Murdo Girl…Haircut please, hold the shave

  • It’s 1963. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World is a popular feature film. Martin Luther King gives his “I Have a Dream,” speech, and one of the most tragic events in American history occurs. The little Murdo Girl’s world gets a little bigger, but so far, just a little. She hasn’t seen the Beatles yet.


Well, we finally sold our house. I’m happy about it, because we had to do so much when people came over to look at it. We had a red booth in the kitchen that’s attached to the wall, so it stayed with the house. Well, there’s a big rip where Dad sits and we had to remember to put a magazine over it so no one could see it.

We moved to where the motel is. There was already a basement on the property. Dad used to have his plumbing shop there, before he moved it to the gingerbread house. Dad’s men, mostly Bill Wilkins, made it into a house. They did a good job, and I think it will be a nice change for us.

Mom’s happy the house is below the ground. She says if we get a mad tourist, they won’t know where to find us. If a tourist sees us walk over to the basement, we’re supposed to tell them it’s the ice house, which is true I guess, since we keep the ice in a freezer down there.



Berferd has started hanging around #1 at the motel. That’s not good, because he chases every truck that goes by. He doesn’t mind cars, but he hates trucks. A couple of weeks ago, he came yelping back from chasing a truck and we think his leg was fractured. We put a stick on it and wrapped it so it would stay straight while it healed. Do you know what he does now? He chases the trucks with one stiff leg. He yelps all the way out there and all the way back. It makes me mad, because Berferd is smarter than that. Dad said there’s nothing we can do to stop Berferd from chasing trucks, because it’s in his blood.

I don’t think I told you that I’m in the 6th grade now and my teacher is Mrs. Lathrop. Her husband is Harold Lathrop and he owns the barbershop. I’ve had long hair most of my life, but one day, I decided I wanted a really short haircut. I figured who better to cut it than Harold Lathrop. I have a picture I’ll show you. I think he did a fine job. Only a couple of kids teased me a little. One boy said, “It’s okay to have hair, Mary.” I just smiled at him and told him, ” I know that!”

The New Me

One good thing about owning a motel is you get sales tax. We have a big coffee can in the kitchen cupboard with all this change in it. I live off that money all winter. While Dad and I were bachelors, I needed a new pair of white tennis shoes. I didn’t even have to ask Dad. I just got $7.00 in change and went to Joy Payne’s store and bought some. There will be plenty of money for me to get regular haircuts at the barbershop, too.

Here’s and update on my Dad’s diet. When we were moving, I saw Dad throw out all the Metrical. He said he figured out the problem. He read an insurance chart that tells how much you should weigh for your height. Dad said he wasn’t too fat, he’s just not tall enough. My brother Billy, says girls are lucky because if they gain weight, they just buy shoes with taller heels.

Okay Dad, no more Metrical


Today, right before recess, Mr. Pickner stuck his head in the classroom door and said, “Our President has been shot.” Mrs. Lathrop said we could stay in for recess if we wanted to. This boy named Warren and I were the only ones who didn’t go outside. I was talking to Warren and I said, “I sure hope he doesn’t die.” Warren said, “Well, if he got shot in the head, he won’t be a very good President.” I know that sounds like something a dumb boy would say, but I don’t think Warren was trying to be mean.

Right after recess, Mr. Pickner came in our room and said, “The President has died.” I could tell Warren was just as sad as the rest of us.


This is Mrs. Kennedy in a different pink suit and a pillbox hat

Some other ladies with pillbox hats… one is made from trees, the one on the left looks a little like the one Mom wore to visit school, but Mom’s had a plume and the hat part was white and bigger.

Murdo Girl…What happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin

The little Murdo Girl isn’t feeling well today, so she has deferred to “the lady,” who would like to share stories as remembered by some of the cousins. I know you’ll enjoy these tales.  If given the opportunity, many of us would like to spend one more magical moment in a place that warmed our hearts. I have no doubt many, if not all of M.E. and Mary Sanderson’s family would choose the Nemo cabin as their destination. The old walls, papered in pine cones, beds with lumpy mattresses, and heavy warm quilts. The sounds of the creek, laughter, frying fish, and the breeze blowing through the Pine trees. All these things never changed…just like Grandma and her beads, you could count on it.


Grandma Sanderson, Ella Sanderson Leckey, Helen Sanderson Haverberg, BL: Bob Haverberg, Al Leckey

A Cabin Memory of Andrea Miller Sheehan…Move over Ella

I recall one summer when I was still at home, my mom and I drove to Rapid City for shopping and when we found out there were no vacant rooms in Rapid, we decided to drive to the Nemo cabin to spend the night.  As it happened, Grandpa and Grandma, Helen and Bob and Ella and Al were staying there too.  As we didn’t pull in until about 1 A.M., the cabin was dark and everyone was asleep.  Grandpa got up when we came in and discussion began about where we should sleep. The Leckeys and Haverbergs were in the room with two beds.  Al immediately said he would sleep on the couch, and Mom could sleep with Ella.  Mom, of course, said “absolutely not, she would sleep on the couch”.  This exchange went back and forth for some time.  Finally, Uncle Bob , who had been listening to this long enough, said, “Well, if no one wants to sleep with Ella, I will!

Trice and Sue Haverberg…catching fish “To Beat the Band” with Grandpa

The first thing Grandpa did with us was take us to Reaussaw Lake to fish and we fished all day.  Sue and I caught several nice brooks. I think we had 5 or 6 between us and Grandpa only caught 1, so he took us home and promptly went back out to get his limit without us.  We were glad to be back at the cabin as Grandpa’s driving was probably the scariest drive I have ever been on.  Of course the front seat of the old white Ford was reserved for the fishing gear so we had to sit in the back.  He was carrying on a pretty much one sided conversation completely turned around facing us in the back seat and would veer off the road and well into the ditch before he would turn toward the front of the car to over-correct and go to the other side of the road and just miss that ditch. When we got back to the cabin, I remember Ella telling us that “Oh…. you never ride in the back seat with grandpa!”.  I wished she would have told us this BEFORE!

Billy Francis remembers..Give Grandma the wading boots and a net.

I spent many summer vacations with Grandpa and Grandma at the cabin.  When Grandpa was gone, Grandma would love to throw a cuss word into the conversation and wink at me. It was her way of showing independence!  Grandma never learned how to drive.  She would ride along with us when we went fishing in the hills.  We would leave her in the car all morning.  She would write letters while we fished.  Then we would return to the car for a picnic lunch.  After lunch Grandma would have to sit in the car again until we returned hours later.  One day at Sheridan Lake , Terry, Grandpa and I returned to the car for lunch. When we arrived, Grandma was sitting on a large rock and the car was in the lake!  It seems that we had left the trunk up and when the wind blew the trunk down, the car slipped out of park.  Instead of going for the brake, Grandma bailed out!  We had to walk to a nearby farm house to get a farmer to pull the car out with his tractor!

Terry Sanderson recalls…Something’s burning!!

A couple of Nemo cabin tales.  The old cabin was on leased U.S. Forest Service land and from time to time they made requirements regarding the buildings.  In this particular instance, the Forest Service ordered that the cabin itself had to be painted brown and the old out buildings had to be removed.  A date was set and Jerry Miller, Uncle Jeff and myself drove to the cabin on a Friday evening.  We met Grandpa there that evening and Leonard King joined us on Saturday to help.  Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and we got right to work with Uncle Jerry in command. ( Uncle Jeff thought he was calling the shots and we didn’t do anything to discourage him).  We had one of the little buildings burned and a good start on the painting by mid-morning and decided we might as well go up on the hill and get the other building taken care of.  When we touched off the fire, flames shot high into the air and the old rough pine lumber was making a very hot fire.  I happened to turn and look down the road toward Nemo to see the fire engine and most of the population of Nemo headed our way.  When they arrived, we explained to the fire chief that Grandpa had gotten a burning permit so we thought we were OK.  The fire chief commented that Grandpa had indeed gotten a permit, but it was for the previous day.  Anyway, nothing bad happened and we got all the work done on Saturday.  Uncle Jeff pronounced that night that since we were all done we could sleep in on Sunday morning.  Uncle Jerry and I were in the bedroom with two beds.  I woke up the next morning and could hear music.  Not being able to figure this out, I tiptoed out of the bedroom into the kitchen and there was Uncle Jeff playing tunes on his harmonica.

Terry and Kay Sanderson, and boys, Grandpa Sanderson, (maybe Tet Sanderson to his left), Wayne, Jeff, and Irma Sanderson, Elna and Jerry Miller. The 2 ladies in front are Melitha, Grandpa’s sister and Pearl, Grandpa Sanderson’s brother Sandy’s wife (visiting from Iowa )

Just thought of another cabin tale.  My mother went on one trip to the cabin and upon arriving began doing some house cleaning.  At the time, there was a burning barrell down by the little stream and she was doing some burning.  We were in the cabin eating a meal when all of a sudden we hear a loud report as if someone had shot a rifle nearby.  The first was closely followed by a volley lasting several minutes.  Mom had scooped up a box of 30-06 shells along with some of the other stuff she was burning.  It made for a very exciting few minutes and Grandpa had to restock ammunition before the next deer hunting season.



Terry Sanderson

When I think back on all the fun that was had at the Nemo cabin by so many members of the family and friends, I have to believe that this was truly a great thing for Grandpa to have provided it for all those years.  Bill and I can certainly recall a lot of fishing trips and I am sure most of you have fond memories of the place.  Uncle Jerry Miller did a lot of work keeping the place in shape and adding improvements.


Murdo Girl…To the highway from the moon

The little Murdo Girl tries to keep it interesting, even in the middle of the boring 5th grade. I would really like to meet Mrs. Poppe. She’s my kind of teacher, and I’m sure a good friend. If you want my opinion, here’s what I know. You can take the girl out of Murdo, but you can’t take Murdo out of the girl.


I can’t believe what my Mom did today. I might have made a big mistake, when I told her that 5th grade is boring. I didn’t mean anything bad about Mrs. Poppe. I was just talking.

Today…when we came in from recess, there she was. My Mom was visiting school. I really didn’t mind that she came. It was her hat that bothered me. She has this white pillbox hat, but it’s not the Jackie Kennedy kind of hat. Mom’s hat has a gigantic black plume stuck on the back. It also has a black net that covers her eyes. She can see through the net, but the black polka-dots on the net look ridiculous.

Mom got the hat last year. It was her Easter hat. I think one of her friends talked her into buying it. I can only imagine what Mrs. Poppe was thinking. Remember, Mrs. Poppe was with Mom the time she rubbed blue eye shadow instead of salve all over her nose. I’ll say one thing for Mrs. Poppe. She did manage to keep a straight face.

Mom just sat in a chair in the back of the room and watched us through her black net veil. It was time for us to answer our Science questions. I hate Science, but I had done my homework. I’m sure Mrs. Poppe thought she had to put me on the spot. Anyway, speaking of the Kennedys, the next question was: ” What goal does our current President believe America can achieve before the end of the 60’s?” I confidently raised my hand…and Mrs. Poppe called on me. “To land a man on the moon, and return him safely back to Earth,” I answered.

We both turned to the back of the room. Mom must have gotten nervous, because she was gone. She had sneaked out before I answered my question. I didn’t care, because Mrs. Poppe just smiled at me, and winked.


I just want to say one more thing about my Mom. This is something most people don’t know. When Mom was 18 yrs. old, she was Miss Highway 16, and she got to go to the only Corn Palace in the World. It’s in Mitchell, SD. She was very beautiful in her picture. We have a nicer one, but Mom has it packed away somewhere, so all I have is this newspaper clipping. Oh wait, Mom said she found the pictures.


Do you know what my cousin Blake said to her, when she was telling us about it? He said, “Well, Aunt Loretta, I guess it’s kind of like the highway, you might need a few repairs.” Mom has a sense of humor, and she just laughed.

Even back then, Mom couldn’t pick out a good hat, but she was still beautiful.


1-Loretta Gustafson's Life in Photos 004
Miss Loretta Sanderson, Miss Highway 16



Murdo Girl…Home sweet home

The little Murdo Girl has traveled to California, and survived her first airplane trip. I found her paper rather interesting. I have come to the conclusion that she now knows the meaning of the phrase, “No matter where you  roam, there’s no place like home.”


Well, Dad and I are bachelors. We flew home from California, but Mom is going to stay awhile longer. I DID NOT want to get on that airplane. I have never been on one before, but I already knew flying wasn’t for me. At first I was positive we were going to crash, but my ears started hurting so bad, I forgot all about crashing. They had just stopped hurting, when we started the descent, and I was in pain again. I had a lot to keep track of too. Then I realized if I needed oxygen or the float cushion, it was all over for me anyway.


Dad would rather cook than go to a cafe. He’s a pretty good cook, but he makes alot of things with macaroni. He really likes fried steak with toast, and so do I. Lately, he’s been on a diet. He drinks Metrical, but usually a little while later, he goes ahead and eats the steak too. I don’t think he’ll be buying smaller clothes anytime soon.


He doesn’t know what he’s missing by not eating out sometimes.  Mom and I like to go to Fern’s Cafe, and Mack’s Cafe. The McCurdy’s have a restaurant right on highway 16. They get loads of tourists during the summer months. All the high school girls try to get jobs there, because they make big money in tips. I wish I could make that kind of money, but I’ll probably have my towel job for the rest of my life.

I also eat at the Frosty Freeze. It’s part of the Super Value Store, and they have good BBQ sandwiches and malts. Mom calls the Super Value Store, Stupid Value. She thinks Sanderson’s store should get all the business, because My Uncle Jeff Sanderson owns it.


My Grandpa Sanderson bought the store back around 1930. It was hard to sell stuff then, because it was during the depression, and people couldn’t afford to eat as much. No, it wasn’t a bed of roses when Grandpa first bought it. As my cousin Jeff H. says, Grandpa is a positive person, and always sees the glass half full. He built up a good business selling food and dry goods. He even sold tractors.

Grandpa has all his deer heads mounted and hanging on the walls in the store

My Uncle, Chuck Francis told me a funny story about my Grandma Francis and Grandpa Sanderson.

A long time ago, all the Murdo Stores were fighting about when they should be opened and closed. Grandma Francis owned Francis Hardware then, and she was not happy with Grandpa Sanderson. (This was before my Mom and Dad decided to get married.)  She said, “Yes, M.E. closes on Sundays, but he sits on a bench in front of the store with a key in his hand in case anybody wants to buy something.”

My Grandma Francis became a widow when my Dad and his  brothers were only 11, 7, and 2. My Grandpa Francis left her with 3 hardware stores, but when he died, Grandma, just kept the Murdo store. Later, she sold the store to Nick Thune, and now it’s Thune hardware.

Then, Grandma got married to William Bowers. He was the Murdo agent for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad. Dad Bowers, as they called him, was a widower and had 3 older kids still at home. That whole big family lived above the Depot.


I never knew Grandma Francis, but Dad told me she was spunky and smart. She even had “obey” taken out of her wedding vows, when she got married to my Grandpa.

Yes, both sides of my family have pretty deep roots in Murdo, and I don’t see us going anywhere soon. Well, except for Billy…we don’t know where he’ll end up.

This is just a family I know. Everybody has big ears except the Mom

I have to do some make-up work now, because I missed a few days of 5th grade. I guess Mom and Mrs. Poppe aren’t that good of friends after all.


Murdo Girl…The swimming dam

I’m going to work more with the little Murdo Girl as she writes her papers. Her cousin, Valerie, proofs each one, and we make corrections as needed. We discovered, however, that once the paper is posted, the edits don’t carryover for the email readers, as it does on Facebook. (Whatever that is.) She loves that you read her stories. I think she might want to be a writer when she grows up.


Billy and his car..I’ve got to find more Billy Pictures

Well, the lady told me that I wrote too much yesterday. She also said I should come up with a better ending for the Falling Rocks story. She said it didn’t make sense that a tribe of Indians would put up signs when they can’t find an Indian Princess. It’s my dad’s story, and I forgot to ask him how it ended.


Mom and Dad drove to California to take Billy a car and I got to go with them. I missed a few days of 5th grade, but that’s okay, because Mrs. Poppe is Mom’s good friend.

It was a very long drive. When we drove through the desert, it was so hot, we made Dad stop and get a bag of ice. We put it on the floor in the back, and Mom and I put our bare feet on it. It made it a little better, but we were sure glad when the sun went down.

I had some fun while I was there. My Uncle John has a swimming pool, so I got to swim whenever I wanted to. One day when I was swimming, I heard my Uncle Chuck, who was also visiting, tell Dad that I was a handicapped swimmer. I was sure glad Dad asked him what he meant, because I wanted to know too. He said it was because I always hold my nose when I go under water. He said I couldn’t dive off the diving board very well either.

You want to know something? I swallowed alot of water at first, but I never held my nose the rest of the time I was there. I never will again either. I’m a pretty strong swimmer, and I know better than to hold my nose.

Mrs. Sandy was my first grade teacher. Her husband Pink Sandy, has taught a whole lot of Murdo kids how to swim. I’m one of them. In the summertime,  he takes as many of us as he can fit in his car to the swimming dam East of Murdo.

Mr. Sandy makes floats out of big cans and rope. We tie them around our waist, and they help us float until we can swim on our own. When we get so we can swim pretty well, he lets us jump off the wood dock. We can do cannon balls and everything. He watches us closely, so we don’t do dangerous things, or horse around too much. The only thing I don’t like about the swimming dam is the moss. It can get pretty thick sometimes and it’s easy to get tangled up in it.

These are some ladies that I know..I don’t have any pictures of Pink Sandy or the swimming dam

I’m making this short and sweet tonight. I hope everyone is having a nice week-end.

P.S. I don’t count the lessons at The Graham Motor Lodge. We mostly learned how to tread water for a long time.








Murdo Girl….Billy who?

The blow of Billy’s leaving, appears to be softened by the fun the little Murdo Girl plans to have this summer. What could be more fun than a summer filled with memories she’s sure to cherish in later years? The paper rambles some, but I think I should allow her to write whatever she wants to…At least for a few days.


Well, I’m not just going to sit around and wait for 5th grade to start. I love summer, and it’s just beginning. Grandma and Grandpa are going to the cabin, and Grandpa said I could go with them. I’m getting out of Dodge for a few days before I start my towel job.

My cousin Valerie gave me this photograph…It’s my new favorite of Grandpa and the cabin

I love to be with Grandma and Grandpa Sanderson. They don’t ever tell me to settle down, quiet down, stop whining, go to sleep, or I better do something, or else. I think it’s because we stay busy.

Aunt Ella Leckey, (Valerie’s Mom), at the cabin. the creek is beyond the fence 

The drive to Rapid City can get long. Grandpa has bunches of stories to tell, so he talks all the way there. His stories remind me of a tree with lots of branches. He starts with one story, then he distracts himself, and the next thing you know, he’s branched out to a whole new story. The new story reminds him of something else, which reminds me of leaves on a tree. There are too many to count. Grandpa can tell parts of 5 or 6 stories and never finish any of them. If you’re around Grandpa enough, you learn not to ask questions about his stories. It will just make them longer. Don’t worry, you will hear it again, and maybe it will be towards the end of his leaves, and he will get to the end of the story. When Grandpa is trying to hold the floor while he’s thinking, he says, SAY, so no one will start talking. One good thing is you don’t have to remember anything if you don’t want to, because he will never ask you questions about his stories.

Grandpa at the cabin, blowing out candles on his birthday pie.

Here’s what I do when Grandpa tells stories all the way to the cabin. I turn off my ears, and look at stuff out the window. I know some things to look for,  that tell me we’re getting close to Rapid City. Have you seen the man who jumped out of his pants? It’s supposed to be an advertising sign for Lee’s jeans. All you see are the jeans standing there, like someone jumped out of them. After you drive for about 15 more minutes, you come to the big dinosaur on top of a hill. When you see him, you are just a few miles from Rapid City.

The dinasaur on the hill

After we leave Rapid, we start seeing the forest. I look for signs that say, “Watch out for Falling Rocks.” Dad says, years ago there was a Sioux Indian Chief named “Afraid of Nothing.” He had a beautiful daughter named “Falling Rocks”. There were two braves that were fighting over her. Their names were “Running deer,” and “Swift Antelope.” Well, “Falling Rocks” couldn’t decide which one she wanted to marry, so her Big Chief Father, “Afraid of Nothing” decided to make the two braves have a contest. They had to cover 200 miles of the rugged Black Hills, with only dried deer meat and a little water. The first one to get back to the tribe, would win the hand of “Falling Rocks.”

Well, after the contest started, “Falling Rocks” had some secret second thoughts, and really hoped that “Running Deer” would win. A couple of days later, she was just too worried that he would lose. She couldn’t tell the Chief, so she decided to go to a certain narrow pass, that the Braves had to pass through, and slip “Running Deer,”some extra buffalo meat and water. That way, he would have more energy, and win the race. The next morning, “Swift Antelope” came staggering into the camp, and right behind him, was “Running Deer.”  “Falling Rocks” never came back, and after a while, everyone got tired of looking for her, so they decided to put up signs. That’s why when you drive through the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, you keep seeing signs that say “Watch out for Falling Rocks.” Some people might not think this story is true, but I do, (sort of).

By the time I’ve thought about that fable…Shazam !! We’re at the cabin.

Dad pays alot of attention to signs. When he sees a sign that says,  “Caution, Slow Children at Play,” he wonders where all the slow children are.  We went to the dog races in Rapid City once, and when we came out, there was a woman with a coffee can and a sign that said, Please help the Old Folks Home. Dad asked, “Did they get out again?”

Family at the cabin site

When we get to the cabin, the first thing I notice, is the fresh smell in the air. I can close my eyes right now and imagine the fresh scent of the pine trees. Speaking of smells, Grandpa Sanderson always smells like Listerine. It works for unsavory breath, and it also kills germs that cause colds. Grandpa never has either one.

Anyway, try my plan next time you go to Rapid City, and I guarantee, you’ll be there before you know it!


I’ve been writing all this time, and I think my tree trunk turned into branches, and some leaves.


There is a bed in the cabin that’s called Billy’s bed. There is also a room at Grandpa and Grandma’s, called Billy’s room.

Murdo Girl…Where were you in 62?


Murdo High School

The day has come. Billy is now a graduate of good old Murdo High. The same school his Mother and Father, as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and one cousin, Terry Sanderson, graduated from. The Sanderson and Francis families are well represented among the alumni of Murdo High School. There are many more family members on the path to join the group. Future graduates will include, Jeff H. and Mark Sanderson, Andrea, Stephanie, and Greg Miller, and of course the little Murdo Girl. 

I intend to continue encouraging her to write her stories. I happen to know she has more to tell.



Billy’s Sophomore class…Thanks to Wayne Esmay




Billy graduated yesterday.

It was mostly, just like any other day. What I mean is, I..! I would like to say I didn’t try, but I did. Well, that’s water under the bridge. I can walk to school from now on.

I slept on the couch in the front room last night. I knew Earl Rada would be here early to pick Billy up, and I didn’t want to miss saying goodbye. I woke up just in time to see Earl pull up in his green car. I didn’t know what to do while they loaded Billy’s stuff , so I just stayed on the couch. Right when he was headed out the door for the last time, Billy came over to me and said bye. Then, he kissed me on the cheek. I couldn’t say goodbye or anything. I’m not going to wash that side of my face until I have to. I’m not just saying it! I mean it!

Mom woke up in time to send them off. She told Billy, when he gets to California, to call long distance, person-to-person, and ask for himself. Mom will say he’s not here. All she wants to know is, they made it there safely, and we won’t have to pay for the phone call.

One Ringy Dingy

I feel pretty sad, and this morning, I even cried some. I don’t know if I’ll like being an only child.

I’m trying to think of some ways we might be better off .

For instance, when people call and ask for Bill, we won’t have to ask, “Big Bill, or little Bill?” Mom won’t have to buy butter AND margarine. Billy thinks he has to have real butter. We can have pizza sometimes. He always leaves the house, because he can’t stand the smell of the boxed pizza we make. Mom can drive me more places, because Billy won’t be hogging the Pontiac. No more toes being pinched, and no more looking for a hot pepper in my hamburger before I eat it. I’m sure I’ll think of more things as time goes on.


I probably won’t be writing about my brother very much anymore, because I won’t be seeing him often. (Although, I’m sure I’ll be having some flashbacks.)

Elna and Jerry Miller, Emily and Wayne Sanderson, Ella and Al Leckey, Loretta and Bill Francis, Helen and Bob Haverberg, Irma and Jeff Sanderson. Grandpa (M.E.), and Grandma (Mary) Sanderson



Dad (Bill), John, and Charles Francis..All are graduates of Murdo High School

Murdo Girl…Love and loss

Growing up isn’t always easy. The little Murdo Girl is thinking about old friends, and the sometimes sudden changes we all experience in our lives. She is learning a very important lesson. She has to accept what life hands her, and figure out the best way to move on. I’m happy she’s going to see Flipper, it was a favorite movie of mine when I was her age.


Billy told me the only reason I was born is because Mom’s friend, Marse Lillabridge wanted to have another baby, and she talked Mom into having one too. He said since he was already 7, Mom hadn’t really planned on having another little kid, but since Marse was a good friend, she said okay. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I am 3 months older than Lois Lillabridge.

Me, Leslie Kell, and Lois Lillabridge

Everything was great for awhile. Kitty Reynolds made us lots of pretty dresses, and Mom and Mrs. Lillabridge dressed us up and took us all over town. I think Mom has some pictures of us. If she can find them, I’ll show them to you.

Me kissing Lois, Mom in the background

Lois has an older sister, like I have an older brother. Her name is Cheryl, and she has lots of freckles. Lois’s Dad Laurel, worked at the Jones County State Bank. Dad even liked him, and he’s not usually very fond of bankers. The family lived in a house not far from ours, and really close to the grade school.

When Lois and I were 5, tragedy struck. Mr. Lillabridge died of a heart attack. It was really sudden, and they didn’t even have time to get him to the hospital. It really was a sad day.

I asked my Mom how you can tell when someone is dying. She said they usually lay in bed with their eyes closed, maybe moan, and roll their head back and forth on the pillow. (I remembered this years later, when I played the dying Cleopatra.)

Well, Marse, Cheryl, and Lois, all moved to Gregory where Marse’s family lives. I don’t know why people like Kitty and Marse have to move, when their husbands die. There are plenty of people in Murdo who would help them out.

Guess what? The new banker and his family moved into the same house the Lillabridge’s moved out of. Their name is Timson, and they have a son Tony, who is one year older than I am. He has two older sisters whose names are Pat and Carolyn. Tony became my very first boyfriend. I made Mom invite him to my birthday party, and he gave me a stuffed dog holding a little bottle of perfume.

All this happened to me before I was even in first grade.

Billy is going to leave Murdo the day after graduation. He’s going to drive to California with Earl Rada. He already knows he likes it there, because he worked in California last summer. My Uncle Chuck got him a job parking cars for the Dodgers at the Coliseum. He liked that too.

Billy and Earl Rada

I’m not going to write so much today, because I’m going to the show. The name of the show is Flipper, and it’s about a dolphin.

We don’t have dolphins in South Dakota, but there’s lots of them in California.


Murdo Girl…Fit to be tied

The school year is almost over, and the little Murdo Girl is finding herself somewhat bewildered. She loves her life just the way it is, but change comes, whether we’re ready for it or not.



We had a physical fitness test at school today. We had to do things like push-ups, sit-ups, and run. The 8th grade boys evaluated us.  I’m pretty good at sports-like things, and I was doing great until we had to do sit-ups. I wore stretchy, stirrup pants because I thought they would be comfortable to do physical fitness things in. I was wrong. During sit-ups, one of the 8th grade boys held my legs down, while another boy counted. I had only done about 5, and my pants started to creep down. This presented a problem. I didn’t want to fail the test, but I couldn’t let my pants come down either. I couldn’t tell the 8th grade boys I had to quit, because my pants were falling down. I would be the laughing-stock of the whole school.

I did one more sit up, but I knew it was over. I promise you, I could have done at least 25 if it hadn’t been for those stupid pants. The 8th grade boys probably think I’m just lazy. They don’t know my face was red because I was mad and embarrassed. They probably thought it was from exertion.

I kind of had the problem during the running too, because I couldn’t hold my pants up while I ran. Can you imagine how funny that would look? I didn’t exactly fail the test, but I’m sure I was in the lower percentile and that hurts.

The only thing that can make matters worse will be if Billy finds out. He will tease me in front of his friends. He won’t think about all those times I practiced football with him. He must have tackled me 100 times.

Rally Day is next week, and I’m going to choose my pants carefully. I hope those 8th grade boys are watching, because I plan on getting blue ribbons in broad jump, running, and maybe high jump. Last year, I got a white ribbon for the sack race, but that wasn’t all my fault. My partner stepped in a little bit of a hole, and we both fell down. I would almost rather not get a ribbon at all, than get a 3rd place white one.

Billy always goes out for track. Dad takes him in the car to go run. That sounds funny doesn’t it? Sometimes I ride with them, so I can practice running too.  Usually, we take the road that goes out by the North Dam. After we’ve gone a ways, we drop Billy off, and he runs all the way back home.

Dad usually drops me off by Portia Burn’s house, and I run home from there. I have no idea why Billy doesn’t just run halfway, then double back. It would be just as far, and Dad wouldn’t waste gas.

My favorite sport right now is tether ball. There is a pole with a rope tied to the top. A ball hangs at the end of the rope. Two players hit the ball back and forth trying to wind the ball around the pole. The one who gets the ball wound tight around the pole first wins. The winner gets to keep playing until someone beats them. If you’re a talented player, you can sometimes play for the whole recess. If you’re not any good, you can waste your whole recess just standing in line.

Another sport I like is figure skating. I can skate backwards, and do crazy eights too. The only problem with skating, is it’s a pretty long walk to whatever dam we skate on. There have been a few times that we have walked all the way to the South Dam, and by the time we get our skates on, we’re too cold to skate. Then, we have to take them off and walk all the way back home. Sometimes, I get so cold, my hands and feet hurt when they start to warm up.

That’s my whole sports life. As far as that fitness test goes, the way I look at it, there’s always next year. You live and then you learn.

I wonder where Billy is. I haven’t seen him all day. I guess he probably knows I’m in Rally Day next week.



Murdo Girl…It was good while it lasted

The more I learn about the little Murdo Girl’s life in this small town, the more I understand. She wakes up every day excited about all the new adventures she knows she will experience . I think that may be what makes this town called Murdo so exceptional. That doesn’t mean there are no disappointments. That’s part of growing up too.  As her Mother always says, “We shall see what we shall see.”


Well, I got caught.

I didn’t get caught sneaking out, because I hadn’t left yet. I got caught wearing my school clothes to bed. It was nearing 11:00 o’clock, and I was seconds away from climbing out my window, when I heard Mom coming. Why was she checking on me this late, I wondered. Did she smell a rat?

I realize now, that I did the wrong thing. I pulled the cover’s way up around my neck, and I wasn’t even cold. I didn’t have time to pretend I was asleep either. The light came on and Mom walked over to my bed. She just stood there, with her hands on her hips, and looked at me.

“Hi Mom.” (I tried to sound really tired.) “I was just about to fall asleep,” I said.

“Why do you have your covers way up around your neck?” I didn’t have time to answer, before she yanked my covers down. There I was, dressed in my red sweater, and a plaid skirt that Kitty Reynolds had made for me.

“I think my pajamas are dirty,” I lied.

Well, she walked over to my dresser, and pulled my pajamas out of the drawer. Then, she walked over and tossed them on the bed.

“Mary Constance Francis!” She said, “You are the limit!” Then, she turned around and walked out of my room. I was reminded of what Elaine Magnuson always says when she thinks her Mom is going to be mad. “She will have a fit and fall in it!” Well, Mom didn’t fall in a fit, but I knew she would be checking on me more for a while.

Billy just came in here. He wants to know what I’m writing. I said, “If I tell you, will you play checkers with me?” He nodded his head yes, but I’m not falling for that again. If he doesn’t actually say it, he doesn’t keep his word. He doesn’t think his head is his word. When I tell Mom that, she just shakes her head too. I guess that’s where he learned it from.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” is another thing my friend Elaine says. Anyway, I thought about climbing out the window and meeting Wanda, Sandra, and Linda, because I hated to be the only one not to go. In the end, I decided I had better put my pajamas on and stay home, because I had big plans for tomorrow.


The next day

I’m going to Cynthia and Suzanne Bork’s house today. We’re going to do our Olympic gymnastics routines. We take turns performing, and the ones waiting their turn, watch. I get kind of tired of watching. Those routines can get really long.

From left. Karli Sorenson, Mark Sanderson, Andrea Miller, Me, Cynthia Bork, Lois Lillabridge


I know I’m showing alot of baby pictures, but Mom isn’t taking many of me lately. I don’t have a picture of Suzanne. I’ll see if she can give me one. Mom says in these pictures, Billy and I are awkward.

If we get tired of being Olympic gymnasts, Suzanne and/or Cynthia and I , start singing to each other. My favorite song to sing is “Why does the sun go on shining? Why does the sea rush to shore? Don’t they know it’s the end of the world…cause you don’t love me anymore. I wake up in the morning and I wonder”…sorry. If we don’t know all the words, we make them up, or mouth the words to the record. The songs can get really long too. If we get tired of singing, we play Monopoly.

There are so many fun things to do, but there are just not enough hours in the day, and we all have to be home by dark.

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from left: Elna Miller, Andrea, Mom standing behind Greg, Ella Leckey, I don’t recognize the 3 in the back on the right. in front: Me with my pony and puppy, Stephanie