Letters to Bowbells, North Dakota


Our family came to Alvin and Gloria’s
after a great deal of preparation and talk.
Mom’s brother had life figured out,
he was the older brother,
and Dad had a drinking problem.

Will you talk to Alvin, Wayne?
That’s how I remember it.
Will you? Alvin will know
how to do it. Alvin was invested
with that kind of power. He had

made the moves away from
the North Dakota farm community.
He sold Case farm implements
in Williston, then went to work
at Montgomery Wards in Great Falls.

Great Falls, Pocatello, Beaverton.
Each visit further west carried hope
that Dad would get well.
Montana, Idaho, Washington.
We didn’t have that word recovery,

we had hope, and I had it, too.
As the oldest, I carried what Mom carried.
We’d get to play with the cousins!
But I kept one eye on Uncle Alvin and Dad.
They would disappear, and Mom

had hope that this time
things would be better. We never knew
where they went. They went out to talk.
Mom, Aunt Gloria, and myself,
we knew what to look for

when they came back.
Aunt Gloria would say the words
Mom didn’t want to hear.
They would say things like,
Just one drink, and then

there would be the drive home,
four hours back to Seattle in the car.
My brother, sister and I in the back seat.
Mom would try her best to distract us.
Things would be better when we got home.

Jim Bodeen
12 January 2016


            for Joanne Christiansen

“…a little bubble in the glass of Godhead.”
            Harry Martinson

Beginning, Joanne, with your voice after the greeting
in the church where I was baptized, the one where you worship
on quilt Sunday, to where I’ve returned after sixty years:
I was your fourth grade teacher.

Light-cracking foot-in-the-door, sharp,
best behavior body cells attempting rescue
or evacuation. After settling in with your poems,
written in narrative quatrains I so love,

a response in kind, from a sleuth
who never quite grew up, or out grew
the town he came from. All the gold
I came to mine, found here in a Lutheran

pew. Looking at photos of the pastors
and their years of tenure, this one,
Pastor Johan H. Petersen, 1948-1956,
must have been the one to teach me

all about God. Mid-50s, a bit of a smile,
grey hair, cut and combed, stylish,
even then he must have been wondering…,
I know, I know, in my snapshot,

a reflection of light on both sides
of his head, disappearing and coming out
the left eye. This is the stuff that gets
fourth graders sent to the cloak-room

with coats and overshoes. We did return
for the 2006 Centennial Reunion,
my wife and I driving Mom
in a pop-up camper. Mom’s memories

in a photo book I make a movie of,
posting on YouTube for you to see
with my voice over. Bowbells,
a triggering town. Teacher,

turned farmer’s wife, poet, recording lives
in the book of angels. These images for you.
Yesterday dipping my hands
in the baptismal font in a desert town out west:

A bath. A simple bath in water.
voluntary drowning, dead
for the moment of the mess
in the world, and in my life,

I emerge with eyes reflecting
light from all sides, pellucid.
“And the lake holds its immense spoon
up to all the mouths,” the Swede

Harry Martinson writes of cattle
before water, a tramp, tramping
the world. I would  not
have found him but for your quatrains,

Miss Knoke, for your poems record
everyone who left and all who stayed.
Early in the last century,
those renegade cigar makers

from Sweden, buying odd bales
of loose leaf off the ship,
isolating in abandoned crofts
until they smelled like the leaf itself—

What to make of them?
They settled Dakota towns,
dead give-aways turned solid citizens.
This image come from an old book

re-covers me this morning,
a novel, The Road. How many Swedish
immigrants ended up in Bowbells,
North Dakota, where you taught me

in 1956? Becoming a farmer’s wife,
gave you vantage point for poems
chronicling the life of a town.
“The great trouble is to take great trouble,”

the Nobel Laureate writes in his poem,
“…to heal the trouble of the world in time.”
What yours poem say. How they record.
Tramping once myself, outsider turned out

and returned, a man from El Salvador
tells me how he was taken out of school,
put on the jury before his countrymen
to serve in the trial of those who murdered

the four Jesuits. After the guilty verdict
is read, they put a hood over his eyes
and send him to a potato farm in North Dakota.
We became friends and I carried greetings

riding in a taxi to his family in San Salvador.
“I grew cold at my childhood hearth,”
Martinson writes, child born in 1904,
in the parish of Jämshög, Sweden,

the only boy in a family of seven children.
Consumate outsider, yet a peer of my family
in time. “…our drift is even deeper
than we first believed.” These voluntary drownings,

life given back again and again.
We can tell a teacher everything
and the teacher will listen,
countering technical reports of  experts.

Blessings and thanks.

Jim Bodeen
17 November—14 December 2015


Trying to remember how to operate a video camera
I come across your two voices greeting Mom
At dusk, a year ago at the Centennial Celebration
For our small town. You had found us. We were in tent
Trailer by the Soo Line tracks not a block from
Grandma Myra’s house, where you two lived
Beside her, and in between Grandma’s house
And Alice and Alvin Hass, directly behind
Lil and Del’s. The gravel road connected us all.
There was a rhubarb patch between your house
And grandma’s. This is my first map of the world.
When I hear your mother’s name, it’s always in Mom’s voice:
Alice Edwards called today, first and last name always,
I talked to Alice Edwards, Alice Edwards came out.
Mom did that, talking to me, to distinguish your Mom
From Alice Hass, and I always heard it in one name.
Your Mom, Alice Edwards, and then you two,
Sharell and Betty, served as a trinity of links holding Mom
In the city out west after leaving Bowbells. This lost tape
From last summer triggers some things I wanted to say.
First of all, thanks. For five decades of knowing Mom,
Being with her, listening, in Seattle. For five decades,
Thanks. That trip to Bowbells scared the Hell out of me.
Taking Mom in a pop-up tent trailer had romantic beginnings.
It was the first time Mom and I had been in Bowbells together
Since I was 12 years old. 50 years. We left when I was 10.
1956, before your family left. Sharell and I started first grade
Together. In the found tape, Mom’s sitting in a camp chair
Saying, “Let’s get going.” I say, “Where to?” And you two drive in
From Kenmare where you have a motel room
Because there are no rooms in Bowbells.
“You don’t even know who I am, do you Jimmy?
Sharrel says, and Mom says, “Let’s get going.”

That moment, saved, and made, the trip.
Saved and made. I’m writing to say thanks. Did I say that?
We didn’t understand changes we saw in Mom that week.
But those three days in Bowbells pulled her back and forward
At the same time. She rose to the present in her memory.
You two brought her forward for Karen and me.
Then, Sharrell, you did one other thing I’m grateful for.
You were the cook mixing everything together.
I think of myself as some kind of desert spice.
A familiar plant, but one not locally grown.
I’d thought about classmates for 50 years,
Written poems recording memories of each one,
Living on the outside of everything at the same time.
One night in Greg Mertes’ back yard with classmates
Took care of things I’ve carried for half a century.
I’d made a home with others, always outside.
Meanwhile, you kept tabs on Mom.

Mom’s been in Yakima since last October.
Returning to Seattle we knew it was past time.
We praised her stubbornness and said, Enough.
It took all of us together to stand up to her.
Assisted living teaches us to replay the story
From beginning to end in repeated looping patterns.
Quality of care, numbers in our family spending time,
None of it could be better. Still, she’s not dressing
For Mariner games at Safeco Field, and her own children
Will never replace what she got from Alice Edwards,
Or, after your Mom was gone, what Mom continued
To get from you. Simple fact. Simple truth.

Mom kept me current on your lives out West.
Alaska sounded big and brave. It was good to hear
You talk of hard wood floors, and how you managed
To connect, and stay connected to Bowbells.
Chairing this reunion from Alaska, bringing classmates
Up the Yukon Highway. You moved on
Without moving away. I, on the other hand, imploded.
I fell into caves only poems would descend to light candles in.
I’d sneak back into town to walk railroad tracks
And peek into corners of the elevator where Dad worked.

I found myself a few years ago in an Australian movie.
An aborigine girl younger than I was when we left.
She walks a rabbit proof fence to return to her mother.
They find her and put her back in the car.
She looks out the rear window
And her mother disappears. I’m in the car, too.
With Mom and Dad. It’s 1956,
And we pull out of Grandma and Charlie’s driveway
Pulling everything we own in a home-made trailer.
I’m waving goodbye to the only safe house
I’d ever known. You were next door at the time.
I never got over it. Never.
We’ve lived in the same house in Yakima
For 35 years. The banker called it a starter house.
Everytime I leave it my stomach churns.
I call it the hermitage, and it’s surrounded
With the thorniest of old roses, a sanctuary.
I’m still that little girl. Or that little boy.
My cowlick disappears in close-cropped cut,
But that’s me. I’ve never been anyone
But Jimmy Bodeen to you.
Sharrell and Betty, your voices enter
This attic room where I remember.
You are classmate and older sister.
You walked in accompaniment with my Mom.
You were the greeters at the door.
All flowers in the desert open for you
This morning, disregarding the burning sun.

Jim Bodeen
11 July 2007
Yakima, Washington


Older cousin,
French Horn player
Alice and Alvin’s daughter

Taught me
More than I knew
The nothing of achievement
And all of being

Oh, I’d never miss
The chance to be
In a parade
With classmates

She says,
In her mid 60s
Remember Jimmy
All those canasta games?

She returned
From the world
And from Atlanta
Lives in Minot, is in Bowbells

I was Cele’s girl.
I loved your Mama so much
And she said
I never let her down

Jim Bodeen
July 16, 2007


            —for A.

Getting up from the table to tell me,
When I go over to the wall of class pictures
In the cafeteria where we’re eating
On the final day of the reunion.
I’ve already taken myself out of the photo
By not sitting with my ex-classmates,
Remaining with Mom and Karen
At the cafeteria table across the room.
I’m neither bitter, nor bleeding.
I just don’t have any talk left.

I ask why not, looking up
At the 17 faces in the photo
I’ve just taken a picture of.
“You know how it is, with teenage cruelty,”
he says. “The day we were going to Minot,
To have our class picture taken, nobody wanted
To ride with her. She got left behind.”

That’s my gift from this classmate.
No small gift, that one.
Lots to say and nothing to say.
Dee Dee Sagness is not there either.
He died before we left.
Why did that class adviser let his picture go in?
Another question.

I thank my new friend for his witness.

Who counts the losses delivers the blessing.

Jim Bodeen
January 3, 2007


Be brave, I tell myself, walking up the steps
To the house where my old classmates wait,
In the town where I left my childhood behind.
Greg Mertes was a friend. His parents had town

status in the farm town, sold farm equipment.
What Greg does now. Greg’s bald, like his Dad,
In his second marriage. He looks like his Dad.
His wife’s talking to me about the Mexican border.

Stay calm, I tell myself. The great reunion poem
In American literature, it must be said, was written
By James Dickey.  Looking for the Buckhead Boys,
Lost from North Fulton High. The boys from my past

Are all here. Parm Narveson, Wayne Olson,
Grant Summers, Larry Swenson. Parm and his brother
Johnny moved to town with his Mom,
Without a father, gravitated to our house,

Made it to the university. Parm has warm memories.
Larry Swenson’s memory is sharp, he’s loud, and tough.
Larry remembers my coon skin cap. Your mother
Said you couldn’t have it, and you ran to your grandma.

Myra was your ace in the hole. In school
When we’d get caught, need somebody to blame,
We’d say, ‘Blame it on Jimmy.’ We never had
Trouble finding believers. Swenson relishes 

This moment, sees me close my eyes.
What happened to your baseball cards?
Did you keep them? “Mom saved them.”
Swenson remembers our joint confusion

At the funeral of Dee Dee Sagness, practicing
In the choir, breaking into laughter. Then sobbing
Through the funeral. We were pall bearers
Carrying the guilt of the whole town, Jimmy.

He knows, I say to myself. Larry understands.
He thinks about things on his tractor. Parm
Remembers my hockey stick, the real puck,
Playing shootout games on Shit Creek ice.

Sandy Fahrenkopf makes me work. 30 years
In the classroom like me. Bismarck. You can see
Experience and compassion in her school
teacher’s eyes. She won’t be fooled.

“It must have been traumatic,” she says.
As close as we get. You’re in my poems, Sandy.
My courage is not as great as my grief.
I know from Sherrill Edwards that Joyce’

Been out west, and all over the world.
She and her husband visited them in Alaska.
Sherrill’s family’s kept in touch with Mom.
She doesn’t expose what she knows of me.

Each person in our class represented one level
Of town status. Bowbells, County Seat of Burke County,
100 years old, national symbol of emptiness.
I leave when I’m warm, the party still getting started.

I get to think about the holes to fill.
They’re too big to see, even when you’re inside.
Parm says, “You memorized every verse,
All 24 of them, to Davy Crockett’s song.”

Jim Bodeen
Bowbells, North DakotaYakima, Washington
July, 2006—October, 2006—January, 2007



Sit here beside me. What did you say your name was?
Good stories. Most were true.
I couldn’t lie.
I couldn’t help it
if the guy ahead of me did.

I’m such a sissy.
One time a man hurt me real bad.
We were working in the Alaska CCC.
That was a good setup.
I didn’t hurt him back.

Alice tells me I’m losing my pants.
That’s ok if it’s good for a laugh.
I tried to be good to your dad.
I’ve seen a lot of the world.
I wouldn’t sell it.
I mean, I wouldn’t sell what I’ve seen.

This person who hurt me.
We were six miles north of Bowbells.
I had a chance to get even.
I turned it down.
Gophers would lift their heads up.
I couldn’t shoot them, either.

Wayne, your dad.
He had the reputation of being able.
Wayne was fine to a point.
1 or 2 too many he ran into trouble.
Did you have any brothers or sisters?
What did you say your name was?

It does something, laughter.
Young men need help.
A friend is better than a foe.
I could chin myself with one hand.

Your Dad bought my grain.
He was always fair.
Long fingers would steal.
What did you say your name was?

What got me going making people laugh?
I’m trying to think.
Del, he was always getting stories.
Let’s sit at the table for awhile.
There are some things you should know.
Did you say you went on the tractor with me?
Did you like it?
There are some things I should know, too.
Then we’ll get along pretty well.

Your dad pulled Coopie out of the lake.
We were swimming in a pond outside Coteau
He couldn’t swim.
How old are you?
What did you say your name was?

Jim Bodeen
July 28, 2006


            Before the Service

During half time at basketball games I shot baskets
in stocking feet before the community in this gym.  
This place was a promise. We had an all-school assembly
with a man selling virtues of canned rattlesnake meat.
I played Frosty the Snowman on this stage in first grade. My cousin

Sharon, three years my senior, played French Horn in the band,
became class valedictorian. Walking through the school before
the service, the library opens to questions. These books on shelves:
31 Letters & 13 Dreams by poet Richard Hugo. Diving into the Wreck,
by Adrienne Rich, beside E. A. Robinson. Small enough, too,

to hold me, take me back. I’ve been gone 51 years.
The school was hooked up to Internet Access in 1999
“…to squirm among this difficult magnificence
where we are most our own,” Hugo writes
in “Camping the Divide.” Bill Jenson, from another

place, too, comes up to me in the library.
Class of ’62, a pilot in Viet Nam in 1968-69.
“Tomorrow this town will be a ghost town,” he says.
I pull a book from the shelf, and ask Mom to sit at the round
table here in the library to help me read Act III of Our Town.

I give Mom the part of Emily, just buried, at her funeral
among the dead. Karen reads Mrs. Gibbs,
Howie Newsome, and Simon Stimson.
I take the part of the Stage Manager.
“Live people don’t understand, do they Mama,” Mom reads.

Most of what Emily says is daily news for me.
The All-Community Choir is practicing before the service,
And I am in my seat, good boy at last.
Wandering between gymnasium, library, and classrooms,
makes it easy to get lost. I’m walking through time, standing

in front of a clean old chalk blackboard—old school—
washed for summer, I search the teacher’s desk for chalk,
writing The Red Wheelbarrow side by side with lines
from some lines about Crazy Horse of mine. I write our names,
William Carlos Williams, Jim Bodeen, adding

American poet under each name. Back in the gym
I watch two middle-age women to whom I gave May Day Baskets
And Valentines. Women whose names I named in poems
As a man, wondering if they had enough love for me.
These two women, along with Karen, all three in this small

town gymnasium, became the three women of my adult life.
I remember a photo of my father in a basketball uniform
in the library. It is his face, not mine. But I’m in the gym,
sitting on a folding chair, listening to the choir.
“It’s so sad,” the woman sitting next to Mom says,

“Someone so young.” Karen read that line minutes ago.
These necessary things my family does for me. All I do is listen.
Then last fall we moved to Park River, about 60 miles…
It was time for us to move off the farm. We wanted
to be closer to the kids. We didn’t want to go to the city.

Mom talks to Elton Peterson, in his 80’s. “I have a son
who helps me in the store, a daughter in Mohall
who won’t talk to me, and a daughter who teaches
in the university who’s too smart for her own good.”
And this: …and her husband passed away,

and her and I are about the same. We can do anything,
but not everything, and not fast. I ask Karen,
What did you think of reading Our Town?
“It sounds like your mother talking.” I ask,
“Are you somebody I’m supposed to know?”

            The Bowbells All Faith Worship Service

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Be our dwelling place this morning. We flourish and wither.
To see as Moses did,” the pastor reads. Even at worship
I’m other, writing in a notebook, homework for no school.
Pastor Todd Erickson, graduate class of 1994,

from Bowbells, living in Kenmare, begins with a joke.
“Living in Kenmare, I’m sorry. I root for Honkers.”
His 4-month old son killed two years ago in an accident.
We praise God, he says. He makes a joke through tears.
“Hey mom, how come you look forward to seeing

old ladies you said you can’t stand?”
His reading is from I Kings. 1-13. Elijah. Glory days.
Altars at Bael. 400 prophets of Bael, building an altar.
“Don’t you wish we could go back to glory days?”
After the fire came a whisper, What are you doing here,

Elijah? Observation. Interpretation. Application.
The valley experience follows the mountain experience.
No fear. And here. Here’s fear. “I nicknamed her Hillary.”
Ooh. I wince. But then this. God came only in the silence.
God is only in nothingness, void. God on his own terms.

Are you listening? Taken away by circumstances.
Forever precious. Glory days with the word.
And until then, celebrate every day.
The Jepson girls from Bowbells say,
“Take a look around. What do you see?”

            After the service

See through it as a picture, or a mirror.
Gordy Everson, from my mom’s side of family.
Ron Swanson. Joyce Ekstrom. Names from dreams.
Doris Haxton Cron. Class of ’50. Married to Clarence.
Doris stayed w/Mom’s family for two years, when the school…

“Joyce, there’s someone I want you to meet,” I say.
“This is my wife, Karen. Karen, this is Joyce Ekstrom.
Joyce and I exchanged Valentine’s.
I left May Day Baskets on her porch.”
I needed to make a gift exchange after 50 years—

To name the beginning myth, lost arrow head.
Valentine in public view. Fire seed.
To show Karen the fidelity inside my poem
and the journey of the story. This controlling truth
Pursues me. I do the best I can. At best, it’s awful,

not. Not.—Mom comes from the other side.
Joyce sees the Everson between Lucille and Bodeen.
Joyce is interested in this name that means nothing to me.
We meet her mom who is 93 years old. Mom tells
a story of her husband. Family stories safer than valentines.

Walking to the Jeep, Mom says, “Joyce is the girl
who Jim liked when he was a boy.”
And I feel that I’m the boy being talked about
In bathrooms. We sit in silence.
Eating with Karen and Mom, I say,

“I don’t think I’m the only one who was interested.”
Joyce was valedictorian of the class of 1963.
The man she married wasn’t from Bowbells.
She married outside the gene pool. Why did Karen choose me?
I don’t think her marriage went unnoticed.” I want Karen

to know however I understood her beauty,
it connects to story. A story in charge of my life, directing me.
Whatever my life is, there was no equivocation.
I went straight from here to you. This is all
there ever was of me, all I ever had to give.

In a notebook, in times like these, I’m beyond failure
or arrival, inside charged conditions. All that can be done,
will be done here, on the page, and it will live.
It will live beyond one’s life if one
has strength and courage to let it happen.

Karen marries into story, too. Unfettered poetry.
Including finalities in goodbye. Unfinished lives.
Ed Cline says, “You’re Jim, Wayne Bodeen’s boy.
I sold grain to him. They’ve got 17 guys
doing it over here now.”  More people from Bowbells,

than living here, now. Coming here you better
come in an RV or have a place. No places to stay here.
Later, on the way home, in a Pizza Hut in Shelby, Montana,
on Highway 2, I write, We lived between railroad tracks
and Canada, train whistles woke me, I dreamed Indian graves.

Jim Bodeen
31 July 2006-19 October 2006
Revised January, 2007
Bowbells, North DakotaYakima, Washington

Featuring Lucille Bodeen, this video recreates Lucille's return to the Bowbells Centennial in 2006, from her own photo album. Part biography, part pilgrimage, Lucille opens the way for her son and daughter-in-law, who accompany her on the journey. Bowbells, North Dakota is situated in the NW corner of the state, and is the county seat of Burke County.

Mom raised me to carry the North Dakota story after we left in 1956. I 10. I became mom's biographer. This video explores the 2006 return with eyes from 2015. Mom's been gone four years. What remains from 2006 surfaces clear, opening the way for the poems which have been locked up for nearly a decade. And Mom is pure gold.


Crossing time, time traveling,
Karen holding the camera on the book
opening to take me by surprise.
No prepping for this exercise,
you take what comes up.
Mom looks so good
and there’s so much trouble inside of me.
Oh, she’s so surrounded by love
she attracts it, it comes to her.

Mom with her hand on Coupie’s knee.
If that doesn’t get you, I don’t know what…
and that morning driving with Mom
out to Papa’s farm. These photos
are just about ten years old now.
Now I’m an old man. I wasn’t then.
I’d forgotten about that morning
in the library with Karen and Mom,
pulling that copy of Our Town
off the shelves, reading Act III together.
I can’t remember who took what part.
Karen had Simon Stimson, and a couple of others.
Simon had died. All that alcohol in him.
Alcohol in the family story, too.
I did walk those railroad tracks again.
Shit Creek, meadowlarks and the bb gun
return me to my roots. That hour
with Alvin Hass when he told that story
of Dad pulling Coupie from the lake,
remembering that for me
when the present moment was gone,
that’s enough right there, isn’t it,
to validate a person’s entire life.
Bowbells, North Dakota.
Tucked up there in the corner of the state.
Oil country. Dry land farming.
Country churches and country schools.
That library with a copy of Richard Hugo’s Letter Poems.
Somebody doing their job with those books.
Gave me the chills. Gives me the chills again this morning.
Mrs. Gibbs not letting Simon Stimson have the last word.
Emily’s voice every day of our lives.
We don’t have time to look at one another.
It all goes so fast. Do any human beings
ever realize life while they live it?
The three of us in that library.
Everybody who’s ever read that play.
Gone through these classrooms.
Mom in that photograph.
She was the Stage Manager all along.

Jim Bodeen
3 December 20150


I remember when Mom and Dad would be out farming
And Alvin and I would have sack lunches and sit under a tree.

That’s one place I’d like to go—Arleen’s.
On a nice day we could
Call over from porch to porch.
Arlene had a big family and lived on a big farm
The opposite way from where Joanie’s live.
I know you’ve heard about Arlene—
I’ve talked about her a lot.
She was my mother’s cousin.

That looks like a harvester.
Oh my gosh, look how fast that thing is going.
Finding a radio station, Karen.
It’s like wanting a job, not finding one.

I’m really excited. Joshua’s
Just a little boy. He’s just darling.
And Katie lets me hold her. It’s just fun.
Vonnie’s at Point No Point on her boat.

[Karen: That’s where my Dad lived.]

If I think about it, I’d remember that.
That’s where Dad and I went fishing.
Vonnie—oh my gosh, I just saw a big fish jump.

Judd Hiltz, he’s a doctor and his dad was a [doctor?]
His brother died last year. His grandson died
In a car accident, and his daughter-in-law died.
He’s sad. [17 … 15 child]
Speedy Bryant, his name was Floyd,
but they called him Speedy.
Joanie and Eddie—Joanie graduated but Eddie didn’t
Go to high school—he was a rich farmer
And didn’t have to go to school.

Mama went to a country school
Then went to college in Minot.
That’s where she met my Dad.
Alvin was a lot like my Dad.

Hank—Vida’s brother—two years younger than I.
He’s gone blind and can hardly hear.

[Karen’s note in car remembering what Mom said on way back
From Seattle with Diane yesterday, before leaving:

I’m anxious to see Judd Hiltze—we were really good friends
In high school. He doesn’t know I’m coming.
He got married and I got married.
The woman he married was Catholic—
Not that there’s anything wrong with Catholics—
He turned Catholic. They had 15 children—
Isn’t that awful. That’s too many kids.

Two girls from Yakima but neither one are going.
Elsie Kuhns. She was a Kuhns, but she married,
I got another. 23 or 24 in my graduating class.
Dave Willard lives in NY.
We used to write but I quit writing
Because he likes the Yankees and we can’t talk baseball.
Lee Peterson’s dead.
Kenny Spears is dead.
Speedy Bryan—dead.
His grandson, 10 or 11 years old, has fixed flower pots
All over town for the reunion.

Vonnie graduated from Shorecrest [in Seattle].
She was a majorette—Dad was so proud.
She always had boyfriends. Never had girlfriends.
Alice Edwards’ daughter Sherrill—she’s coming from Alaska.
We left Bowbells a year before Sherrill left.
We left in April, 1956.
We went to Colorado, Denver
Because of Daddy’s hands.
Can’t [                    ] and can’t stay in cold climate—
That’s when we moved to Seattle,
And got on at Boeing. Then he found that woman
To work on his hands and feet, with Raynod’s Disease.

Dad was in so much pain and never sick.
The only time I was sick and it was only one day—
Was the day the girls were born
And everybody at Penney’s knew before I did.
When the phone call came from Yakima,
They knew the girls were born.
They got a kick out of knowing before I did.
Inie went to school with me
But her parents sent her to Minot
Because she loved LaVerne
And he was so much younger than her,
But they still got married after they
Got out of school.
Hermanson Johnson lived close but she
Went to school in Flaxton.


That’s when Charlie came to dinner and I left
And went downtown and ate dinner for 25 cents.

When you had a Dad who loved you
It’s hard when he’s in the hospital
And your Mom invites another man to dinner.
That was so hard.

[Entering Idaho…]

I’m really looking forward to going to Church
On Sunday. You know that’s really funny.
Where ever Dad and I were, the first thing we did
Was find a church—and I moved to Kent
And never went to Church,
But you don’t have to go to Church
Because God is in my house and I talk to God
All the time. I know there is one girl
That I was in school with since first grade—
Maxine Wallene—Kenney’s sister—
She stayed in Kenmare—her mother died
When she was small but her grandparents lived
Across the street, so we saw them.

Oh, I forgot. Bert and Bee Wilson will be there.
That’s one thing we did—Judd and I—
There was a Senior Skip Day—we went up to
Bert Wilson’s office and asked if we could skip,
He said—No, get back to school.

Here comes the train.

I’ve never been a sight see-er.
I’ve never gone someplace just to see it.
I go places to see people.

Hazel always took me with her.
She went with Gerhardt
So long before they were married,
Her grandpa lived with them,
But he really had a room all by himself
Megan, she always liked that story.

Dad got transferred to Alabama.
I got heartsick—but I loved it.
I’ve loved everywhere I lived—
North Dakota, California, North Dakota,
Washington and Alabama.

I would never to go North Dakota just to sightsee.
If there wasn’t someone at the end of the trail,
I wouldn’t go.

I worked for Penney’s for 17 years
And you had to work for 20 to get anything,
But I do still have some stock. In fact,
I’m going to call them up
one of these days and get it.

Karen Bodeen
July, 2006
Seattle/Yakima/Bowbells, North Dakota/Yakima 

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