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Published January 07 2003

Bob Lind column: Neighbors: 12 older brothers were tough on one little sister

A story told here last month was of a woman who was from a family of nine children, and she was the only girl.

Herb Johnson, Moorhead, says his mother topped that. She had 12 brothers and no sisters. And she was the youngest.

Herb's mother, Esther, was born in Sweden and came to Connecticut in 1904.

Two of her brothers had come over earlier. She never saw one of them, an editor for the Chicago Tribune, until 1933.

Herb, did your mother say what it was like being the baby sister of 12 brothers?

"She says she got passed around quite a bit," Herb says. "They were pretty rough on her.

"Well, 12 big brothers, you know . . . "

Well, at least we can sort of imagine . . .

Uff-da.

A busy life

Many of the items readers send to Neighbors, such as the one mentioned above, draw feedback from others.

Such was the case with a December story about Monica Schindler, Barnesville, Minn., who received her high school diploma when she was 76.

Clementine Voracheck writes that she appreciates Monica's story, "especially her gumption and willpower to finish her high school education, something which I have always regretted not doing.

"I had to quit after my freshman year to assist my mother who was ill (my older sisters were all out working at the time and me and my younger sister were at home).

"The article had special meaning for me because of location, and also age-wise -- I'm 79."

The Barnesville connection is through Clementine's son Gary, who is a former math teacher in that community.

Clementine has three other children along with five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

She spent most of her life, as a youngster and after she was married, at Lankin, N.D., then moved to Fargo.

One day recently Clementine sat down and wrote out all the jobs, paid and unpaid, she's done over the years. It's a list that will click with some older women:

She helped her dad make rope out of twine; was a hired girl at age 12; was a waitress; she milked cows, picked potatoes, shocked grain;

Drove a tractor and a grain truck after she was married; operated a combine; cooked for harvest crews; helped at a grain elevator; raised 1,600 chickens; fed pigs and calves;

Kept score at local baseball games; was co-owner with her husband of a Red and White grocery story in Lankin; cut meat; made sausage; prepared income taxes; subbed as a rural mail carrier, driving 140 miles a day; was a flagger for her husband's house moving business in Lankin;

Was an agent for American Family Insurance; raised and sold Arabian horses -- she had the grand champion mare in North Dakota in 1982; picked rocks ("I didn't relish this," she says); was the family seamstress; gardened and canned; made bread ("I sold some and gave some away -- so far no one has complained of getting sick"); and, not so incidentally, raised her family.

All with only an eighth-grade education.

But all four of her children received college educations: John, a former school superintendent, now of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Gary, now of Alexandria, Minn.; Vicki, a special ed teacher in Moorhead; and Hal, a former real estate agent and now co-owner of a business in Sioux Falls.

Clementine, it's safe to say, has every right to be proud of her family and of what she herself has accomplished in her 79 years.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com