they are all grown up. They are off to their own world. Just when you get used to waking up every few hours to get a bottle or change a diaper or console a bad dream, they are off making new dreams and chasing their own aspirations. Right about the time you think you have teenagers figured out, well, they grow up and no longer need curfews and lectures and prom dresses.
And then come the college years, when you just want to close your eyes and for sure your ears as you hear about their hair-raising, crazy schemes and friends you’ve never even met. Parents start to ask themselves and each other: Where did we go wrong? Who is this person? What in the world are they up to now?
That’s just about the time the kids turn full circle and you begin to wonder, How did we manage to have such amazing children?
And then comes the part about feeling grateful: Whatever we did, we must have done something right, for God has gifted us with a true treasure, a family of our own to love and create memories with while we travel the circle of life.
by Paulette Haldeman, Dickinson
The soft chorus of children’s voices enters my conscience; those same voices lull me back to sweet repose. The soft sounds surround me, they flow in and out of my mind, soothing me as I recall my now-grown children. I turn over to meet sleep as the voices meet the children’s early morning play. Restful upon my bed, pulling the soft covers around me, I sink into a deep slumber with heavenly echo.
Later, my eyes awake to silence, the children have now gone in for their classes. Only the sounds of passing cars can I hear. With the brightness of the sun surrounding me, I must get up and begin my day!
I busy myself with continuous remodeling projects and outdoor spring work, relishing the fact that I am home! As I stir the Jell-o with hot water to dissolve each crystal, the sweet children’s chorus of voices arises once more at morning recess and progresses with every play interval. Each time, my body is reminded to take a breath, relax and feel young again.
The crescendo of sounds comes at day’s end when school is out, before they all scamper to their respective rides that shall take them home. The only sounds I hear now are the raindrops meeting the earth.
Oh, the Games We Play
by Colette “Koko” Gjermundson, Marshall
When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was playing games. There was a Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo game with a fold-out board and cardboard circles of food.
There was Twister, with its thick, white, plastic cloth on the floor featuring gigantic, rainbow-colored dots. “Left foot, green dot.” “Right hand, red dot.” Laughter ensued as the spinner forced players into difficult and ridiculous positions. The winner was the one who could keep his or her hands and feet on the correctly-colored dots without falling down.
In sixth grade, my absolute favorite game was Mancala. I knew it was my day when I was the student who finished her work in time and got to be the one to get the wooden Mancala board and marbles off the shelf in Mrs. Fedje’s room. Then I got to play a round with a classmate.
I remember sitting on the living room floor, atop the tightly woven, black-gray-brown tweed wool carpet, playing Memory with a deck of cards with Mom or Dad. All fifty-two cards were laid face-down and the player with the best brain—or the fewest worries and distractions in the moment—collected the most matching pairs and was declared the winner.
In my mind, I can see the patterns and colors of all these games. I can feel the cards between my fingers. I remember the shapes of the game pieces. It’s as if I had just played them yesterday.
Fun on the Farm
by Shirley Oja, Dunn Center
Down on the farm, when all the chores are done, it’s time to create some fun. And that we did. Some of our antics could have been dangerous, but we had to invent some tricks to try.
One fine day, my older sister, Adeline, decides to experience something new. She crawls up on one of Dad’s tractors and proceeds to take the gas cap off. Then she lowers her head to the tank and takes a big whiff of the fumes.
Her eyes turn heavenward. “I see angels,” she says. Now I am curious about this. It might be my only time to see angels! So I take a whiff of the fumes.
No angels.
I never knew if it was because Adeline sniffed stronger fumes or had a stronger imagination.
Another thing we tried to entertain ourselves with was walking on 55-gallon barrels and rolling them along.
On this day, all is going well until I fall off and knock my elbow out of joint. That really hurts. I run to the house, sobbing.
“Get out of here or we’ll get blamed for this,” my sister yells.
Yup, they did get in trouble. Before we left for the hospital, Dad told the older kids to “go put the barrels back where you got them from and leave them there.” After the doctor had taken x-rays and my arm was set and in a cast, Dad and Mom came into see me.
“You can go home,” I told them, bravely. “I’ll be okay.”
Adventures of a Seven-Year-Old
by Verna Wolf, Killdeer
Little Jonny Marley O. had spent the day outside, engaged in a most satisfying occupation of tossing stones in the pond, sailing tree twigs at the chickens and, best of all, going barefoot on the prairie, where he lived with many siblings and his parents.
Little Jonny Marley O. was now grubbing his big toe in the dirt to see how big a hole could be made. This task was all-encompassing, until he noticed the sun was a bit lower in the west than when he’d come outside. He stopped short. Since he wasn’t old enough to do fun things like drive a tractor or a truck, or mow hay, his lot in life was to scatter corn for chickens and ducks, gather eggs without breaking them, and getting the cows home from the pasture for milking. And milking time was now!
Quickly, Little Jonny Marley O. ran toward the hills. He stubbed his toe on a dirty clump and fell flat on his face. His toe was bleeding; he ripped off a shirt tail, tied it around the toe and trotted on.
No cows over the hill. Little Jonny Marley O. ran to a small pasture dam. No cows. But the water looked so cool. He decided a quick wade would be fun, so into the water he tromped. Not too far. His feet sank deep into the muddy, sluggish bottom. Jonny couldn’t lift his legs. He tried and tried and finally a leg came loose so fast Jonny fell backward into the murky water and he was soaked!
Well, after that, Jonny decided he’d better find those cows and get them home. There was one last place to search: the cottonwood trees. But, no cows there, either.
Tired, wet, sore-toed Jonny sat on a dead, gnarled, lumpy log and promptly put his hand on a thorn and drew blood. Again. Ripping the other shirt tail off, he bandaged his finger and headed home.
He trudged around the corner of the corral. He couldn’t believe his eyes! There stood the cows, munching their cuds contentedly and already milked!
Wow! But what is Mom going to say or do? Oh, woe is me!
Never again did Little Jonny Marley O. go for cows without checking the corrals first.

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