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Bob Lind, Published June 29 2013

Lind: Sip a cup of joe and talk poetry with Neighbors

Neighbors has heard from hundreds of people over the years, most of whom we’ve not met. But we consider each of them – each of you – a friend; someone we’d sit down with over a cup of coffee and visit about what’s on your mind.

(By the way, remember when it was thought coffee was bad for you? Now medical people say the stuff, in moderation, is good for you, because it heads off cancer, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Nice to know, right, coffee lovers?)

Anyhow, today Neighbors would like to figuratively have coffee with you and talk about poetry.

Some time ago, Don K. Johnson, Fargo, wrote that he was seeking the title of a poem he liked about a calf that made a trail as he walked; a trail that eventually mankind followed, too.

The answer to Don’s question came in right away. Tom Anderson, West Fargo, identified it as “The Calf-Path,” written by Sam Walter Foss, who lived from 1858 to 1911.

Many others later identified this poem. More about them later.

‘A Letter Home’

But now, neighbors, let’s have another round of coffee while we give credit to several people who wrote in to answer a reader’s question about the title and author of another poem, one in which the author noted that no matter where he was, North Dakota would always be home.

Neighbors carried responses from several people earlier. Here’s more:

Ivy Engh, Galchutt, N.D. knew the poem was “A Letter Home” by North Dakota’s late poet laureate James W. Foley.

Bill Lipetzky, Kensal, N.D., who wrote that he is “86-plus” years old, also identified the Foley poem.

Jerry Liddle, West Fargo, wrote that, “As a sixth-grader in Carrington (N.D.) in 1952-1953, we had to copy this poem from the blackboard. I’m sure at least 30 years of students had to do this for the teacher, Miss Edna Hollberg.”

Patty Sandeen, Moorhead, said past columns about this poem reminded her of a poem her brother Dennis Huebner had to memorize, “In our little one-room school, Crocus Hill School, in Keene Township, Clay County,” titled “America for Me” by Henry Van Dyke.

“I learned it as Dennis recited it over and over,” Patty says. “We younger ones learned a lot listening to the older kids in school.”

Back on ‘The Calf Path’

Now let’s get back to crediting the many folks who identified “The Calf- Path.”

They include Margaret Sankey, Moorhead; Diane Christensen, Fargo; “Dino” Peterson, Las Vegas; Jenna Johnson-Saewert, Fargo; Will Porter, Fargo; and Mike Deplazes, West Fargo.

Then Neighbors received a phone call from a man who modestly introduced himself as “an old guy named George Sinner.”

That “old guy,” better known as “Bud,” was a two-term governor of North Dakota who read “The Calf-Path” in his 1985 inaugural address.

Bud says he first became acquainted with the poem when it appeared one morning in 1972 on the desks of the delegates to the North Dakota Constitutional Convention.

“The person who put it on the desks was not identified,” Bud says.

“But understanding smiles appeared on the faces of the members around the chamber as they read the delightful piece.

“It wasn’t about some real calf of history, we all knew,” he notes, “but about all of the customs and rules that we had inherited from uncertain and often mindless sources in our past.

“I loved the piece and the gentle lessons it taught. Years later, as governor, I spoke to the 1985 Legislature and I began my inaugural by reading ‘The Calf- Path.’

“Around the chamber that day sat a few who had served with me in the 1972 Constitutional Convention. Knowing smiles quickly came onto their faces. They, too, remembered and loved the lessons in this warm poem by Walter Foss.”

Bud, formerly of Casselton, N.D., and now of Fargo, sounded good, even though, at 85, he says, he’s found that as the body ages, “the parts wear out.”

They sure do, governor.


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 email blind@forumcomm.com