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At Home in the Woods: Rueben's house


Fri, Mar 28th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

The iron gate wasn't there when we moved to the Big Woods in 1978. The present owners installed it years ago, although it seems like only yesterday that I walked up the gateless driveway past the metal mailbox stand (still standing, but in disrepair) that Leland built; past the shed and the spring from where Rueben and Leland fetched their water; into the yard where sheep were grazing; and past the log house (moved away years ago) attached to the woodframe house where Rueben sat outside watching a huge active wasp nest that hung over the door.

Every day, on my morning walk, when I pass Rueben's farm, I think about the way it once was and the way it has changed over the years. When I began my morning walk on January 25 of this year, little did I know that the most dramatic change had just occurred, a change as permanent as death. I had almost reached the bridge that crosses Simley Creek just beyond the farm when I smelled smoke and looked up to see that Rueben's house was gone!

Rueben was the first Big Woods neighbor I met. He had emerged from the woods, an old man, walking stick in hand, one day in 1972 when we were building our cabin. He had a Norwegian accent, although he had been born in this country. He spoke softly as he talked about God, religion and the history of the Big Woods. We soon became friends and I went to see him whenever we visited our land. I also became friends with his son Leland (known as Pancake), a tall thin man with a scraggly beard, who was very knowledgeable about things he needed to know.

I spent many hours sitting at their kitchen table drinking coffee boiled over a wood stove and talking about Indians, social conditions and the Big Woods. The house had a kitchen and a living room downstairs. I never ventured upstairs, but I think there were two rooms there also. The house was cluttered and never clean, but the lack of cleanliness only seemed like the outside moving in. The one clean thing in the house was a large glass cabinet that contained the Indian artifacts Pancake had collected over the years--arrowheads, utensils and an intact peace pipe.

The lack of cleanliness in the house may have been due to the lack of a woman's presence. I soon learned that Rueben's wife Lydia (pronounced Lija) had wandered off onto our land just before we bought it, and had frozen to death under a big maple tree. Lydia, the story goes, always thought someon .....
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Journal Writing Project: Matt Ruen

Fri, Mar 28th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Iíve been in speech since seventh grade, and I enjoy it tremendously. I have the fortune to have advanced to state last year, and Iíve competed at the Section competition in three separate years. This year is my last. For this article Iíve sketched o ..... 
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Township Roads: Just the thought of it

Fri, Mar 21st, 2003
Posted in Columnists

I have often said that it isnít the sight of my own blood that bothers me as much as it is the thought of the sight of my own blood. I donít know when this aversion to thinking about my blood started and I donít want to dwell on it too much. Even wri ..... 
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The Commute: Telling stories

Fri, Mar 21st, 2003
Posted in Columnists

I canít really say that I developed my love of stories as a child. I donít remember any gifted storytellers in my family, although we did talk a lot.

In fact, the term "telling stories" had a negative connotationĖ"Quit telling s ..... 
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Another one from Flaherty: What happened to the corned beef and cabbage?

Fri, Mar 14th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

It was about that time of the year again and plans had been made. This year things would be different, safe and sane and nothing would go wrong, if Clancy had anything to say about it. There would be no repeat of the Finnegan disaster of the last yea ..... 
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Prairie Notes: For the love of books

Fri, Mar 14th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

I do not remember a time I didnít know how to read. Being the fifth of six children gave me four older siblings and my parents to read aloud to me, but memories of their voices saying the words faded long ago. My earliest memories of reading stem fro ..... 
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Journal Writing Project: Eric M. Leitzen

Fri, Mar 14th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Here we are. St. Patrick's Day. The time for the wearing of the green. Time for everyone to feel just a little bit Irish. Bust out the corned beef and cabbage, Mom, and top off the tankard. I love the Irish. I love them to pieces, everything about th ..... 
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