Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

   May 5, 2003

They never met these people . . .

Dear Readers,

My quote from Will Rogers last week that neither he nor my brother John had ever met a man they didn't like got these reactions:

"Will Rogers and your brother never met . . .

­ Barry Switzer!

­ George Steinbrenner!

­ Bobby Knight!

­ Carl Pohlad!

­ "Red" McComb!

­ my ex-husband!

­ my ex-wife!

­ my mother-in-law!

­ any Republicans!

­ any Democrats!"

. . . and the list went on and on. There is no end to bumper sticker possibilities.

Will Rogers also famously said "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

It's spring

"Be a gardener. Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat.

"And turn the earth upside down. And seek the deepness. And water plants in time.

"Continue this labor. And make sweet floods to run, and noble and abundant fruits to spring.

"Take this food and drink, and carry it to God as your true worship."

­ Blessed Julian of Norwich, Mystic (1342-1416)

Her most famous and most often quoted words were, "All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

­ As heard in the ringing of her monastery church bells. Her feast day is May 13.

A child's garden

If you want to introduce a child to gardening, there are lots of projects you can work on even in a city.

Let the child plant a potato in a pot, keep it watered, and then watch green stems and leaves come up. When you dig up the plant after it has flowered and find that it has made a potful of baby potatoes, which you can then eat, is an unforgettable thrill.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden already, you can set aside a little bit of the plot for a child and plant carrots, beans, radishes, lettuce, and lots of other good stuff. And remember the string to keep the row straight.

Growing up in Minn.

Robert Bly was born Dec. 23, 1926, in Madison, Minn. He grew up to become a world famous writer after attending St. Olaf College and Harvard University.

His book of poetry, "The Light Around the Body," won the national book award in 1967.

His account of his childhood on a Minnesota farm is something to which most Minnesotans can relate.

"The Hired Man," a selection from Robert Bly on growing up in Minnesota:

"A joy in growing up on a Minnesota farm is knowing there is a place for men who could do only physical work.

"These men, often bachelors, never really knew they were 'dumb,' because the farm culture at the time needed them.

"Their mother might mention that the boy was 'not cut out for school,' but everybody knew that the real core of a boy was whether when sent out to the black fields he would go on working through the darkening light, whether he would get up in the middle of the night to check his ewes (for lambs born in midwinter can only live a few hours if they are not dried out with a towel and taught to suck), or whether he could put harnesses on in the halfdark, still keeping the horse calm by not being irritable.

"These boys, when they grew to be men, were usually patient with children, patient with cow dung and poorly lit barns, patient with slow horses and lodged barley.

"They hired out and lived 40 or sometimes 50 years with the same family, at the start upstairs in a bare unheated room . . . They knew they were needed.

"I'll tell you a story about my father and one of these hired men. He ran a threshing rig, and every year he would hire one or two of these men.

"One of these men had come from a small town in Missouri. He turned out to be a good worker. I will call him "Bud Morris."

"He stayed with us during the week. On Saturday night, the teams put away, he would go to town and be gone Saturday night and Sunday night. But early Monday morning he would always be back and ready for work.

"One Monday morning, he didn't show up. My father was puzzled, and at about 9 a.m. he put someone else in charge of the rig and drove to town to see if he could find Bud.

"Asking around here and there, he heard that Bud had been picked up by the sheriff Saturday night.

"Apparently he made a date with a waitress at a cafe, who had agreed to let him walk her home, where she lived with her parents. A few words were exchanged, probably a series of misunderstood signals between a southern man and a northern woman.

"He slapped her face. She went inside furious and complaining. Her parents called the sheriff.

"The man was from out of state. The sheriff and the judge had a secret court session the next morning, Sunday morning, having refused all along to let Bud call my father on the telephone, and sentenced him to 20 years at Stillwater prison.

"By Sunday noon, he was on his way to Stillwater. By Sunday night, the sheriff was back in town. It was said he always tried to show proof of vigilance shortly before an election.

"My father, once he got the story from the reluctant sheriff, was enraged. He shut down the threshing rig, and with his best friend, Alvin Hofstad, got in the car and drove to St. Paul to see the attorney general of Minnesota.

"The attorney general agreed that the facts gave off a bad odor. He went with my father and Alvin Hofstad to Stillwater, where they talked to Bud and verified the story. He then had Bud taken out of prison and returned to the county jail in Madison to await trial.

"He stayed in the county jail a month or more, and we, as boys would go up to talk with him through the window. My father hired a lawyer and paid for Bud's wife and infant son to come up from Missouri for the trial.

"They stayed with us and she testified at the trial; I remember her holding the baby on the stand. The jury convicted Bud of simple assault, and the judge ruled that the time already spent in jail more than served out the appropriate sentence. He was released and the family returned to Missouri.

"My father never spoke to the sheriff again for the rest of the sheriff's life. Bud didn't come north again either.

"The spring following the trial, Bud and his wife invited my father and mother down to Missouri for a visit. They drove down, and it turned out that everyone in that small Missouri town knew the story.

"When my father went for a haircut, the barber would not let him pay, and whenever he and mother went into a restaurant, the owner would not accept their money.

"I learned so much from that one story! We don't need to read books on ethics or to see documentaries on television; one moral example will do for a lifetime."

­ Robert Bly

In the light of Robert Bly's story, I recommend to readers Robert Frost's poem, "Death of the Hired Man."

Robert Frost lived from 1873-1963, and is perhaps best remembered for reading a poem he wrote for the occasion at John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

He was also the American poet laureate. One of his famous lines from his poem "Mending Wall" was "Good fences make good neighbors."

A poem easy to memorize and a joy to read to children is "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," beginning with the line "Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though" and ends with "But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."

He and Norman Rockwell, both New Englanders, are two people who can make one proud to be an American because they both showed all of us what America looks like when it is at its best, one by his paintings and the other by his poems.


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