Sibling Memories
Stories from the nine children.

Roland H. Gurgel - "Rollie" or "Rolly"

Cheyenne had the incinerator in the back yard and how tempting it was for a four-five year old to use in many various ways. It was made of brick with a top hatch and a bottom hatch easy to crawl into. Using my "great and marvelous" imagination one afternoon it became my Sherman Tank and off to war I went for I guess it was hours. Not until all of you including mom and dad were searching for me thinking I was MIA did I pop the top and showed myself triumphantly! What a great day that was for me any way. Maybe I should have stayed hidden!

Yes there were more; the "Peep" in the dark, kidnapping the dolls of sisters when they were gone, a faint memory of falling into mud pits at Lindemann's, running away from home - good grief just down the block and I knew where I was - the "I like cookies", and I'm sure there are many others you could tell from your point of view. A milk truck incident in Eau Claire - still waiting for a sister to fess up to that one! And yes Daniel the “Swampfox” moniker. I learned from all of you how to avoid getting into trouble most of the time.

Bethany - Bethany Dauer

Here's to Mom and the tiny 3 person book club she founded in our tiny bedroom in Eau Claire. The 2 fledgling members had no requirements but to be in bed and listen. Her gentle tired voice carried the whole club as she read a chapter a night to us from such classics as The Wind in the Willows or better yet something from the best-selling series of Trixie Belden books. (Really wouldn't it have been great if Trixie had been a Biblical name so some of us from Lutheran families could have used it???? Could have slipped it in as one of the 12 tribes or a Philistine or something, right??) Anyway I guess our contribution could be viewed as the begging that commenced when the nightly chapter was completed and we whined for just one more " please Mom"...Occasionally she caved and we got our wish. It was magical-within the confines of this club begging was tolerated and frequently rewarded! Loved it! :)

Deborah - Deborah Ude

Pretty tame.

In the light of all the 'adventures' Paul has related, my contributions are very unexciting.

Belle Plaine: For the record, I wasn't being 'naughty' I was merely playing 'house.' Each section of the front pew was a different room and my sliding was going from one to the next. Apparently Dad didn't view it as the innocent past time of a four year old. Hey, at least he used my full name when thundered at me from the middle of his sermon.

Phoenix: The neighbors, the rose many days did we all tip toe around the house because of THAT one?

Cheyenne: Kathy and Becky Riggert had their own adventure with a red wagon and hill. The result was a nasty open sore on Kathy's leg. Nearly healed, Kathy and I were by the back gate, waiting for Mom to give the signal we could head for school Daniel and Ruth were in the front waiting also. It was of course a race. At Mom's signal, Kathy and I both crowded through the gate at the same time. She fell and broke open the wound. Blood everywhere, I watched Daniel and Ruth dash out of the yard. I was compelled to return to the house with Kathy, penitent the entire way. Did that sore ever heal?

Eau Claire: Taking Shirley Wendland sledding on the big pieces of tin on the grassy hillside. She ripped her pants in the process.

Ruth (Tutti) - Ruth Bernthal

Pink, green, and black...but not black and blue!

Perhaps Daniel would rather like to recount this tale of the garden watermelon fiasco! Dad told us many times afterward that he was really excited about the good crop of watermelons that summer in his Belle Plaine garden and couldn't wait for them to ripen. Apparently Daniel and I could not wait for them to turn the luscious pink with those jet black seeds inside either, so taking the matter into our own hands (literally) we pulled those gems off the vines and hauled them to the edge of the garden. "Look, Dad, we helped you!" I wish I could recall for sure that look of horror on his face when he saw his "babies" all piled together, prematurely yanked from the life-giving vines, never to ripen into the juicy sweetness he had been dreaming about. I believe we were sent to bed without supper, but not given black and blue bottoms for this act of "helpfulness."

Mother always insisted on saddle shoes when it came time to get new footwear, while I fancied myself decked out in something less practical. Finally, I had my chance, Dad took me shoe shopping one day before I entered 1st grade. At the store he looked right at me and said, "What kind would you like?" I was so totally flabbergasted that I could not speak up for myself and show him ones that were pretty and had caught my eye. Served me right that he told the clerk to bring out a pair of saddle shoes to try on. Ugh!

Taylor's Cottage days bring lots of happy memories. Dad took Debi and I out with the cane poles to a spot on Spirit Lake where the blue gills were plentiful. It didn't take too long before Debi got one on her line and promptly yanked it up into the air, where it dangled on the hook high above us. In trying to land the little guy onto the boat, she swayed that pole back and forth until the fish finally landed on top of Dad's fishing hat--plunk--where he rescued it from any more acrobatic maneuvers, took out the hook, and finally home to supper!

Also at Taylor's Cottage, some of us were standing around a dishpan full of water in the kitchen area brushing our teeth and spitting into the basin, before going off to bed. Along came Dad into the kitchen to see what was up, and then he promptly put into hands into the basin, washed them with soap, dried them on a towel and sauntered back out. We were all too afraid to tell him we had used that as our spit bowl!

Mom let us watch the Saturday night Lennon Sisters on the Lawrence Welk show in Phoenix. Kathy picked up some of the dance moves by watching carefully, and she would lead me around in a waltz on the side lawn. We thought we were concealed from Dad's all-knowing gaze, but no, down the street he came from that direction in the green Packard. His finger wagging vehemently at us "No! No! No" as he drove into the driveway. We also thought we needed perfume in those days, so we picked some leaves off the lemon tree to soak in water to make our own sweet, bath-splash. Since we seemed to have some very vindictive brothers in those days, it didn't take them long at all to tattle on us. I don't think I would have gotten that black and blue bottom from picking the leaves, but after telling Dad, "No, I didn't pull any off the tree," and he knew that was not the truth--that's when the wallops began. Childhood, ain't it grand?

Daniel - Dan

Belle Plaine was an awaking from blackness to consciousness. Smell of the dew on the grass, earth in the garden,

Mom's bread coming out of the oven. Life awoke for me in that house. Roller skating in the basement during winter, peaking in the church basement and making the students laugh. Heard the pipe organ playing one afternoon, going into the church and hopping up on the bench and asking what keys can I press. The young lady responded, "Any you want." Thus began my musical career.

Arizona was freedom. Mom and Dad were working, out from the thumb of Dad.

Cheyenne was ice skating and fishing.

Eau Claire: High School was a social event. Little input to studies. Then I was told I was going to be a pastor.

My stand up to Dad was to leave for San Fran. It worked. One year in the Cities making bombs, then off to the Air Force.

Back to the desert for 3 years 9 months and 11 hours, Holloman AFB. Came back for teaching, saw a few of my sister's future husbands tell Dad they wanted to get married. Of course he blew up. So instead of telling Dad I told Mom. Nice cushion. The only advice he gave me that was a value was to get my degree at UWEC.

He's my Dad.

I came home on leave from the AF and painted the old milk house. He had no clue what it was. Mom knew instantly.

She was my Mom.

Kathleen - Kathy Olmanson

Ok, here is my story.

About a big brother who shall be named her…

Paul, who thought HE could do much better than me in following moms directions for cooking the soup that was to be our supper. And how this brother wouldn't let me turn the heat down to simmer, but kept it up on high all afternoon so when a tired and hungry mom and dad came home from work, the astonished parents saw said supper was BURNED and then the finger of blame at ME!!!!

These are the Lois Jean - Jeanne

Here is my contribution.

Fact: the BOYS were the ones who burned the soup in Phoenix.

Also Phoenix: Being the oldest was not always fun. I remember when I was asked on a date by a boy named August, we were to attend a high school play, he did not drive as yet, we were only sophomores, so his parents had to taxi us. While waiting for him to pick me up, all the rest of you siblings sat outside on the front fence chanting, "Jeanne's got a boyfriend." Talk about wanting to be an only child about then. After one date I decided I did not like the guy; besides that, we moved to Cheyenne soon after…

Taylor's cottage: I remember one day dad was fishing off the dock. It was toward the end of the day. Somehow Dad leaned over the lake and his glasses fell off and into the lake. He made MOM put her swim suit on and go out all around the dock looking for his glasses. It was a murky, rocky lake, and was dark by the time Mom gave up. Mom never did find them. He had to get a new pair.

Wonderful memories! Jeanne

Paul - Rev PRG

This is my story and I’m sticking to it!

There are other stories, like: G.I. Joe Daniel becomes a mummy; Or, “Is he dead?” the girls asked, as we did a scientific study of concussions on John; Or. How the girls burned the soup - of all things! But they are for you to tell.

It began in New Ulm, MN. It began when we (Paul & John) were 3-5 years old. We were already ahead of our time. We were trend setters! We already were wannabe hot-rodders/motor heads. We already wanted to be traveling as fast as the wind.

It began with the typical (really) shinny red and white tricycle. We loved it. We would go cruising up and down the sidewalk in front of our house; I would peddle as fast as the wind – John standing on the passenger carrier behind waving to Mom, Jeanie, & Kathy.

It began when John would beg to be the ‘driver’. But being 1+ years younger, he was weaker and slower and his peddling with me riding ‘shotgun’ just didn’t cut the image of hot-rodders or motor heads. In fact I usually had to push him or stand with one foot on and push with the other, kind of like you do with scooters.

So, one warm summer day when we had cruised down to the corner of the street I was amazed to find a pile of hot tar and oil just heaped up and sitting there. None of the street crews around to spread it out and pack it down – So…

Like I said we were ahead of our time, trend setters. Here was our chance to change our shinny red and white trike into a flat black speed machine. (It would be many years before this trend caught on in the hot rod and motor head world – bet we were first, we DID it, we set the standard.

We carefully took off our shirt and pants and laid them on the lawn, wheeled the trike to the edge of the road and started applying oil and tar to our ‘speed machine’ – oh, it was getting black and fast looking now! As we were busily at work the old 46 Desoto came slowly rolling up the street. The look of disgust on Dad’s face was something else and he couldn’t imagine somebody’s parents not knowing where their kids were and letting them playing in the tar – kind of all covered in it. That old funeral wagon (a gift – actually a cheap sale from Taylor’s Funeral Home in Rib Lake to ‘preacher’ Dad) came to an immediate halt, and the look on his face was of incredulity when he saw it was HIS kids AND the shinny new trike now smeared in black oil and tar.

The big loud voice that boomed out of that car was “you boys get home right now!” The not so tighty whities ‘undies’ and tar striped brown bodies that went running down the street must have looked like the last of the Mohicans about to die, (and we surely thought we were). Yet, surely he would be proud of the trend that we were setting. The Army might have learned camouflage body painting from us – not sure on that though.

When we got home Mom and everybody was outside to see us and hear, “Where are your clothes and where is that trike?” When Dad found out that they were still at the corner, he told Mom, “You start cleaning them up, and I’ll go get their stuff.” Probably the only “cooling off” move he ever made in his life. Mom of course didn’t know how to get tar off boys, clothes and toys (besides she was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes until Dad schooled at her). So, we were made to go to the garage and WAIT! Our tightly whites must have become the cloths to get the tar and oil off the trike, while a potato bristle brush was used on us, bottoms and bodies. We must have smelled like gasoline and turpentine for quite a while. Another new trend: in cologne? For years after, whenever we were driving around and he would see a patch of sand, he would stop the car and make us get out and roll around in the sand to get more tar off us (or just to punish us)?

It was still in New Ulm and we were still alive, (miraculously). There was some building/ remodeling going on, on a house across the alley from ours. Cool, scrap wood, now became available for any new innovations we (John & I) might need in our quest to ‘change’ the world, ‘make it better’, show our ingeniousness. So, we brought scraps home and piled them in the garage. Dad, parking the car off course saw them and asked whose they were and where we had gotten them. He thundered at us that we were NEVER to STEAL anything. That we MUST always ask permission to TAKE anything. O.K. we heard!

The next day we went back to watch the men work. They thought we were so ‘cute’ and shared their pop with us at break time. It was our opportunity to ask them if we could have nails. “Sure, when the day is done and we have gone home you can have any bent nails or any nails that you find in the dirt” So, we gathered up such, to the point that we had a brown sandwich bag almost full.

Of course at this time that old black/navy blue Desoto came down the street and the big voice was heard to say “what are you boys doing now?” We happily go over to show him our treasures that we now were going to use to make our creations out of scrap lumber with.

“Get in the car right now! I told you not to steal anything! Thieves go to jail. I’m taking you straight to jail!”

But . . .

“Shut up and keep quiet, the Sheriff is going to deal with you, you’ll learn.”

As we cowered on the floorboards, crying and begging, trying to explain we had been given permission. The car rolled on. After a few blocks, we peaked out the window and sure enough we were by the Police station. Oh, my, did the LOUD wailing begin then!

“Keep quite back there” is all we heard. Then the car stopped. “You boys stay here while I go get the Sheriff.”

A little while passed, then the car door opened again and a jug of milk was placed on the back seat and we headed for home. No Sheriff, only the stern words, “Let that be a lesson to you, never steal anything.” But… at least we had the items that would let us practice out building skills in anticipation of the next phase of this real life drama—wheelless carriages. Now, where to get a hammer!?

Now, with our need for speed and our design and construction skills, the scene moves to Belle Plaine, MN.

It was the era of soap box derby contests.

We were tired of Trikes and wagons. We had big hills behind our house that went all the way down to the river and we wanted faster rides. “Blaze of glory” would be our ‘ride’. Flat black in color (of course) with flames coming out the exhausts.

We went to work. We found 2 x 4s and made a long rail and two cross pieces. Our problem was wheels. So, the baby buggy, the trike and the wagon become sources of wheels and axels. We ‘borrowed’ them for our project.

It was hard not having long bolts and sleeves, to make proper steering. We ended up tying the cross arms to the main beam and had to tie ropes to the ends of the cross bars and use them (borrowed from the clothes line) and our feet to try and turn those cross bars. We also didn’t have big U staples to fix the axels to the ends of the boards, so big nails bent over had to do. A proper seat was also missing (we tried a tricycle seat, but it wobbled and would throw us off) so we simply had to ride the narrow rail, balancing ourselves while whipping down the hill. We fell off a lot. But we still were soap box racers.

Meanwhile the other kids would go to the garage to get the buggy, trike, or wagon and run in to tattle that there were no wheels on their toys. So we had to put everything back.

So it was in the wagon, that we had to show our true mettle. We found the MILK PLANT HILL on the edge of downtown. It was steep and had a 180 degree blind turn. But boy could you go! The problem was sometimes when you came around that corner, a big milk truck was coming up (it was a narrow street – room for him alone). We had to fly off the edge of the cliff and roll down the hill into the woods. It was sure hard explaining why our pant knees kept getting holes in them, our shirts were dirty and grass stained and our arms and faces were scratched. But we were quick minded and clever “We were chasing a fox through the cornfield and tripped and fell”, we’d say or things like that.

But the real tragedy of all this was that once in a while when the middle 3 (Kathy, Daniel & Ruth) and little 3 (Deb, Beth & Rollie) would be getting pushed in the buggy, trike or wagon, a wheel or two would come off and tip over and they would go tumbling to the ground on their heads. It sure explains why the middle 3 and little 3 are like Dad says of the residents on the 2nd floor of Rutledge Home “They aren’t quite right”.

P.S. That ‘Milk Plant Hill’ is still there in Belle Paine (the last time I checked) and any of you that would like me (or John) to teach your grandchildren all of the skills we have acquired – just call us.

The scene is now in Phoenix, Arizona. We loved it! The weather was so nice that we could be out most of the time. And somehow we got hold of an old dilapidated bike. We loved being able to cruse the neighborhood, speeding up and down the streets. That is until one day a dog started chasing us. It didn’t take long for the word to spread throughout the dog world of our neighborhood that there was something exciting for them to do. So, as we rode by, it was their signal to come rushing out, bark and nip at us. We thought this was great fun. We would deliberately target the ones that proved to be bigger and faster and challenge them, going as fast as we could, lifting our legs as they would try and nip our ankles or other vulnerable places. We even got one of the older girls to give it a go. But after one pass, the dog that came after her was a bull dog and when she saw how close those sharp dog’s teeth came to her backside and knowing that once bulldogs clamp down, they never let go, she might have worried that she would have to go through life with a dog hanging off her butt. We said ‘not to worry’ you can wear one of those Indian skirts that go down to your ankles, put a hoop in the bottom and nobody will know you have a dog permanently attached to you butt, unless you go swimming, to the bath room, etc.

Well, one day, one of them took it to far and bit me! It wasn’t fun having to go ‘find’ the dog and notify it’s owner that it had to be taken in for rabies testing – I didn’t think I was THAT poisonous – But of course every dog owner emphatically stated that THEIR DOG WOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING - I was left to suffer, to see if I (or the dog) would live or die.

This changed everything. The war was on. I loaded up my submachine water gun with ammonia and started cruising the neighborhood with a vengeance born of scabs, scars and festering, itching puncture wounds. Sure enough these ‘one up’ brotherhood of mongrels would do a little victory dance and rush out after me with a grin on their faces. Oh, boy were they shocked when that stream of ammonia hit them square in the face. They would stop in mid air with their dirty little paws going immediately to their eyes (and they would hit the pavement, sliding 10 to 20 feet and get the nastiest ‘road rash” ever seen on mutts. (their owners were perplexed as to why their dogs were coming home with no hair on their chests).

It didn’t take long for the mongrels to get the message that they should be sorry for escalating the game into a war, who was king of the streets and whom they shouldn’t mess with. What was really funny was the perplexity of the people (dog owners) who when out walking or playing with their dogs would have their beloved, innocent pets, suddenly dash behind their legs and cower (at the sight of me on my bike patrolling the neighborhood) or why their dogs would dash behind a tree, thinking I couldn’t see them. But the frosting on the cake was when I would see their back ends flying through the doggie doors, I would shout, “ya, don’t let that flap hit you in the *** you mangy curs, cowards! YOU DOGS BETTER BEWARE”!

(This ‘knowledge of how to ‘deal’ with dogs stood us in good stead in Fla. – ask me for that story someday.) - Paul

John - JohnMG

I was a PK