A Sad Trip North

Dad and Cousin Florine in September 2012



You just never know what will happen in life.  A couple of months ago – November 20th to be exact – Dad and I went to a funeral near Elkader, Iowa.  After the funeral I went trout fishing (in church clothes) and got muddy and wet while crossing Bloody Run Creek.  Later we went to see Dad’s cousin, Florine.

Florine was used to the antics of the Harris clan (her mother’s side of the family).  It was not much of a surprise to see a 47 year old Harris man come into her house with rolled up muddy pant legs, mismatched socks and shoes (dry, of course), proudly proclaiming “I got my five trout!”

That got her talking and we had a fun time remembering things from years ago.

We reminisced about the time at Backbone State Park when Uncle Clifford’s dog grabbed the line and ate the cheese bait and had to be rushed 40 miles to the vet to get the fish hook out… all the while Grandpa was cussing about the *%&#* dog ruining the fishing trip.  Uncle Clifford cussed Grandpa  for cussing the dog… and Uncle Clifford’s wife, a gentle Quaker lady, kept saying “Now, Clifford… there are children.”

Oh, those were the days….

It was a fun visit and Florine, Dad, and I agreed to try and get together again soon.  Unfortunately, it is no longer possible.

She suddenly died a few days ago in her home after a fall.  Florine was 81.

I have memories of our special cousin from back in the 1970s.  Florine was one of those cool people who never got old.  I loved her telling stories about their Model A Ford, the Great Depression, some of the wild behaviors of my Dad’s side of the family, etc.  Back then, it was the rage to tip over wooden outhouses.

Florine’s stories also painted a picture about the difficulty finding work in those days, how men travelled on a train and labored away from home to support their families.  People were poor… but they were honest and not afraid to break a sweat. Taking any kind of welfare was only a last resort and subjected a person to scornful looks.  Relatives took care of each other.  How times have changed!

Dad was crushed when we got the news that Florine had died.  They were very close.  He really wanted to go to the funeral and visitation.  Due to work reasons, as well as a bad snowstorm, we had to miss the services.  In fact, the roads were so bad, we don’t know if anyone could even get to the remote family cemetery up in the hills for the burial.

Sunday we will be driving my car to Elkader to pay respects to the family.  Afterwards, I decided to take Dad out to eat at a special restaurant.  He’s feeling a little better this week and eating like a horse.  We’ll have a nice meal.  You just never know how many chances a person will get so I’m not going to waste this opportunity to spend time with him, especially under the circumstances.  I’ll be back a lot this year to fish and visit our cousin’s grave… and remember all the good times.  Someone has to keep the stories alive!

If you have a chance to visit family, do it soon.  I am so glad Dad and I had one last opportunity to see our cousin under happy circumstances.  The picture you saw here is the last image I remember of Florine.  I’m glad that final memory didn’t have to include a coffin.

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Just one last note… I’ll be taking a short camping trip on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’ve got some info to share including a tasty, original recipe (Curried Chicken Salad With Walnut and Cranberry) for the road.  Take care!

Bradford, the “Van Trekker”

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