Tricounty News

A Mill Pond Night



By Elizabeth Cooper Mike

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

The first part of this story (Aug. 27, 2009, issue of the Tri-County News) left Elizabeth at a church youth-group outing, a night-time wiener roast at the mill pond dam.

We sang songs and told jokes as the flames died down and the glowing red embers became dark and blackened around the edges. Lawrence left early. I heard his car across the water start up and drive away, but I was caught up in the romance of the evening. The dark night closed around us with the dying fire at our feet. The sound of the water falling over the dam. The far-off starry sky. The moon was mostly behind a cloud now. I didn't want to leave. I thought I could stay here forever, even if Larry was gone already.

But finally someone carried a pail of water from the pond and began putting out the fire. As the last sizzling smoke of the bonfire floated up into the sky, we made our way along the edge of the water toward the dam. Most of the kids were over and gone already when I crossed. It was easier this time. I ran the last few steps, jumped on shore and ran for the car. It was getting chilly.

Just as I reached for the car door, I heard a splash behind me. I turned and ran for the water's edge as Donald trained his flashlight on a floundering Mrs. Muse. She had fallen in. "Thank God!" I said. "She's in the deep part and not over the dam." Rev. Muse was so excited, he couldn't even pray. He just kept saying, "She can't swim. She can't swim. I can't swim. We can't swim." Rev. Muse was slight of build, quite short and excitable. Mrs. Muse was a very large woman, tall, and calmer by nature. The water was only four or five feet deep. Clearly she wouldn't drown, I thought, if she just remained her usual calm self. But now she was panicky and clearly scared. Her long grey hair had become loosened from its pins and fanned out on the surface of the water as her head bobbed under and came up again, her mouth open and gasping for air. As I watched, her glasses slid off down into the water and she began to cry,

I grabbed the flashlight as Donald took off his shirt and shoes and slid down into the water. With Donald boosting from behind and Jack and Bob pulling on her arms from the front and the rest of the kids cheering while I held the flashlight, they finally got Mrs. Muse out, dripping and shivering with her clothes clinging to her large fleshy frame and Rev. Muse urging her into their car, clearly anxious to get her away from the scene as soon as possible.

"Thank you, boys. Thank you, boys. Bless all you kids." The words came back to us as the Muses drove away. As their little car went up the hill out of sight we all laughed at the funny spectacle of Mrs. Muse in the water with her dress floating up around her head.

This story can now be told. Larry is a long-ago dim memory and Rev. and Mrs. Muse have been dead these many years, but that night, we laid hands on the Bible in front of Rev. Muse and swore an oath of silence that none of us would ever tell of Mrs. Muse's fall in the drink. It would, no doubt, have been unseemly for the wife of a small-town Methodist minister to be involved in such a midnight adventure in the 1930.

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"Using passenger lists, how to follow the 'Paper Trail' from Minnesota to the ocean crossing and back to Europe," are subjects of Kimball Area Historical Society's program at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, in Kimball's historic city hall. The speaker is certified genealogist Stephen S. Barthel, retired from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This is free and open to the public, to be followed with refreshments and reminiscing. We're saving a spot for you.

Besides the above renowned specialist-in-solving-genealogy-problems, you'll enjoy the debut of Phase 4's unveiled 1908 pressed metal ceiling, new lighting and more 2009 restoration inside city hall. Truly something to behold. If you'd like to help towards the restoration continuation for Phase 5 and beyond, make your gift this year for full tax deduction this year, or pledge this year for payment and tax deduction next year, payable to the Kimball Area Historical Society (project director) at Box 100, Kimball MN 55353, phone (320) 398-5743 and 5250. Or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

More to come: Keep an eye on this column for details of Oct. 27, and Nov. 17, special events. If you'd like to contact us, we'd love to hear from you! Your donations and matching grants make the above restoration project possible. Isn't that great?

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Indexing history resumes Sept. 14