Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
(Reprinted from Sept. 23, 1976, Tri-County News) One of the reasons I have interviewed predominately older people is that I am intrigued with the sense of contentment and peace of mind which seems to pervade them. Then when they begin to reminisce over their pasts, their eyes twinkle as they recall the good and bad times, the memories of hard work and close families and the meaningfulness of the simple life. Is their present state of tranquility a result of the life they have led? And, if so, will we who are not yet 50 or have not experienced the lifestyles similar to our grandparents, be able to look back back and smile as we recall our pasts? It is frightening to think that maybe our grandchildren will be uninterested in our tales of Vietnam, pollution, drugs, promiscuity or violence. Or will their world have evolved so far that our's will be as foreign to them as that of Fred Muehring is to us? Can you imagine your father running from conscription in the German army, walking from Plato, Minn., to South Haven to homestead, raising 14 children and living to be 95? Can you modern day farmers conceive of carrying poles which are balancing a load of the hay which you have just mown with a scythe? Can you children imagine sleeping in a log cabin's lift with eight sisters in one room and six brothers in the other?
Can you mobile women imagine remaining on the homeplace all year long with the exception of church meetings and Christmas shopping? Fred Muehring doesn't have to imagine these things, for they all have been part of his life. He was born in 1894 when his family was homesteading in South Haven (where the brick house is located across from the Methodist Church on Highway 55). Fred remembers things like raising potatoes ... which they hauled to the potato house in town and sold for 32 cents a bushel (except for the year when the price was so low that they kept the supply in the basement ... only to luck out by selling them in the spring as seed potatoes for $5 a bushel!). He remembers raising wild turkeys which neighbors came to hunt just before Thanksgiving and carry home hanging on a stick. He would go to town with a basket of eggs to trade for groceries or peddle milk from house to house, carrying a pail and a quart measure, which sold for 5 cents. Then Fred started parochial school in Fair Haven. He was at a disadvantage, for he spoke only German, the family language. At that time, most boys attended school in the winter and remained on the farm to help out in the fall and spring. In the summers from 1916-19, Fred travelled to Dakota where he helped his brother-in-law farm and received $35 a month wages. He remembers riding home one year in the cupola of a train's caboose. He also remembers half of the family standing around the kitchen table to eat because there weren't enough chairs ... although there was always enough food.
In 1919, Fred married Flora Fisher and they had six children and a great deal of hard luck. They had to give up their first farm, lost 70 hogs to the cholera in 1930, had two years of very poor crops in 1933-34,
and then Flora died in 1951. In 1956, Fred married Blanch Foster and they farmed for awhile in Clearwater. They moved to their present house in Fair Haven in 1967. Fred mentioned that this house was the original Lutheran parsonage built in 1889. During those years, the family of Muehrings lived on six different farms and yet Fred continued to work hard and remain happy. It was not until 1959, when he suffered his first heart attack, that Fred slowed down. After a second attack in 1965, and eight weeks in the hospital (Blanch says he liked the nurses), Fred has confined his labor to woodcraft work, an enjoyable pasttime. His garage is his shop, where he spends many hours making wishing wells, planters and other wooded items. Another pasttime which Fred enjoys is traveling up and down the aisles of the Swapper's Meet. In fact, Blanch ventured to say that if a person missed seeing Fred some Saturday at that event, he would probably call to make sure the latter wasn't sick!
Fred and Blanch have 31 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They are members of Concordia Lutheran Church in Fair Haven. I have never ever seen Fred Muehring without a smile on his face. I wonder if he's thinking about the Good Friday his father was building a log house and fell and had to crawl a mile and decided never again to work on a Good Friday. Or, if he's remembering the year his hogs sold for 3 cents a pound. Or the times his brother-in-law would trade him a penny for a dime (because 4-year-olds don't count their pennies).
Maybe I'm all wrong. Maybe he's not thinking about yesterday at all, but relaxing today, thankful that he has had all those good years, and looking forward to many more. Fred Muehring died in 1986. ********** More than 100 of us had a wonderful time and wished you were there for the Oct. 6 Brave Journey of an Orphan Train Rider event. If you attended, thank you for joining us. ********** This is our 200th History Matters column! Sixty-seven days left this year. Watch this column for upcoming events of The Kimball Area Historical Society. Our keepsake cookbooks are available at Knaus Sausage House. Other keepsake souvenirs are available at the State Bank of Kimball and any of our meetings or events. For membership, photo or story donations, city hall preservation contributions and your genealogy questions, please feel free to contact us at Box 100, Kimball, Minn. 55353, (320) 398-5743, (320) 398-5250 or (800) 252-2521. We look forward to hearing from you. ********** Memories light the corners of our mind.