History Lesson Arrives In The Mail

Sitting in front of a computer for much of my work day, I get distracted from time to time by the email alerts that pop up in the lower right-hand corner of my screen. Some I ignore — especially the politically-based emails that complain about Congress or our president — and others are clicked on as a quick and pleasant diversion from my task at hand.

While I love the practicality and ease of email, I still find that nothing beats a good old-fashioned piece of mail. Snail mail is what we call it today.

A few days ago, my publisher showed me the recently received order of note cards with the new Daily Globe logo and asked if I ever sent notes to the people I interview.

Sadly, I looked down at my feet and said, “No.”

I should get in the habit, though. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a watchful eye over the 4-H kids I mentor as they fill out thank-you cards for one reason or another. I guess without a watchful eye over my shoulder, simple notes of appreciation fail to be written.

I bring this up because just the other day, a manila envelope was waiting on my desk when I arrived at work. It came from Tom Nelson, who just happened to grow up on the very farm in Bigelow Township that is the source of many of my Farm Bleat columns. It’s the farm where I go to “get away from it all” in the summer by finding solitude on a hill overlooking Peterson Slough from the back pasture.

Nelson discovered our connection to the land through this very column, and we actually met a year ago when he returned to southwest Minnesota for a visit from his home in California. During that visit, I invited him out to the farm and we reminisced over familiar names painted on the interior of our old garage — familiar names to him because they were his family, and familiar names to me because I’d grown up seeing them scrawled in black paint across the boards.

Included in the manila envelope the other day was a trio of pictures and a letter about oxygenating Lake Ocheda nearly 70 years ago — with a young Tom pictured in the mix of local men. It arrived in response to recent articles I’ve written about the health of the lake.

While the photos were interesting, I was quite pleased to find a photocopy of a big string of northern pike caught on Lake Ocheda included in the mailing. Tom wrote that his dad caught them in a dark house — the largest pike weighed more than 15½ pounds — in the winter of 1934 or 1935.

The fish were impressive, but the background is what brought a smile to my face. It was my farm — our farm — with the cattle pasture and the oil shed (he called it the pump house) looking today just as it had 80 years ago. Wow.

I looked from that photo to a photo I have in a collage at my workspace — of me holding a northern pike I caught last summer. It was the largest pike I’ve ever caught, and in the background was that same oil shed and the barn, which Tom said was built in 1936.

I’m so grateful to have grown up on the Buntjer family farm, which once was the Nelson family farm, and I’ve learned that it isn’t just a love of the land that Tom and I have in common. These recent photos shed light on other commonalities between these families — the joy of fishing and an interest in the health of our Lake Ocheda.

So Tom, I probably won’t get around to sending you a hand-written note of appreciation (even though I know I should), but I know you read my Farm Bleat from time to time. Thanks for photos and the stories — they are much appreciated.

2 Responses

  1. sue g

    Was reading a common story on my smartphone and touched on the header and up pop some pic with common storyline words ( which you know is very small ) I noted a familar pic thinking that person looks familiar to me and sure enough I noticed the name. I had to read the story and I have to say I miss the good reading your writing always produces. …now I understand why they call them a smartphone……it brought me to you

    1. Julie Buntjer

      Thanks for stumbling upon my blog ramblings, Sue. I miss you! Now that you’ve found me, keep in touch … and if you ever plan a trip to Worthington, let me know. 🙂

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