Mother: Ingri Syversdatter Klevgaard
Born: 23 February 1829
Died: 18 February 1873
I have always had the keenest interest in the early struggles and hardships of hardworking pioneers. Since Mrs. Inger Komplin (my wife's mother) came to live with us three years ago and having heard so many of her life's stories, I have come to the conclusion that so many of the happenings and events of her life were worth recording. I decided to make the attempt.
She is now eighty-eight years old, clear and keen of mind, reads and crochets without the aid of glasses, but is very hard of hearing. She speaks, and much prefers to speak the Norwegian language, but speaks English very well, also. Her narrations are always in Norwegian, her choice of words, and accuracy of details are so vivid that you actually feel you are living in pioneer days.
The description of the characters are so apt and fitting that you at once know them. But, as to translating the narrative from Norwegian to English, you lose so much of the meaning and hidden interpretations that the story often falls flat. But that, of course, is my trouble. She tells the anecdotes and stories with no thought or intent of hurting or besmirching anyone, relative or neighbor. And, in that spirit I translate and record them in my own words.
Deeply grateful to Grandma Komplin (as I always call her) for these many interesting stories. If I in any way succeed in making this an interesting chronicle, I respectfully dedicate these memoirs to her daughter, Alma, my wife.
1 February 1951
Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
In the narrow valley of Etnedal, Valdres, Norway, there was great commotion in the household of Ole Ranum all during the night. But in the early morning hours of August 7, 1823, Ole reached for his Tolv-kniv or sheath knife that he always carried on his hip, and cut the navel-cord and thus the fourth child of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Ranum was ushered into the world. In those days poverty was the main bill of fare, and doctors and nurses was a main dish amongst the smaller bondes and husmands at that time.
Little is known of the early childhood of this fourth child of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Ranum. He was baptized Arne; his physique was not of the sturdiest, but he possessed a head of jet black hair that set him apart from most of the characteristic blonde Norwegians. This characteristic made his playmates nickname him Svarte Arne or Black Arne. In later years, he was also known as "Ranum's Arne." But the name Black Arne seems to have stuck with him throughout his adventurous life. That Arne knew hardship during his early youth was not to be denied.
During one particular year of his life in Norway, all crops failed. Little or no hay for the cattle to produce milk or cheeses which was their main source of livelihood. Even the fish in the Etna River seemed to be more elusive that year. Roasted barley and ground bark of trees blended together was their coffee substitute. Arne also remembers when as part of their ration they peeled the bark of trees and sucked the sap of maple trees until their mouths were sore, in order to get enough nourishment to keep sjeal og legemed til-sammen.
Arne Olson grew to maturity in Etnedal, with only enough book-learning to be duly confirmed by the pastor in Norway's State Church, the Lutheran Church. It was trying times in Norway those days. Work hours were long and wages were of little consequence. There was no chance to buy a farm of your own. The bonde or landowner never sold or parted with any of his land. If a man had no money, his only chance was to become a husmand or tenant.
Svarte Arne was perplexed and confused at his outlook in life. At heart he was of a serious nature and had ambition. This in spite of his hilarity and outward jovial makeup; particularly when he performed as chief fiddler at wedding dances and other celebrations. His father owned a small farm, and it being small, Arne found time to do outside work. So he hired out as a tommer hugger or carpenter in the valley. It was said of him that when he had finished a log cabin and was about to start to place the rafters in place, he would station himself on the top corner of the framed cabin and turn a complete somersault in the air and land on the corner again. For this stunt or karstykke he earned for himself quite a reputation in the neighborhood.
So it was no wonder that Arne looked with dismay at his own future. He was in love, and to be sure, yes, he was loved in return. They had grown up together as neighbors on adjoining farms. She was Inger Kringle-Moen, a serious kindhearted slip of a girl, altruistic and pensive. She loved this black-haired Arne who at times was given to such devil-may-care ways, and then would become so serious as to be moody and morose. Yes, they had planned to be married at once, but there was that problem of konge-tjenste or serving a year in the King's Army or National Guard. So their marriage was postponed until he had given his year's service to his country.
Black Arne left for camp. Everything went according to schedule in the service for a while. Then, one day the camp was electrified at the news that some one squad or battalion from their camp was to be taken to the slavarie or penitentiary for an execution or a beheading. Confusion and terror reigned at the camp. What squad? Who was to go? What squad? After the squad was chosen, who in that squad would draw the number that would compel him to wield the ax that would sever the head from the body of the condemned prisoner? Arne, in spite of his braggadocio and joviality, shuddered to the very marrow at the thought. Whose squad?
Well, the answer finally came. It was Arne's squad, his squad was the one. At the appointed time, they were marched to the slavarie. Arne's face became sober as he looked at his comrade's smiling faces turning sickly pale, others with flushed faces, yet with the telltale throb, throb of their front artery in their neckline. Arne and three others were ordered to carry the large execution block with its rounded-out top side where the head was to be severed. The blindfolded, condemned man, together with the pastor of the church, was ushered toward the execution block. A deep and painful silence fell over the prison yard. The jailor stepped forward and read the verdict reached at the trial. The condemned man, Arne Kulterstad, was found guilty of murder and condemned to die by beheading. The pastor offered prayer. The captain of the squad was about to draw the number which was to designate the one man who was to wield the execution ax.
Suddenly, there was a bang of the prison door and coming towards the officers was the condemned man's daughter, Dorthea, waving some papers over her head. The papers were a pardon from the King of Norway commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment.
It was a tense and exciting moment for Arne and his squad, and to say the least, it must have been more so for the condemned man. Little did either of these two Arnes know or realize that their paths in this world would again cross in the town of Blue Mounds some twenty-eight or thirty years later.
The year of Konge-tjeneste came to an end, and Arne went back to Etnedal valley. Working on his father's farm and picking up money by working here and there, he earned enough money to buy a marriage license and a household article or two. So it was empty handed, but with willing hearts, that Arne Olson and Ingri Kringle-Moen joined hands and hearts at Bruflat Church in Etnedal in 1849. The progress of establishing a home was slow and cumbersome in the valley at that time. So, in desperation Arne and Ingri became husmand at Klevgaard.
At Klevgaard two children were born to this union: Marit in 1850 and Anne in 1852. But the income and food supply was small. Clothing was all homespun and worst of all, was sparingly acquired or allotted from the Bondegaard. During these years of their labors at Klevgaard, rumors and glowing accounts of America were told and retold by the fireplaces and in the neighborhood homes and at gathering places in the valley. Stories of wonderful level land to be had free or for just fifty cents an acre. Stories of wonderful crops, land all your own, to be done with as you pleased, bought or sold as you pleased, to be your own master, go where you want to, live where you want to, never to be pinned down by birth as a servant or husmand. This America, the land of plenty, the land that brought abundant crops in reward for diligent work, but most of all the land of freedom - freedom and food.
So, it was no wonder they became restless and uneasy, daring to hope in spite of their poverty. Ingri, altruistic and pensive, believing firmly and having faith in Arne's optimistic words and confident that America was the place for them to emigrate.
As with hundreds of other immigrants that left Norway in the [eighteen] forties and fifties for America, the ticket they bought must be and was a one-way ticket. How many times they made up their minds to go and had to give it up for lack of funds is not known. But the eventful day came. Arne and Ingri Olson Klevgaard, their two children -- Marit, age 3; Anne, age 1 -- with all their belongings packed in a chest and their one-way ticket, left for Milwaukee, Wisconsin early in the summer of 1853. That particular chest was made by a carpenter by the name of Beeber. To this day the chest goes by the name of Beeber Kjesta and is today with the family belongings in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.
Sad was the parting, and little did this little family realize the hardships of pioneer days that they were to encounter when they embarked on a sailboat for Milwaukee, Wisconsin that beautiful summer day. Little is known or has been told of the three-months voyage on the sailboat to Milwaukee. But the fact remains that they arrived there and proceeded on foot to Muskego and took possession of an abandoned log house and made it their home until further developments.
Who was the owner and why this log house was abandoned, they did not know nor never found out. Here, however, the family set up housekeeping and kept all their worldly possessions. Arne's and Ingri's cash balance now was just thirty cents. Arne worked in this territory for their food supply and hoped to earn enough to proceed to the Blue Mounds territory, where other Norwegians had already settled.
Early in the year of 1854, Arne found work with a gang digging drainage ditches. This job almost was the death of the whole family. With poor shoes, no boots, Arne dug ditches standing in cold water day in and day out until he finally succumbed to the ague and rheumatism. Trying hard to shake the ague and rheumatism with whatever home remedies that was offered them and becoming more and more alarmed at the shrinking food supply, a more and tragic calamity befell them. One by one the whole family was stricken with kvisa or smallpox.
Tragic were those days, bitter was their sorrow. The breadwinner sick with ague, rheumatism and smallpox; the mother, frail as she was, now sick with smallpox. Between them they were to nurse two little children, feverish and fretful with kvisa or smallpox. Little Anne, a most beautiful child, a spitting image of her mother's features and personality fared the worst. Her tiny fingers always scratching the itching pox in her face. Needless to say, that as the family recovered, little Anne's face was all marked, mutilated and scarred. For this very reason was the fact that she was known as Stygge Anne and was picked on and heckled by her playmates in the Blue Mounds area.
It was at this time that the food supply was at a low ebb; milk for the children, bread, meat, everything, all gone. Seeing a neighbor lady going by, heading for the nearest trading post, Arne begged Ingri to get their only cash left, thirty cents, and ask this lady to get them some food. Ingri, feverishly hot and weak, gets the thirty cents and goes towards her neighbor.
But the neighbor on seeing her come starts to run and gesticulating most emphatically to her yells, "Go away, you have the kvisa! Go away!"
Ingri, almost exhausted, strains every muscle and nerve and yells, "For God's sake, get us some food. Here is thirty cents. I'll lay them on this post and you come and pick them up."
The neighbor replied, "You have had them in your hands, so go away!"
It was no use. The lady ran off. With no doctors available, I presume an attitude of "no contact" was the best thing. It was later learned that three of this neighbor's children died of smallpox some time later.
Arne's and Ingri's and their two children's future seemed dark and dismal, indeed. The afternoon on that particular day of this neighbor's refusal to bring them food, and their own supply was at an end, Arne lay in his makeshift bed staring out through the open door, wondering, thinking and hoping for the best. While in this mood, he spied a large jack-rabbit come hopping along. The rabbit was unmindful of hunger, sickness, or sorrow, but sniffing and nibbling at the shrubs and brush around the house. Sick, feverish, and hardly able to bend a knee from rheumatic ague, he calls to Ingri, "There is food for us if we can get that rabbit!"
Ingri, who had watched Arne's gaze, saw the rabbit and saw it enter a hollow tree which stood in the yard. Ingri says, "How shall we get it without a gun?"
They must have food, so Ingri ties clothes around Arne's knees as tight as possible to ease the pain, while they both crawl towards the hollow tree that the rabbit was taking his own time in examining. On their way over, Arne picks up a stick and gives these orders: "I'll grab the rabbit by the hind legs and pull him out, and you hit him with this stick."
This was their plan of attack. Hot and burning with fever, they slowly made their way to the tree just as the jack-rabbit was backing out. Arne grabbed both legs and pulled while as the head came in view, up and down, up and down went the stick, until there before them lay a dead jack-rabbit.
After a long silence, Arne finally spoke. "Ingri, I don't do enough praying. But, now I must do so."
So, as the two sick immigrants knelt over a dead jack-rabbit, Arne folded his hands and repeated this childhood prayer:
Hav tak o Gud vor skaber mand,
For nearing ud av land og vand.
Til gavn for legem og for skjel,
Gud lad os det bekomme vel. Amen.
Buoyed in spirits and thankful for the broth and meat the rabbit gave them, they slowly made their way back to the log house for rest and strength. Being sick, their appetite was not too keen, but they realized they had to keep up their strength with food and rest.
Slowly and painfully did the recovery proceed. Their hardships and struggles at Muskego lived with them throughout their lives. But by labor and thrift, they managed to save enough to procure a ticket on the railroad train to Madison. (The railroad having been built to Madison in 1854.) From Madison they walked to Blue Mounds and settled on what is now the C. J. Thousand farm. Here they met with acquaintances and friends they had known in Norway.
There had, for the last five or ten years, been a steady stream of Norwegian immigrants into the Blue Mounds, Perry, Primrose and Springdale area. Though at this time, there was still some unclaimed land here, but it was wooded and either stony, hilly, or lay a considerable distance from road or trails and neighbors.
So, it was lucky for Arne and his wife and two children that they were able to buy an eighty-acre tract of land with a makeshift house on it, about three miles south of Blue Mounds from one Andres Paa Lunde. The price per acre was to be one dollar. Payments were to be made whenever and as much as possible each year at a stipulated rate of interest. Rates of interest were high as money was scarce. Whether it was at this transaction or a subsequent one that Arne had borrowed a hundred dollars from O. B. Dahle of Perry, that with the original discount and the rate of interest, that the total interest charges amounted to twenty-five per cent per year. This, Arne Olson Klevgaard resented most emphatically, but there was no other recourse. He lived through this ordeal and finally gained possession of a home for his family.
This eighty-acre farm is part of the now C. J. Thousand farm. The original house on this farm was built in the valley, near the spring, and against the hillside. It was a 12x14 foot house, made of logs on three sides, and the side stuck into the hill was made of stone. The first story was 6'6" high above the dirt floor; then cross logs for a second story, then three more logs high all around where the roof rested on the 14 foot logs. The roof was made of wide boards run to the peak. The roof and gable boards were stripped with narrow battens over the racks to keep out the rain and snow. There was one window upstairs and one window on the ground floor by the only door. A ladder hung on the stone wall and nailed to the three top logs, served as an escalator, elevator and stairway.
This house was the abode of the entire family until September 26, 1862. On this day they moved into a new log house which Arne had built by himself that summer. That date is know to be correct, as less than twelve hours after they had carried all their house goods into it, Grandma Komplin was born there in the early morning hours of September 27, 1862.
In 1854 in the old 12x14 log house, a pair of twins was born: a boy, Ole, and a girl, Oleana. The boy, Ole, died when but a few days old. An interesting thing about the burial of this infant is that at that time there was a serious strife in the church concerning the slavery question, as well as some doctrinal disputes. So, when this infant was buried in the now Old Hauges Church, his remains were placed on top of the casket of Arne Ruste, on the theory that if the remains of Arne Ruste would be moved to the new church cemetery that was being formed in Daleyville, then the remains of this infant would also be moved and both would be within the folds of the church that both families had decided to remain steadfast to.
Three other children were born in this 12x14 four house. Another son, who was also named Ole, born 12 October 1856; Guri, born 1858; and Siri, born 7 May 1860. So, for eight years this was the home of the father, mother, and six children.
At their new home, four more children came to bless their home: Inger, 27 September 1862; Anne (commonly called Vesle Anne, there being two Anne's in this family), born 3 May 1864; Bertha, 20 May 1868; Arne, 24 August 1871. So, to Arne and Ingri Olson Klevgaard, there were eleven children born with but one death. This is a most remarkable case. All ten children lived and prospered to be at least seventy years old each, and that in spite of the fact Arne was sick with asthma and rheumatism for many years. The mother, Ingri, died of tuberculosis on 18 February 1873 when Arne was about a year and a half old.
Arne and Ingri Olson Klevgaard had prospered quite well for those days. Work and more work, and doing things the hard way was their lot. By the time of Grandma Komplin's birth, they had acquired a few chickens, a few sheep, a sow or two, there or four cows, and a team of horses. Cows sold for from $5.00 to $7.00. While chickens, lambs, and pigs were usually acquired in return for labor and then raised on the farm. The wool was all made into clothing for the family. The loom had a permanent place in both the old and new log house, upstairs in the gable end under the roof.
Upstairs was also two homemade beds for the older children. There were no springs in them, but were board bottoms, that is, if they had legs on. The upstairs beds were on the floor, while the family bed was in one corner downstairs and under it was a Dragseng or trundle bed which was pulled out at night for the smaller children to sleep in.
Wooden spoons and wooden bowls comprised their first dishes. Two iron kettles were brought from Norway.
To start with, the plowing was hard. A neighbor with a yoke of oxen did the plowing in exchange for a like amount of other kind of labor. So labor and goods became the medium of exchange in place of the almighty dollar. That, however, was no obstacle for the early pioneers as they were all in the same circumstances. The cash they acquired was received by butchering hogs and bringing the carcasses to Madison for sale, or by hauling a load of wheat there and selling for cash. Moscow Mill, Mt. Vernon, and Elvers Mill were the grist mills that became the trading posts, and where their wheat was ground into flour.
During the Civil War, the news traveled slow and the price of wheat went up or down as either the North or South won the battle. If the North won, the price went up; if the South won, the price went down. A Perry farmer hired his neighbor to help him with a team to bring two loads of wheat to Madison. Before they arrived, news had come that the North had lost a major battle and the price went down so much that the farmer did not get enough for his wheat to pay his neighbor for hauling the one load.
The trip from this area required two and sometimes three days. Social security and unemployment checks were provided every fall for each and every family by the family themselves, by grinding enough wheat into flour and storing away enough potatoes, vegetables, lard and salt pork, and by purchasing enough salt, sugar, and coffee, if at all possible, to last them all winter and until the weather and roads became favorable in the spring or early summer. They relied not on the government or Santa Claus to provide their food and raiment, but upon kind Providence to give them health and strength and a reward for their own labors from the fruits of the land and streams in the neighborhood.
Grandma Komplin recalls many incidents and anecdotes of her early childhood which she believes would startle or depress many of the younger generation. She attended public school only two months in her life. Their only light in the long winter evenings were tallow candles that were made by her mother. No shades or curtains for the two windows in the home. She recalls how overwhelmed with awe she became when her older sisters came home from Chicago with some newspapers that they had used to wrap their clothing in. These newspapers, her sisters had folded and then cut in designs and scallops and hung up in the windows to take the place of our lace curtains of today. She recalls how aristocratic they thought they were becoming when they put the first coat of whitewash on the log house. She remembers the old log cabin or jordkjeldern (dirt cellar) as she called it after it was abandoned as a home and used as a storage room. But most of the incidents in that home were related to her by her father, to whom she seemed to be exceptionally attached to.
Her earliest recollections are from the new home, in which she was born the night they moved therein. This house was also built in the side hill with the first story or basement underground except for one side. In this basement they, for the most part, lived. The second story was logs, chinked with plaster made from lime rocks burnt in kelkedalen or the valley near the now Little Norway. A steep stairway brought you up from the basement to the second story. But into the attic under the roof you had to go outside, and go into it from the hillside.
Up here were her earliest recollections of her sleeping on straw mattresses and having feather ticking and sheep skins for quilts. No springs in the beds, in fact, the mattress was laid on the floor in the corner of the room and boarded on two sides. She recalls how cold it was many a wintry night when she ran through the snow, around the back of the house, into the attic, and shivered for quite a spell between the sheep skins before falling asleep.
There was no stove in the room, but the stove pipe ran through the attic and a little heat came from it. There were, however, cracks in the roof and sides that counteracted the heat that came from the stovepipe. The loom had its place in this room, and usually all the wool, both washed and unwashed, carded and uncarded, was stored here.
By this time, her parents had acquired a small stove with an oven in it. On this, most of the cooking was done. There, however, remained an outside fireplace where water was heated for butchering time and where Prim and soap or Luteseabe was made. The lye for the Luteseabe was made by soaking wood ashes with water and the runoff was lye. The lye was mixed with lard and tallow and cooked into both soft and hard soap. So much of the work done was hand work. being most of the children were girls, they had to help with all the work both inside and outside. The older girls left home to gain employment in the cities just as soon as they were confirmed. At that time, confirmation was the period in one's life when he or she became self supporting. There was no high school for these children. So it became the lot of Grandma Komplin to help with whatever work was the order of the day.
She remembers how her father was scolded and berated by his sister-in-law, Mrs. Ole Ranum, who lived in the neighborhood. It was fencing time in the spring and Svarte Arne was cutting poplar poles for a rail fence and the girls were set to work to carry these poles up a hill to where this fence was to be placed. That day their cousins, the Ole Ranum children, came for a visit. In place of romping off to play, her father thought they also might help carry poles. But the next day, Mrs. Ole Ranum came og leste over han far og brughe hjeften over han or came to reprimand father and use her mouth on him. Mrs. Ole Ranum told him if he wanted to make slaves of his children he could, but he should not try it on her children, etc. etc. To a child's mind, any reprimand or strife between next of kin was something that was remembered and sunk deep into the memory and comes to the surface during old age, in dreams, or sleepless nights.
As it was with the sorrows, so also it was with their joys, especially when something unheard of, or undreamt of, should happen. Grandma Komplin remembers as though it were yesterday when she got her first boughten or "store dress." Her sisters, Oleana and Guri, had come home from work in Madison for a Fourth of July celebration that her brother Ole and one of the Steyer brothers had promoted to be held on the Orsteil farm. Orsteils lived in the vicinity of the now Eddie Steyer farm.
Oleana and Guri had bought some checked pink and white calico and some white rickrack braid in Madison and brought it home for this occasion. And this calico of all things was to be made into dresses for Inger and Vesle Anne. Of all things!! These girls were only seven and nine years old. A new dress? To this day, she can remember with what ecstasy, pride, and glee in that first store dress. So far, all their clothes had been homespun or hand-me-downs made over. And to top it off, they could go along to this Fourth of July celebration, their first in their young lives. The anticipation, the planning, and the prattle of these two little girls with their new store dresses: checked! pink and white! even with braids on them! Never, no never, never since has any dress been so beautiful... nor so much like a fairyland.
The Fourth of July came. It was such a beautiful day. The walk to the meeting place was a long one for these two little girls. What happened during the program or who the speaker was, she remembers not, nor perhaps ever paid any attention to. But she distinctly remembers Knudt Syverud with en stor digre blyg som kapsprang med en hest (a big large wedge that raced with a horse). A man on horseback raced with Knudt T. Syverud, both starting out from a standstill and raced a definite distance. At the word "Go" Knudt got such a head start that the old plow horse could not catch up and he won the race. This race stood out as one of the most important things of the day's program in the minds of the children.
But the evening was a heartbreaker. The older sisters wanted to stay for the evening's bowery dance, but did not trust Inger and Vesle Anne to go home alone. So they decided that they could stay, and then they were to go with the Orsteil girl to her home, a short distance away, and sleep there until they would all walk home in the early morning.
The day had been warm and beautiful. The evening came with its full moon and fair weather. The little girls had enjoyed the day, had seen many, many people, both that they knew and more that they did not know. Their first Fourth of July celebration and their first boughten store dresses. It did not take much coaxing of the older sisters to get Inger and Vesle Anne and the Orsteil girl to consent to go home and sleep. The day had wore on to past nine o'clock and they were weary, tired, and sleepy.
But alack and alas! what an ending to a perfect day! When they arrived at the Orsteil place, they found that the Orsteil girl slept at the foot of her parent's bed. That was little enough room for that ten or eleven-year-old girl, let alone two more. So it was decided they were to sleep on the platform of the new self-rake binder that was housed in the lean-to of the home. The home had only one room and this lean-to.
The girls were instructed to take a rug and a homespun shawl and make themselves a bed on the binder platform and sleep there. Having no lantern or light, they did not know what they were getting into. They had crawled under the rakers or reel of the binder and arranged the rug and had nestled down for a good sleep with their new dresses on.
But before Inger had got to sleep, she felt a little warm spot after something had dropped on her new dress. After a while another, another, and another and some more. The smell was beginning to get bad, but in her weariness she could not associate it with anything. She decided, however, to investigate it when one fell on her ear. With her fingers she reached up to her ear and picked off the warm spot, then all of a sudden recognized what it was and in throwing it away she hit one of the rakers of the reel and in so doing, scared the life out of a flock of chickens that was roosting on the rakers. Then she fully realized that it was the droppings of the chickens that was ruining their new dresses.
She shook Vesle Anne, waking her up and in getting up, they spied a hole in the wall of the lean-to by the light of the full moon. There being a board gone, they got out through it and made their way over to the bowery to their sisters. On coming outside and examining the damages of both their dresses, which they tried to rub off with the dewy grass. But the more they rubbed, the more they rubbed it in, and the more it smelled. Of the many incidents, both good and bad, this one stands out as a heartbreaker compared with the pride and ecstasy felt that one Fourth of July morning.
Another incident that stands out as a highlight in humor, but yet pathetic, is the happening that occurred one time when she was sent on an errand. It was a highlight in a girl's life when she was grown up enough to be trusted with errands. Either borrowing or bringing back something borrowed from a neighbor, or carrying a personal message together with some bit of news or gossip of the neighborhood. Telephones were unheard of.
So it happened one day Inger was sent on an errand to Andres Klevgaard to bring a message to Mrs. Klevgaard or Skaalura as she was nicknamed by the neighbors, but never called that within her hearing. Inger was ten or eleven-years-old at the time and what the message she was to deliver she does not now recall. But when she came to their house, only Andres Klevgaard was there. He didn't know where Skaalura was, but recollected her saying she was going to churn that day, he surmised she must have gone down to the spring house. So, Inger trudged down to the spring house some 40 rods distance.
On coming down to the spring house, Inger saw Skaalura backing out the door with a tall wooden churn, and setting it down outside, picked up the long wood plunger to begin churning. But Inger noticed her stop before putting the plunger in, looked in the churn, stuck her hand into the cream and pulled out a large rat by the tail! Skaalura looked at it, muttered a few words to herself, then complacently wipes all the cream off the rat on the inside of the churn, threw the rat away and calmly began to churn. Inger comes up from behind her and greets her with the errand or message she was to bring her. They had a very nice visit during the next half hour or so while the plunger went up and down converting the cream into butter, minus the rat, but with all the cream.
Another incident that sticks out from her early childhood which shows how saving and careful of all their food supply they were, was a time when she was herding their cows along the public highway. The cattle had roamed that day, a long ways from home. In fact, up to where the Svenskas or Swedes lived. They lived in the valley between the Alvin Avang and the Ardel Kahl farm homes.
So while the four or five cows were grazing in the highway, Inger went in to the Svenskas for a drink of water and from sheer lonesomeness to have someone to talk to. Their log house or cabin was like everybody else's in the community: one room, stove, bed, table, a bench or two, and perhaps a chair. The lady of the house was making some dumplings for the soup that was cooking on the stove. A little baby a year or more was playing on the dirt floor chewing at a crust of bread. The baby had eaten its fill and had thrown the bread on the floor and was standing on it when the mother spied it, picks it up, blows off the dirt, drops it into the batter she was stirring, in a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon and proceeded to make dumplings out of it as a matter of course. No doubt it was thoroughly sterilized by the time the soup was boiled.
One of the interests in those early pioneer days was the mutual interest all had in each other and concerning everyday problems. The family's health, the food supply, the supply of clothing of all families in the neighborhood was a matter of common knowledge. Any surplus in one family was shared with anyone with a shortage in another, either through barter or gifts. So also was family strife and disagreements made a matter of common talk and no one hesitated in taking sides and in no uncertain terms made their ideas of judgments known.
At one time, one of their neighbor's wife, Skaalura, became angry with her husband, Andres Klevgaard, and decided to take a short cut to liberty and desert her husband. She packed what was most needful of her clothing and belongings in a shawl and carried it on her back with a homemade walking stick. She decided to go north to the Black Earth area on foot. She had managed to get away in the morning unnoticed and had reached Ostein Olson Hauge's farm (now Little Norway) by about noon. Stor Ostein happened to be out looking for a lost cow and spied Skaalura resting in the shade of a large oak tree near the road.
Going over to her, he recognized her and during the conversation drew from her the admission that she was deserting her husband and was going on what she said was a "pilgrim's wandering," never more to return to the Blue Mounds area.
After some more questioning, Stor Ostein reached his verdict and pronounced his judgment, grabbed the bundle of clothes, slung it on his back and told her in no uncertain terms she belonged with her husband. He said "this bundle of clothes is going to Klevgaard's right now. I am carrying them there myself and you are going to follow."
With this, he started off to Klevgaard's and without too much hesitation, Skaalura followed a few rods behind all the way to her own home. Stor Ostein placed her bundle by Andres and told him his wife belonged here and here she must stay. They became reconciled and they lived together until death.
One reason for such ready submission was that there was little or no reason for desertion. The other was that neighbors who spoke with such authority and yet not having any, was abided by because of such a sparsely settled community. The language question was also a problem. If Skaalura had reached another settlement, she had to speak either English or German, neither of which she knew. Thus, "Home Sweet Home" seemed best after all, even if in it there were a few gripes.
"Christmas of 1872 was overshadowed with anxiety and grief in the household of Father and Mother," says Grandma Komplin one day when her mind and thoughts wandered back to her childhood days. All the sisters and brothers were at home that winter as the mother, Ingri Syversdatter Klevgaard, was in the last stages of tuberculosis, and it was evident to all that the end was near at hand.
The baby Arne was just a year old last August, was the least aware of the cause of the anxiety and cloud of gloom that overshadowed the family, but the rest of the family -- from Bertha the four-year-old to Marit, the oldest, twenty-two-year old -- had some knowledge, great or small, about the tragedy that was inevitably to come. There was less noise and chattering during that holiday. There was no exchange of Christmas cards or presents in those days, no, not even a newspaper to read as we have now.
Arne, the father, as was customary, read the Christmas text and a portion of the Hus postil Christmas Eve, and some of the family walked to Perry Church on Christmas Day. Christmas morning was also the one time during the year when Father or the head of the house passed around the Juli viske before the household was up. This custom seems to have passed out of existence with the death of the first generation of pioneers.
After the Christmas holidays, the mother's health slipped away very fast and she died about eleven o'clock on February 18, 1873. That is a day that stands out so vividly in Grandma's mind that she needs but close her eyes and relive each and every moment that led up to the death of her mother.
One of the oldest girls had just combed her mother's hair while she sat in a rocking chair. She sat up in a chair most of the time as it seemed easier for her to breathe while in a sitting position. After her hair had been combed she sank back in her chair with a sigh and said, "I Jesu navn," looked up at the girls in the room, and drew a faint smile.
They sensed something was amiss and they sent for their father who was out in the barn. All the family had gathered in the room when the father came, and on hearing him, she turned her head towards him, smiled a little, and within a minute drew her last breath. Not one word did she say after her little prayer, but she seemed to realize that all her family was there and that she was to meet her Maker that day.
There were no undertakers or funeral directors in those days. Each family, together with their friends, "laid out" the lig, made their own coffins, and friends dug the grave. If death occurred during the summer, the lig was taken to the coolest place, preferably a jord kjelder (dirt cellar), if available, so as to keep it presentable for the funeral. It became the duty of the oldest girls to "lay out" their mother.
The process consisted of washing the body, closing the eyes with pennies or coins, and closing the mouth by placing a hymn book or Bible or both under the chin, and then making a black shroud or lig kleade. There was no embalming done.
The parent's bedroom was upstairs and the children all slept in the lean-to downstairs. Their beds consisted of straw ticks laid on the floor. There were no bedsteads. These mattresses had been removed after the death and the lig had been carried down and placed in this lean-to on some boards while the coffin was made and the funeral arrangement were made.
Here she lay with her hair combed out and spread out on the boards with a sheet covering her body. Grandma did not know she was moved to this room and the older girls unconsciously and unintentionally asked her to go into the room for some article they were in need of. She hurriedly obeyed their request and stepped out in the room and received the fright and scare that all but floored her with a fainting spell that overwhelmed and flustered her beyond words. She saw her mother for the first time as a lig, unexpectedly and unprepared for the ordeal. That chilling and frightening sensation remains still as a vivid memory.
There was no hearse and the homemade coffin was taken to church in the family bob sleigh. The Rev. Abraham Jacobson was pastor at Perry at that time. Two little incidents that remain in her memory of the funeral was that the Rev. Jacobson could not, on account of other commitments, be at the home to conduct devotion and lead the Lig feare to the church. So he sent word to Arne that he had delegated Ole A. Ruste to conduct the ceremony at the home.
This Arne resented, because they did not agree at all times with Ole A. Ruste. They chided each other and gave each other snei ord. When Arne heard that Ole was to come to the house, he remarked to those present with him that he did not care to have Ole A. Ruste to staa her a Dyrnda. He, however, came and nothing more was said. (Dyrnda, in a dialect or localism word, meant the moaning or groaning of a sick cow.)
The other incident was the homemade coffin that Ole Farbror (or Ole Ranum, Arne's brother) was the carpenter and could get only rough boards to work with and consequently did not get the planing done as smoothly as Arne would have liked it. Though it was trimmed with lattice or strips on the corners and edges and the full cover extended an inch over the box all around. The outside was unpainted. The inside was lined with sheeting and blue ribbons were strung around the top of the box with bouquets or tassels of blue ribbons tacked on with brass-headed tacks which were unusual at that time.
"The cap was white with blue ribbons, trimmed edge around the face and tied under the chin. Her dress was a black lig kleade," says Grandma. "I got leave to go along to church, but those younger than I had to stay at home," she says. In spite of the effort and time Ole Ranum had put on the coffin-making, Arne complained that, "Aa han Ola-Bror ha vaere saa uvand med arbride sit nu." But, as all days pass and time marches on, so also the dark days of the winter of 72 and 73 passed.