You can go home again… just can’t live there because it’s all fallen down…


The NESET woods in Koochiching County, Minnesota

There is a trip to be made when I come home to northern Minnesota. It is about who I was and am, made to remind myself how important this place is to me. It is HOME.

What we lack in sophistication, we make up for in our love of butter and tolerance of mosquitoes

Today’s journey: Grand Rapids on 2 and 46 to Northome, 71 out to the Old Place, then Blackduck (where I was born) for a hot pork sandwich for lunch, back to Helen and Barb’s for cake and coffee, retracing 71 to Northome and to the Forest Hill Cemetery, and finally home to Grand Rapids. Now drinking Baileys and checking in on MSNBC and the Wiener.


Grand Rapids is a pleasant little town on the banks of the Mississippi, which flows to Grand Rapids from its headwaters in Itasca State Park a hundred miles of so away, and on south to the Gulf of Mexico. We drive west and then south through a pine forest to Northome, the non-descript village, 7 miles from where I grew up. We go west again on Highway 71 to the Dead End sign that marks the gravel road down to the end of the road—formerly known as the Neset’s.

Without waxing TOO sentimental, let me say that it was great growing up here because my brother and I were much loved children and, while we were country poor, we had of simple meat-and-potatoes-and-apple-pie kind of food, a comfortable if very basic little house, friends/neighbors, special occasions—the stuff on which good lives are built for kids. Had my mother written her story there would have been disappointment about not being able to achieve a more traditionally prosperous farm life for her kids and about the sort of lumber-camp values of the northwoods, but also a good measure of pleasure over the natural environment, her reasonably good children and a husband who, while not exactly a go-getter, was dear and gentle and did love his family.

Always up here, a mixture of pleasure in the past and great loneliness for it as well

The ‘old place’ as everyone in the family calls it…sinking into the ground. Hey, the voices of the family and the smells of the roasts and pies and the sounds of the animals and the anticipation of the approaching rain or snow or hailstorm are all there. OKAY, so I am getting quite sentimental…always happens.

Another light Minnesota lunch…

Lunch in Blackduck. Another small town of absolutely no distinction except that I was born there. We had hot pork sandwiches in honor of mom and pop because they always ordered them on the very rare occasion of ‘eating out.’

Helen, one of mom and dad’s very best friends and an amazing lady

Barb…also a pretty amazing and special friend

Helen and Barb Weeks. Dear dear old family friends. We’ve known each other since we were born. Back in the day—when people went visiting. Meaning you collected the kids and went to your friends where the men talked and talked and the kids played and the women sat in the kitchen while the hostess stuck a cake in the oven and laid out sandwich meat and homemade bread and jam and sweet pickles and butter and Kool Aid and coffee.

We often went to Louie and Helen’s. Louie may have been my dad’s best buddy. He was a natural-born humorist and often dad was his straight man. Now Louie is gone but Helen is as sharp and funny as ever (at 89) and daughter Barb who takes after her mom—sharp, funny and maybe a little sarcastic about life in general—lives next door and is her mom’s best friend in many ways. We enjoyed some talk of the old days, current ailments, evil Republicans, and the antics of the three dogs while we ate banana cake and drank coffee.

Back down 71 to Northome and the Forest Hill Cemetery. Hi Mom, Hi Dad, Hi Uncle Ike, Aunt Sally. Grandma Asborg, Grandpa Torgus. It’s all green, mosquito-rich, and fake-flower filled.  It’s somehow reassuring to come here. My sons must dig a handful of my ashes down between my mom and my dad.

Grandma, lived to 96


2 Comments on “You can go home again… just can’t live there because it’s all fallen down…

  1. I absolutely love your blog on northern MN. But the picture of me stinks, as usual, I take rotten pictures.. Mom loves me to read your blogs to her, as she sits and crys this morning over this one. You are such a wonderful writter Marge, and we love you and Robert so much.. It is always such a pleasure to have you come. I only wish it could be more often…. God Bless……

  2. Dear Marjorie.. I just can’t find the words to tell you just how much Norm and I enjoyed reading your blog about Home …. It really takes us back to a time when everything was so plain and simple, but the work was hard. I know when I got my horse Buddy from Marsha when I was about 12 yrs old my Grampa had me help him put up hay . I didn’t dare grumble about the heat and the mosquitoes and other flying critters that bugged me cuz I was doing this for my best friend, Buddy. Yes the good ole days were quite something else. But here we are in the here and now and who knows what is coming next. Norm and I stopped in to see Robert and Marsha and spent the night with them last fall. We actually got to visit with Lydia. She was Norman’s 6th grade teacher. She was so happy to see him and I think I saw a tear in Norm’s eye. Well Marjorie stay well, and keep on writting these blogs. They are truly interesting and I even think very educational. Hope to see you sometime up at Norm’s Mom’s or at Robert and Marsha’s. God bless you in your journeys… and be safe.

    Norm and Nita Week

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