Michael Rustad's Memories
Holiday Greetings to Red River Valley Website
December 9, 1999
Dear Family, Friends and Web Site Visitors:
As we approach the millenium, I thought that I would experimentwith an e-mail holiday card. The Red River Valley web site has become acommunity bulletin board for present and former residents of Kittson County. This has been a year of reestablishing contact with former residents ofKittson County primarily through the virtual community meeting place foundat this web site.
I have received e-mail messages or letters from DorothyBoatz, Mary Boatz, Virginia Ott, Paula Ott Payne, Beth Boatz, Scott Clow,Brad Clow, Ralph Giffen, Doris Giffen, Nancy Diamond, Mark Baldwin, RonBaldwin, Carolyn Loer, Cynthia Baldwin, and many others as the direct resultof this web site. The web site has been a treasure trove of memories aswell as a way for many of us to keep in contact. I woud like to extendmy warmest wishes to the participants in our Internet-based Kittson CountyCommunity. My hope is that we can continue to build a virtual communityin the new millenium.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once stated that the onlyreward that he promised himself was that a few men will say well done. Well done, Dennis! Dennis Matthews, my mother's classmate and former residentof Humboldt, has never really left Kittson County. He is the architectand web master of this website. I feel much the same way that Dennis doesabout Kittson County. We are proud of our origins and the forces that meldedso many citizens now scattered throughout the world. With the death ofthe family farm, it was inevitable that youngsters would venture out intothe world far from N.W. Minnesota. I am now a resident of New England.
For those of you who do not know me, I am a professor of law and Directorof High Technology Law at Suffolk University Law School. My good friendEd Bander and I have been editing the Bi-Monthly Review of Law Books forthe past decade. The Bi-Monthly Review is now the largest and most wellknown law review dedicated to book reviews. Ed and I now have offices inthe same suite. We frequently hold our editorial meetings in the NorthEnd of Boston where Paul Revere once lived. My office is located on thesite of Oliver Wendell Holmes' childhood home. As I look out the windowof our new law school building on Tremont Street across the Boston Common,I see beautiful Christmas tree lights. Across the street, I can see thecemetery where Ben Franklin's family is buried as well as Mother Goose.
At Christmas time, I always think about Christmas in Minnesota. My earliest memory was Christmas in my grandparent's farmhouse. The farmhousewas toasty from the large iron range in the kitchen. Today, it is in the40s in New England. I can remember many Christmas eves that were 20 belowor worse as a child. In the weeks before Christmas, there was an excitementin the air. During the first Saturday of every December, Joe Carriere alwaysopened his theatre for a Christmas movie. I still remember the Christmascandy and the popcorn balls prepared by the Lion's Club. I remember thecries of glee from excited children when Santa Claus appeared on the stageto hand out the treats.
Hallock was always decked out in traditional garlands ofpine and lights. The stores stayed open late in the weeks before Christmas. I remember that the stores stayed open on November 22, 1963 when PresidentKennedy was assassinated. The streets were filled with shoppers right upuntil Christmas.
Humboldt, too, had its Christmas traditions. We frequently had free moviesand
treats in the City Hall. The utility poles were decorated with Christmaslights. The elementary children always had a Christmas concert where wereceived even more candy. In the weeks prior to Christmas, we made Christmasornaments in art. I still have some of my Christmas projects. My Christmastree has glue splotches along with the paper ornaments.
During my elementary years, I was most interested in toyguns. I received a daisy double barrel cork shotgun for Christmas in 1959. I also received a daisy cross-country canteen. You could carry a pintof pop, water or milk inside this 6 inch diameter canteen. My parents boughtme a daisy air rifleman set when I was eleven. The BB gun came with a cleaningkit and a rifle rack. Christmas for our Scandinavian family was a timefor family gatherings. My Grandmother would invariably make fruit soup. I was recently a host to a Swedish delegation and they assured me thatfruit soup could be purchased in Lund even if it was out of season.
My Aunt Dorothy Turner would make a tasty dough substancethat she called "beggar nuts." My grandfather would always buya large selection of nuts and we would enjoy cracking nuts and conversingall December.
My Mother's family was Irish American and also a closefamily. We would divide the Christmas holiday between the Rustad and Carrigansides. The families had very different traditions. The Rustad family traditionswere organic tied to the rural farmstead. In my early years, Grandpa wouldtake us for sleigh rides. The Carrigans, on the other hand, congregatedin Grand Forks. To a farm boy, Grand Forks was as sophisticated as Pariswhen compared to the village of Humboldt. Whether we were in Humboldt orGrand Forks, we would always open our gifts on Christmas Eve and then havespecial surprises in our stockings to open on Christmas morning. If wespent Christmas eve with Grandpa and Grandma Rustad, we would generallyspend Christmas Day with the Carrigan grandparents and our many cousins. I have mentioned that I had primary care of the farm animals from age 7or 8. Each Christmas we had a tradition of giving the livestock specialprovisions and treats. My Grandfather told me that this was a traditionfollowed in Norway and I thought it to be only fair. I have a life-longlove of animals from the respect that was instilled about all creatures--largeand small.
As we approach the last Christmas in this millenium, Ihave many warm memories of prior holidays in the Upper Midwest. For thosewho visitor who have never met me. I grew up in an era decades prior toshopping in online malls or dot.com stores. My childhood was spent inKittson County on a farm near Humboldt. I graduated from high school in1967. My grandfather was A. H. Rustad who immigrated from Oslo Norway inthe first decade of the 1900s.
As noted in our family history, I descend from a Scandinavianfamily known for its work ethic. My Grandfather and Grandmother Rustadraised three children on a single quarter of land. Like Dennis Matthews,I have never really left Humboldt. I am proud of coming from a family thathad a strong work ethic. This was decades before malls, let alone onlinemalls.
I am planning to teach at the University of Lund in SouthernSweden in the summer of 2000. I am hoping to visit the ancestral home ofthe Petersens (my Grandmother Rustad was a Petersen from Denmark) and theThoresens (now the Rustads of Oslo). I would be very interested in correspondingwith any former or present Kittson County Residents who have places of interestor relatives still in Scandinavia. I would very much enjoy reconnectingwith former residents of Kittson County who have roots in Sweden.
This has been a year of reconnecting with family and oldfriends. Last summer my daughter Erica and I visited my childhood homein Minnesota. The occasion was my sister Jamie's eldest daughter's weddingin Wadena. Erica had never visited Kittson County. She immediately feltat home with my brother Tony's sons. It was great to see my nephews Markand Nathan show Erica around Grand Forks. I recently asked Erica aboutwhether she preferred Burlington to Grand Forks and she said that she likedGrand Forks because her cousins were there. I take from that statementthat our visit was a big success. She also enjoyed meeting her other cousins.
Erica and I spent several nights on my sister's ranch nearPembina. I call her farm a ranch because my brother-in-law Jim Moris isreally a rancher by nature. He seems more comfortable on a horse than ina vehicle. He has the look of a cowboy and is President of the North DakotaRodeo that holds a stampede each year in Pembina. Jim competed in rodeoevents in his 20s and rode broncos in the Morris Manitoba and other stampedes.
I frequently refer to Jim in my classes at Suffolk UniversityLaw School. Jim once had the idea to breed buffalo with herefords. Whenhe was a student at the Whapeton School of Science, he became fascinatedwith cattalos and beefalos. Jim raised a beefalo or cattalo from birthwhich is now famous. Alvin the beefalo is used in my law school classesas an example of a hybrid between a wild and tame animal. Under the lawof torts, an owner of a wild animal is strictly liable for harm irrespectiveof the precautions taken to prevent escape. I always circulate a photoof Alvin the beefalo and then asked the students to state the rule aboutbeefalo. Of course, this is an example of a hybrid animal that has qualitiesof a domestic and wild animal. I told Jim that generations of law studentsknow about his ranch and his farm animals.
Alvin has long since been sold because as he grew older,he developed a vicious temper. He gored Jim's brother Frank and the decisionwas made to sell him because of the possible danger to other members ofthe family. Still, the Moris family has a large number of animals. I counted4 dogs, countless cows and a large number of horses. They had at least15 cats as well. Erica, Jim, Janine and a couple of Moris cousins allrode horseback.
This was the first serious horse back riding for Ericaand she enjoyed it. She could not believe the size the mosquitos that attackedher. Even though we slathered lotion on, the mosquitos were relentless. I believe that the mosquito should be the North Dakota state bird.
Erica and I took a number of side trips while we were inthe Upper Midwest. We drove out to our homestead. Our family farm is nowovergrown with thistles. The new owner uses the home as a summer retreatand is rarely in the area. As a result, the lawn and surrounding areaslook rather neglected. The house that we grew up in seems to be structurallysound, but the apple tree is now dead. The lilac bushes seem to be makinga come back. My mother had them chopped to the ground because of her allergies. The lilacs live!
Erica and I surprised my dear neighbors, Alfred and ClaraLoers with a visit. Alfred Loer, son of Jacob Loer, is now in his mid 80s. Alfred still had the same laugh and sense of humor. Clara, his wife, isstill active in the Evangelical Free Church and many other activities. The day we visited Alfred and Clara was a sad day because they had justbeen to the funeral of Dan Goetz, their beloved friend, the previous day.
Alfred and Clara were an important part of the childhoodof all of the Rustad kids since they lived right across the road from us. I enjoyed showing Erica the upstairs of the Loer home where we played hideand seek for hours.
We also took a trip along the back road from Humboldt toSt. Vincent. The road along the Red River is where some of the richestloam soil exists. This is the land that produces wonderful high proteindurum wheat. The land along the river was where Don Giffen and my Dad wouldhunt for arrow heads and other Indian artifacts. Dad and Don competed tofind the best arrow points. My Dad and my sister Jamie did the most arrowheadhunting. However, my Dad would take anyone who wanted to go arrowhead huntingeach Sunday afternoon after church. When we would take a newbie, we wouldhave a ritual of salting the tracks with arrowpoints to be sure that a childwould find at least some artifact that afternnoon. I don't think that anyoneever knew how much my Dad loved Indian history. As I drove past his oldhunting grounds, I thought of how he found stone fish hooks, hammers, axes,and flint weapons on that land.
The summer trip to Kittson County also featured a tripto the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson. If you have never visitedthe Museum, I highly recommend it. I found some year books from the 1930sfrom the St. Vincent school. Lew Gooselaw and Jim Bernath were stars onthe St. Vincent basketball team of the late 1930s. I was fascinated tofind beautiful exhibits that were fashioned as kind of a mini-Smithstonian. I believe that Cindy Adams is one of the best curators in the country fora museum of this kind. She has a good sense for what people will be interestedin. I found a treasure trove in the form of Border Scoops from 1957 tothe closing of the Humboldt school. I also found Scott Matthew's baseballscrapbook. If there was a Baseball Hall of Fame for Kittson County, ScottMatthew would be the "Babe Ruth." He was a great pitcher andcatcher. Scott was a pitcher who kept great records that are today preservedin the Museum. I am a speed reader but could only take in about 1/10 orless of the materials in the museum. It is a fascinating museum. Thereis even a museum exhibit on County Athletics which features a model witha Humboldt-St. Vincent basketball uniform and a cheerleader decked out inher uniform. The museum was a highlight of my visit.
As we enter the new millenium, I have made the commitmentto continue contributing to the Red River Valley web site. I would liketo encourage each of you to contribute newspaper clippings, family anecdotesand family stories to this rich oral history. The Humboldt-St. Vincentschool building was recently leveled to the ground. The Humboldt schoollives on in the pages of the web site. Dennis has painstakingly copied(and retyped) all of the Humboldt-St. Vincent historical essays.
I think that Humboldt has been a casualty of the farmingcrisis that began in the late 1950s with the ill-fated soil bank program. Humboldt, today, is composed largely of abandoned homes. There are a fewresidents who take pride in their homes and maintain beautiful gardens andyards. However, the overwhelming sense of Humboldt is a sense of decay. It reminds me of Jimmy Stewart in a Its a Wonderful Life. When Stewart'scharacter revisits his boyhood town, he sees a town in decadent decay. There is a similar feel to the town today. While it is not decadent, itis gradually falling into a state of benign neglect. In contrast, the Humboldtportrayed at this web site is a virtual community in all of its glory.
I am hoping that in the next year that we can interestpresent and former residents in continuing to build the virtual communitiesof Kittson County in this wonderful web site. I wish all of you a HappyNew Year and a fruitful new millenium.
this wonderful web site. I wish all of you a HappyNew Year and a fruitful new millenium.