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Every year entrants in the annual Park Rapids Enterprise Christmas story contest share their gift of writing. Some inspire, others make us laugh. Grab a cup of cocoa, find a comfortable chair and enjoy this mix of creative fiction, personal essay and memoir.

Memories on a Christmas bird’s wings By Sue Bruns Bemidji

My sister will be getting a bird ornament for Christmas this year. She won’t be surprised when she opens the box; I’ve given her bird ornaments for the past several years. It’s not so much the gift as the memories it awakens. Mom loved birds. She loved to watch the birds, feed the birds, collect little bird figurines. Over the years, she kept a few parakeets, but mostly she loved the wild birds, especially cardinals, robins, and hummingbirds. Dad sometimes bought her little porcelain birds that she kept on the

window ledge above the kitchen sink. Every December, Mom brought down boxes of Christmas ornaments from the attic and carefully unwrapped several bird ornaments. I don’t know where they came from. They seemed very old to me. They were fragile and ornate and all of them had real feathers for tails. Their feet were clips to hold them to the tree branches. The bird ornaments were my favorites, and when I was old enough to place them on the tree, I was very careful – never hanging them too close to the edge of a branch where they might slide off and shatter or too low on the tree, where a dog’s tail might brush them off. After I moved away, Mom reclaimed the bird

‘Tis the season By Steve Maanum Park Rapids

Do you remember a magical childhood Christmas? What made it so special? When I was in first grade, our teacher asked us to draw a picture of a gift we wanted for Christmas. I did my best to draw a pair of cowboy boots that I had seen in the Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog. They were black with orange, yellow, and blue tear drop shapes on the sides. I already had my cowboy hat, vest, chaps, and six-shooter. All I needed was a pair of cowboy boots to complete my Roy Rogers transformation. We handed in our drawings and our teacher put them in an envelope that was addressed to Santa Claus at the North Pole. If I ever had any doubts as to how Santa could travel the

world and visit every home in a single night, they were erased when, on Christmas morning, I opened a box containing the exact cowboy boots I had drawn in class weeks before. At that moment, I was a true believer in the ‘magic of the season.’ During that Christmas vacation, I was introduced to another holiday custom. Between Christmas and New Years, we attended a family gathering at Millie and Claremont’s farm. Shortly after supper, we were startled by the loud banging on windows and doors. My sister and I ran to mom and dad for protection while they just laughed. They informed us that everything was fine. It was just Christmas Fools, a Norwegian custom called


ornament job. I was a new mother when Mom got cancer. She and Dad lived alone in the big house where my brother, my sister and I had grown up. Dad took care of her, tending her like a small, injured bird. He learned the household chores she’d always done and made sure she was as comfortable as possible. When the cancer finally took her, he was exhausted, lost and empty. We three kids and our families floundered through the first year of holidays like baby birds fallen from a nest. We weren’t sure where to go, how to keep traditions and family together while our new, little families grew and took us on different seasonal migrations. We always included Dad

in our holidays, but he seemed incomplete without Mom. The first Christmas after she died, Dad brought down the ornaments from the attic and unwrapped them carefully. His job had always been to put the tree securely in the stand and string the lights. He had never taken part in the hanging of ornaments, since that task was left to Mom and us kids. I wasn’t there when he opened the box of bird ornaments, but I imagine the ache of love and loneliness he must have felt after 45

WINGS Page C10

Best Christmas ever...but not for Charles By Viola Shepard Park Rapids

Editor’s Note: Viola dictated this story to Ken Shepard. It’s a true story. It was 1927. Papa was a coal miner in a small town in southern Illinois. There were 10 in our family, and money was scarce. Momma worked hard in the garden and the kitchen, and we had enough to eat, but there was nothing left over for extras. A typical birthday for me was getting three gifts: a handmade dress, a paper doll, and strawberry

shortcake for dessert. We went to church every week, and on Christmas Day in 1927, we had the Christmas program after Sunday School. I almost certainly had a piece to recite, but I don’t remember reciting it. I also don’t remember whether or not Sister Bach was at church that morning, but she wasn’t. When we got home, the double doors to the living room were slightly open, and we saw that the living room was full of Christmas presents! Sister Bach had brought them while we were at

church, and Papa had helped her fill the room with them. I ran to the crack between the double sliding doors and saw nothing but a blur of color and a big tricycle. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I ran back to my only brother Charles, who was two years older than I was, and said, “You got a tricycle, Charles!” I was really excited for him, and he went straight to the tricycle when the doors were opened. As the only boy, he was sure the tricycle was for him, but when he got to it he found a tag that said, “To

Viola.” He couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe it! He kept saying that it had to be his tricycle, but there was my name in big letters. Girls in our family didn’t even get meat at meals. That was reserved for Papa and Charles. But someone cared enough about me to buy me a big tricycle. My sevenyear-old brain could hardly comprehend that. I had that tricycle many years and put a lot of miles on it. But it was Charles who wore it out, as he rode it



Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

As we gather in warm, festive homes to celebrate this special time of year, we would like to thank all of the men and women who are serving our country in the Armed Forces this holiday season away from home. It is with deep respect and admiration that we honor and thank you for your valor and service to our country. We appreciate the great sacrifices you choose to make for our freedom. We would like to wish you and your families the very best during this holiday season and all throughout the year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


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Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016


A Christmas adventure

By Doug Lewandowski Bemidji

Clump, clump, clump. On the deck out back, a door slam and two thuds. Jim was done stacking wood. “You sure did that in record time!” Karen called from the kitchen. Two more thuds as Jim’s Sorels hit the floor. ”Yeah, I wanted to finish stacking the last of the pile Petie dropped off last week. It’s sure nice not to have to cut and split, although I’m not so sure about stacking anymore.” He sighed and leaned against the wall. “These old bones do protest . . . Say, what smells so good?” “Chex mix.” “I thought I smelled that Worcestershire sauce. I better get busy and work on the fudge and peanut brittle.” “You’re not gonna get very far with that without going to town.” He rounded the corner from the mud room. “Why’s that?” he asked. “We don’t have the stuff for it.” “Aw, nuts. Should have thought about that yesterday when I went to Fleet. Could have saved myself another trip.” He turned to put his boots and coat back on. “Before you go, could you get the Christmas decorations from under the house, dear?” There’s that word he thought – dear – how can he refuse, even if he was given to bouts of curmudgeonhood,

something he had cultivated for years? “Of course. I’ll do it before I drive to town.” Domestic politics is full of compromises, the gate to conjugal tranquility. Fortunately, their home was relatively new. The crawl space under the living room and the kitchen above had a cement floor, not the usual spider-filled cavern of old. But it still had challenges. Before venturing into the shadowy grotto, Jim donned an old bike helmet that hung on a nail just inside the low

door. Too many the times his head had bonked the floor joists and cross beams. Karen usually didn’t object to his language at these times, unless he continued the rant and sunk into grouchy mutterings. The boxes containing the Christmas decorations were way back in the corner next to the pressure tank for the well. Years ago, he learned that putting all the seasonal decorations – from paper mache Halloween pumpkins to delicate Easter baskets – on wooden pallets kept them from the occasional intrusion

of snow melt in the spring. As he made his way across the concrete floor on carpenter’s knee pads, pushing a small pallet on wheels, he mentally calculated the number of trips and hoped to minimize them, along with the grumbling. He shuttled the cartons dripping with lights, tinsel and an assortment of ornaments across the floor without incident or concussion. When he was done, he flipped off the light switch just inside the door after he hung the bike helmet back up on the hook, returning

Herding Christmas turkeys We have all heard of the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields by night. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them “And the angels came and proclaimed to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8 ff. I have never been a shepherd, although I do know a man who keeps sheep in Wadena County. I have been a turkey herder, and I suspect the life of a turkey herder is much like that of a shepherd. I did it in the late 1960s. You go out at night to herd turkeys. There are large turkey flocks on farms in Hubbard and Wadena counties. To herd turkeys is not a high-tech enterprise, and much of it is not mechanized. At least, not when I was doing it. Several of us young men went out at night to turkey farms. We walked, or herded, the turkeys from their pens to waiting trucks. Men then scooped up the birds and stuffed them in cages on the trucks.

The trucks took the birds to processing plants. From there, the birds were shipped to stores, and they ultimately

wound up on the tables of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Dark nights. Frosty air.

“How you doing down there?” Karen called from above. “Fine, just fine,” he said. He sat on the bottom basement step for a few minutes, regained his bearings and noted that this was the thirtieth time he’d done this. When the kids lived at home, they used to pitch in, especially when they were young. They were always ready to scramble under the floor joists and retrieve decorations with head-over-


Wheeling stars. Angels? Yes, overhead at night. Angels were surely looking on. We turkey herders were not a well-groomed crew. You needed to be a little tough to be a turkey herder. You needed to be willing to go out at night. You needed to get dirty. Feathers, dust and dung were inescapable features of turkey herding. Why did we do it? Poverty. It was a reliable, honest way to make some money, at a time when money was needed – during the holiday season. No great credentials were required. It was strictly a common-man operation. Once in a while, a bird sustained a heart attack, either naturally or induced by a herder. Those birds did not make it to a processing plant. They were processed instead at the home of a herder and consumed at his table. There you have it. Stars. Livestock. Chilly nights. Shepherds watching over flocks. Angels. Some of us turkey herders wound up worshipping at the manger cradle of the Christ Child in the stable. I did. Gloria in excelsis deo!

By Colin Murphy Albuquerque, New Mexico (formerly of Sebeka and Wadena)

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heels excitement. The only direction he had to give them was not to jump up and down so they wouldn’t whack their skulls. Over the years, as they left, the task fell to him. After the boxes made it to the living room, the kids pawed through them, digging out ornaments made in kindergarten with their faces plastered on them. Somehow these works of priceless art survived from year to year. The more fragile tree trimmings often didn’t fare so well. There were at least three or more casualties every year. One year the new, grey “kitty” launched its compact body halfway up a freshly decorated spruce – a crash v definitely more than three ornament deaths that year! Before hanging their little pasted visages, the colorful bulbs were strung. Somehow, the post-World War II bubble lights still functioned. God knows what harmful, politically incorrect chemicals resided in the percolating glass tubes. Jim stood, stretched his back and said, “The decorations are all out down here. I’ll bring up the ones you want when I get back.” “Take your time, sweetie. We have a whole other week before the hordes descend.” He slipped on his old Carhartt jacket, opened the basement door and headed to town. There was fudge to make.

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Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

Too many blankets By Kim Villalva Centerville, Minn.

John dug through his cart. “I could have sworn I put tape in here…” “Why does that lady have so many blankets?” Jasmyn pointed at the pile of fleece sliding along on the conveyor belt. Beep. Beep. There seemed to be no end to the blankets the lady ahead of them was pulling out of her cart. John shrugged at his daughter. “Dunno. Maybe she’s cold.” “That’s too many blankets for one person.” Jasmyn edged closer. “Jasmyn!” John started to sweat in his coat and hissed into her ear, “It’s none of our business what that lady buys.” “It’s okay.” The blanket lady was smiling at him. “I’m sorry. She asks way too many questions.” Jasmyn was relentless. “Why do you need so many blankets?” “These are gifts. People who don’t always have a warm place to sleep at night will each have their very own blanket for Christmas.” Blanket Lady ran her debit card through the reader. “That’s a ton of money!” Jasmyn leaned in to watch the transaction. “Daddy, she spent $200 on blankets for Christmas presents!” John’s temperature went up another thousand degrees. “I’m so sorry. Apparently, she doesn’t think much before

she speaks either.” He scowled at Jasmyn. Blanket Lady smiled warmly at him. Putting the last bag into her cart she gave a final smile to Jasmyn, “If you have blankets to donate, bring them tomorrow to the community center. A lot of people could have a warm Christmas because of you.” The whole drive home, Jasmyn analyzed the blanket episode. “Blankets for Christmas presents don’t sound fun at all!” And even questions upon questions as he tucked her in

to bed. “Why aren’t there enough blankets for everyone? How cold does it get at night?” Early the next morning, John heard rustling coming from his wife’s sewing room. He stumbled out and was greeted by his daughter. “Morning, Daddy! Come see what I did!” “What? Why are you up so…” John froze. There piled on the couch were blankets of every style. Quilts. Afghans. Fleece tie blankets. Blankets that had been made by his wife, Anna.

“Absolutely not!” John bellowed. “Put those all back in your mother’s room!” “But, Daddy! The lady said people need these blankets! Mama died. She doesn’t need them anymore.” John plopped into the middle of his beloved wife’s years of hard work. Memories surrounded him and almost smothered him. There was the “manly” afghan she had given him months before she died. She insisted it was manly enough for him to take on his camping trip because it was orange and brown. He never




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had the heart to tell her that he had kept the hideous thing buried in the bottom of his trunk all weekend. John sobbed into a purple afghan and struggled to smell anything that would remind him of her. “Daddy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take Mama’s blankets without asking. I just wanted the people to have something to cuddle with when they are cold and scared.” “That’s alright, sweetheart. Go get some breakfast, okay?” John pulled the purple afghan from the pile and let

his tears fall, releasing a year’s worth of grief into its zig zag patterns. After he’d cried over every memory lovingly sewn into each blanket, he called Jasmyn to help him. A short while later, they were greeted at the community center door by Blanket Lady. “Looks like you’ve found some blankets to warm up my friends!” “These are my Mama’s. She doesn’t need them though because she died. She’d be happy knowing people can warm up under her pretty blankets!” “These seem to be very special to you. Are you sure you want to part with them?” John sighed. “My daughter’s right. Anna would have a thing or two to say to me if she knew I’d let all of her work and love just collect dust in a dark room for the past year.” After he and Jasmyn unloaded their precious cargo and returned home, John snuggled with his daughter on the couch. He pulled a dizzying afghan of mismatched oranges and browns over them and smiled. Maybe his wife had missed the mark on knowing how to make a “manly” blanket, but she had made sure their daughter knew that love didn’t want to be stored up in a dark room, it needed to see the light. Love needs to blanket someone else for its warmth to truly be felt.

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Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

Christmas with my jailhouse family By Pat DeKok Spilseth Wayzata

Back in the 1950s, winter’s first snowfall always brought several of my family’s favorite guests back to jail. Just like returning snowflakes, we knew we could count on Blackie and Verdi, sometimes Paul, returning to the warm comforts of their jail cells and Mom’s warm, home-cooked meals. Gray days of slush and snow seemed to bring more folks to the bars downtown, where they spent the day drinking beer on the swiveling bar stools and playing pool. Colorful, lighted beer ads were mounted above the bar featuring playful bears grinning and cavorting on turning logs. Tunes swirled in the heads of the drinking patrons as they put another nickel in the Nickelodeon. Over and over the box of records played tunes of comfort or longing for love. Swirling a drink, they’d recapture pleasurable memories and commiserated with others about being out of work or being jilted by a lover. That was a good enough reason to call for another drink; they slapped more cash on the bar. Eventually the cops would be called to pick up the men who had drunk themselves into a stupor or become belligerent. Some slept, heads resting on the bar. The local law enforcement would be called to put cuffs on the drunk and escort him to the county jail. The offender would have to appear before either Judge Selnes or Judge Dietz in the formidable county courtroom the next day. A three-month sentence for “drunk and disorderly” conduct was issued, and the men became residents in Dad’s jail. They became guests around our family’s Christmas tree on Christmas Eve when Dad read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. These men were terrific entertainers. They were far from bland; many weren’t Norwegian. They mesmerized my sister, Barbie, and me with colorful stories bragging about girlfriends and performing tricks in the circus. Paul had been an Arthur Murray dance teacher in the Cities; he redecorated Mom’s jail kitchen one winter and danced with me around the kitchen table. The only other contact we had with people like the jailed guys was when my folks took Barb and me to a most unusual place on our annual trip to the Cities.

Sure, we saw the holiday displays in Dayton’s windows and a magical Nicollet Avenue alight with strings of Christmas lights. But that happened only after we had visited the dark, seedy missions on Skid Row. That’s where we met the “down and out” people who hung out at the mission for warmth and a free meal. Dad thought “we didn’t realize how fortunate we are,” so our parents had us pick out one present at the Salvation Army store. I chose a record album; Barbie picked a one-eyed doll. Our family’s Skid Row visit remains the most memorable Christmas of my life. Jail wasn’t a bad situation for some people. Who wouldn’t enjoy tasty meals every day at the county’s expense? And the company of characters and reading material never failed to entice a few folks to our jailhouse. You could say the cells provided a mini-library trip: the reading material was limited but enjoyable. Our jail boasted an ample selection of paperbacks where the good guys wore white hats; the bad men wore black. The Gideons provided Bibles whose pages were rarely turned. A soft yellow paint on the walls made the cold iron bars and noisy metal exercise floors seem relatively warm and cozy. The jail usually hosted several men to visit with Zane Gray paperback novels to read. They had a bit of romance, horses and a hero. Mom would serve a hot breakfast of Cream of Wheat or oatmeal, juice and toast. Lunch would be homemade vegetable soup with a big soup bone adding delicious flavor, accompanied by homemade bread and a chocolate chip cookie. Dinner was a beef roast with carrots and potatoes or pork chops with apple sauce and mashed potatoes. As the unpaid jail matron, Mom still felt obligated to provide a delicious dessert. Her favorites were fat slices of angel food cake or her heavenly chocolate cake, moist and dripping with frosting. I know many of the men enjoyed their stay in jail with us. We became family to several men who spent the fall and winter holidays in our jail. Their Christmas greeting cards to our family proved that they didn’t hold grudges against us. I bet jailers don’t get those rewards today!


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Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016


Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

Fun is fun, no matter when Pete rummaged through his pockets and handed a linty fragment of candy cane to Jimmy. “Thanks.” Jimmy’s eyes held a glint of admiration for his older cousin. Then Jimmy began to flip a half inch thick plate of ice dramatically across his body from one side to the other. “Should I throw it forehand or backhand?” Jimmy asked. “Look out! That’s a good one, and you’re gonna break it. Throw it like I showed you.” Jimmy threw the chunk with a smooth backhand and the boys listened again. A wider echo than a bowling ball rolling down an alley, like no other sound they knew. Then sploosh. “Good one, you’re pretty good at this, Jimmy.” Jimmy beamed at the praise and was immediately embarrassed and glad for the cover of night. “Nah, you just showed me how.” Pete threw another, but before the ice reached the edge another sound came to them. The crunch of tires on the gravel road that led to the lake. “Aw, it’s the van. We gotta go back to the house now. Just when we were finally doing something fun.” Jimmy stared at his cousin. “What do you mean? It’s Christmas! It’ll BE fun. What could be more fun than

By Mary Ditter Coon Rapids

“Listen to this one, Pete!” Jimmy wound up for a mighty throw and heaved the flat ice chunk toward the frozen edge of the lake. It arced high through the dark air and both boys stood still, listening as the ice tumbled, then skidded over the glassy surface. The echoing scrape of the skid ended with a soft sploosh, as the chunk ran out of momentum, just as it reached the frozen edge. It was the perfect night for throwing ice. The temp had been dropping with the approach of a polar front. A glassy rim had frozen around the edge of the lake, yet the center of the lake was open water. “Pretty good Jimmy. You made it to the open water that time. We could hear it all the way out. Try throwing the next one like a Frisbee. That makes it skitter longer.” Pete threw his dinner plate ice chunk to demonstrate. Again the cousins stood silent in the winter night listening for the plop or sploosh as it went off the icy edge. The ice reverberated like the skin of a giant drum, as the chunk slid across it toward the water. Like ripples in a sound pond. “Got any more candy canes, Pete? I’m getting hungry.”

all those presents under the tree?” “I guess. But we have to dress up and say prayers and eat dinner, like we were all proper and stuff. And believe me, they are watching every minute.” A woman’s voice came from the van. “Pete! Jimmy!” She called. “Yeah. We’re here!” Pete yelled back. Then more quietly to Jimmy he said, “C’mon. They get really mad if I don’t come right away when the van comes to pick me up. And we don’t want ‘em mad tonight, do we?” “Come on, boys.” The woman’s voice boomed through the air. “Hop into the van. The party starts soon, and you have to get cleaned up.” “See?” Pete said as they trudged toward the road. Jimmy grinned widely. “Hey, Pete, it’s OK. We couldn’t hear the ice anymore with your Ma booming out of the van like that.” The boys settled into the driverless van and the camera scanned from one to the other. “We’re both belted in Aunt Janice. Ready to go.” “Thanks, Jimmy, I can see that. Let’s go get this party started,” said the voice coming out of the van’s inner speaker. And the van with its two quiet passengers drove away.

‘Twas a Minnesotan Christmas Eve By Doug Lennier Park Rapids

It was getting late that Christmas Eve, when out on the lake by all the fish houses, nothing was moving at 20 below, not even those drunken, old louses. The rod reels were hung on the wall with care, in hopes that some walleye would soon be biting there. The guys were settled all snug in their beds, while visions of a cold Hamm’s beer danced in their heads. And Ollie in his parka, and I in my pjs and cap, just had a last beer and was going to take a nap, when out on the ice there was such a clatter, I jumped from my bunk to see what’s the matter. Away to the window I did go in a flash, knocked over a tackle box and kicked over the trash.

The moon on the ice and the new-fallen snow, gave a luster on the objects, don’t ya know. When, to my sleepy old eyes did appear, but a beat-up old snowmobile and eight white-tailed deer. And then in a twinkling, I heard him at the next ice fish house. Those deer prancing and pawing, like Ollie’s old spouse. Leinenkugel 12-packs of beer he had flung on his back, and he looked like a route salesman just opening his truck rack. He was chubby, and short, a right jolly old guy, and he laughed when I saw him; he sure was spry. A wink of an eye, a nod and a jerk of his head, I knew for sure I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the ice chests, then turned quick and quirt. He laid a finger upside his nose,

and giving me a nod, he stumbled somewhat and then he rose. He lumbered to his snowmobile, to the deer he was a sight. And away they all went, almost in flight. More rapid than a bunch of wild turkeys, his cussin’ it came. He hollered and shouted and called them by name: Now Olaf! Now Rognvald! Now Eskil! Now Ansgar! Now Eysteinn! Now Hallvard! Nor Thorfinn! Now Ingamoder! To the end of the lake they did go. Now’s not the time to hesitate, it’s on with the show. To the left of that pine tree, he winked and he said, “That darn ice. I twisted my knee.” The last thing I haerd him say as they went out of sight, “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

RECIPES Panoche (Light Fudge)

Yuletide Date Balls 1 egg, well beaten 1 c. sugar 1/2 c. butter 1/4 tsp. salt 1 8oz. pkg. chopped dates

2 c. Rice Krispies 1/4 c. finely chopped nuts 1 8oz. pkg. flaked coconut

Mix the first five ingredients in saucepan; cook until dates are soft and mixture is thick. Cool mixture over cool (ice) water until cool enough to handle, add Rice Krispies and nuts, mixing quickly. Shape into small balls with buttered hands, roll in coconut.

2-1/2 c. brown sugar 1 Tbsp. light syrup 3/4 c. milk Dash salt

1 Tbsp. butter or oleo 1 tsp. vanilla 1/2 c. nuts (broken)

Combine the sugar, salt, syrup, butter and milk in a saucepan. Cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves until soft ball stage of 238 degrees. Cool at room temperature until lukewarm (110 degrees). Add vanilla and beat until it holds it shape. Add the nuts and spread into a pan to cool.



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Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise


Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Sweet Christmas traditions

The Christmas season means different things to different people. It is when Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior. It is also a time known for lives filled with the hustle and bustle of Black Friday sales, decorating our homes and baking sweet treats to share. Traditions also abound. In our Scandinavian family we bake lefse. With a recipe handed down from my grandmother (and most likely even further back than that), my mother taught me how to prepare the dough, roll and bake the tasty bread. When my children were

young, Mom would bring over the dough (made with potatoes, flour, whipping cream and butter), rolling pin and griddle and we would don our aprons and let the flour fly. The kids would watch, but mostly they came in the kitchen for samples. Many people choose to adorn their lefse with sugar, brown sugar or cinnamon and sugar. We like ours straight up, with just plain butter. My daughter, being fourand-a-half years older than my son, began to practice rolling the dough and turning it on the griddle. Soon Mom became the supervisor overseeing my daughter and me. We weren’t too discouraged

when a piece was too thick or torn or a little out of shape because that was “an eater”! After Mom passed away and my kids grew into adulthood, my daughter and son carried on the tradition, with me delegated to supervision and later watching the granddaughters. The stronger of the two, my son, would roll. At first, he named the odd-shaped pieces after a state or country they most resembled. He now can make perfectly round pieces rolled to just the right thickness. He used to refer to lefse as “Norwegian burritos” and thought of loading the delicate pieces with sandwich makings and sell them, but the labor-

intensive creation of these scrumptious treats made him change his mind. Contrary to the opinion of most people, lefse is actually the best when it is piled high with lutefisk, boiled potatoes and melted butter. Lutefisk is a specially cured (no longer with lye) cod fish that can have a consistency somewhere between flaky and gelatinous. It is an acquired taste! To our family, making lefse is as important as putting up a Christmas tree. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. In 2008, I became paralyzed and spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in a care center working diligently to merely roll over in bed. I needed to be lifted out of bed and put


into a wheelchair in order to move. I wrote my annual Christmas letter from there and my husband inserted it into our Christmas cards and mailed them out. I received a poinsettia from a friend. That was the extent of my Christmas. That was until my daughter surprised me with a batch of homemade cookies (another tradition carried down from generations past). How delightful! To my surprise, my son came with a package wrapped in aluminum foil containing freshly made lefse. He had followed our original recipe and made the dough, rolled it and fried it all on his own. It was a Christmas I will

never forget. The tree and the festivities may have been gone, but our family traditions were still intact. Now my granddaughters, ages seven and five, already know how to roll and turn the dough, but mostly they like to eat it. For the last several years, my son and I have taken our lefse-making on the road. We help the young children that come to our Advent Fair make their own pieces of lefse. Children from our sister church, a Hmong congregation, enjoy learning to make it as well. Family traditions certainly add to the warmth and joy of Christmas.




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Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

‘...The power to render us happy or unhappy’ By Sue Bruns Bemidji

The lines were long with last-minute Christmas shoppers at K-Mart. Checkers had put in long days already with tense shoppers and rushed purchases. Something was holding up the line I was in – probably a price check. My cart was filled with items. My daughter -- tired, warm and restless after a long afternoon of shopping -- sat bundled up in her snowsuit in the kid seat of the shopping cart. Why wasn’t the line moving? My own irritation grew along with the impatience, frustration and exhaustion of the other shoppers in line. I had moved up slightly in the past few minutes. Now only eight carts preceded me. Miserable as I was, I wouldn’t have traded places with the tired checkers, clad in Santa hats. They scanned item after item and dropped each into large plastic bags, all the while attempting to maintain their smiles and pleasant dispositions. No one in line was conversing with anyone else, but a few were mumbling under their breath. I feared someone’s frustration might hit the tipping point and we’d all be sucked into pre-Christmas shopping cart rage. We had come to a complete standstill when I noticed a man a few spots behind me in line. He was dark-skinned with jet black hair and deep brown eyes. He appeared to be in his early 30s. His cart was loaded

down like everyone else’s, but instead of being anxious, he started to sing in a clear tenor voice, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer …” At first I was worried for his safety. These shoppers might be close enough to that tipping point to strangle anyone who attempted humor. But what happened when he opened his mouth surprised all of us. The tension melted, shoppers laughed, checkers smiled. He had sung a few lines of the song when another man entered the store, waved at

him, and said, “Hi, Fred. How’s it going?” “Wonderful!” Fred answered. “I love Christmas!” Was it possible that he had said this without a hint of sarcasm? Fred’s friend smiled, got a cart and headed toward the toy section. “Hey, Fred! Merry Christmas!” “Yeah, Merry Christmas yourself,” said Fred. The tension broken, shoppers just ahead of and behind Fred started up conversations. There was no

complaining or sharing of frustration. Instead, Fred’s song and words with his friend had shifted everyone’s gears into a true Christmas spirit. I was amazed at the transformation. Before long, I was visiting with the lady ahead of me and the gentleman behind me. It seemed a very short time before I was up at the checkout, paying for my items, wishing the clerk a “Merry Christmas” and loading my bags into the cart to take to my car. “Merry Christmas,” I said

to the people in line behind me. A chorus of “Merry Christmas” echoed back. I hadn’t spoken to Fred, but as I left the store, I saw him laughing and talking to the shoppers around him. What he had done with his song and his cheerful disposition was incredibly powerful. I wanted to thank him, to acknowledge him – something – but working my way backwards would have been impossible. Instead, I maneuvered my cart and exhausted daughter through the crowds and across the slushy parking lot. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Fred. And with that name, the same name as the cheerful, optimistic nephew of Ebinezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” I thought about the realization Scrooge makes about his first boss, Fezziwig: “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” “A Christmas Carol” Stave 2 K-Mart Fred made me think about the power each of us has on any given day of the year, even with complete strangers: the power -- through our words, actions, and attitudes -- to render others happy or unhappy. Thank you, Fred – and Merry Christmas!

CHARLES from C1 more than I did. He never got over the fact that Sister Bach had given the tricycle to me, and I guess I never did either. It was certainly my best Christmas ever. It was probably Charles’s worst Christmas, because he was still bitter about it 60 years later.

RECIPE Salted Peanut Cake 1-1/2 c. sugar 1 c. margarine (soft) 2 large eggs

2 tsp. Vanilla 1-1/2 c. sour milk

Mix well and add to flour mixture. FLOUR MIXTURE (Sift together): 3 c. flour 2 tsp. baking


Mix in: 1 c. chopped peanuts Bake 1 hour in greased 9-by-13inch pan. Frost with your favorite frosting and sprinkle 1/2 c. salted peanuts.


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Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise


Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016


A farm family Christmas By Donna Uphus Osakis

We hosted large meal with three generations of family members, participated in religious services and school programs.” the house to sort the gifts under the tree. When we walked in the door, they’d tear into their gifts like kids at Christmas should. Now, as adults, they often remind us how hard it was to wait for me and their father to come in from outside. In addition to the Santa letters, we baked and decorated dozens of cookies to share with neighbors, crafted gifts for family members, and made chains of colored paper to hang all around. A real tree adorned our living room, decorated with homemade ornaments and popcorn strings. We hosted large meals with three generations of family members, participated in religious services and school programs. Our family took part in community programs for those less fortunate.

when the dog gave a bark. I turned for a second and when I looked back, I saw the old man carrying his pack. He disappeared into the darkness and I only knew that Santa is in all of us and everything we do.” We sent the poem to our local newspaper and it was published. He was very proud of his creativity at that young age. It became a tradition for our family to read the poem after saying our before meal prayers on Christmas Day. I tucked the poem away in my journals. For several years it went unread. Having come across it recently, I immediately saw my firstborn son as that boy with hope and joy in his heart. I sent him a copy this year in his Christmas card. He is grown up now and lives in another state, but he always comes home for Christmas. I believe our children have good memories of growing up on a farm and the sacrifices we all made to enjoy the Christmas season, celebrate the holiday with love and tradition, and bring joy to others. Some things just never go out of style! Merry Christmas!

ways, I opened it with eagerness. As I ripped through the gift wrap, removed the lid, and parted the tissue paper, I found myself staring at my cowboy boots. When I outgrew them and my life’s ambition of being a cowboy changed to being a fireman, mom had quietly stored them away. I think, secretly, she knew there would be a day when I wanted to be a cowboy again. I gave her a hug and a kiss as tears ran down both of our faces. Even though Santa had taken on a different shape than I had remembered as a child, and even though the true meaning of Christmas may be obscured by commercialism, the act of giving still holds its magic. Yippee-yi-o-ki-yay!

RECIPES Crunch Lemon Bars 1/2 c. shortening 1/2 c. powdered sugar 1 c. flour

2 tsp. grated lemon peel 2 egg yolks

Cream first three ingredients; add lemon peel and egg yolk. Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes in 9x13-inch ungreased pan. TOPPING: 2 egg whites 1/2 c. sugar

1 tbsp. lemon juice 1/2 c. chopped nuts (your choice)

Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually add sugar and juice. Fold in nuts, spread on baked crust, bake 25 minutes more.

Christmas Oatmeal Cookies 2 eggs 1 c. sugar 1 c. brown sugar 1 c. shortening 3 c. oatmeal (regular) 2 c. flour 1 Tbsp. soda

1/2 Tbsp. sale 1 Tbsp. vanilla 1 Tbsp. cinnamon 1/2 Tbsp. nutmeg 1 c. coconut 1/2 c. walnuts

Roll dough into walnut-size balls, flatten with fork. Bake at 350 degrees.



Christmas on the farm was a special time filled with activities that reminded us of the true meaning of the holiday. Making memories and traditions, sharing with others, and spreading good cheer were a big part of our family Christmas. Late in November, when my children were little, I’d help them write letters to Santa. They always seemed to know exactly what they wanted for Christmas. As they matured and no longer believed in Santa, they sat at the kitchen table for weeks prior to Christmas, paging through mail-order catalogs and store fliers. The later letters often contained the cut-out pictures of their desires taped on note cards so “Santa got it right.” They’d write about how good they were all year or how they were the “favorite child.” Some had pictures and rhymes, and some were simple lists. I still have those letters stashed away in my journals. We had a dairy farm with chores to do morning and night. With church services on Christmas Eve, we insisted they wait until Christmas morning to open gifts. They would hurry through their chores so they could get in

We worked together to get the cows milked and our chores done twice daily and still have time to participate in the social activities that contributed to the many Christmas memories they now talk about in their adulthood. In December 1988, when my oldest son was 10 years old, his class was given an assignment to write a story or poem about Christmas. We sat down at the kitchen table with a blank piece of paper and after a short time, he composed the following poem in the order of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” except it was about Santa on the farm. He didn’t give it a title. “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the farm, not an animal was stirring, not even in the barn. The milkers we hung in the milkhouse with care, waiting for the morning milking we knew soon would be there. When out in the pasture there arose such a clatter, I ran to the barn door to see what was the matter. I looked down the alley only to see a man in a red suit, wearing my rubber boots! He worked very quickly giving rations to each cow, patting each one on the head, and lastly taking a bow. I was sure he didn’t see me astonished there in the dark, but he certainly was startled

julebukking. The doors opened and disguised neighbors entered. They silently extended their plates and mugs for whatever food and drink was available. As I got older, I looked forward to visits by Christmas Fools, but that first year was a bit un-nerving. Every family has its holiday traditions and one of ours was going to church services on Christmas Eve, returning home for a supper of barbecued ribs with all the fixings, and then opening gifts from each other. A gift from Santa would always be under the tree on Christmas morning. Even after dad passed away in 1992, we still got together with mom during the holidays. On one of her last years, she joined us in Park Rapids. We went to Christmas Eve service and then came home to carry on the other family traditions. After supper, we opened gifts and shared stories, laughter, and some tears. Along with Santa’s gifts for the kids, there was a box for me. I was a bit puzzled but, reverting back to my childish


Hwy. 34 E. & Henrietta Ave., Park Rapids



Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

The bell ringer By Harvey L. Covey, Jr. Campbell Columbia Heights

It’s a Christmas Eve like any other. He wears the red suit. He rings the bell. And just as in the past few weeks, when his shift is over, he will wander down the street to the Mission for a hot bowl of soup and a crust of bread. Then, if he is lucky enough, and early enough, he will stand in line for a room at St. Francis or the Drake, where he’ll be able to get a hot shower and a warm, if lumpy bed. Otherwise, it’s the bridge again and a trip to the local Holiday gas station bathroom for a quick wash up before his next shift begins. Such is his life. Since he left the world with its responsibilities and consequences. Since he turned his back on the pain of his failures; in business, in family, in life. But, he does not complain. He’s made his choices and he’s doing his penance. However, something feels different this night. The air is a little crisper than usual. The light snow, which has only just begun to fall, has a magical quality about it. It’s as though the world is pausing, in anticipation of something, yet to happen. Something wonderful. There are more folks than usual passing by his bucket

and he’s already had to phone in twice for a pickup this morning. People are always so much more giving on this day. The final day before Christmas Day. Up the street, he spies a little girl with, he assumes, her mother, coming down the street. She carries a package, wrapped in gold paper and tied with a purple ribbon. All at once, she breaks away from her mother’s hand and runs right up to his bucket. “Merry Christmas, Santa,” she practically shouts at him. Then she thrusts the little package into his hands and runs away, back to her waiting mother who waves at him, turns, and child in tow, walks away. He opens the package and finds three articles inside, along with a card. He opens

the card and reads it. “A cookie to warm your belly and feed your weary body. A watch to mark your day and feed your weary mind. A little Bible to guide your steps and feed your weary soul.” He sits down for a minute on the stool next to his bucket and examines the three items. It has been so long since he’s had any sort of personal interaction. Ever since he lost his partnership at work. Ever since his wife of 18 years left him for another man. Ever since his college-age son, his only boy, left for the East Coast, MIT, married a beautiful young woman from Pennsylvania, two kids, and a life of his own. He realizes he has missed so very much! How could he have let it get

this far? A tear rolls down his face, for though he’s thought himself all but invisible, someone saw him after all. Saw through his self-imposed punishment. Saw through his loneliness and desperation. He eats the cookie, puts on the watch and pockets the Bible. Then he gets up, and calls in for a replacement. He has decided that his penance is over. For the first time in 13 years, he calls his son and asks him to come pick him up. It is time to come home to his family. Time to come back to the world. “Thank you, little one,” he thinks to himself, “and Merry Christmas to you!”

WINGS from C1 Christmases with Mom. I didn’t see him put the ornaments back into the box; put on his coat, hat, gloves and boots; place the box in his car, and drive to the cemetery. Nor did I see him trudge through the snow and hang the birds from the artificial greenery in the planters on the sides of Mom’s gravestone. Did he, I wonder, speak to her? Did he read his own name beside hers on the stone – its date incomplete? Whether it was wind and weather or visitors to the cemetery who decided to help themselves to the ornaments, the birds disappeared, leaving only a few shattered fragments and scattered feathers behind. When my sister told me what had happened to the ornaments, I was devastated at first. Why hadn’t Dad given them to my brother, my sister and me? We could each have had a few birds to remember

It’s not the ornament, but the memory that is important each Christmas.”

Mom each Christmas. Years later, though, now that Dad’s date of passing is etched into the tombstone beside Mom’s, I think it fitting that the ornaments went to Mom. They were her mementos -- Dad’s and her keepsakes. So I shop each winter for an ornament for my sister. Each year, among the contemporary designs, I find at least one delicate bird ornament with a real feather tail, one that looks as if it could have been a part of Mom’s collection. I buy it, wrap it carefully and give it to my sister for her tree. It is not the ornament, but the memory that is important each Christmas. w

A flirtatious Christmas occasion By Don A. Campbell Owings, Maryland

I watched her guarding the book rack like an NBA player on defense. She was far more pleasant to watch. Every book I spotted went into her bag. Either she was an omnivorous reader or intending to make her fortune off the books I coveted. Yes, to covet is a terrible thing. I hoped for Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews. It’s time to mail, gifts have a long journey to reach family. She smiled at my chagrin, “Sorry, but it is first-come, first-served.” Her voice was melodious. “You are right.” When first, I scarf up any bounty. I smiled, “Granting that, have you second thoughts in your bulging bag?” She tilted her head, as her tongue peaked out. With a

cautious voice she answered. “Nary a one.” “Where’s the store you’re stocking?” Her laugh softened, “Nowhere, my son’s a shut-in. His world is his books. Only sales let me buy so many at one time. He reads everything, but he likes fantasy.” “What? He must be far too young to read most of what you’ve got there.” “Why, sir, what a nice compliment. Are you by chance hitting on me?” “I would never ‘hit’ on a lady, but I don’t mind stroking a smile from one.” “Stroking? I could take that many ways.” “Yes, but I mean it in the most genteel way.” “That might be a shame.” “The shame is we have no friend to introduce us; had we, my stroking might be less

genteel.” She covered the ring I hadn’t noticed. “In want of that friend – and if I’m not too forward – I’m the widow Mary Isome. My alcoholic husband crashed with my son William with him. I can’t go that way again.” That took me a step back. She was hitting on me, which took me a step forward. “I don’t drink. Period!” I offered my hand. “My pleasure. I’m Lee Standish, single and unattached.” Mary’s handshake was firm. My shake was two handed to better capture hers. It allowed me to stroke the back of hers as we separated. Her smiled held promise. “You are a man of your word, genteel Lee, you have a fetching stroke.” “If it pleases you, might I offer a chance to talk books

over coffee, say of my duplicates?” As I carried her tote to checkout, I flattered myself that our words would stray from books. As Patricia tallied Mary’s hoard, she said, “Be careful of this one, he’s lonely and not so shy as he seems.” “Not shy, the word is genteel.” Lacking wit, I bowed. Pat grinned, then asked Mary. “How’s William?” “He’s recovering from the latest skin graft. He will be years before he’s back to nearly right. I’m amazed at how stoic he is, facing this.” I understood Mary’s focus on her son. I cared for my grandfather. The demands were considerable, but they would end. Her, ‘nearly to rights’ carried heavy weights of uncertainty. I lifted her bag


P.O. BOX 552, PARK RAPIDS, MN 56470


203 Henrietta Ave. No., Park Rapids, MN 56470 (218) 732-3364 • Fax (218) 732-8757 •

and felt the comfort of her arm in mine. She asked, “Micky D’s? I promise to drive you back.” How could I refuse? If things changed, it was a short walk. I saw her van’s hospital staff sticker. She said, “RN. And you?” “Professor, college history. It keeps me too busy for my writing, but I squeeze some in.” Mary asked, “What do you write?” “Mushy fantasy.” “Romance?” “Ah, mushy slipped out. My niece says I make her cry. I hope it’s not bad writing.” “Perhaps it’s your being genteel. That’s rare these days.” “So is a woman who wears dresses. You do that exceptionally well.” She smiled. “There is no

art to it. I admit to jeans and uniforms for work. But it’s nice to wear something that people notice.” I took her hand. “I did. And I’d like to notice you more on numerous occasions.” Mary touched my face and flowed pleasure through me I’d not felt in years. I swallowed to get my heart back. Her own shock showed. “Oh, so real. I haven’t felt that – for so long.” She opened the passenger’s door, making an offer with strings. I have strings of my own. She is quick of wit, but what lays under her beauty? And why me? She’s a woman who could have anyone. I’ll loosen my strings as she does. After all, it will only be coffee, and talk, although I admit my hope for a not-solonely Christmas.

Christmas Special

Park Rapids Enterprise

Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016


God Bless the World

Peace on Earth

• Greater MN Electric • H&R Block of Park Rapids • Harvala Appliance • Itasca Region Insurance Agency Inc. • Janke’s Sew & Vac, Inc. • Jerry Wilcox Insurance Agency • Josh’s Collision Center & Storage • Kinkel Laundry • Laporte Grocery

• Skelgas • St. John’s Lutheran Church of Park Rapids • T&M Express • Thielen Motors • Thomason, Swanson & Zahn, PLLC • Ulvin Plumbing & Heating • Up North Power & Sports • Up North Storage • Walmart • West Central Telephone • Working Horse • WW Thompson Concrete

Aesthetic Arts - Dental Lab • Akeley United Methodist Church • Beds Plus • Ben Franklin • Cease Family Funeral Homes • Citizen’s National Bank • Coborn’s • Coca-Cola Bottling, Inc • DeBlieck’s Budget Auto • Dick’s Auto Wrecking, LLC • EcoWater Systems of Park Rapids & Walker • Emcon Construction, Inc. • Espresso 34 • First National Bank of Menahga & Sebeka

• Leading Edge Mechanical • Main Street Meats • Minnesota Power • North Star Nursing • Northwoods Tax Professionals, Inc. • Park Rapids Avionics • Park Rapids Floral & Nursery • Park Rapids Ford • Peace Lutheran Church of Nevis • Peloquin Law Office, PA Attorneys & Counselors • Park Rapids Aviation • R&G Plumbing & Heating • R&R Rental & Party Center • Racer Construction, Inc. • RD Offutt Co • Rocky’s Pizza • Rogers Family Trucking, LLC • Samuelson Laney Plumbing & Heating


Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016

Park Rapids Enterprise

From L to R: Candy Parks, Jayne Merila, Shannon Geisen, Nicole Vik, Mark Harmon, Betty Norlin, Kathy Dennis, Vance Carlson, Karen Holtan, Russell Zinke, Jon Porter, Kevin Cederstrom.

Christmas Special

Christmas Special  
Christmas Special  

Every year entrants in the annual Park Rapids Enterprise Christmas story contest share their gift of writing. Some inspire, others make us l...