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Published December 03 2010

Two shining lights in Enderlin

Enderlin, N.D. - From Thanksgiving through Christmas, Wyman and Doris Galbreath don’t really need a yard light.

After all, no one has trouble finding their rural Enderlin yard when it’s ablaze with 12,000 Christmas lights.

It all started in 1990, after Wyman retired and the couple moved to their current farmstead west of the city.

He started out by hanging lights from the property’s many evergreens. But as these things often do, the project grew in scope and size. Now lights are strewn across their five-acre homestead along Highway 32.

Many of the lights are white or patriotic strings of red, white and blue. Other features include illuminated stars atop their split-level home, a nativity scene with 12 to 15 figures, an illuminated American flag and large signs bearing messages like: “Support Our Troops.”

“He enjoys it. He likes the Christmas lights. He turns them on early because he can’t wait,” says Doris. She speaks on behalf of Wyman because he lost his hearing while serving as a B-17 pilot in Iwo Jima during World War II. He was one of the few wearing headphones when his plane was struck by lightning.

Wyman returned to Enderlin. His injury prevented him from flying for the airlines, as he’d originally planned to do, so he farmed instead. He also married his sweetheart, Doris; together they raised five children.

Although Wyman knows sign language and is an accomplished lip-reader, he also depends on Doris to be his link to the hearing world. She takes notes for him and the couple share their own pantomimed signs. “We had our own language before we even knew what (American Sign Language) was about,” she says.

Now 87, Wyman has slowed down a bit. A collapsed vertebrae means he has to use a scooter or golf cart to get around, and his children or grandkids help hang some of the more precariously perched strands,

Still, Wyman hasn’t cut down on his light display. “That work ethic of old farmers – you never take that away,” Doris says.

And the Galbreaths have become such an Enderlin-area tradition that local residents have come to expect it.

“We cut the hedge down because it was diseased and people said, ‘Oh my goodness, where are you going to put the lights?’ ” Doris says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525