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Odds and Ends13 Years Old and Church Camp

All of my life was not built just around family, of course.  One personally dramatic time came for me when I turned 13.  Most of the girls at school began to wear high heeled shoes for dress occasions.  Braces did not lend themselves to such fancy footwear, nor to the very popular tennis shoes! That summer just before my 13th birthday, my maternal grandmother finally had her way and I was sent to Church Camp.  We were not active in church as a family, but my grandmother was very involved. She read her Bible everyday. Why she did that remained a mystery to we children, but my Dad said, “It is just something that is important to her, like the newspaper and news magazines are to me.”  Grandma tried to see to it that John, Morey, and I attended Sunday School regularly, but she didn’t drive and we lived on the other side of the town.  She had to rely on my Mother to get us there and that made our attendance a very spotty thing. However, this particular year as she saw me approaching the teens, she was determined that I should know more about Jesus, and she offered to pay my way to camp.  Since I knew the pastor’s son and had played with him and his sister when visiting Grandma, she used the fact that he was going to encourage  me .  I was a little reluctant, but our family had always “camped” so I figured camp would be something like that and I would probably like it

Camp wasn’t at all what I’d expected.  Only eight of us from the church in Winner attended, seven girls and Wendel.  The other girls were “church” girls and they bunked in twos.  I was the odd girl out so to speak.  But the director moved me into their cabin, by putting the counselor in a bunk bed, that she shared with me. Rather than using  the bottom bunk for her own things as all the other counsellors could do, she had an “extra” which meant she was inconvenienced, thus she wasn’t a whole lot friendlier to me than the girls were. From the beginning I had a terrific physical struggle. The camp was in the Black Hills and everything that went on was at a different level, with perpendicular paths!  I could walk on crutches readily enough, but I needed a wider path to swing them. Everything here was on a trail and for me a trial.  Swimming was down at the river, chapel was up on the hillside, campfire was on top of another hill, nature walks were on trails through the woods. The reality of camp for me was that I was confined to the small flat area that included our cabin and the Dining Hall.  That’s it ,final!

The other girls were actually a little pleased that I was so on the fringes of camp life since I didn’t really belong to their Sunday School clique anyhow, but it worked for my good, as God knew it would.  They were always talking about “the boys”, which seemed silly to me.  That year there were only seven boys at camp and about 20+ girls. Wendel as the 7th boy was from a small town and was the preacher’s son, so he was an outsider too. Then there was a boy with asthma who couldn’t do too much, so the three of us hung around a lot while the others went off on current camp activities and free time.  When the last evening came for the special party meal, we could eat with two camper’s of our choice, instead of with our cabin mates as we regularly did. We were all to write down the names of two people we wanted at our table.  Without consultation, Wendel, Dick, and I all wrote each other’s names, so we were together.  The other girls were really unhappy that I the most unpopular girl at camp should end up with two of the seven boys at my table. Somehow that got me over the hump of not wearing high heels and tennis shoes, i could see that what boys liked about me had nothing to do with how I dressed.

Once again my father explained it to me.  You are used to boys, you have brothers, mostly boy cousins, and lots of uncles. You’ll always get along fine with them. I guess he was right, I started going steady my freshman year in high school (age13) and never was not promised to someone until I got married at 19. I don’t recommend that for young people, but for me it worked out just right. As to sexual activity, it had no appeal , for it was understood in our family that if you respected someone you kept your hands to yourself, and why would I want to date someone who didn’t respect me? I certainly would not be able to “love” someone who didn’t respect me, so…no thanks !!! Kissing , hugging, and holding hands were fine, but that was it.

The other outstanding memory of my High School years is of the loyal girl friends I had. A different one each year volunteered to match her class schedule to mine. She sat by me carried “our” books to each class, fought the locker rush, carried my crutches up and down stairs as necessary.  Beverly, Betty, Carol, and Cathy – unsung heroines. Thank you!


Gathering early bits and pieces- Summer Surprise

The most exciting phone calls I remember as a young girl came not for or from a boy, but from my Dad.  As I mentioned he owned a Hardware Store in our small Midwest town and to accommodate the farmers, he stayed open until 9:00 on Saturday nights.   It was an economic necessity for us , but it made for a very short weekend!  He usually came home for supper from 5:30 to 6:00 on Saturday nights.  But two or three times a summer while my brothers and I were growing up, the phone would ring shortly after he’d gone back to work.  Without suspecting anything we would answer and he would say, “Ask your Mom if she can be ready to go camping by 9:00?”

We knew what it would involve, it would be work for everyone, especially for Mom.   However, Mom wouldn’t miss a lick, she’d smile and say, “Tell him, we’ll be ready.”  Then we four would switch into high gear!  Mom would have to go to the grocery store, because camping food required a special menu.  My little brothers would run out to the shed and start wrestling our heavy canvas tent out to the driveway so it could be put in the trunk when Mom got home with the car from the grocery store.  The boys ranged between four and twelve in those days.  I’d get the picnic basket out from under the bed , our house was small so we stored where we could.  I started counting out the silverware, glasses, plates, cups, spatulas, coffee pot, hot pads, and so on.  The boys would then patiently get the lantern, check the kerosene can , line up the tackle boxes, the axe, and the small pistol that Dad kept unloaded by the bed plus the box of ammunition.  They stacked it all up along the side of the house so that when Mom came back they could help her carry in the groceries, then they would load the car quickly.

Because my father was crippled with Polio, my brothers learned how to do things capably at very early ages.  Dad trained them, so they knew how and what to do.  By the time John was 7 or 8 he could “straw boss” the packing pretty well.  Mom and I went to work in the house while the boys were outside, we lined up the food, the bedding, towels, and bathing suits.  We added a flashlight and my Dad’s pride and joy, the short-wave radio!  Since Dad owned the Hardware Store we had one of the best short-wave radios in town.  We never went camping without that, it was our highway to adventure in the night.

Even now I can see the kitchen table piled high with the necessities.  The screen door would slam as the boys ran in and out carrying things to pack into the car.  The moths and bugs came in with the boys, attracted by the light, but Mom didn’t fuss.  She knew Dad was probably “full up” with the he store  and anxious to get into the ‘great outdoors’, as he always called it.  To facilitate life for him required loving tolerance on her part.  Dad had grown up in Nebraska on the shores of the Ponca River and he never really did get enough “outdoors” after he became a bookkeeper, then a Teller in the bank, and finally a store owner. But he knew all the tricksof how to put up the tent.  He would position it, the boys would lay it out according to his instructions, then he would crawl around to pound the stakes in, because he used the back of the axe and he was afraid they’d get hurt.  However, they were very capable and careful and it wasn’t long until they could put up the eight person 70 pound tent by themselves and dig a trench around in case of rain.

When the Mercury was loaded, it would be almost 9:00.  We three kids would crowd in the back seat with our feet carefully placed around and on things, then our 80 pound dog would join us in the already crowded backseat.  Oh well, such is love, we didn’t fret about his bad breath, big feet, or crowding!  The adventure had begun.

We would stop by the store and pick up Dad, he was ready except he would change out of his good work clothes when we got to our site.  Our camping spot was on Rosebud Indian Reservation land down by a river called the Little White.  There wasn’t really a road in to ‘our’ spot, it was more of a trail and I can remember  after the 90 mile drive, seeing headlights shine up into the tree leaves as the car bumped over the trail.  “with luck boys”, Dad would say, “you’ll have the tent up and the beds made by the time I have the fire started and the coffee perking.”  The nights stars looked big and gorgeous in the sky- it was so different from the view of the night sky in town.

Actually, they would have to scout wood before they started putting the tent up, but usually there were some dried pieces along the river and with Frisky along we weren’t too afraid of snakes.  Then Dad would fix the fire ring by clearing brush and putting stones in a circle , while Mom got out the frying pan and other essentials for hamburgers at midnight.  Dad always made coffee in an old percolator when we camped and I can hear the wonderful sound now of that pleasant little “burp”, “burp”, “burp” against the background of the river rushing by.   Dad usually sang a few bars of “I want to drink my coffee from an old tin can, while the moon is riding high.” Dad rarely sang, so it meant he was feeling happy and free.  The Stars were low overhead, above the tree tops and it seemed, nothing could be more wonderful than the five of us and Frisky out there in the middle of the ‘great outdoors ‘.

I’m sure none of us could imagine how life could be better than it was then.  The folks never told us to go to bed when we were camping.  After we’d eaten hamburgers and fresh fruit, and topped it off with a candy bar, Dad would tune in the short wave, accompanied by lots of static, of course.  He’d tune in “far away places with strange sounding names” and he’d talk about the wonderful age we live in.  “someday you will travel and see these things.”  He would say to us.  One night in particular I remember we listened to Mozart’s sonatas from a live broadcast in Germany on the BBC and he said , “Someday you’ll hear them live in a great concert hall and remember this night beside the Little White River in South Dakota.”  We have indeed all three grown up to travel internationally, something my Dad could only dream of doing.

Finally, one of us kids would think about swimming or fishing in the morning, and slowly we’d peel away into the tent.  Mom and Dad would sit up even later and talk and drink coffee and stare at the fire and just be glad to be alone together, with us!  The next morning we’d slip on our suits and go swimming in the river.  Dad’s only rule was that there had to be at least two together, so we worked it out.  We had wonderful games with “rustlers” sneaking up on us and peeking over the bluffs, or Indians about to attack, however, we were always warned in time by our faithful dog Frisky that danger was near!  Oh, the games we played In that shallow sandy  bottomed river.  We’d dig deep holes and bury each other and, it was a giant playground that makes Disneyland seem mild in comparison.  Eventually, the wonderful smell of bacon and coffee would get us out of the water and we’d all have breakfast together.  The folks would wash up and then luxuriate over the Sunday paper.  Later while Dad cut up the vegetables and meat for his famous ‘camp stew’, Mom would come swimming with us.  She knew all kinds of rhymes and songs that added  to the sunny free feeling of the day.

We camped in kind of a draw on very sandy soil.  A real death trap should there be a flash flood upriver, but when it was dry there was no problem.  If it rained much we would leave early, but if it was just a sprinkle of rain, we would linger, swim, fish, then eat Dad’s famous camp stew and fresh bread.  Just before dusk we would head home, because Dad had to open the store early Monday morning.  There would be a sandy mess for the rest of us  to contend with but such a glorious time was well worth it.

Laterwhen I was dating, my boy friends liked to go camping on the Little White with our family too.  In fact I sometimes wondered if I was the total attraction or if they just liked being on our family outings?  “Well”, my Dad would say to Mother, “it’s better than leaving them in town and the current beau can help out our boys.”  If I had a boyfriend along, we took two tents and he slept with my brothers in theirs.  It seemed our family was special and the town boys liked the freedom, the swimming, the eats, and the target practice.  They had never experienced anything  like late night ‘cruising’ on the short wave and the conversations around the camp fire that it occasioned.  I guess it was Dads answer to teen-age temptations.  Neither my brothers nor I had much desire to get into trouble, there was just so much to do.  There were always those exciting phone calls to anticipate on weekends and one year Dad called and told Mom to get ready, he had heard there was a free concert in the Park in Denver, Colorado on the 4th of July.  That was 10 hours away, but what a 4th of July that was for us.  After the concert and fireworks we drove a couple hours  and camped in the Rockies.  My Dad was a master of surprise entertainment for his wife and kids.

When John was about ten Dad bought a reasonably priced, folding canoe which added to the delight of all!  Though it made work for my brothers, it was fun! There was a creek nearby our camping spot and it could be carried there and was great for boat rides and fishing. Before I knew it those years were over and it was time for me to go to college and see what “attracting” I could do on my own.

Many years have gone by and I have received many phone calls since then, but they have not compared with the delightful unexpectedness of my Dad’s voice suggesting a late night camping trip.  Sometime soon, My Heavenly Father’s voice will call me, perhaps unexpectedly, with the suggestion of the greatest outing yet, only this time He will call me to the Jordan, and my heart will beat high  with excitement knowing that I’m already prepared, as I rush to answer His call.

Gathering Early Bits and Pieces, Humanity Love

I remember that when my father was Mayor of our small city, he often rode on patrol with the policemen at night.  In third grade we had a very clean, pretty young teacher from another part of the state.  Also that year we had a number of Indian children who attended the Public school rather than the reservation school.  The teacher had them sit in the back of the classroom.  I noticed that they often fell asleep and couldn’t or didn’t answer the few questions she asked them.  One night I talked it over with my father.  (Mom had already given me her view, which was pretty much conventional wisdom in the town at that time, “Indians are just inferior, no use wasting too much time or energy on them since that only grow up to drink and live on government hand outs anyhow.”)  My father took my worries seriously however, “You are asking complicated questions,” he said.  “I’m not sure what answers to give you.  The Government supports them so most of them don’t work for their money.  That caused them to treat it casually because they know more will automatically come next month.  It’s not a good system, but that’s the way it is now.”

“If the government gives them money, why don’t they have to bring money for milk break, like the rest of us do?”, I asked.  My Dad looked at me seriously.  “they don’t pay for their milk because their parents don’t have any money left over from their own spending on liquor and other items.” He told of riding around late at night in Indian town with the police and seeing the one and two rooms houses, with kids asleep on the floor under the beds ,  while adults were up fighting and drinking until all hours.  “The teacher puts the kids in the back because they are dirty, they have head- lice , they are tired, and when they get into a warm room they will fall asleep, especially after they’ve had milk break at recess.  It’s probably the only food they’ve had so far that day,” he continued. I knew that sometimes they fall asleep at their desks with their heads on their arms, so I accepted his simplistic explanation-adequate for an eight year old.

But even then I wondered why other people didn’t know what my Dad knew?  There were other differences between my Dad and his friends.  For example Dad always knew Indians by name, but few others in our town did. One example will do:  The night before Christmas one year, an Indian man came into the store with a quilt, it was thin, certainly not a treasure like those that many ladies make today.  It was not color coordinated nor did it have a design, but he asked my Dad to take it on trade for toys so he could have Christmas for his three kids.  He knew if anyone in town would do it, it would be my Dad. Dad did!  Our oldest daughter still has that quilt, patched up and passed down.  Tolerance and concern for human beings is tied up in that quilt and it will always remind me of Dad and his ability to look at each person as a person with needs and feelings just like his own.  In a very human way he modeled for us the love of God.  My father did not claim to be a Christian, but because he was handicapped and a farm boy he had lived with his grandmother in town during the school year.  She was a believer and read the Bible a aloud every morning.  Saved my father was not, but the moral teachings had their influence on his later lifestyle.

After we had talked about the Indian children I made up my eight year old mind to make friends with some of them.  John Long and Ruth Milk became school friends of mine.  Although I observed that each year there were fewer Indian children on our class, my particular friends stayed on.  We spent the next five years of grade school with an ongoing relationship, not close because of the nature of our society at that time, but we were always there for each other on the daily school level.  It worked for us.  Ruth had a lovely smile and was gentle and kind, John was nice too; he was the biggest boy in our class and was always picked to be on any team.  Because of his athletic ability he got along fine with the boys, but  Ruth was shy and the other girls didn’t include her in anything willingly!  She and I spent noon hours together sometimes and shared my lunch.  I ate at school in most weather  because of the difficulty of getting up and down school steps with braces and crutches.  Everyone else went home except the country kids, who usually ate in their cars with their older brothers and sisters.  Ruth told me she had nothing to go home for because things were quite at her house until later in the day.

What that might indicate I had no idea, but I accepted her evaluation of the situation and we simply shared my lunch when I was there.  John and Ruth both graduated from eighth grade, but did not go on to High Schoool in town.  John was large for his  age and went into the military as soon as he could lie about his age and enlist in the Navy.  My Dad told me John had stopped by the store one day because he wanted to  let me know he was leaving.  He told Dad that he had lied about his age and enlisted. “It could be worse.” my Dad said, “He can make of it what he will, at least he’s away from tribal region nfluences.”  By then I had a pretty good idea of what kind of influences my Dad probably meant.

That same year on Easter Sunday morning, we attended the Sunrise Service.  As we drove down Main Street, very  early I saw a person laying on the ground in front of one of the stores.  There were always several Indians passed out near the Liquour Store on Main Street so I was not surprised.  But that day one of the bundle of rags sat up and staggered on down the street near Dad’s store.  It was Ruth!  She was  obviously pregnant, I couldn’t believe it.  I made my Mom stop and I called to her, “Ruth, Ruth Milk, but she was in bad shape, she glanced at me bleary eyed and staggered on.  I had understood that she had gone back to the reservation to high school, but it was not so.  She went on to become a local sight, I don’t know at that age what I could have done for her, but I knew that if the time came when I could do something to help American Indians, I would!

Early Bits and Pieces-Random Thoughts

At his wedding
Loren Rahn Osborn at his wedding
Dorothy Hosford on her wedding day
Dorothy Hosford on her wedding day


PA Hosford's family.  Moms parents back row right in front of tree.  My Mother is the smallest baby on Grandma Hosfird's lap.
PA Hosford’s family. Moms parents back row right in front of tree. My Mother is the smallest baby on Grandma Hosford’s lap.
Loren and Dorothy as I knew them as a child- Johna

Random thoughts run through my mind as I write.  Incidents that would affect later decisions and feelings hide in my head and to the fore.  My father was always very open minded, having suffered himself from crippling polio, he perhaps was better able to see what people were truly like because he was forced to look below the surface.  I don’t really know what caused his open minded world view, but that is the way he was.  When I was older he explained to me that everyone in the world has a handicap, some handicaps are just more visible than others.    That knowledge hidden in my thoughts helped me much as I faced my own future.  I guess his unusual world view attracted my Mother, she admired it but did not feel comfortable claiming it as her own.  They met in this way:

After mother’s two brothers, Donald and Harold had gone from home, my Grandparents decided to use some of the extra room in their large house to take in roomers.  The boy’s rooms were empty now and could be converted into one large Bed/Sit that would accommodate two.  There were always young men coming to town who needed a place to live while they were getting established.

My Father was one of those young men.  He rented a room, shared with another, and as often happens fell in love with the landlord’s daughter.  Mom liked him too, but Grandfather (called P.A.) was not enthralled with their budding relationship.  Mother was destined for one of the young blades around town (lawyer, doctor, college graduate), they were always at the house to take out either Mom or her younger sister.  grandpa agreed that my Dad was a very interesting young man to talk to , but after all he was only a bank clerk and Grandpa did not consider him a worthy suitor,  his physical handicap didn’t help either.

Dad had grown up in Nebraska, in a small town near Sioux City, Iowa.  While attending a two year Business School there, he frequently ate at a nearby diner in the city.  The diner was frequented by a young, and yet unknown, local gangster named Al Capone.  Sometimes he and Dad ended up at the counter over a few cups of coffee just talking like young men will.  They became friends of a sort!  Dad knew Al was into some shady dealings, but he did not know the details of the operations.  When Dad finished his Business course, Al offered him a job keeping their books.  Though it was his first firm job offer, Dad knew he needed to pull away from the association.  Al would later move his center of operations to Chicago and become notorious.  dad was always glad he had not pursued that offer.

To return to my parents romance: Dad started to court my Mom, not easy as a newcomer without a car.  She  was already squired around first class by others.  Dad decided it might be a wise investment for him to buy a car, even though he could not drive it, he could teach Mom.  He had grown up around farm tractors and machinery and knew the “how’s” of driving.  It would give them freedom to date.  Grandfather was not pleased with this decision and asked Dad to find another place to room.

Not too long after this , Mom and Dad, eloped.  Dad had his best friend from High school and his girlfriend meet them in Yankton, South Dakota one afternoon.  They were married by a Justice of the Peace.  Then they had a celebratory meal at the Main Hotel there.  When they returned to Winner to inform Grandfather, there was nothing he could do, they were both of age.

Mom always supported Dad and loved him wholeheartedly.  When he later ran for Clerk of Courts in our county, she walked all over town delivering handbills.  The incumbent Clerk tried to discredit him because he was crippled and could “never carry the heavy books”.  But the town knew him and mom, he won the office with a generous margin.  This is my “quilt”  not that of my parents but this glimpse gives an idea of the kind of home I grew up in, loving, accepting;  yet determined!


Early Bits and Pieces-Third grade in the hospital

I spent most of the next year in Hot Springs , South Dakota in the hospital.  At that time, Sister Kenny’s program of hot baths , swimming, massaging and daily exercises was all that they knew.  They had not yet determined just when the infectious stage was over, besides there was no possible care at home.  Nowadays, many experts would think my life was blighted because of the separation, for I was not allowed to even see my Mother for almost four months.  Dad owned a Hardware Store that was open six days a week and was open until 9:00 on Saturday nights. He could not often get away and since he didn’t drive he had to catch a ride the 220 miles up to see me. But he did write often, I have many of his letters still.  In the meantime, my brother John was born and he was fine.  I was so glad about that, even though I couldn’t see him, I felt joy that our family had increased and everyone was okay.  What fun it would be to have a baby brother!  They named him John Loren Osborn.

At the hospital I was caught up in the friendships and feuds of our smaller world there in the Children’s Ward.  My second grade class mates from home sent packages and letters from time to time, and there were some very caring nurses, life was okay. Though I did want to go home as soon as they would let me ,my psyche suffered no permanent damage that I noticed….

In the late spring of that year, I was released.  I had a wheel chair and some very small crutches, that I could use more or less adeptly.  Also they had put primitive half leg braces on me, later they would realize they were inadequate for my degree of disability, but at the time, I was equipped thus.  I liked the wheel chair much better than struggling with crutches, but I’d been used to wide halls at the Hospital and getting around as I chose.  Going home was to be very different.

The first day I got out of the car, Mom brought the wheel chair for me to get into.  We were parked on the hillside where our house was.  My Mom offered to help me get in, but very smugly I assured her that I could do it myself.  I got into the chair fine, but  when I had to push it up the hill and turn into the sidewalk that led to the front door, the chair tipped and I fell out.  Mom rushed over to help, but Dad wouldn’t let her.  “She said she could do it herself Dorothy, let her, or let her not be so quick to refuse help in the future.”  It was a wise word, and I learned from it how things would be in my life from then on.

I have found out now as a Chrisitian, that God deals with me  in that way also.  I can have His help at anytime, but if I am too proud to ask, or if I refuse the offer of His solution (as it is written in His word), then I am on my own.  He’s there, ready to guide or help, but I must humble myself to ask  and then I must heed His directions.  If I am quick to refuse His help, He will not insist!  I can go where the path is easy and straight with His support, or I can struggle along on my own, but His offer to help is always there.  Well, it didn’t take long in a small crowded house to see that crutches would be much more useful than a wheel chair, so I set about mastering them.  When we sat down to eat and Dad and I leaned our crutches against the wall, it was amusing to see the big  and little crutches side by side.  I’m sure that having a crippled father helped me adjust more easily to the situations.

Hot July

My mother loved me, but she longed for a larger family, two of her babies died after birth, one when I was three and another when I was five, then when I was seven, she was again pregnant.  This time Dr Studenburg was taking no chances.  She would be sent nearly 250 miles away to the big hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The baby would be taken by c-section so he could be monitored there from birth.  She would be going to the hospital in late July.  Two of my uncles lived in our home town, they were younger than my father and talked to my Dad about going on a hunting trip in the Black Hills.  They urged him to go, since it would be his last chance for a week end off before the new baby would come.  My father had had polio when he was a child, he used both a brace and crutches.  While he was an excellent shot, he was dependent on someone else to get him close enough to be able to hunt.  He was tempted to go with them, but reluctant to leave my Mother after all they’d been through with the previous pregnancies.

She, however, encouraged him, “It’s a month away yet.” He said.  Though she too was fearful, she feared more for my father if something should again go wrong than she did for herself.  It was very hot that summer.  Before my Dad left town he brought me home a gift, a pair of roller skates.  He told me seriously to take good care of my Mother.  Mom didn’t feel very well with the terrible heat wave, so she mostly sat by the fan, but I spent all that day outdoors going up and down our hill on my new skates.  My legs ached that night when Mom put me in bed, but “That’s logical, you aren’t used to skates and I’m afraid you over did it,” she said as she smiled and hugged me good night.

The next morning I woke up early, anxious to go skating again.  But I knew my mother was still asleep, so I got some books off the shelf by my bed and read for awhile.  Then I had to go to the bathroom.  When I stood up from the stool, my legs buckled.  I wasn’t hurt, just surprised!  There was no sound yet from Mom’s room, (I could hear through the closet) so I got up and went quietly back to bed.  After awhile I decided I’d very carefully get myself some cereal, but when I slid off the bed, I fell down again.  This time I was afraid and called Mom.  She was afraid too!  She called our family Doctor.  He came right over to the house, his concern for Mom made him more than willing to do a house call.  He suspected polio, and told my mother to go get Grandma to stay with me and he said for my mother not to come back home until he called her.

With the high fever now raging, the dreaded diagnosis came; it was indeed polio!  Dr Studenburg was reluctant to tell my Dad who had had polio when he was seven.  But he decided Dad must come right away to be with me.  He would not allow my mother to come home so near her delivery time.  She must stay at Grandma’s.  Where was my Dad, that was the question.  He and John and Jim had gone hunting in the Black Hills , but beyond that, who knew where the hunt might take them?  Dr Studenburg called the State Troopers and asked them to find Lorne Osborn.  It was urgent he told them then he gave them the description of the car.  Meanwhile he did what he could for me.  I was burning up with fever by this time, for polio does it’s damage –of killing muscles– in the high fever stage.  He and Grandma used cool rags, aspirin, cold baths and whatever they could there at our house.  They didn’t want to take me to the local hospital because for the unknown nature of the disease.  No one knew for sure then how it was transmitted.

When the State Trooper pulled Uncle John over sometime the next morning, the brothers figured he wanted to check their hunting licenses, but when he said, “Which one of you is Loren Osborn?” they knew licenses were not the problem.  My Dad answered and immediately thought of Mom. “I don’t know what it is about Sir,” the trooper told him, “It’s a medical emergency and they need you at home right away.” What a total surprise it was when they got back to town and found the problem was with me not Mom.  My Uncle John and Dad took me up to Hot Sptings that afternoon in our car.  They had a section in the hospital for polio victims, even a children’s ward, since so many had polio that year.

Early Bits in Green Swiss Dots

Green Swiss Dot Memory

My next conscious memory was very exciting and would affect me in a way that I could not have anticipated. I woke up that morning with all the excitement a six year old body was capable of containing. My eyes went immediately to the open closet door , hanging there was my new green dotted Swiss dress. This was the day, my Mother had said that I could wear it! It was a hot summer day in August, and would be one of the last really hot days, because in South Dakota summer wanes quickly once it decides to go. Kneeling there on the floor, so that my eyes were just level with the sill, I looked out of the window, the birds were at the birdbath and though summer was about done , everything was still green, my favorite color! Green seemed so beautiful to me, the color of life and spring. I was pleased to think that Grandma had made the new dotted Swiss dress “Green to match you eyes”, my Dad had said. I hugged myself and bounced a little with sheer joy.

My parents weren’t awake yet. A narrow closet in our house went through from my bedroom to theirs. With the the closet door open, which Mother had granted as a concession to view the “new” dress, I could tell everything was still silent in their room in the quiet of the summer morning. As I knelt there looking out, it crossed my mind that this was a very special day or Mother would not have allowed me to wear the green dress on a week day. But I didn’t know what the event was to be. It was enough to know the day had come! I had had a bath and a hair trim the night before , I wore my hair in a strait Dutch boy bob, with carefully cut bangs. My hair was a nice enough brown and very shiny, but so straight! Dad told me it was like his, because his great grandmother had been a Sioux Indian lady and the inheritance came through to me in an easily tanned skin and straight hair. That was fine with me because everyone said, I looked like my dad, and since he was my hero, what could be better?

I heard stirring on the other side of the house and knee my parents were getting up. I crawled back to bed and waited for Mom to come and open my bedroom door. Our house was very small, though I didn’t realize it then. Our only closet was the one that went from one bedroom through to the other, our bathroom had been snugged in between my bedroom and the living room: ‘snugged’ being an apt description for our pocket side bathroom. Before my parents were married, my father had worked at the Bank. He had heard that an old schoolhouse in the country was for sale, so he purchased it, had it moved in from the country, then divided it into rooms to make our house. It was an inventive solution for the housing shortage that was prevalent in our town at that time. But it did make an unusual room arrangement. To give privacy for bathroom use, my bedroom door was kept closed during the night. In the morning one of my parents would come to open it and in that way my day would begin.

Taking time for breakfast that day would have been unbearable anyhow so I was delighted to see that we were not going to do that. When Mom came in she was already dressed and urged me to get up and get going. She even helped me make my double bed, which was a pretty hard task for a six year old to do alone, when the bed was pushed tightly into the corner. All kinds of possibilities ran through my mind, but Mom was mum on the subject of the day’s upcoming events. Even Dad was no help!

What could it be I wondered, while Mom helped me dress. I even had new anklets with lace! I felt so beautiful as I pirouetted in front of my parents. We rode in silence, but I was bouncing on the back seat. Where could we be going I wondered again? It had to be something absolutely wonderful! I felt no premonition as we headed up the walk to the doctor’s office. During my six years of observations, I’d seen adults do so many mysterious things that resulted in surprising results, now I was merely curious about what lay ahead. My trust in them was absolute! That trust was about to be tested, however, for we had arrived at our destination.

The doctor was a family friend, actually he was married to my father’s former secretary so when I saw him I was eager to show off my pretty green dress. He smiled and called us to come back into a small square white room. There was a chair there and a table with some instruments on it that I didn’t recognize, though they looked like some of Dad’s fishing equipment that he kept in his tackle box. One item I remember was a kidney bean shaped metal dish. I knew what kidney beans were and it caught my attention. “What is that for?” I asked, but no one answered me. My Mother took me back into a small dressing room and said I would have to take off my dress and put on a white gown with a big slit down the back. “Why?” I asked, nervously.

“You know all those sore throats you’ve had? Well Dr. Studenburger thinks you need to have your tonsils out and we don’t want your pretty green dress to get ruined, do we?” Nothing really registered except the part about the green dress getting dirty, I certainly did not want that. “Can I put it on again afterwards?”, I asked. “Yes, if you want to.” mom replied reluctantly. Why wouldn’t I want to I wondered, but things were moving along rapidly.

The doctor talked to me about the sore throat I would have for awhile when he was done. Well, I was familiar with sore throats, I’d had a lot of them, so I just shrugged and waited. Then he and the nurse began to prepare, but he did take time to tell me that I could have all the “green” pop and ice cream I wanted when I woke up. I remember thinking about that when the nurse put the cone over my nose. Dr. Studenburger is such a good friend, he knows I love green and wants the pop to match my news dress. On that happy note I passed out under the ether.

As you can imagine, after a tonsillectomy, pop and ice cream were far from my thoughts when I awoke. What a sore throat! The expression, ‘You’ll feel like your throat has been cut’ has since than assumed real meaning for me. There were two lumps of something in the kidney bean shaped dish by my bed when I awoke, they were later dropped into a bottle of alcohol for me to save. I did not want to save them, or anything else from that awful morning, except, of course my new green Swiss dotted dress.

Years later I asked my Mother why she didn’t tell me, prepare me? “I guess I thought it was best to let you be happy, and what difference would it have made in the results? It had to be done, and you only would have worried.” Then she smiled, “How happy you were in your new green dress, I wouldn’t have missed the memory of that happiness for anything.”

Perhaps she had a point, when I think of going to heaven some day, I have the same feeling of anticipation I felt on that long ago summer morning. Only this time I know instead of putting on a new green dress I’ll be wearing a glowing white robe as I go up the walk with the Great Physician. Glory!

Gathering Early Bits and Pieces

One wonders why certain incidents stand out in a young mind while so many other fall by the wayside.  The first conscious memory I have retained was of my Mother coming in and picking me up out of bed early one morning.  She danced around the room with me and waltzed into the living room, where my Father was, “The war is over!”  I really had no idea of what it signified, but I could feel my parent’s happiness as we had a three-cornered hug. “No more blackouts! “, my father said, “No more killings!”, “Friends will come home!” Though I didn’t understand their delight, it was a lovely, warm memory that stayed in my mind.


The next thing I remember clearly was my Father standing in the corner of the Living Room, crying.  I had not known that fathers cried.  My second baby brother had just died, after living only 36 hours.  I was five years old at the time, my parents had lost another baby boy, two years earlier.  How to explain the deep, deep pain of that for them, I do not know.  But my Father sobbed and said, “Never again, we will be content with Ann.”  I did not fully comprehend what was happening and thus had no concept of what he meant, but the sorrow was palpable.  That night, when he hugged me and tucked me into bed, I sensed the fierceness of his feelings.