Dad’s Early Life

Dad was a one in a million person. He was born on a farm in Southwest Minnesota and was the fifth boy child to be born to his parents. They didn’t have television in those days; however, an entertaining array of colorful characters appeared in their lives.

TornadoDan Fiddler was a man who said he heard from the devil. The devil told him to board up his doors and start going in and out of his windows. The children in the neighborhood started teasing him (what we would call bullying today) and Dan retaliated by taking a hatchet and running after them. Needless to say, the mothers in the town of Ruthton determined that something must be done about Dan. He was carted off to St. Peter, Minnesota, to the mental institution.

When he got out, he began visiting my grandmother’s farm. They would Dan walking across the field. Then he would circle the house three times and come into the kitchen and say:

Got any of them hotcakes, Vera?

Vera, who was our grandmother, would begin making pancakes. On one occasion, my grandmother and her husband wished to go out for the evening and Dan Fiddler was the only available babysitter. Okay, no one today would leave their children with Dan, but remember these were different times. Dan got tired of being teased by my dad and his brother and began chasing them with a poker from the fireplace. He caught my Uncle Wayne and whacked him on the top of his head. My dad said there was a lot of blood, but no doctor was called and Uncle Wayne survived.

One of the other colorful characters who showed up at the farm was Dora Weiss. She was my grandmother’s best friend and what they had in common was a large number of children. Dora’s voice was a slighter deeper version of Minnie Mouse’s. If she saw a cloud in the sky, she would yell

Kids, kids cyclone’s coming!  Get in the cyclone cellar.

My dad claimed that the basement of the old farmhouse was the very last place you wanted to be during a storm and so he and his brothers resisted following her suggestion.


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