As I strive towards the 100 stories by December I am oft' reminded that my body and mind soes not always synch well. I think this is number 76, written before my days in the hospital, but just today edited. I'm heading for my goal.. See you there.
My calling cards once held a quote from an old favorite western, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence." At the end of the movie Jimmy Stewart makes no apologies over revealing how Liberty died. Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) said "This is the west, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Well dear friends, I must confess my family's involvement in UFO hysteria and crop circles is also rather legendary. This is the story and I'm sticking to it.
August of ‘63 proved to be a mixed bag of blessings for my Uncles Lars up in Twin Hills, Minnesota. Nature provided the right amount of rainfall combined with a mild summer that blissful year. This rather unique weather pattern blessed my uncle with a bumper crop of barely and wheat--but the abundance of grain fell upon friend and foe alike, so farm help was hard to come by.
The previous winter, Lars' brother, Donald, sold his share of the family farm under orders from a higher power in order to move his wife and kids to St. Paul. His oldest son, Eric, just turned seventeen when they moved away in early summer, just the age to work like a dang fool and that is exactly what Lars needed–a working fool.
Everyone saw the handwriting on the wall when Don's, wife Jackie started in about the lack of culture for her children on this God-forsaken prairie.
"This great expanse of desolation will turn the kids into another generation of hardheaded sod busters like the rest of you snuff chewing bunch of Swedes," she always argued, with fingers wagging in front of Donald's face.
My uncle advised Donald against falling for the cunning deceit of a French girl. He fell over dead for his wife during his Naval tour of duty in Europe at Cafe Marly, which, as he described in broken Minnesota French, was located on the very scenic rue de Rivoli, Cour Napoléon du Louvre. My family never understood which view took him in, since she was a rather ravenous beauty with a glowing complexion and coal black hair. Still, everyone knew full well he would never keep such a contemptuous gal on the farm.
As the two brothers sat about the kitchen pulling hairs and attempting to find a decent settlement there seemed to be little conversation about holding the family farm together. The old gas stove coffee pot had put in overtime as the rest of the interested parties gave up and went off to bed.
"I honestly don't know what else to do," Donald told Lars, as he signed off the family deed. "I took her to Fargo at least once a month and persuaded the bookmobile to pass her on a regular basis, the movie theater has a double feature every Saturday and still she says she needs civilized folks for the kids upbringin. No, there ain't much to do but pack up and move."
"Ya," Lars said, with a deep sigh, grabbing the pen and reluctantly signing Donald off the farm that had been in his family for nearly 78 years. "But just you just keep an eye on Eric. Girls are kinda fast in the city and he ain't use to them kind."
The culture of city life started to show its effects on Eric quite rapidly. The first sign came during supper when he announced that his mom said it was all right if he grew a goatee and he also had plans on joining an acting troupe when they moved to the cities. Lars knew he had to rescue his nephew and get him back on the farm before he fell into certain ways where no man could retrieve him.
After Lars evaluated the crops toward the end of July, he got on the phone and convinced my aunt to allow Eric to come up and help get the harvest in during August. He pleaded with her that if he didn't get help, the barley crop would be lost. Against her better judgement my aunt caved in. With the clock now ticking, Lars had four weeks to save Eric and make a good Scandianian boy out of him and, most of all, restore the family name
Two hundred acres of barley waited to be gathered. That meant around the clock work for the harvest team. Lars would jump aboard the massive John Deere combine and slowly cover the field from early morning until evening while Eric drove the grain truck between the Hittlandel Coop Grain Elevator and the farm. After supper they switched jobs until three in the morning.
Nearly a week later Eric started to weaken under the pressure of sleep depravation and Lars knew the time had come to move quickly. As planned, Jim Kravenough, who signed on to help bring in the barley crop, dropped by the field with a cooler full of R.C. Cola's and Grain Belt beer.
About midnight my Uncle Lars told Eric to shut down for a break, have a few sandwiches, a can of pop and cool off. The two men, and one boy soon to enter manhood, sat and talked about the weather, next year's crop and boxing. Jim asked Eric how he was holding out
"Man, it feels good to be back on the farm but I'm beat," Eric said, beating the itchy barely dust off his jeans with his hat.
Jim reached into his back pocket where a can of Copenhagen left a permanent rim in his Levi's and handed the tobacco to Eric. "Put a little pinch of this in your cheek and you will be combining all night."
With a pile of wax paper and tin cans piled about, the cooler lid was closed and Eric had orders to finish the final forty acres on the back side of the property. The bait had been set because two cans of beer were left behind. About three in the morning Eric dumped a load of barley into the grain truck and walked to the cooler to grab another cola, but instead saw the two beers.
A multitude of thoughts raced through his tired mind. Eric felt he was old enough since his eighteenth birthday was only a week away, and darn, if he was aloud to stay awake and work all night then why not. He then had second thoughts because he knew his uncle would remember he left two cans behind. The long hours behind the combine and the pinch of Copenhagen ruled over sanity and down went the two beers.
About fifteen minutes later Eric began combining in a new field and since he struggled to keep a straight line he drove directly to the center of the field, began combining in a tight circle, then another and finally in a rather apparent zig-zag motion, he dozed off and drove the combine into the Wild Rice River. He spent the next two hours trying to get the combine back out of the shallow river.
Fortunately, not a lot of damage was done to the combine. Fear and hard work brought Eric back to his senses and he knew he had best drive the green monster of the dark back to the truck, unload and call it a night. Tomorrow he would deal with his punishment.
Lar's farm was on the landing approach to the Grand Forks Air Base and the way I understand the story, a couple of pilots noticed strange circles and zig-zags in a barley field near Twin Valley. That morning a military crew had been sent out to investigate. Of course neither Lars nor Jim would admit to leaving a few cold ones out for a 17 year-old boy to drink, no matter how desperate the situation.
When the military investigator approached the local residents, most admitted to hearing a lot of strange noises about three in the morning. One neighbor said it sounded like a grinding, whirling type of sound with lights going straight up in the air, sort of like a combine had been turned on end and swallowed up into the earth. As the day progressed the phone lines started humming and the gruesome episode of UFO attacks became more bizarre.
By afternoon camera trucks started showing up from Fargo, the Twin Cities and Grand Forks. Reporters from every newspaper in a three hundred-mile range pulled into town along with military trucks of every shape and size.
Experts were traipsing all about the fields measuring the circles, looking for radioactive readings and examining the muddy hole along the side of the river bank. After a few hours the military men left, while the reporters either beat on the doors of the Air Force cars or scoured the fields for their own evidence. By days end most of the reporters left completely baffled by what they had seen. A few reporters stayed back to watch the night sky.
Whether the Air Force took serious on what they saw that day or not, nobody knows. Every so often the story about the Minnesota crop circles reappears on late-night cable programs trying to convince skeptics on the reality of UFO's. The residents who are still alive will dog-gone-well adhere to the fact their town was visited by aliens, some will even swear seeing Martians walking the streets of Twin Hills that night oh so long ago back in 1963.
My Cousin Eric? He returned to the Twin Cities to finish his senior year but never hooked up with the troupe of actors. Actually his life remained rather mundane until he returned back to Twin Hills about ten years ago and retold the story about the crop circles and how it really happened. The local folks ran him out of town.
Remember my dear friends, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Settle in, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your stay here at Shelly's. The pie is great, the coffee pot is always on and soon you will find this to be the best place in town. SOON TO BE AMERICA'S MOST READ BLOG