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Friday, August 11, 2006


It would be nice to believe I have followed in the footsteps, or a long ancestral line of writers, poets and storytellers. This is not so. I singlehandedly destroyed the finely honed Scandinavian art of shutting up, minding one's own business and keeping one's thoughts to one's own self.

As I perused the birch tree that holds numerous family members I have found one relative whom I admire—Olaf Nordstrom . This fine rugged individualistic Swede became the first in my family to make the trans-Atlantic trip to America shortly after WWI. Rumors, via my elders, say he was thrown out of Sweden for being a writer, worse yet a journalist.

I wanted to believe his expulsion came from his viewpoint against the uprising of the German empire. You see, the Swedish government had this fear if Olaf kept calling the German inconsiderate names, they may come up North with tanks and bi-planes for a not-so-friendly visit..

True, Olaf was outspoken towards the Germans, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Turks, the Russians and most other Europeans, especially the French, but what put an end to his career was not his political savvy. The nail in his journalistic coffin came the time he tore into his brother-in-law Floyd Christianson.

You see Olaf wrote things the way he saw them and when he saw Floyd chasing his secretary with birch twigs and little else through the snow outside his sauna, you know what made the front page of the Ostersund Times. Floyd, who just happened to be Ostersund's mayor, sent Olaf a life threatening telegram from a location where the mayor's wife could not find him.

Olaf's career as a local journalist and editorial writer went kaput and there wasn't a paper in a hundred kilometer range that would employ him, so after the war had ended and The Treaty of Versailles was set in place, he set sail for Chicago hoping for a job with a Swedish-American newspaper. Olaf knew American political corruption and allegations would give him enough fodder to allow good reading.

Everything seemed to work well for him in Chicago until he wrote an editorial accusing the Italians of hiring Germans to fuel the bootlegging operations and the Poles were drinking to much of the rot-gut while the Irish took advantage of their drunkenness and skimmed money off the top of the nasty beer business. In one article he insulted two-thirds of the immigrant population of Chicago.

After Olaf found his 1930 Hudson Coupe dismantled bolt by bolt and lying in a heap outside the Swedish-American Gazette building, he decided to migrate to the fertile grounds of North Dakota and raise potatoes, hoping his German neighbors never read Chicago newspapers.

After leading a dull and unproductive life as a farmer, Olaf sold his acreage to a new potato chip plant in Gary Indiana who put the sliced spuds in a wax paper bags and shipped them off to East Coast consumers who just discovered cholesterol.

With a wad of cash burning his pockets Olaf settled down in St. Paul and married Inga Swanson, a pretty good looking svelte soprano, bought a 5o kilowatt clear channel radio station and became the voice of The Swedish-American Libertarian. The new "Olaf's Views and Opinions On The World Show," became a hit with farmers who needed a voice to represent their needs.

Whatever the problems were that befell the little guy, Olaf always found a corporate entity to nail to the wall, but with Olaf the wall generally fell back on himself.

In 1937 he took on Oscar Myer, Rath, Swift and three other large packing houses for driving down the price of pork bellies and nearly bankrupting small hog operations in Iowa and Minnesota. Once again he found his 1936 LaSalle dismantled and deposited by his office in a rather ugly scrap heap. This time Olaf fought back by mounting a pork boycott until the bacon cartel forked over higher prices to the farmer and promised to replaced his LaSalle. Olaf had now become the local hero of the airwaves.

Soon after WWI the rest of my ancestors migrated to America, settling in the rolling hills of western Iowa and other locations throughout Minnesota. They were a quiet bunch, taking care of business, raising pigs and planting corn, but place a cup of coffee in front of them and they would chatter for hours.

Whenever Olaf's name came up nobody admitted to being directly related to him in fear of reprisals. One day, as a painfully shy young teenager I blurted out that I was proud to call him uncle because he was a true outspoken individual. The room fell into a dead silence until my Aunt Mary blurted out, "Well you might as well give her a typewriter and let her go. She going to be trouble, I can see it."

As I start back searching for new mental energy on my computer as a writer/storyteller/antagonizer, I would like to say thank-you to my great Uncle Olaf–not to worry we still got a crazy world to talk about. Oh yes, one more thing–my family is still rather paranoid about having another writer hanging in the family tree. Best I can tell they are all on their best behavior.

P.S. While you are up their in writers heaven can you ask God to give me the ability to put my car back together, seems like someone dismantled it bolt by bolt.


Hankmeister said...

"Two nuts fell from a tree"...

Hey! I resemble that remark!"

MargeinMI said...

God Bless America! Being of sturdy outspoken stock is what made this country great.

I, too, had a really spunky relative: Eliza Jane Harrington. She married a man with 8 children, and proceeded to have 8 more with him. When she was pregnant with the 8th, her husband died, leaving her with 5 children under the age of 12.

She never married again, and spent her life going job to job (seamstress mostly) and raising her children. My great-great-aunt on my mother's mother's side. I'm proud to be descended from her!

SGT USMC 1ea said...

The nut never falls far from the tree unless of course it is swallowed by the bird of paradise and flown to some other location to be excreted, like say... Ohio.
May Olaf rest easy with Jesus and may you my lady be spared some of the pain of this earth.

Maggie said...

MS Righty,

I was going to say,'don't be surprised if you find your power chair dismantled and in a pile outside your bunker door'.....but your ps beat me to it.sigh

(Why a Birch tree?)

Maggie said... maternal Grandmother,Fannie Crabtree,was the first woman to vote in her county and fought for the right to do so.If she had car,it might have been dismantled.

camojack said...

Write on!

Ms. RightWing, Ink said...


Birch trees are one of the most common trees in Sweden and Minnesota. They tell me when one comes out of a sauna (a major necessity up in the Hinterlands) a light whoopin with birch twigs gets the blood moving. Myself, I rather have Birch Beer

Beerme said...

Up in the UP, here in Michigan, the Finlanders like to use cedar boughs. There's alot of cedar here, but plenty of birch, too. Go figure.

You should be proud of Olaf. I bet he also became a durned good mechanic...