History Matters: The fudge and the sword, Part 1

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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By Elizabeth Cooper Mike

From the pen of the late Elizabeth Cooper Mike, Kimball Historical Society member, in her book "The Girl From Stickney Hill, Kimball Prairie, Minnesota" (Reprinted with permission of the author.)

A wild October wind swooped around the house, rattling doors and windows, and making the old cedar tree outside the big window at the south side of the house moan and groan as it whipped its branches this way and that.

Home alone and unaware that it was the night of Halloween, we kids sat huddled snug and warm on the floor behind the old black pot bellied stove in the front room eating from a big cake pan of freshly made fudge.

Plans for making the fudge were already forming in my mind when, at noon, Daddy and Muddy said they had to go someplace that night. I didn't even care where they were going. I knew it would be popcorn or fudge that night, maybe both. As it turned out, it was fudge filled with lots of hazel nuts. The popcorn wasn't dried out enough and didn't pop very well. Kernels that didn't pop Daddy called "Old Maids."

The hazel nuts in their curly green cluster of shucks had been gathered from the bushes in the upper pasture during the summer. After a few weeks of drying out the round little hard-shelled nuts, they had been pried out of their shucks and stored in a big sack in the bottom cupboard. Most had gone up to the attic to be brought down as needed.

As soon as the folks left, I started cracking nuts. About two cups full. Cooking the cocoa and sugar and cream just the right amount of time, adding a big chunk of butter, a little vanilla, beating some more, dumping in the nuts. stirring a little more and then, thick and creamy, bumpy with nuts, the fudge was poured into the cake pan and set to cool on the back porch. Now we were making ourselves sick eating piece after piece of fudge.

Soon the wind was picking up volume and sounding scarier. The little kids were fast asleep in bed. It was Peggy and jack and I behind the stove. We thought we could hear noises. The back screen door had blown open and the wind was now slamming it open and shut. I thought I could hear other noises further out in the yard. I tried to make Jack go check on things. "Jack, go hook the back screen door. Something's goina break."

"Go yourself," he said.

"I can't, I'm holding the fudge," I said. He tried to grab the pan. But I held on tight. After all, I thought, I made this stuff.

"I don't wanna go."

"You're scared."

"Am not. You're scared. You're the oldest. You gotta go."

He grabbed the pan again. I let go suddenly and he fell over backwards with the pan on his chest and a piece of fudge sliding off his forehead. He yelled, "Scardy cat." I ran for the back door.

I stood for a long time in the dark by the back door. I could hear nothing but the wind now roaring full gale, knocking over some pails stacked outside and rattling them as they rolled down the path towards the barn and still whipping the screen door back and forth. I opened the inside door a little, slowly, grabbed the screen, hooked it, and ran for the front room.

Their eyes were big as I sat down beside them. Jack said, "My tummy hurts. I don't think I can eat any more."

"Not me neither," Peggy said. And she lay down on the floor and closed her eyes.

I took another piece and was just biting into it when I heard the footsteps. On the front porch. Men's heavy steps. Walking slowly across the porch to the unlocked front door off the living room. The footsteps stopped and I was sure I could hear the door knob turning slowly, slowly. Then it stopped. The footsteps continued, going on, across the porch and off beyond the sound of the wind.

We looked at each other. Silently we set the pan down carefully and tiptoeing along the long living room wall scrambled over each other getting up the stairs to us girls' bedroom, the room in the house furthest from any outside door.

We jumped into bed and pulled up the covers. Frederic and Woodrow were asleep in the other bed. I pulled them sleepy and protesting into our bed. We sat there in the dark, all of us, covers up to our chins, holding our breath, listening.

Were those footsteps on the stairs or just the wind raging around the house seeking entrance at any nook or cranny? There were so many creaks and moans and groans out of the old house that it was hard to tell. Even the mice that usually scampered around at their night-time activities in the old uninsulated walls were quiet this night.

I had grabbed a couple of matches out of the wall match box, as we ran past the kitchen door on the way up the stairs and I now crawled out of bed and lit the kerosene lamp setting on the table between the two beds. The flickering lamp light cast a long dark shadow of me up across the ceiling as I jumped back into bed. The wind was still howling and we were still listening.

Watch for the second part of this story two weeks from now.

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It was standing room only Oct. 27, when Ron Graham presented the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, involving numerous recollections and audience participation. Anyone there knows it was something you never forget. New faces attending included folks from as far away as South Africa. Ron has a definite talent for story-telling and we hope he will be back another time.

Put this November event on your calendar: "Fall, Holiday, it's time again" at the Kimball City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17. The 2009 annual holiday pot luck gathering social event. Everyone is invited, bring family and friends, a dish to pass and enjoy some good old-fashioned reminiscing while dining and viewing the city hall's "new" look. Beverages and eating utensils will be provided. This is your final reminder. Won't you join us?

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Because our fiscal year is January to January, if you can possibly renew your membership by then or soon after, we can establish the budget for 2010. Thank you.

Consider a keepsake souvenir our members designed, or a membership as Christmas gifts, available right here in Kimball at the Kimball Bank or at Knaus Sausage or contact the Kimball Area Historical Society, Box 100, Kimball MN 55353. Phone (320) 398-5250, 398-5743, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and have some shopping done at reasonable cost.

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"The best is yet to come"