Murdo Girl…But it’s been tested in a clinic by blindfolded people!

My name is Ellie but Pearl the human calls me Essie so Grace calls me Ellie/Essie. Grace and Pearl are elderly ladies who live in the rooms above Sanderson’s Store. Pearl the human has a dog named Pearl the dog. Pearl said if they both have the same name, she’s not likely to forget and if she does, it’s time for them to part their ways.

I’m on my way to walk Pearl the dog before going to The Busy Nest, which is what Pearl calls her new store. It’s summertime so I don’t have to go to school. I still have my towel job at Mom’s motel, but I’m getting faster and faster at getting them washed, dried, and folded ever since Murdo got a new laundry mat with huge machines. Besides that, the laundry mat is just down the street from The Busy Nest.

We have two things developing at The Busy Nest. One is Pearl’s new Elixerfixer. She has formulated a secret recipe for an Elixer that is guaranteed to cure fixations and prolong life. She once sold it to a gentleman who had a gambling fixation and bad arthritis. He was cured of both. He never again entered a casino, although we did hear he went to the horse races once because he likes to watch horses run.

Once that story got around, Pearl started selling Elixerfixer hand over fist. I sure didn’t know that flat seven-up, a dash of cinnamon, and a splash of apple cider vinegar could cure everything. Did you? Pearl says we can’t tell people what the secret ingredients are. We can only tell them they were all tested in a clinic by blind people.

Well I walked Pearl the dog while I was filling you in and now I’m about to go in the back door of The Busy Nest.

The second thing we have developing is Grace’s advice column. It’s not really a column because the Murdo Coyote hasn’t picked us up yet. Pearl thinks it’s just a matter of time. I agree because if the newspaper is smart, they’ll realize that when people start to see their own problems in the paper, they’ll be sure to run right out and buy them up.

But guess what? Pearl got a new winner of an idea. She was still selling Elixerfixer right along, but she said she needed a new frontier to conquer, so she has expanded her umbrella of services to include weddings. It seemed like the perfect fit and a way to bump up the finances and grow the goodwill in the community at the same time…. and… since Grace was already writing an advice column for the newspaper, Pearl said she could incorporate her advising thoughts and provide before and after marriage counseling. She figured, and rightfully so, that Grace couldn’t cause more marriages not to take hold than the unsolicited advice of people who stick their nose into other people’s marital goings on, and have no practical experience telling people what to do like Grace does.

Some figured the local preachers would be up in arms because they were losing out on some of their congregation’s nuptials, but they decided to let if ride for July and August. It had been tense at times in June with the church basement cooks and they could use some much needed time off. It was getting overwhelming taking care of funeral food, and wedding receptions, not to mention, Lions ‘s Club and other social functions held there. The Yoga/pottery wheel class, inspired by that Ghost movie that finally made it to town, had to move over to the bank’s basement just to keep their time slot.

Methodist Church basement cooks

“Hi Grace, Hi Pearl, I’m here, are you?” (I smell orange blossoms. There’s either a wedding today, or Pearl’s added a new flavor of the day to her Elixerfixer promotion.)

“Essie! Grace needs you! She’s got a new bride in her office who’s wailing her head off. I just don’t have the patience to suffer other people’s misery. I don’t even want to see them again after they say their vows.”

“Hi Mrs. Smith. Remember me? I’m Ellie/Essie depending on who you’re talking to. What has you in such a dither?”

“Frank and I were only married for two days when he caught a cold. I tell you, he turned into a different person. He has run me ragged! Do you here me? Ragged! It’s my fault the heating pad is too hot on high and not hot enough on medium. He said I put the ice in the ice pack wrong. He thinks there’s something not right about someone who can’t count out seventeen ice cubes. He moans like he’s about to take his last painful breath and just now, he sent me to the store to pick up a bell he can ring when he needs me. I came here instead! What should I do?”

“CALL HIS MOTHER!!” Pearl yelled from the other room. “And then go to the yoga/pottery wheel class. It starts in an hour!”

Murdo Girl…Summer fun with Pearl and Grace

I’m going to be involved in some time consuming projects for the next several weeks, so I’ve decided to post some Pearl, Grace, Pearl the dog, and Ellie/Essie stories. Some will be reruns and some will be new. I hope you’ll agree they will make for some fun summer reading.


My name is Ellie and I’m almost fourteen. That is if you consider eleven almost fourteen. I don’t live with Pearl and Grace, but I take care of Pearl the dog for them. I’m over at their rooms above the store so much, I just as well live with them. I’m on my way over there right now. I sure hope Pearl the dog isn’t too uncomfortable. I was late getting home from school today. I had to carry my heavy old saxophone home because my lesson is tomorrow, and I have to act like I practiced, so I haul it home, hoping somebody sees me so it’s not for nothing, and then I haul it back the next morning.

I sure wish there was another way. If I had known what I know now, I never would have played the saxophone. I have two reasons. Number one is it’s heavy, and number two is you have to suck on wood, which they call a reed. You have to keep buying new reeds because after you suck on them and blow air through them, they get yucky and you have to switch it out. My cousin plays the saxophone too and that’s a bad deal. He sits beside me and either socks me in the arm all of the time, or makes me laugh which gets me into trouble. It makes me mad every time I think about it!



When I got to Sanderson’s Store, I climbed up all those stairs and knocked on Miss Grace’s door first. She hollered for me to come on in. I don’t really have to knock, but every time I just meander on in, she jumps about a mile in the air and screams. Then Pearl starts hollering from her place, and Pearl the dog starts howling and barking. Believe me, it’s much better to knock than go through all that nonsense. It’s a little better if I go to Pearl’s place first. I never have to knock on her door. She’s pretty nosy and somehow knows I’m at her door and she open’s it before I get there, then she begins to tell me how bad her day was.

According to Miss Grace, she has to do all this stuff for Miss Pearl, and according to Miss Pearl, she works her tail off taking care of Miss Grace. The truth is, I take care of both of them. Except for an occasional tip, I do it all for free. I actually think, since I’m almost fourteen now, I should start charging, but Mom says a big fat no. She says I need to train for the day she turns old. Don’t you just love how everybody has my life all planned out?

“Come on in Essie.”

See what I mean? That’s Miss Grace. I went on in.

“Miss Grace, I just wanted to let you know I’m here, but I’m late, so I need to get Pearl the dog and take her outside. I’ll come back over here when we get back.”


Did this picture scare you? It did me when I first saw it hanging in Pearl’s living room. I think it must be her mother and that’s why Pearl wears those hoot owl glasses and tries to be stylish and all flashy. She doesn’t want to resemble her mother. Some people do that. I can read Peal like a book.

When I turned around to face Miss Pearl’s door, she was standing there glaring at me, and puffing on her air cigarette. When she holds it in her mouth and puffs away, that means she’s mad. I sometimes worry that sucking in all that oxygen without breathing out much carbon monoxide, she’ll hyperventilate again. She did that one time. I was there too when her eyeballs rolled to the back of her head and she fainted dead away. I had never seen anything like it. Thankfully, she landed right and didn’t break her big-eyed glasses. Someone would’ve of had to haul her over to Pierre again to the Red Owl Store so she could get some new owl glasses. She says they’re her “statement,” and they go with her other “statements” like her millions of bracelets and wild colored clothes. When she really goes all out, she even has a cigarette holder in every color to hold her air cigarettes.

I hope I don’t sound too mean. I’m just in a bad mood. I get that way sometimes, and then I don’t act right.

I just ignored Miss Pearl’s hateful look and started petting and talking to Pearl the dog. She didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get outside, but I sure was. I knew by the time we got back, Miss Pearl’s wrath would have subsided. She’s just like an open book that way.

Pearl the dog and I went for an extra long walk, and when we got back, guess who was there? Miss Pearl was standing in her doorway, and right across the hall, Miss Grace was standing in her doorway. Mr. Bradley Crandall was standing in the hall.

I could smell something really good cooking, but I couldn’t tell who’s kitchen it was coming from. In the time it took me to take Pearl the dog out, those two had really dolled themselves up. I knew they must have hurried, because when Miss Grace turned around she almost tripped because she only had one rubber band around her little black flats. I don’t know if it’s because they’re too big, or she doesn’t have any arches, but she cannot keep her shoes on without a rubber band. She also left one of those pink foam curlers in her hair. It was in the back where her bad cowlick is.

Miss Pearl looked pretty normal, except she was holding an ashtray and every once in a while she held it out to Mr. Crandall so he could ash his air cigarette.

You have probably already figured out that Miss Pearl and Miss Grace both lust after Mr. Crandall. It’s not like he’s the only man in town, although I can’t think of any others around who are single and almost ninety. I felt sorry for him because he must have been invited to supper, and he was waiting to see where his food was cooking. That must be a very awkward feeling.

Well, I couldn’t wait to find out how it all played out, because I had to go home and suck on my reed, so when Mom gets home from work, she’ll think I practiced. I know she checks my reed because I’ve seen her do it.

Murdo Girl…Here comes the rain

It has been a while since I posted on the blog. I have over scheduled myself. I had two of my beautiful grandsons here for several days and I’ve been trying to help out at the library. Wednesday, I facilitated an art class with too many kiddos to count. Or maybe my eyes glazed over when I saw them all. They painted a self portrait with acrylic paint. Need I say more? They had a blast, but the clean-up crew will never forgive me.

On Thursday, we had an Einstein Science Fair. I demonstrated the Whoopie Jug. You put alcohol in a five gallon jug, roll it around to coat it and drop a match inside. It whoops…loud. I think I ruined the jug, but I found one online for $37.00 so I’ll be covered. I also spilled the 91% alcohol on the floor. The lady who was teaching me, handled it very well. She finally said, “She will be putting on her goggles” loud enough to sink in.

After the fair, the boys and I swam in the lake, played putt putt golf, went to the park where they shot baskets, and got ice cream. At 9:30 p.m. they talked me into taking them to a movie that was having it’s first showing that night. It was actually pretty good. The eight year old said everything was “interesting” and he used the word, literally a lot. I’m tired of the words, Literary, Literature, literacy, and literally. Not really…I have really been enjoying myself, but you can understand why other things have been knocked off the list. 

I wrote this poem tonight. Even kids can feel it when something isn’t quite right…

Here comes the rain…

We were playing in the vacant lot and felt a cold chill.

The dark clouds hovered over us and the air was still.

Should we stay and stand close to that old shed?

Or should we run for it and find a safe place up ahead?

I was thankful the decision wasn’t mine to make.

My older cousin said the clouds would soon begin to break.

Here comes the rain…

Hours later, we were still standing by the shed.

What if lightening strikes us? We’ll all be dead!

My older cousin said that was a foolish thought.

She said I was worried all for naught.

The lightning struck this old shed years ago.

See the hole in the roof where the chimney used to go?

Yes, this place has paid the price.

And lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Here comes the rain…

It wasn’t at all like she said it would be.

A torrential rain was pouring down on me.

Our moms will think we’re the ones to blame.

We should have sense enough to come in from the rain.

I’ve learned my lesson well today.

It will be days before I’ll get to play.

I’ll show Mom how I’ll handle cousin conflict.

Then maturely ask her if she could be less strict.

That older cousin who just won’t let me be?

I’ll tell her she’s not the boss of me!

Here comes the rain…

The cutie in the pigtails just welcomed her first grandchild. He was born on our Grandpa Sanderson’s birthday…

Murdo Girl…The essence of Queen E

I just finished watching a documentary on the life of Queen Elizabeth. What a remarkable woman she is.

Many of you know that I have had a lot of fun featuring her in my blogs through the years. The truth is, aside from the hat captions and our visits with her on both sides of the pond, I greatly admire her.

I have a crown just like this one…

I think I’m drawn to the regal, classy demeanor she has displayed all of these years. The old girl might live in the lap of luxury, but she has been through some difficult times.

She takes her position seriously, yet does not take the adoration personally. What I mean is, she hopes and believes it is her position as the Queen, that the public holds in high esteem. Does that make sense? I think the next in line will definitely be challenged trying to fill her shoes. I mean she’s iconic.

The only thing the documentary noted as being a time the public was disappointed in her was when Princess Dianna was killed. The Queen did not make remarks right away. She took her family, including Dianna’s two sons, to Balmoral where they stayed in seclusion for a time. She came to understand how much Dianna was loved and as the Queen, she needed to acknowledge the tragedy that had befallen her former daughter-in-law and mother of her grandsons. When she did speak, it was “As your Queen” in context, but still heartfelt.

I can understand why she might have wanted to give them that time to absorb what had happened.

I think that later today I’ll get out the Diamond Jubilee teacup that my friend, Jean, gave me, make a cup of tea and toast Queen Elizabeth…

Long Live the Queen!

Murdo Girl…The Rythm of life..A family from Sweden

I have written about the history of all sides of my family in this series and I have also written about my friend, Sherri Miller’s family. Her grandfather immigrated from Norway and eventually settled in the Presho, South Dakota area. My Grandparents on the Francis and Sanderson sides were second generation Americans and settled in my hometown of Murdo, South Dakota.

When I was 29 and my brother, Billy, was 36, our father, William Francis died suddenly. He had a heart attack while helping a neighbor put in a shower. Dad was living in California at the time.

My parents divorced when I was 18. Mom and E.M. Gustafson married 3 years later, shortly before my first son was born. Gus has been in our lives for 48 years and Bill’s family and mine are all very close to him. Mom was his only marriage. She was a few years older and always said she was training him for his 2nd wife. They were married 36 years before she died. I hope you’re getting all of this down because there will be a test later.

Gus’ cousin, Marilyn Moseson, researched much of the Gustafson family’s history. This story is a compilation of information contained in her book as well as Gus’ records and memories.

Gus and his father, Rudolph Gustafson

Gus’ grandfather, Gustaf Svensson was born 12/21/1846. You might be wondering why his surname was Svensson and not Gustafson. Sweden abounds in names ending in “son” because of an old Nordic practice. Before hereditary surnames were introduced, they used the father’s first name, and the suffix -“son” for son or “-dotter” for a daughter. Gustaf Svensson’s sons were Gustafsons. If he’d had a daughter, her name, for example, would have been, Sofia, Gustafsdotter.

Gustaf married in 1884. His wife died about a year later. There were no children born of that marriage. On 7/24/1886 he married Emma, Eriksdotter. They had 7 sons. One son died in infancy and four immigrated to America. Not much was written about Gus’ grandfather, Gustaf, except that he was a hard worker and he was very proud of the barn his son, Johan, built for him.

Many times the small farms in Sweden couldn’t support all of the sons and their families which created the need and desire to immigrate to America. Gus said his grandparent’s farm in Sweden was named Rormyren and was near the largest lake in Sweden.

Rudolph was the 5th son of Gusfaf and Emma. He was born 11-4-1893 and was one of the four who immigrated to America. Karl and Johan, the two oldest, remained in Sweden.

Rudolph sailed to America on the SS US Kristiana. He was listed as the 2nd passenger on the manifest.

Rudolph arrived at America’s Ellis Island on December 6th, 1912. He was 19 years old. He immediately went to Sioux City, Iowa where he was greeted by brothers Swan (previously Sven) and Edward as well as his Aunts and Uncles.

Rudolph was a hard worker and he was strong. He could throw a load of bricks over his shoulder and climb a ladder.

He was drafted into the service in 1917. As did many who immigrated, Rudolph became a citizen while serving. Like Sherri’s father, who had to denounce the King of Norway, Rudolph had to denounce the King of Sweden before obtaining his citizenship.

Rudolph’s mother, Emma had a strong faith which helped her endure the fact that 4 of her sons were all the way in America. 1931 was a special year for her. Her sons brought her and her son, Johan to America for a visit. She was 78 at the time. Emma stayed for an entire year and enjoyed many family gatherings. After she returned to Sweden, her boys made trips to visit her. Gus’ father, Rudolph, made a trip in 1938. Edward even took his car on the ship with him, once.

On 11/26/1943, the brothers received a telegram from Johan. It only contained 2 words…Mother dead. Because of the war, the brothers couldn’t join Johan for their mother’s burial.

The rhythm of life changed swiftly and often during the time many of our families were becoming established in their new homeland. The tapestry became richer with all the combined history melding together

Between 1900 and 1915, more than 15 million immigrants arrived in the United States. That was about equal to the number of immigrants who had arrived in the previous 40 years combined…

Ellis Island

Murdo Girl…Gone..A red carnation

(The young woman and her new friend, Arf, continue their search for the future)

“I know the man who wrote this book. I recognize his name.

Is he the one orchestrating this senseless game?”

Arf didn’t move and he wasn’t sympathetic.


He looked at me as if to say, “I don’t do pathetic!”

“Okay, Arf!” I said. “Don’t look so perplexed.”

I’ll go along willingly, where do you want me next?

He went to the book and turned the pages with his paw.

I watched intently…not believing what I saw.

He started at the back and stopped at the beginning.

I saw the author’s photo. Now my head was spinning.

I’ll tell you this story, Arf. There’s no one else to tell.

I met this man the day I left somewhere I used to dwell.

He helped me board the train I took to some random destination.

He took the seat next to me and handed me a red carnation.

He asked me odd questions like, did I want to work or be a wife?

I said I hadn’t had a chance to plan the next stage of my life.


Before he got off the train, he handed me a book.

It was one he had written and he hoped I’d take a look.

I never read a word of it, though I should have I suppose.

Did I leave it somewhere? Only heaven knows.

Would it have been of interest to this lonely waif?

Someone who spent most her life never feeling safe?

The writer said something I haven’t thought about in ages.

He said I would find my truth between the pages.

I remembered the photograph. Who was I dancing with?

And how was she connected to the gentleman wordsmith?

That day he left me on the train, I didn’t hear all he said

As he removed his hat and slightly bowed his head.


It was when I heard the whistle, and when I heard the bell.

 I heard a man’s voice whisper, “I bid you a fond farewell.”

Now, I can recall… he whispered something more.

“I know your father loves you… now and forever more.” 


I heard the whisper at the well say, “You’re ready to move on.”

Look back for just a moment to make sure the past is gone.”


Murdo Girl…Gone..The book

Arf watched as I opened the book he had brought to me.

 I looked at the picture. “What do you want me to see?


The woman and the little girl danced their carefree dance.

You could see the love between them in their loving glance.

I didn’t know the woman, which seemed strange because…you see

 I knew the child…That little girl was me.


“I don’t understand, Arf. Why are we going back in time?”

And why do I keep hearing the whistle and bell chime?”

I’d heard the whisper at the well,  “You are ready to move on.

 Look back for just a moment to make sure the past is gone.” 


“I think maybe we should leave, Arf. The more I see, the less I know.”

He came to me and licked my hand. My tears began to flow.

My eyes went to the book, I turned it over in my hands.

 I saw the author’s name. I knew I had to change my plans.


First I heard the whisper. Then I heard the bell.

Something unknown gripped my heart. A fear I could not quell.


I heard the familiar whistling. The soft voice filled the air.

“If you want to get someplace, you have to leave nowhere.

Murdo Girl…Gone home

(The 3rd of 4…see Gone 2 and Gone the letter)

Part 3…

An old reclusive aunt reaches out to her niece hoping to help her learn the truth about her family and herself.

Her niece makes the journey back to the family farm…a place she barely remembers. She has her new friend Arf to lead the way…

Should I pack up my belongings and travel down that road?

I couldn’t see another way to lighten up my load.

I wondered if they’d be there. This family I didn’t know.

When Arf and I walked through the gate, my steps began to slow.

Arf tried to hurry me along…then I heard a ringing bell.


The first thing he led me to was an old wishing well.

He pulled on a rope until a bucket reached the top.


He backed up to where I stood and let the bucket drop.

First I heard the whisper. Then I heard the bell.

“You can’t fill an empty bucket from an empty well.”


I heard the familiar whistling. The soft voice filled the air.

“If you want to get someplace, you have to leave nowhere.

You must escape the rope. Life on earth won’t last forever.

With a steady hand and prayer, you can put it all together.

Let your steps take you forward. You’re ready to move on.

Look back for just an instant to make sure you’re truly gone.”


What used to be the farmhouse was now more like a shack

I found a cot and fell asleep… too weary to unpack.

Early the next morning Arf walked over to a nook

When he returned, in his mouth he held a book.

Another message from my aunt? Arf began to pace.

I opened up the book and saw an unfamiliar face.

First I heard the whistle. Then I heard the bell.

I knew the woman in the book had a story to tell.

Murdo Girl…Gone 2, the letter

The first sentence of that letter shook me to the core. Against my better judgement, I went on to read some more…


It said

I know I’m not your favorite. I never tried to be. But never mind all that! You can learn from me.

So listen up my dear and I’ll tell you what it takes. It makes no sense for you to make all of my mistakes.


I had a noose around my neck for Lord knows far too long. It took me years to figure out exactly what went wrong.

I was a farmer…not a farmer’s wife… I didn’t want to have any old goats in my life.


I had no time for family. No one ever called me nice. You’re my only niece and I think I’ve seen you twice.

You threw away your family, too and ran your best friend off. I’ve given you a new friend. His name is Arf.


You know where the farm is and I’ve given you the key. There you’ll find the answers that will set you free.

Arf will stay right with you. He won’t leave you alone. But he’ll have to bring his favorite chewed- up bone.


Arf came with me willingly. We were quite a pair. We headed for the farm….I wondered what would happen there…

I heard the whispers in the wind and it comforted me somehow, but they had to do with then, and this was now.

And the wind will whisper your name to me,
Little birds will sing along in time,
The leaves will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

(Peter Paul and Mary)

To be Continued…