Archive for December 7th, 2008

Grandpa was a stubborn Norwegian

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

When Janet gets frustrated with me, she has been known to refer to me as a “stubborn Norwegian.” I admit to being more stubborn than I should be, but I’m a relative puppy-dog compared to Grandpa Louis Loseth.

I mostly remember Grandpa as a quiet man whose most remarkable trait (to me) was the fact that he chewed “snuz” – I think it was the Copenhagen brand. Since Grandma wouldn’t stand for a spittoon in the house, Grandpa would occasionally lift himself creakily from his chair, shuffle over to the wood-burning cook stove, and drizzle a stream of brown stuff into the firebox. This was fascinating to a kid from a tobacco-free house.

Although I never had much chance to observe his stubbornness first-hand, I heard stories, including the one about his fur-selling trip.

Homesteading in the first decades of the 1900s in the Shell Lake area wasn’t easy. Summers were spent clearing brush and picking rocks to create tillable fields. Winter wasn’t a time of leisure, but a time to earn some extra money by logging or trapping.

One year Louis had trapped enough squirrels, muskrats, beavers and weasels, and maybe a mink or two, to result in a respectable-sized bale of cured furs, enough to weigh heavily on his shoulders. However he was tough as nails, so the 5-mile walk from his homestead to the village of Shell Lake didn’t faze him.

When the local store-keeper inspected the furs and offered him far too little money, Louis quietly packed the furs up again and set out walking to the village of Mildred, another 11 or 12 miles down the trail, where he finally agreed to a selling price.

I don’t know if he agreed that it was a fair price, but legend has it that if it wasn’t he’d have been willing to walk to Spiritwood, seven more miles further west, out of principle.

Apparently when he returned home to his family, much later than expected, he was carrying a 100-pound sack of flour on his back (well, maybe it was a 50-pound sack).  Grandma had been worried sick, but he had provided for his family, so he was satisfied with himself.

I appreciate the way that Grandpa modelled perseverance and a strong work ethic for his descendants. However Janet doesn’t appreciate at least one gene that the stubborn old Norwegian passed down to me.

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END NOTE: My apologies to any living relatives if I’ve exaggerated this story – if so, call it artistic license – however I think it’s fairly close to the way I heard it, but you know how family histories can morph over time.