In 1917, on a rainy night in Lakefield, Minnesota, my great grandfather, Ernest “Bob” Simpson, penned the poem below:
As I sit here to nite, sad and lonely
As memeries cum back to me
It makes me stop and wonder
If thares anyone thinking of me
Our stroal to the bridge in the evening
And Guy’s back porch at nite
Whare we sat in the dark, not a bad thing you know
For Lidie had turned off the lights.
As we sat there unheading the hours or time
Wraped up in each other just love blind
And mother upstairs spent a sleepless nite
the stars they faded twas broad day light
Now if to nite was another such nite
With Guy’s back porch and Lide’s dark lights
And mother in dreamland, without a care
I would give all I’ve got sweet hart to be there
But what is the use of wishing my dear
When your over there and I am over here.
And Guy’s back steps, he can take them in
For I don’t think we will nede them again.
One week and a day, the time’s flying fast.
As a depoteless plateform I saw you last.
The rest of the bunch and my sister was there
But you got the last kiss so why should we care.
Now little woman you know this true
For I am just riting my thoughts to you.
Now I sent isent it quere how love is made
So cum love me up if youre not a fraid.
Just a little smile
Just a little look
Just a little hand
Laid upon my coat
Just a little flutter
Of an eyelash I could see
Just one word of comfort
And the world had changed for me.
Yes, Ernie’s world had changed. His brother, Fred, had died, and at the funeral he met Susan (Stanwood) Clark, the niece of Fred’s widow, Flora. He fell madly, passionately, in love with Susie. He mentions the home of Lide, Susan’s cousin, and Lide’s husband, Guy Page. Apparently Ernie and Susie spent time there after the services. (Lida was Flora’s daughter from her first marriage to Morton Howe.)
Yes, the relationships are a bit complicated:
Just five months later, on 12 January, 1918, Ernie and Susie were wed in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Shortly after Ernest and Susan married, they moved to Rock Rapids, Iowa, where they lived briefly. They soon relocated to Havana, Steele County, Minnesota, where their daughter, Goldie, was born in 3 October 1921. The couple owned a farm and sold it about 1924, using part of the profits to purchase a Ford Model T which they drove to visit relatives in Iowa. They continued on to South Dakota, spending time with Ernest’s brother, Frank Simpson, and his wife Emma. Goldie, although a very young child of three, vividly remembered this trip.
Sometime after their memorable vacation, Ernest and family moved to Iowa, possibly Rock Rapids, where they owned a hotel and restaurant. It is unclear how long they operated the business, but they sold it immediately after the cook killed his wife and then himself in the kitchen of the restaurant. It was understandably quite a traumatic event for the family!
Also during the early ’20s, Ernest temporarily resumed horse racing, a profession he’d enjoyed prior to his marriage to Susan. He was also a painter and hung wall paper, and it was likely this occupation that had allowed him to work in trade for a phonograph, which he gave his to his daughter Goldie when she was about 6 or 7 years of age. (She gave the phonograph to cousin Grover Elphick when she married and moved to California about 1940.)
In 1961 my grandmother, Goldie, paid tribute to her parents:
I suppose everyone has a particular standard to use as a guide for daily living. The choice of the person yard-stick has come through the experience of knowing people.
As I grow with my daughters I am deeply and eternally grateful to the parents I was blessed with.
My mother was the very essence of a gentle-lady. She was tender and soft-spoken, all-loving and often impractical with her gentle sympathies. At one time she was known to have milked a sensitive cow. Men made little bossy nervous, so Mama obliged with the milk-pail. (I often wonder if she was worried lest they be given sour cream.) Mama was a lady of the last century, she could play her piano softly, and tat beautiful edgings, but in contrast, she rode her horse astride. I don’t think any side-saddle would have held up under her boundless energy.
Daddy was a vigorous Paladin sort of man. He was much older than Mama, and his past was colored with numerous tales, many of which I am sure were not told to me. An ordinary deck of playing cards came to life under his fingers. To see him shuffle and deal was a lesson in not playing cards with a stranger. He often remarked that he preferred a fine horse or dog to most people any day. His horses were a constant source of fascination to a very small me. I loved the smell of stables, and the velvet softness of a horse’s nose. Daddy bred, trained, and drove many superior harness horses. I was crammed with information regarding trotters, pacers and ever “mudders”, (which are not colt’s mothers), also I recall he would shudder and speak disgustedly of ‘stump suckers’. I wonder if such a beast was troubled with emotional insecurity.
My daddy had a temper that was as black and sudden as a Mid-Western storm. He once soundly beat a farmer that was forcing tired, under-fed horses. There is no true way to describe the complexities of his nature, with all his masculine sternness there was an old-world courtliness toward the gentle sex. He completely, worshiped my mother, and I was bathed in the same sunshine, perhaps because I was hers, yet bearing the blackness of his eyes and hair. Daddy was Welsh.
As I grew as a skinny little weed I often did many things which I knew were forbidden and not to be tolerated. But they were things I wanted to do so badly that the punishment would be minor compared to the fun of the moment. There was the time I went over the brick garden wall at twilight to join the games of the neighboring children. I didn’t ask permission or – horror of horrors, answer, when my name was called with increasing emotion. As always, my little bloomers ended up around my knees, I was placed across Mama’s lap and calmly and thoroughly paddled. It was always thus, Daddy never lifted a finger toward me in anger.
This reluctance to punish I’ve never understood, because I lived in fear of his frown. I can see it still, he would lower his reading glasses, look over the top of the rim, and say softly, “girl, did you hear your mother?” At such moments I was filled with unreasonable terror.
Daddy was a ‘do-it-yourself’ addict before the term came into being. He excelled at all her did and every spring he got a far-away gleam in his eyes which always came before the re-decorating of everything paintable.
This particular spring I was six years old and filled with the joy that only melted snow and Robbins can bring. Daddy decided to re-varnish a floor, completing the task he cautioned me not to enter that room. I tried very hard to remember but it was a worthless effort. I went out to play, and discovered some beauty of spring which I must immediately relate to Mama. Without thought or hesitation I flew through the door - Half-way across the room I remembered with perfect clarity. If fright could kill me I would have died stuck in that varnish. There was nothing to do but retreat sadly. The remainder of that black morning I brooded in the back-yard sun waiting for my sins to catch up with me.
An eternity away I was called for lunch, the damage to the floor had been repaired. During the meal the conversation was completely normal, containing no remonstrations for pea-green me.
As a child I couldn’t understand why the subject was never brought up, or why no punishment was carried out. Now as a three-time mother I believe that I was forgiven because the half-way tracks indicated my innocence of deliberate wrong-doing. Today there are many times I over-look incidents that could be distorted to simulate aggression. Discipline is mellowed by that loving understanding which began to take root many, many springs ago.