(It’s All) About Me

When I was a kid, I lived in a tiny town in northwestern Minnesota. The closest city was Winnipeg, up there in Canada, unless you counted Grand Forks, North Dakota, which nobody did.

This town was called Holt and I believe you can still find it on older maps. It amounted to a post office, the Friendly Tavern, the JB Hartz store (a white clapboard building), a concrete cold-storage locker (for storing venison, every fall), a red-stucco community hall, a public school (grades 1-8), a gas station, a creamery, a graveyard, something called ‘The World’s Only Typha Plant,’ and (of course) a Lutheran church.

My father was the pastor of Nazareth Lutheran, which was the only reason we were there, a family whose kids were born in Texas, California, Arizona, and Thief River Falls.

TRF (as it was known) was twelve miles south of Holt as the Ford station wagon goes. It was the place you went on Saturday for groceries, school clothes (at either JC Penney’s or the S&L), and a matinee at the Falls Theater. One of my better memories of being a kid was when Dad put down the wrench after working on the wagon, wiped his hands, and said, “I guess we’d better get you guys to town for the movie.” The movie being, I recall, ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,’ with Richard Basehart as captain of the Seaview, a submarine.

But the best part of TRF was the Carnegie Library. It was an brown brick building, as stolid as the Scots that bequeathed it, with linoleum floors and oak shelves burnished to a coppery glow with compound and polish. It was there I spent a lot of Saturday mornings, picking up enough books to last at least through the week.

Then it was home, to read those books and roam the open fields: a boyhood spent in my head.

This video by Sam Amidon in some weird way captures my American life, from the fiddler in the old Union uniform to the prairie Scandinavian, to the piney woods of Minnesota, to the rocky shores of the Pacific, to my great-great grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s and daughter’s name: Sarah.