Bob Lind, Published July 15 2013
Neighbors: What it means to be just one of 13
Ellie Radtke had that distinction. And she was No. 13.
Ellie, 93, of Fargo, the daughter of Herman and Louise Nieman, of Perham, Minn., and the last of the Nieman siblings still living, recently wrote a poem about being the youngest of 13 children living on a farm.
“I’m not sure why I wrote it,” she said when sending it to Neighbors, “but my pen just went that way.”
Here is Ellie’s poem, which she calls “Thoughts on what it means to be born in a family as No. 13.”
First, I think of my dear ol’ mother; by this time in her life, what a struggle, wondering if I would just survive; would I still be around living at five?
But now I just think of it more and more; I’M the one that they were waiting for!
“You’re lucky you got here,” so said my siblings, after I listened to all their quibblings.
Now I miss the whole darn bunch! (But it won’t be long – I have a hunch).
I wonder that we didn’t ail, drinking all one dipper in a pail;
No electric heat; no electric light; so dark and cold upstairs at night.
Up at dawn to feed all the cows, horses, pigs, and then the sows,
Chickens, turkeys, ducks and drakes. (Never mind if you have aches).
Milk the cows and split that wood; (You’d skip it all, if you just could!)
Pump that water; keep the tank full; then there’s always weeds to pull.
Garden is growing; all need care; berries need picking; food to share.
This, to you, all sounds so sage – how did I ever get to be this age?
Again, I think of my dear mother; she wouldn’t have traded me for another!
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