With Mom in the Jeep, Our Last Morning in Bowbells, North Dakota, Driving Out Towards Flaxton, Mom at 82, First Time Back Together, Mom:
There’s Schoff’s Grove where we had picnics.
There’s Papa’s house.
People would pick me up before I got into town.
Not much left, but not torn down. Look at the house in the grain without windows. Eddie said he couldn’t bear to tear it out For a few bushels of wheat.
Alice was born in that house.
There’s the road to my house.
Those trees. That’s where our house was. Those groves of trees—that’s where I made My mud cakes. The house is gone, of course.
If you don’t get turned around you’ll be in Canada.
Grandma—my Grandma Peterson—would feed 25 to 30 people in two shifts every Sunday. Alice would have to clean up.
It’s great to see everybody. It’s great to be here.
It gives me the chills.
I thought I could only have it in memory.
Grandpa Charley’s Thumb
He lost it in an auger hauling coal In those North Dakota winters. A stub, or nubbins, scabbed over With ribbons of skin, never Fully healed. A blind eye. I was lost already. A boy In a blizzard whiteout. Weather was the house I grew up in where My young parents Did all they could To fight the cold. Grandpa Charley’s thumb Would reach for me then, And bring me in by feel. I would take it And hold on, Pure muscle In the fist of a child.
Jim Bodeen’sWhole Houses Shaking, a story of his North Dakota childhood, was published by Empty Bowl Press, and translated into Spanish as Casas enteras temblando and published by the Instituto Cultural in Chihuahua, México. He is the founder of Blue Begonia Press, and keeps a blog, Storypath/Cuentocamino. His family left Bowbells, North Dakota, when he was ten. He was born in 1945.