(This column appeared in a May edition of my hometown newspaper the Devils Lake Journal in Devils Lake, North Dakota)
The newspaper I work for now in Brush CO is smaller than the one in Devils Lake, We are a staff of two and half, plus a part time baby. We all, minus the baby, wear a lot of hats in addition to our primary responsibilities, including receptionist, subscription taker, ad salesperson and often even delivery person. Some days are quiet when the phone seems to hardly ring at all and not many people stop by. Others days are hopping, including one recent Wednesday when the phone seemed to ring non-stop and just short of hoards of people coming in and out the door.
Some of this particular Wednesday’s conversations had a rather unusual twist beginning with a caller asking me after I cheerily answered the phone “Brush News-Tribune” how much a half of a whole pig with the skin on would cost. Say what? Of course I didn’t say that, but I did say this is the Brush News-Tribune. And the woman said oh I thought I was calling the Brush Meat Locker. It did get me wondering just how much said pig would cost, and one of these days I need to mosy on down to the meat locker to find out.
Some days people, often retired folks, come in and just need somebody to talk to. And later that afternoon an older gentlemen wearing a VFW cap approached my desk which is about 10 feet from the front door and plopped himself in the chair in front of me, which happens quite frequently, and said this question is about me and I hope you can help me. Oh boy, I thought, what is he going to share. It turns out “John” was 91 years old and had recently received a phone call out of the blue from a high school sweetheart “Mary” now living in another town in CO. He was wondering if we could help him track down her phone number as he only knew her maiden name. When I asked if he had caller ID, he gave me a puzzled look.
He then stood up and with great animation began reminiscing about Mary saying how pretty she was and how he used to take her out in his Model A Coupe with a rumble seat and then it was hi ho silver. I’m not exactly sure what the hi ho silver meant, but he was really jazzed about the call and even said he hadn’t felt this excited since his wife died five years ago. After he left, I thought about his request and wondered how I could help. Without her married name a google search wasn’t much use. I tried ancestry.com with her maiden name but came up empty.
About a week or so later, John returned to our office and plopped back down once again in the chair and pulled a letter out of his shirt pocket, and with a wry smile he handed it to me. Mary had called him again, followed by a letter, which he wanted me to read. Mary also had thoroughly enjoyed their visit and wrote that he had made her feel like a schoolgirl again. John said he had been working on several drafts of a return letter, but didn’t feel any of them were worthy. As he headed out the door to buy Mary not one but two cards, I told him I wanted an invitation to their wedding.
Update: John has been by several times since I wrote this column and shared another of Mary’s letters with me. She may be making a trip through Brush sometimes this summer and John is giddy with the prospect. And who wouldn’t be after 70-plus long years.