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,
In the fist of a child.
Photo of abandoned North Dakota farmhouse courtesy Shutterstock.