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Lillian Crook

A retired librarian, Lillian Crook is an Army child but completed her junior high and high school education while living in North Dakota’s Slope County, where her parents retired to her mother's family farm and ranch. She completed a bachelor's degree in English from Dickinson (N.D.) State University and a master’s of library science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and was an academic librarian at DSU for 26 years. She later worked for Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a museum technician and volunteered for TRNP in many capacities. She is married to Jim Fuglie, is an avid reader, gardener and birder and enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, photography and writing, is the mother of twin daughters and loves yoga. She and Jim run Red Oak House Books and Publishers from their home. Lillian is the founder of Badlands Conservation Alliance, a grass-roots voice for wild places in western North Dakota. Bullion Butte is the center of her universe, and she is happiest when floating the Little Missouri River. Her blog,, consists of random thoughts on wild places and musings on life in Red Oak House of Bismarck. She can also be followed on Twitter @WildDakotaWoman. She takes heart from one of her favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams, who wrote, "If you know wilderness like you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Can She Bake A Cherry Pie?

Jim requested that I bake a cherry pie. We found a jar of Door County Cherry Pie Filling at Seed Savers in Iowa and brought it home. I tucked it away for this special occasion.

While pumpkin pie is traditional Thanksgiving fare, I set my mind to making the cherry pie for the holiday feast. I mixed up my pie crust using a recipe I’ve had for many years and perfected.

While I was shaping it with my Grandma Lillie’s rolling pin, I thought about my very early attempts at making pie crust, as a Slope County teenager. Several were not fit to eat, and I had to throw these out for the chickens. I’m so grateful that I have my namesake’s rolling pin in my kitchen. I consider it to hold magical powers.

The table is set and all of the food is prepared, and now we await our guests’ arrival.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Elkhorn Ranch: A Love Letter

In the last days of 2016, Jim and I sent a handwritten letter to President Barack Obama, a heartfelt plea to him to act in his last days to protect the Elkhorn Ranch. We were inspired to do this after a Christmas winter campout to that area. Here is a two-part series Jim wrote about that campout: Camping at the Elkhorn Part 1 and Camping at the Elkhorn Part 2.

We carefully chose a card from the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation and used a Theodore Roosevelt National Park postage stamp on the envelope. From a lifetime of knowledge of this landscape, we drew by hand the map upon, which we overlaid a vision for the protection of this heartbreakingly beautiful and important place. It is our Love Letter to the Elkhorn Ranch.

We put it in the mail and then braced ourselves for the inauguration of a new president, fearful that conservation would take a backseat to the interests of the captains of industry and finance, profits above all. The sun kept coming up in the east and North Dakota inaugurated a new governor, Doug Burgum. We even attended his inauguration ball and talked to him about Bad Lands wilderness proposals at this festive event.

And as each week passed by, we kept on reading our emails, and going to meetings, and writing letters, and writing blogs, all for the protection of wild places in the Bad Lands of North Dakota.

Occasionally, I wondered whatever happened to that note, and I’ll admit that I hoped that it would find a home in the Obama Presidential Library.

On Monday, as is true on every day but Sunday, our friendly mail carrier, Jamie, dropped a stack of envelopes into our slot. I collected and sorted through those. Lo and behold, here was a letter from Barack Obama, a reply to our card. Here it is, to Jim and Lillian. My sense of hope, for just this moment, is restored.

If this story inspires you just one tiny bit, please consider writing a letter to the current president. You never know what might change the course of history.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Laura Ingalls Wilder Quest

Friends and family know that I’m a fervent fan of the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve written about this before on my blog, including in this book review. There was a time in my life when I read her books over and over, but I eventually moved on to devouring the books about her, of which I have a dozen or more.

Just Monday, a good friend sent me the link to this article, “Little House in the Prairie and the Truth about the American West” in Monday’s New York Times that just goes to show that Wilder’s writings continue to inspire and interest readers.

Over the years, I’ve made a pilgrimage to all of the LIW sites in the United States with the exception of Walnut Grove, Minn., and Malone, N.Y. It is my intention to travel to Walnut Grove next summer with my sisters. Maybe we can even talk my daughter into joining us.

On our recent blue highways trip to Iowa and back, I lobbied Jim to let me stop at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. We had been there once before a few years back, but I did not learn until later that Laura’s daughter Rose’s papers are deposited there. These papers include handwritten documents by Laura, a treasure trove of interesting items. In advance of my visit, I communicated with a member of the staff and he graciously provided me with very helpful links to review to prepare myself for the visit.

We arrived at the Hoover Library early one morning, just as it was opening. Jim went to the museum to see new exhibits and I went into the library. The library was built in 1960, and Rose Wilder Lane wrote a biography of Hoover so her papers were felt to be a natural fit to be deposited here by her executor, Roger Lee McBride.

Spencer Howard checked me in and issued me a Researcher Identification card. As a past librarian and museum archivist, I have a particular affinity for the people who labor away in places such as this, ensuring that our history and literature will be preserved in perpetuity, and Howard couldn’t have been more helpful.

The Little House Heritage Trust owns the copyright for Wilder’s works, and many of her artifacts can be seen at Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Mo. I visited there in 1982 and so wish that I could go again. Maybe someday.

Howard brought me the finding aid and I requested 12 boxes, mindful that I had only the morning for this visit. My photographs in this blog are reproduced as a courtesy of the Hoover Library.

I was so thrilled to sit and look through page after page of her letters to “Manly Dear,” Laura’s husband, Almanzo, letters that illustrate her powers of description, many written to him when she traveled to San Francisco, where their only child, Rose, was living.

Here are a couple of the passages that spoke to me:

  • “Feb. 5, 1937: But I am so having to live over those days with Pa and Ma anyway, so I did.” She refers to correspondence with her relatives who shared remembrances that added rich detail to her books.
  • “March 12, 1937 People drive me wild …”

There is a copy of her father, Charles Ingalls’ homestead document dated May 11, 1886, from Watertown, S.D., for which he paid a $3.86 filing fee. There are the original manuscripts for “Little House in the Big Woods” and “Farmer Boy.” There is the handwritten first page from “By the Shores of Silver Lake” and galley proofs for “Little Town on the Prairie.”

Another document that was of great interest to me was the questionnaire that Almanzon completed for Rose as background for her book “Free Land” as well as the manuscript for “Free Land.” Almanzo’s answers were fascinating!

I’ve always felt that these books have resonated with me all these decades because I am the granddaughter of pioneers. When I was a young girl, my mother sewed a pioneer girl dress and bonnet for me out of green calico, and I still have these cherished items. This year, I loaned these to my granddaughter, Seraphina, and just in the nick of time I shipped these to her as the fit was, her mother reported to me, perfect. She wore the outfit for Halloween.

Backtracking to an earlier day in the trip, our first night was spent in Spring Grove, Minn. (I know, I know, so close to Walnut Grove!) As we reached the city limits, I immediately spotted a sign for The Wilder Museum. I made inquiries at a downtown pizza place, and the girl working there proudly told me she also worked at the museum. I had completely forgotten that Almanzo’s parents had moved to Spring Grove.

We explored the area the next morning, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get into the museum, as it was the off-season. It is housed in the old Methodist Church where the Wilders worshipped. At one point, Almanzo and Laura lived with his parents in Spring Grove. We drove out to the city cemetery and located the family graves, including Almanzo’s brother, Royal.

On we traveled on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, where we saw a couple of Amish buggies, driving along the same road.

Our next destination was tiny Burr Oak, Iowa, just across the Minnesota border. Again, it was the off-season, so everything was locked up tight, nevertheless we enjoyed a walk around the town, and Jim even persuaded me to pose for a silly photograph or two, channeling my inner pioneer girl.

And wait, there’s more! Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Some weeks ago, my dear friend, Ken, loaned me a gem of a book, one he had enjoyed and he knew that I would like it too, entitled “As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Books & Birds,” by Alex Preston and Neil Gower, an exploration of birds in literature.

I started it very soon after that day, but then the library alerted me that a book I’d requested, a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant, was being held for me and Chernow’s more than 1,000-page book diverted me for many weeks.

When Ken brought me his book, I told him that another close friend of mine considers the kingfisher to be her totem bird. This is how birders talk, gentle reader. We are all a wee bit bonkers about birds. The Red Oak House library holds many different books on birds we’ve accumulated over the years.

But back to the book in hand. Each chapter is devoted to one species of bird, and the first page is a remarkable illustration of the bird subject. Although just as I struggle to identify my favorite bird species, it is difficult to decide which chapter I liked the most.

Preston interweaves stories about the bird with various poems and prose. T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and many others make an appearance. The writer lives in England, and he works from his lifelong collection of notes on the topic, citing hundreds of books, leading me, the reader, on a path to even more books I wish to read.

Sunday morning, as I was in my home office, there was a hairy woodpecker and red-breasted nuthatch on the suet feeder.

One of the books Preston writes about is “The Christmas Robin,” a book my children and I have read dozens of times over the years. Soon when I decorate the house for Christmas, I will find this book.

The book ends with a chapter on nightingales, a bird I’ve not seen nor heard. So I looked up the song and listened.  It is particularly beautiful and I hope to hear it someday in the wild.

He writes “I wanted the nightingale to be the last chapter in this book precisely because the bird seems to be live trapped, trembling, between the page and the sky. Poets have broken themselves, and their language, trying to express in words the eternal moment, always dissolving, of the nightingale’s song. There is a nobility in this struggle, to make new a creature that has become a trope, more fable than bird. In our age of great lies and slippery truths, attempting the accurate expression of something as pure, as unpartisan, as a nightingale’s song is a political act.” (page 174)

Serendipitously, this past couple of days the folks of the ND-Birds world (a listserv that shares sightings for those in North Dakota who are interested in birds), have posted notices of the sighting at Lake Tschida, south of Glen Ullin, of an “accidental” (the word for a bird that is not normally in a location) red-throated loon.

I finished this delightful book just as Jim was home from running errands and told him that I’d like to make the road trip, so we did. While I drove, he looked up the loon in the Audubon app on his phone, reading the details to me, including that this bird is almost always seen on the coastline, in the ocean.

Shortly after we arrived, two other birders joined us, and they had with them the bonus of a spotting scope. And we added a new species to my life list on a cold and windy day. A red-throated loon. Hurray! We also watched a bald eagle fishing on the lake.

Below is a photograph of my trusty field guide  where I’ve noted details on each species, the sighting location, and date. I started keeping track in 1982. The red-throated loon brings me to a life total of 419 species.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Willa Cather’s Red Cloud

Although it is now more than 30 years ago, I remember very clearly the day when I was a graduate student at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Michael Rothacker gave his students the assignment of reading a novel of our choosing and writing a report on said novel.

My friend, Pamela Jean, and I went right over to the Main Library on the Vanderbilt campus, where I gravitated to the American literature section. Likely Pamela recommended to me the novel “My Antonia,” by the inimitable Willa Cather. I devoured it, with its sumptuous details of pioneer life — and I aced that assignment. If you’ve not read this book and are interested in learning more about the prairie, I urge you to do so pronto.

Since that time in Nashville, Tenn., I’ve read more of her books as well as her “Selected Letters” and have enjoyed many conversations with friends about Cather, including one just this very afternoon with North Dakota’s Poet Laureate, Larry Woiwode, in the Menards parking lot.

As I’ve described in another blog, Two English majors take a mostly blue highways trip, one of our travel guides is the book “Novel Destinations.” Our recent travels also found us in Red Cloud, Neb., Willa Cather’s childhood home.  Fortuitously, as we were finalizing our plans for our trip to Des Moines, Iowa, the New Yorker magazine published a story by a writer who had visited Red Cloud, entitled “A Walk in Willa Cather’s Prairie.” I put it on Jim’s reading pile and made my plea for adding a day onto our trip to go there ourselves. He was skeptical that we’d be able to find a room for the night given the timing of this article, but I called and booked one, in what is called “Willa Cather’s Second Home,” a lovingly preserved home in an enchanting prairie town.

We arrived on a Sunday night, after dark, and followed the detailed instructions for letting ourselves into the home, beginning our full immersion into Cather’s world. To our great delight, we discovered that we were, in fact, the only guests that night and had the entire house to ourselves! We settled in and made ourselves quite comfortable, and then explored every square inch. It was ever so quiet. Like little kids, we texted photos to our close friends who we knew would most appreciate this news. Jim mixed up Manhattans, and we settled in to read some of the literature that the Willa Cather Foundation, which operates this house, has left here and there for guests. Here is the link with lodging information if you are interested in staying there.

When I was a child growing up in Slope County, we had a bureau like this in the kitchen, next to the round oak table.

This book on a table in the home caught my eye because just the day before as we drove through Nebraska we were talking about the poet and Nebraskan Ted Kooser, who wrote the foreword. I was so excited about being in this place that I couldn’t sleep, but the pages of this book lulled me into a calm and I finally crawled into the comfy bed and drifted off.

The next morning, we ate the breakfast that had been left for us and set off for the Visitor’s Center, which occupies a full block in the downtown, in the historic Opera House. But first, we walked around the exterior of Willa Cather’s Second Home. When she would come home to visit her parents, she would often be seen on the balcony that is just off her second-floor bedroom, scribbling away in her notebook.

There we took in the excellent exhibits and recounted to each other our personal Cather memories, asked questions of the committed staff members and made plans for further explorations. Next we walked around the downtown area. which is chockablock full of interesting old buildings, getting a feel for Cather’s time, followed by a drive around Red Cloud, where many of the historic homes have markers out front describing their significance to Cather’s time.

Below is the house her parents were living in when she was born, where she lived from 1884 to 1890.

This is the train depot, her embarkation point for the wide world east of Red Cloud. It is very well-preserved, and there are exhibits within.

Our final Cather destination was south of Red Cloud, the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, purchased by The Nature Conservancy, with the help of the Woods Charitable Fund, in August 1974, 612 acres of native prairie. The Willa Cather Foundation acquired the area from the Conservancy in 2006. Here one truly gets the sense of what the prairie was like in Cather’s time, complete with a cold, stiff wind the day we visited. With good reason, Visit Nebraska calls this place “a botanical treasure.”

Today I donned my souvenir sweatshirt and realized that this was a sign that it was time for me to write this post. I need only look at it to know there are some of her books I still need to read. Meanwhile, we hope to visit Red Cloud again and meet some friends there who share our love of literature. Do go.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — An Enchanting Exhibit At BAGA

Jim and I took in the most enchanting exhibit at the Bismarck Art Galleries Association this afternoon, one of the treasures of our city. The exhibit is “Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective” by Shane Balkowitsch. I was particularly taken with many of the subject’s Native American names.

Although there were dozens that deeply moved us, my two favorite images are pictured below: “Butterflies Brought Her Home” and “Coyote Sings Alone.” We saw many images of longtime friends.

It is only open through Nov. 22, so do go. Thank you so much to all of the sponsors who made this show possible.

Oh, and while we were there, Jim gathered intel on BAGA’s upcoming cookie walk.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Taliesin, After The Anticipation Of Decades

How do I write about a place I’ve waited four decades to see, with great anticipation? Only to say architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin home, Taliesin (near the town of Spring Green), was worth the wait, and I find myself ttruly inspired anew.

All of my life, I’ve been an admirer of Wright’s work. Long ago when I cataloged Stoxen Library’s copy of the coffee-table book on Fallingwater, the home he designed in Pennsylvania, I pored over the pages, and I’ve since read the book several times. I’ve not been to Fallingwater, but it remains on my list.

When we made plans to travel to Iowa for a wedding, it came to me pretty quickly that a side trip to Taliesin was possible. I did the research on their web page and we agreed to a 4½-hour tour, the full grounds and house tour, the full monty.

To backtrack, about 10 years ago, when in Phoenix for a winter trip, we visited Wright’s western home, Taliesin West, and took the tour. The architect who finished the Guggenheim Museum in New York after Wright’s death was strolling the grounds as we took our tour. We were thrilled and below are the photos I took on that day.

Fast-forward to 2017. In Wisconsin, we arrived at the Taliesin Visitors Center early, allowing us time to browse the gift store prior to boarding the van. The Center sits on the banks of the broad Wisconsin River, and the Taliesin estate is in the adjacent Wyoming Valley, which drains into the Wisconsin.

I indulged myself in a purchase of these coasters, something practical that would also serve as a memento of our visit, inscribed with what FLW called “The Organic Commandment.” The gift store has many lovely FLW inspired items. I spotted two of the many FLW-themed books I’ve read in the past, good reads I would recommend.

Wright was of Welsh ancestry, and Taleisin is the Welsh word for “shining brow” — the house is placed on the “brow” of a hill overlooking the wooded Wyoming Valley.

Our tour began at the building he designed to house his architectural school when he moved back home from Chicago. It is now called the School of Architecture at Taliesin. In the summer, the students and professors are in Wisconsin and in the winter in Arizona. The school was in residence in Arizona when we visited, but our exceptional tour guide went into great detail about what it is like when the students are there as well as telling us how FLW designed the building.

Cherokee Red was his signature color, and he even had his automobiles painted this color. It is evident everywhere at Taliesin.

Taliesin once encompassed 3,000 acres, but it is now 600 acres. It is still a working farm, with a huge organic food operation. Our guide said “he was a pretty good farmer, but his artistry won out.” On the top of one of the hills is a fascinating windmill that he designed as a very young man.

His extended family lived all along the Wyoming Valley. Near the architecture school is the house he designed for his sister, called Tanyderi, which means “under the oaks.”

Below are three photographs of his very unusual barn on the grounds.

As we walked along past the barn and approached his house, a bald eagle soared over us, and we all agreed that was a powerful sign.

Jim snapped this picture of me in front of the home and later told me how happy it made him to watch me on the tour, knowing that I was delighted in every single moment, every single step.

This is the third of the homes that FLW built at Taliesin. The first, built in 1911, burned as did the second. Each time, he built it larger, and there are 37,000 square feet under the same roofline.

The entrance is designed to be “a journey of discovery.”

FLW loved music. Pictured below, in the living room, is seating he designed (next to the grand piano) for a string quartet.

When the original house burned, FLW sifted through the ruins and recovered sculptures, some of which were then incorporated into the new house. One is shown in my photograph below.

FLW called this structure his “bird walk,” and I recognized it from famous photographs taken of him standing on the walk, in his coat and hat.

These two photographs below are of his bedroom. He would arise before dawn and walk over to start working before anyone else in the house was stirring.

He famously said, “Nothing is too big or too small for me to design.”

There is a wealth of wonderful resources about FLW, who lived from 1867-1959.  I highly recommend the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS film “Frank Lloyd Wright.” A few others of my favorite resources include:

“An Illustrated Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright”

“Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Road Trip”

Our last stop before departing the Wyoming valley was the family cemetery. FLW was buried here, but his third wife had his body moved to the grounds of Taliesin West.

Here in Wisconsin, the Unity Chapel was one of FLW’s first commissions, designed when his family called him the “boy architect.”

He truly was “one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, his work heralding a new thinking, using innovation in design and engineering made possible by newly developed technology and materials. His creative ability extended far beyond the border of architecture to graphic design, furniture, art glass, textiles and decorative elements for the home.”

His amazing buildings can be seen all around the U.S., and I look forward to inspirational visits to more FLW places. For now, I will savor my visit to Taliesin every time I put my coffee mug down on my new coaster.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Three-Skillet Supper

It was a three-skillet supper day at Red Oak House on Monday. Walleye fresh from the Missouri River, fried red potatoes from our garden and creamed corn we put up in August.

Just like my Mama Crook did, I cooked up this “mess of fish,” dredging the filets in self-rising cornmeal (mixed with salt and pepper) and frying these in oil. I have so many wonderful memories of delicious meals served at her Mississippi kitchen table, and I know that heaven will be when I can eat one of her light, fluffy biscuits again.

The peppa made me sneeze repeatedly!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Settling In For The Winter

We are settling in here at Red Oak House for the winter, tweaking our list of indoor projects and savoring meals of turkey, pork roast and ham.

Outside my kitchen office window, the chickadees and woodpeckers on busy on the suet feeder. Specifically, ours in North Dakota are black-capped chickadees, parus atricapillus. Parus is Latin for “titmouse” and atricapillus for “black-capped, formed from ater, atris, “black,” and capillus, “hair of the head,” according to my copy of “Words for Birds.” “Titmouse is derived from the Old Icelandic titr, meaning, ‘something small,’ and mouse, a corruption of the Old English mase, ‘small bird.’ Chickadee is imitative of the bird’s call.” (page193)

Outside other windows, the newly fallen snow demonstrates how many rabbits and squirrels we have in our yard.

When we crossed the Missouri River last Sunday morning, a bald eagle flew over, this being the time of year we see more than usual.

I’m particularly anticipating the winter of 2017-18 with glee because it is a year of Winter Olympics, and I warn my husband to not schedule me for anything in February.  I’m sure when my father was in Korean for the Conflict in the 1950s that he never anticipated sitting in his warm living room decades later watching a sports competition being held in that faraway country.

Speaking for myself, I have many happy and vivid memories of past Winter Olympics, especially the one held in Norway. Watching the speed skaters from Wisconsin prevail was very inspiring, their powerful thighs pumping them over the line. Time to bone up on the current crop of athletes!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — My Father, My Hero

The communities of Bowman County, North Dakota, hold a gathering at the Bowman High School every year celebrating Veterans Day. This year, they chose to honor my father, Garland Crook, who is now 93. We traveled there Thursday. Sadly, he was not feeling strong enough to attend. He would have seen many of his buddies there. In fact, one even brought his grandson there from the Black Hills in the hopes that he would get to meet my father.

My husband and I have been to many Veterans Day programs, but I can say without reservation that this was the finest. The walls of the school were decorated with student art focused on veterans. All of the students attended, as do many members of the community, and the young students all listened so respectfully. Students send handwritten invitations to area veterans and serve a delicious turkey dinner after the program to all the honored guests.

My sister and brother-in-law made the drive with us on a cold and sunny day, and we visited with many old friends and neighbors who live in the surrounding area.

My father, pictured above on the right at a Bismarck Veterans Day Observance, held the following offices in veterans’ service organizations:

  • American Legion, Rhame, N.D. Post 188 Commander. 
  • American Legion, North Dakota District 8 Commander.
  • American Legion, North Dakota Western Region Vice Commander.
  • American Legion, North Dakota Department Vice Commander.
  • North Dakota VFW Special Aide-de-Camp.
  • National VFW Deputy Chief of Staff.
  • 40 et 8 Chief de Train, North Dakota .
  • 40 et 8 Grand Chef de Gare, North Dakota.
  • 40 et 8 Cheminot, North Dakota.
  • 40 et 8 Sous Director Membership, National.
  • 40 et 8 Sous Chef de Cheminot de Fer, National.
  • 40 et 8 Aide-de-Camp, National

Below is the text of my speech and here is video shot by my husband (trained by the U.S. Navy as a photographer and videographer, thank you!).

Bowman Public School and all, thank you ever so much. We so enjoyed the day and are very grateful that you honored our family hero at this special community event.

Nov. 9, 2017

Bowman School

First of all, thank you to the community of Bowman and the school for honoring my father today on this occasion, in observance of Veterans Day.  It is my privilege to represent my father and my family and to give you a brief overview of his service to his country.

On the 6th of June, in 1944, the day of the landing of the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, France, one of the pivotal days of World War II, my father was just 19 years old, not much older than many of you in the audience. Not so many months before that, he was a just a boy, growing up in Mississippi. He helped his father in the fields and fished when he could. He learned to sing at the nearby Friendship Church and attended school at French Camp Academy, riding his bike or catching a ride home on weekends. Sometimes his aunt and uncle would pick him up on their way to Kosciusko, the nearest city with a theater, for a rare night at the movies. He knew the day he heard the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor that he would soon answer the call of duty and serve his country and, not long after that, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was so young that his mother had to sign off on his enlistment. He took a train to the East Coast and after boot camp, the ship the Queen Elizabeth (which was converted from luxury liner to troop transport ship), sailing to England. Bear in mind this is when the Atlantic Ocean was crawling with enemy submarines and the ship traveled for four days and night UNESCORTED. In England, he experienced the famous Blitz bombing.

In World War II, a few weeks after the landing in Normandy (yes, he was on the beach on that bloody day), he was wounded, somewhere in the hedgerows of rural France, and after he recovered, he was assigned to drive for Gen. (John H.C.) Lee. His subsequent adventures included Christmas dinner in France with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and attending the funeral of Gen. (George) Patton, in Germany, with Gen. Lee, who was in charge of the arrangements.

After the war ended, he came home, completed high school and attended the University of Kentucky, but he returned to the Army to serve in the Korean Conflict. In the course of these years, this young man from Mississippi was in London, Paris, Berlin and Seoul.

One of his many stories included the time when he and a buddy got off-track when driving a truck somewhere in Korea and realized their predicament when they saw that they were surrounded by Chinese and North Korean soldiers. Somehow they got back to safety, and he came home again. His service in the Army continued through the Vietnam War, and he retired as a sergeant first class after more than 20 years of service. He was a drill sergeant and had various assignments included security services. His military decorations include The Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

I would like to call your attention to a program that aired on Prairie Public TV on Thursday night, a two-hour documentary called “Prairie Memories: the Vietnam War Years,” which is interviews of North Dakotans’ memories from that time. You will learn much about fellow North Dakota veterans if you watch this. The interviews are slowly being added to the Digital Horizons website at

As you will see in the printed program, after my father’s retirement, he was very active in many veterans’ service organizations, holding many offices, continuing to serve his country. One of my vivid memories of my father is how he loved to pore over his copies of Popular Mechanics magazine. A true Army man, he could build and fix most anything, talents that came in very handy when he was ranching in Slope County, north of Rhame, after his military retirement. He also loved to garden and to camp.

Most of all, he loves to fish. He really loves to fish. He has fished all over the United States, and one of his happiest moments was when he received the N.D. Walleye Whopper Award. Needless to say, he got that fish mounted.

I want to also acknowledge today the service of other members of my immediate family: My older brother served in the U.S. Army, my younger brother served a career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a senior chief, and my husband and brother-in-law (here today, please stand) were in the U.S. Navy.  I guess you can see why we children were raised to always say “Yes Sir!” and “No Ma’am.”

To those of you young folks listening to this today, I urge you to talk to the veterans who are in your life and listen to their stories, acknowledge that you understand the sacrifices they made, all the times they missed holidays with their families and the dangers they faced. As you are making plans for your future, consider wearing the uniform of your country.

Without a doubt, my father is a true patriot, and we as a family are very proud of him. Thank you for recognizing his service. I hope you find him as inspiring as we have. He is truly an American hero.