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Family and Community

Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Barnett
Writing My History
By Rosalee Larson

I was reading Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth when it occurred to me how this story of pioneer life resembled my parents' life in North Dakota in about 1906. I thought this story would tell my children something of their beginnings so I sent each of them the book and told them it was required reading. I used to tell them stories of life on the North Dakota prairie, passed on to me by my grandmother and mother.

I really got down to the business of writing the history when I received an "assignment" from my daughter -- this was a list of about 20 or so stories she remembered and wanted me to complete. She also listed some from her father. These were never written due to his poor health and now, sadly, it is too late.

Grandma Rosalee and her daughter-in-law, Peg.
I had just become an octogenarian so felt an urgency to get started while I still had a memory. I was using an old typewriter but it was getting increasingly difficult to see what I was typing -- but my son and daughter-in-law said they could fix that if I would be willing to get a computer. A computer! Of all things, that word was not even a part of my vocabulary!

But I did get a computer and with many hours of my straining their patience, I learned what I needed to know at the time. I am forever grateful to them as computers opened up a new and enjoyable world for me.

My father had a small talent for writing amusing little short stories and some of his letters to me were actually little essays. I have passed on some of these to my children in hopes it might encourage them to enjoy writing.

I think it was important in my family that we did this story telling -- even now, there are times when we get together we remember a story and get a good laugh or sometimes a sad feeling.

My family had just a handful of books but we really weren't deprived of the joy of stories. I remember sitting at my grandmother's feet while she told stories and sang songs to us. My mother told stories of her life on her homestead in North Dakota where all three of us children were born. She told of raging North Dakota blizzards, prairie fires and of seeing her first automobile.

Before I could read I remember looking at the pictures and crying over the book Three Little Kittens. My mother read each night the bedtime story from the newspaper, St. Paul Dispatch. As I grew older, I begged for more books and found out that I could order a box of books from our State Library in Bismarck. The story is told that my grandfather used to walk 20 miles to obtain his books, which later led to his graduation from the University of Toronto.

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