Yesterday with a sky filled with high clouds and the promise of spring in the air, relatives and friends gathered to bid a final farewell to one of my favored story tellers. Agnes Hoagland joined her husband Stan yesterday in that small cemetery in Wilton where many of the grave stones bear the names of people known throughout this area.
Agnes’ life was well lived as a teacher in a one room school house in North Dakota, farmer’s wife, mother and faithful friend. Stan and Agnes moved to Baker Park in 2006 and that is when my story began. Agnes was one of a few residents who met with the Evergreen Readers, a newly formed group dedicated to reading stories to those who could not see well enough to read anymore.
Although Agnes loved to hear the short stories from writers like Bemidji author Kent Nerburn about the fabric and texture of life in northern Minnesota, she also liked to add a comment or two of her own—“I remember when we had …..”
She was especially proud of the stories that her husband Stan wrote about his life on the farm. A few years ago, one of his stories was printed in the Bemidji Pioneer senior scene and posted at the nursing home when Stan had moved. She visited Stan often and gave me more stories in the hope of having more printed but that was not to be. I have kept them some of them on my computer and re-read them as a way to feed my soul (so to speak) and a quick chuckle. So in tribute to Stan who wrote them and Agnes who gave the stories to me, I would like to share one of my favorites because it is coming to that time of year once again.
When Lightning Comes Visiting by Stan Hoagland
Lightning seems to ride in on the clouds; there is a low rumbling sound and then a loud clap of thunder, followed by sizzling, spitting, crackling, long flashes of almost blinding lightning. Lighting is attracted to the tallest object. Living out on the prairie country, one does not have tree protection. So on a hot humid day, when a dark dismal cloud hangs overhead a rumbling and banging away, spitting out streaks of fire, it can be an eerie feeling.
The folks were gone; it was just one brother, one sister and I were home. It was a storm clouded day. I can remember this very well. It was the day after my brother and I ate about three muskmelons each, they were only about half ripe. Anyhow, next day I had a bellyache. I don’t know why! Our house had a summer kitchen added onto the north side. A door led to the pantry, you could walk ahead (and) open another door leading into what was our winter kitchen. My parents used it as a bedroom in the summer.
I was lying on the bed with my bellyache! Facing the south window, my sister was in front of the open window, hammering on a curling iron. The pantry doors open to let air through, my brother sat in a chair by the bed. He had his feet under the front legs of the chair and he also faced the window. A thunder storm was in the making. There was a flash of lightening, a streak went right through the room. I saw my sister trying to pull her arm down, then my brother’s chair went over backwards and it came right back up again. I thought it might be the devil was after me! The lightning set fire to a hay pile beyond the barn and I got rid of my bellyache!