Murdo Girl…The rhythm of life

They were from another generation. Their world was different from ours. Why should we get to know them? What can be gained? Learning who they were and the twists and turns their lives took will no doubt help us to better understand the rhythm of our own lives.  

Every choice, and every chance happening that affected the lives of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents is woven into the fabric of our lives. Whether we knew them or not, the pasts of those who came before us, from the intro to the outro, literally took us to where we began and greatly influenced who we are.

We’ve all had people in our lives who have touched our hearts, taught us a hard lesson, or otherwise influenced our thoughts, actions and beliefs.

I think this story explains why someone who grew up in Murdo, SD, quite accidentally befriended someone who was raised in Presho, SD. These two small towns are only 33.59 miles down the road from each other.

I am going to attempt to prove my point by comparing and contrasting the stories of three men who were born in the 1800s and two who were born in the early 1900s. I became aware of several coincidences while I was gathering information. I will share those with you when we get to those parts in the story.

I will begin by describing the lives of three men. I think you’ll find their stories interesting.

Peter M. Swinson, born March 3, 1862 in Vinje Norway…he died July 6, 1942…he lived in Presho,.South Dakota
John Russell Francis was born October 4, 1890 in Greenland, Michigan…he died November 22, 1926…he lived in Murdo, South Dakota. (Notice the attire my grandparents wore while on a camping trip.)
E. W. McNinch, born April 24, 1889, near Charlie, Texasdied April 15, 1988…lived in Big Piney, Wyoming

Peter M. Swinson is the grandfather of Sherri Swinson Miller who was raised in Presho, South Dakota and now lives in Pierre, South Dakota.

John Russell Francis is the grandfather of Mary Francis McNinch, who was raised in Murdo, South Dakota, and now lives in Mabank, Texas.

E.W. McNinch is the grandfather of Kip McNinch, who was born and raised in Laramie, Wyoming and now lives with his wife, Mary in Mabank, TX.

Peter M. Swinson

Mr. Swinson came to the United States in 1879 when he was seventeen. He landed at the lake port of Detroit and then went on to Arcadia in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. It is not known when he got to Dakota. In the 1915 census he reported that he had been in South Dakota thirty-one of the thirty-six years he had been in the United States.

On October 24, 1892, he renounced his allegiance to the king of Norway and became a citizen of the United States.

Typical log house built on the Prairie by homesteaders

The next years were spent homesteading and improving his land.

**Passed by Congress in 1862, The Homestead Act provided for the initial settlement of present-day South Dakota. A typical 160-acre farm cost about $18. A settler had to homestead the land for five years.

Mr. Swinson established residence in 1894 and in 1907 He made final proof that he had fulfilled all of the homestead requirements. He married Mary Christensen Lillebo, a young widow with two small sons, on January 18th of 1907.

By this time he had a log house, a small barn, a chicken house, a good well, and a good dam. He had one acre breaking and 100 rods fencing. This was all worth about $1400.00. Mr. Swinson was grazing 250 head of livestock and had thirty chickens. His new bride was also a homesteader. With their combined land and some they accumulated from people who moved, they eventually put together a 1500 acre ranch.

The couple lived in Mr. Swinson’s log house with grass growing out of the roof. He later told his children that he woke up one night with a rattlesnake in his bed. He said the most common sound that broke the silence in the prairie was the lonely howl of the coyote. Shortly after their marriage, they started to build a new house and as soon as the basement was finished they moved in.

I gave a lot of thought to the way things were back then. Mr. Swinson was the only one of the three in the story who immigrated. Imagine what that would have been like for a seventeen year old boy. He did what was required of him in order to take advantage of the opportunity to homestead. The land wasn’t given to the brave homesteaders… they earned it. Through perseverance and extremely hard work, they were able to make a good life for their families. Some didn’t stay and some didn’t live through it, but the ones who built up their farms and ranches, had to be tough. The threads of their courage and ability to overcome are woven through the hearts and souls of those who came after them.

Next: WWI and the great depression…

Murdo Girl…The TV Tray Tent (one of my faves)

I feel bad. Today I told Mom her teeth are yellow. She was getting onto me about brushing my teeth, and I said, “Well, my teeth are whiter than yours!” I expected her to say something back, but she didn’t. Of course my teeth are whiter. Her teeth are thirty-one years older than mine are. I couldn’t really tell her that now could I? Then, I got the bright idea to make a tent out of a TV tray and a blanket, and sleep out in the front yard. It works pretty good. You can actually use two TV trays if you have a big enough blanket. You have to be able to stretch the blanket over the trays and pound a clothespin into the corners, and then into the ground. Don’t ever plan on sleeping two people in a one TV tray tent.

I got myself all set up, and I thought everything would be fun. It got dark kind of early. I have a flashlight, but what fun is it to lay there in your front yard under a TV tray tent all by yourself, without anybody to even talk to? I don’t have a dog. Billy has a cat named Yappy, but she hides up in the attic above the garage all the time. She only comes down when she brings her kittens to us. She’s friends with Pete Reese’s tomcat. Pete is the old man who lives next door. He has a tomcat we call Tommy. The cat got his tail partially frozen off one bad winter. I personally don’t think cats are all that much fun. We kept one of Yappy’s kittens once and named him Tinkerbell. After he got bigger, he ran off somewhere and didn’t come back for a whole year. Cats aren’t fun, but they must be smart to know how to get around like that.

You know, I’m just laying here thinking. I really don’t know Pete Reese very well. If he lets his cat’s tail get frozen off, who knows what he might do to a kid who’s laying outside under a TV tray tent? The ground is getting hard on me. Dad never got around to planting grass, so I’m laying here on prickly weeds. What a dumb idea this was. Mom should have told me, no. She’s probably still in there feeling self-conscious about her yellowing teeth. Maybe I should just go in and finish this night out in my bed. I sure hate to admit defeat. On the other hand, how are you going to know if something will be fun unless you try it out? I could just say I tried it out and it wasn’t fun. It’s not like I just got scared and went in. I stayed out here quite a while and I’m also without food and water.

Shoot, I forgot to go to the bathroom before I came out here. What if I fall asleep and have to go inside the house and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? I’ll have to leave my TV tray tent unprotected. I don’t have any idea how long it’s been since somebody changed the batteries in this flashlight.

I feel sorry for Mom. What if something happens to me? She’ll spend the rest of her life blaming herself, because she started this whole chain of events when she confronted me about my teeth. Do you know how long a person should tryout an idea like sleeping outside in a TV tray tent, without food and water, and a flashlight with unknown battery life? I don’t think we have another flashlight so Mom can’t check on me even if she wants to. I shouldn’t be so thoughtless.

Oh no… I’m going to have to go inside. I just remembered something. I forgot to brush my teeth.

Murdo Girl…FUMC is preparing for a humongous garage sale!!!

We’re four days in and all I can see are millions of tables surrounding me.

I see dishes, and knick knacks, and purses, and pictures… linens and tools, and all kinds of fixtures.

We pray every day that we can get through it. We’ve piled it so high…can we get to it?

We’ve got jewelry and gadgets and all kinds of books; frames and mirrors to see how you looks.

We have tables of toys for toddlers and babies; electronics that work! We don’t sell you maybes.

Bring your dollars and quarters and a credit card. We’ve got appliances, pillows, and things for your yard

Hurry before our fearless leader buys all the toys!

The Methodist garage sales sure are the best. Bring all your friends they’ll be really impressed.

If the sun doesn’t shine and the rain comes our way, we’ll be smiling and selling, anyway.

Friday’s the day and at eight o’clock sharp the doors will be opened and the fun will start!

Thank you ladies…the food is delicious and I’m sure the desserts are really nutritious

Friday and Saturday, April 23rd and 24th…FUMC Mabank…across from Eubanks Funeral Home

Some photos are from previous garage sales. The pictures are older, but the people are not.

Murdo Girl…In a lifetime

The world has changed in the last hundred years.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

If our grandparents could have been foreseers

Would they have picked now to live in it?

Back then parents raised their kids.

Now, some kids raise their parents.

Today, there aren’t as many forbids.

Back then not as much forbearance.

When Grandpa was a youngster

They had to blow out their lights.

Many years later they reached the juncture

When electricity brightened their nights.

Buckets of water were hauled from a well.

Now, it flows from a faucet.

These days we all talk on our cell

Party lines made it easy to gossip.

The homesteaders life was a gamble

Sometimes it was root hog or die.

For most it was all they could handle.

On hope and a prayer they relied.

The competition today is daunting.

The human spirit has suffered a blow.

Back then they were working not wanting

To reach each new status quo.

We didn’t decide to live now or then.

The choice was not ours to face

A good life doesn’t depend on the when

If we draw strength from God’s love and Grace?

Murdo Girl…Moving right along

We had some good family times while we lived on the lake. Scott proposed to Heather on the 4th of July one year. It was a big surprise to everyone including Heather. In the picture below, Scott looks a hundred times calmer than he did before she said yes. My friend, Mary, and her daughter, Katie were there. Mary was in the bathroom changing into her swimming suit and missed the whole thing.

We had a birthday party for Sadie when she turned fifteen. We don’t do this for all of our dogs, but she was very special to our whole family. She was Kip’s Mom’s dog and the only one who was with her when she passed away. I couldn’t believe how good she was during her photo shoot for the invitations. Olivia got to blow out the candles and Kip got to open the presents which were mostly bones. We had nine family members there to help Sadie celebrate.

I’m going to stick in a few more camping pictures here.

I could only find one of the inside of the little travel trailer. Heather is on the left and Nikki is sleeping. I didn’t do a very good job taking the picture…sorry Heather. The one on the lower right is of Mason and Kip on that fateful day of the fateful night at Dangerfield State Park. Below are pictures of the lake house, Craig skiing, and Billy and I on the boat. I ran across tons of pictures I took of people skiing, but you can’t tell who it is in most of them. Billy loved our lake house. He liked to sit out on the back deck and smoke his cigars.

We decided to sell the lake house because we didn’t feel like we were really “getting away.” So we sold everything and moved to the country.

I’m surprised the family is still able to find us.

Murdo Girl…The evolution of McNinch camping

Thirty-five or so years ago, Kip suggested we take our sleeping bags up on Casper Mountain and sleep outside under the stars. It was fun until it rained and we had to roll up sleeping bags heavy with rainwater, put them in the trunk, and drive back home. We didn’t even get a chance to eat the fried chicken we brought with us.

Casper Mountain

A year or so later, we remembered that experience and bought a tent. We took the kids and went to Dangerfield State Park. We had been there on a day trip and had a lot of fun. They have a little pond and paddleboats to play with.

The camping trip was fun, too. In fact, we had only planned to stay two nights, but we decided since it was a long weekend, we would stay another night.

Big mistake…This time, it began to pour down rain around midnight. I was sleeping on one side of the tent, Kip was on the other side, and the boys were in the middle. Our dog, Baby Jane, was lying at our feet next to the tent opening which was zipped shut.

Craig had enjoyed a nerd milkshake at Dairy Queen along with his hamburger for dinner. Apparently his stomach didn’t like the combination. He said, “Mom, I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Kip!” I shouted, “Hurry up and unzip the door, and move Baby Jane.” He came out of a deep sleep and began to follow my instructions and then decided he wanted more information before going out into the pouring down rain in the middle of the night. The wind was blowing pretty hard as well.

Kip turned and asked, “Now why am I unzipping this and going outside?” Just then Craig got sick before Baby Jane had a chance to move out of the way. We spent the remainder of the night taking turns going outside with Craig…and the rain didn’t stop. By the time it was finally light enough for us to go to the campground’s bathrooms and clean up, Craig was feeling better and the rain had stopped. We even went out for breakfast though we made him sit closest to the door. I doubt he’s had a nerd shake since.

We tent camped a few more times before Kip started looking for a small used camper. He not only found a cute little camper, we bought a ski boat, skis, tubes and knee boards. There are a lot of lakes around Dallas and we had several summers of fun with that little camper.

Camping with friends at Lake Ray Roberts

We were so into boating and skiing that we decided we wanted to live by a lake so we sold our house and moved to a lake house about an hour’s drive from Dallas. Kip and I commuted for several years. He made that drive longer than I did.

We sold the little camper to a little couple. When they came to our house to pay us and get the title, our little Westie, Sadie, took everything out of the ladies purse which was sitting on the floor by the table where we were completing the transaction. She had hidden things like the ladie’s wallet all over the house without us seeing her. Kip and I were mortified as we hunted everything down.

Mom loved the boat
Took this after a fun day at the lake house
Me relaxing
Heidi with her dad
Grandson, Mike, having fun on the tube

You would think that living on the lake would be better than camping, right?

To be continued

Murdo Girl…The old ball and chain

After spending much of the last couple of days going through old pictures, I probably look like our granddaughter Skyler did when her dad held a flower up to her nose…cross-eyed.

Does it smell good, Skyler?

Going way back… I found this picture of Kip with the ball and chain the girls at the bank where he worked made him wear a few days before our wedding.

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll probably remember in the young Murdo Girl stories, my parents insisted I make a trip to New York to visit my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Chuck, and their kids, Abby and Paul. Western Airlines had been on strike for several weeks and I thought their planes would be rusty and I would crash and die before I got to start high school. I had to miss the first week of my freshman year and that seemed like the end of the world to me. This is the postcard I sent home from New York. Marlene was my best friend and Berferd was my dog.

It’s too bad we don’t write letters anymore. Even postcards would be fun to get.

Remember the Aldens package with the Connie like dress I couldn’t wait to get?

I love these pictures of Olivia and Charlie playing in the rain…

I wrote a Christmas play for Kip, Olivia, Mason Jr. and me one year…imagine that! Kip was a reindeer. Looks like one of his antlers is broken. The pictures of Gus playing Santa and Olivia and Seamus staring at each other are Christmas photographs, too.

My son took this picture of my daughter-in-law, Amy. She said she was going out for a run, but I can’t help but notice it looks like she’s about to get into a golf cart. I don’t blame her. It’s a cold Wyoming winter.

Well, I would like to say this has been fun. And it has been for me. I could go on forever and I just might.

Murdo Girl…Lo and behold

This is not going to be a rhyming post. My rhymer is worn out. Besides, I have been going through every one of my printed pictures. Remember those? These photographs are not in the cloud. They’re all over my cottage floor. I’m trying to cull them out a little so when I want one to use in the blog, I’ll know where to find it in hours rather than days. So often, I can see the picture in my mind, but can’t find it in the cloud, on the computer, a memory stick or some other means of storage. I use them all.

I found a few that I hadn’t seen in a while…

This is before I stopped dying my hair gray. The baby is our grandson, Hudson who is seven years old now.

Usually, Kip only wore his dress socks with shorts when he came home from work and changed out of his suit. Even then, the kids would ask him not to wear brown socks with his shorts. Maybe he forgot to pack his white socks when we were on this short vacation. The girl on the right, is Kip’s sister, Karlyce. I’m sure Heidi and Heather refused to be in the picture since Dad had his dress socks on.

These next pictures are rare photographs of Yram’s twin sister, Ecnatsnoc Sicnarf, Nat for short. She is not a crack up reporter. She used to be a pretty sly gumshoe, but sadly, she isn’t able to sneak around undetected anymore. Maybe after the baby is born.

***This was actually a costume I wore for Halloween shortly before we moved from Denver to Dallas. Unbeknownst to me, some tricksters in Denver sent these pictures to Dallas and told them they were recent photographs of their new underwriter. My new Dallas coworkers knew I had been wearing a costume of course, but a couple of them asked me how the baby was doing.

Our office manager in Denver had two babies close together and she wore this dress over and over again. We were all pretty sick of it.

I had someone who babysat for her occasionally get the dress. I came to the office party as Debbie who is blond, and wears glasses. She is much prettier than Nat.

The yellowed newspaper clipping, below, is one Mom sent to me after we moved to Texas. She wanted me to be prepared for roaches. This lady’s mother, who by the way is from Florida, called them palmetto bugs which sounds better than roaches don’t you think?

You won’t believe the things I have run across…well, maybe you will because you know me and what my mom was like. I’m having fun sorting, but I don’t know how many of these treasures I’ll be able to part with.