News & Events

The Rooster Crows – September 8, 2017

Meteorological Autumn was supposed to arrive on September 1, and Autumn temperatures were definitely present on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 5 & 6, with morning lows of 47 degrees and 41 degrees, respectively, and a daytime high of 67 on Tuesday, followed by a high temperature of only 59 for Wednesday. If the slide was to continue at that rate, the first frost would occur on Sunday morning. The weatherman advises that panic is not warranted, though, as 80-degree temperatures are predicted to return for the weekend. More heat is needed to mature the corn crop, and, for a few days at least, Mother Nature will provide just what is needed.

Motorists in Rutland and other Sargent County communities have been warned that this is the time of year when it is necessary to lock vehicle doors or risk ending up with a car or pickup full of zucchinis, cucumbers, sweet corn and tomatoes. Local gardeners report a bumper crop of produce this year. Doug & Cher Spieker are harvesting potatoes and tomatoes, pronounced either way, from their garden, and Doug states that some of the tomato vines are 5 feet high, so he doesn’t even have to bend over to pick a nice, red, vine-ripened tomato. There’s only 2 things that money can’t buy, and home-grown tomatoes are one of them.

The last day of August, Thursday, August 31, inspired some reminiscing about some big events in the history of the community that occurred during the 8th month of the year. In the 1940’s, there were 2 big fires in Rutland, and Dick Meyers remembers both of them. In August of 1941, the old Rutland Pool Hall stood about where the north ½ of the Rutland General Store and the south ¼ of the Rutland Café are now situated. The 2nd floor of the building was an auditorium with a stage at one end. Dances were held, basketball games played and theatrical productions performed in that auditorium which was known as the Rutland Town Hall. At that time, gambling for money was a mortal sin in North Dakota, so it had to be done in secret. There was a small room beneath the auditorium’s stage that was known as “The Poker Den,” and it was often crowded with card players and crap shooters trying their luck. Smoking was not a sin in those days, and, according to local legend, the smoke in the poker den sometimes became so thick and the air so foul that there was not enough oxygen in the room to keep the kerosene lamps in The Poker Den lit. The big fire of 1941 is believed to have begun in The Poker Den, possibly as the result of a still smoldering cigar or cigarette butt that had gotten dumped into the trash basket when the game broke up at dawn. The fire was noticed when it was still confined to the small room beneath the stage in the auditorium, and the local volunteers, directed by Fire Chief George Hoflen, turned out with the City’s pumper truck, a Model A Ford truck with a 300 gallon tank and a big suction pump mounted on it, to battle the flames. The City had 2 50,000-gallon underground reservoirs that had been constructed after a disastrous fire in 1914 within a few feet of the fire. Unfortunately, the volunteer fire fighters could not get the pump to work, and while they tinkered with the pump the fire grew, and then spread to adjacent buildings. When the pump finally began pumping water the fire had grown to a roaring conflagration that was out of control, consuming all of the buildings on the east side of Main Street from Gay Street north to the City Café, also known as Andy Gump’s, that was situated a little north of where the Rutland Seniors Center now stands. Among the businesses destroyed in the fire were: George Hoflen’s Rutland Meat Market; Frank Mapes Barber Shop; Alma Holen’s Café; the Rutland Pool Hall and Town Hall operated by Ralph Peterson; Franzen’s Hardware and Grocery Stores; Gus Walby’s harness & shoe repair shop, cream & egg buying station and funeral parlor; and, the Rutland Hotel. Franzen’s building was rebuilt the following year with bricks salvaged from the fire, but the other sites remained unreconstructed until after World War II rationing of building materials ended. The buildings that were eventually built on those properties were all of brick, block and masonry construction, including: Hermanson’s Fairway Store; the Rutland Theater; Red Greene’s Insurance Office; Rutland Café; Franzen’s Hardware & Grocery Stores; and the Rutland Recreation now the Seniors Center. Hermansons Store, the Rutland Theater and the Insurance Office were removed in 2006 to make way for the Rutland General Store building. Dick recalls that the Meyers family had been out of town, visiting family over at Beardsley MN, when the big fire of 1941 consumed a big chunk of Main Street, so he and his brother, John, couldn’t be blamed for any of it. When they left town, the buildings were intact. When they returned there was nothing left but smoldering ruins and ashes. Dick has some vivid memories of the day the Rutland Farmers Elevator burned in August of 1945, though. Dick was 13 years old then, and big enough to be pressed into firefighting service. He remembers that local businessmen Julius Sjothun and Art Nelson pulled up across Main Street from the elevator with the same Model A Ford Fire Truck that had been around in 1941. This time there were no reservoirs handy, though, so the plan was to use the mounted suction pump to pump water from the big slough known as “The Depot Slough” that then ran from Main Street east to Ross Street and took up most of the area between Front Street and the Great Northern Railway track. Julius and Art handed Dick the suction end of the Fire Truck’s suction hose and told him to take it out into the slough. The west end of the slough, though, was full of junk, everything from old car bodies to whiskey bottles, and, as it was August, the slough was green with algae and as thick as pea soup. Dick protested about wading out with the suction hose, but orders were orders, so out he went. As Dick waded out into the muck, Julius, who always hummed to himself when he was working in his mechanic’s shop, was humming away as he tried to get the pump to work. Finally Julius hit the right combination, great gulps of thick, green water began to be sucked up into the hose, and Art Nelson, who never spoke above a whisper, turned to Julius and yelled, in the loudest whisper he could muster, “Turn ‘er on!” Which Julius did. The pump squirted out a trickle of water that barely cleared the end of Art Nelson’s shoes, according to Dick, and the fire in the elevator raged on. Dick was next pressed into service trying to save the old Junction Café building and a small house belonging to John Bloomdale that were south of the elevator, on the south side of Front Street, where Mark Weber’s all metal building now stands. Dick said that Reuben “Snuss” Johnson would hand 10-gallon cream cans full of water up to him on the roof, and he would pour the water on any sparks or burning embers that happened to land on the shingles. Meanwhile, another crew was carrying Mr. Bloomdale’s belongings out of harms way, and one of the persons so engaged was Mrs. Seaquist, the wife of the Baptist Minister in Rutland. As Dick yelled “Look Out Below!” and tossed a cream can full of water on the south end of the building, Mrs. Seaquist was coming out the back door with an arm load of household goods, and the full weight of 10 gallons of water hit her on the back, knocking her flat on her face in the mud. Dick states that she was not happy about the situation, and was making it plain that she did not think that Dick would make it into Heaven. Although Dick did not have to burn in hell-fire, Mr. Bloomdale’s buildings eventually did, and Dick moved on to other missions. The Sandene’s had a café just north of the Rutland Meat Market, which was south of Bloomdale’s buildings. That café did not catch fire, Dick states, but Rusty Silseth led a crew of firefighters equipped with fire axes into the building and proceeded to chop a large hole in Sandene’s ceiling. When asked what he was doing, Rusty replied, “You’ll find out!” According to Dick, in 72 years, no one ever has.

One reminiscence led to more, and it was recalled that, throughout the 1940’s a lot of farm power was still provided by horses, and that the most exciting part of farming with horses were the runaways. Roger Pearson recalled that when he was a young boy, he was recruited to rake hay for his older brother, Gordon, using a team and a dump rake. Roger was not yet tall enough to sit on the seat of the dump rake and reach the dump lever with his foot, so he had to slide forward, jump on the lever, dump the hay in the windrow and then hoist himself back onto the seat while the team was still moving. On one occasion, though, something frightened the horses as Roger was getting seated, and off they went on a dead run, heading for home. Roger recalls that he dropped the lines and just held on to the edge of the rake seat with both hands as the big team left the hay field and headed for the barn. The barn door was 10 feet wide and was standing open, Roger recalls, and the horses went through the door on a dead run. The rake, however, was 12 feet wide, and it came to a sudden stop when the wheels hit the door frame on both sides. Roger isn’t sure just what broke, but something did because the horses kept on going after the rake stopped and Roger was catapulted into the barn. If a rider falls off a horse, the best way to get over it is to get right back on the horse, and the same philosophy was applied to a runaway with a rake. The horses were recaptured, emergency repairs were made, and Roger went back out to rake more hay. A couple of spokes on each wheel had been broken by the impact with the barn door frame, though, and the steel wheels each had a flat spot from the impact, so Roger had a bumpy ride for the remainder of his hay raking assignment.

Lefse Lena and the lefse making crew finished the regularly scheduled lefse making sessions for Uff-Da Day XXXIII on the evening of Thursday, August 31, with a total of 4,406 lefse made and packaged in preparation for Rutland’s annual Fall Festival on Sunday, October 1. The Thursday evening crew was composed of Mary Saunders, Kathy Wyum, Brianne Nelson, Pam Maloney, Gabrielle “Gabby” Christianson, Jenny Gulleson, Phyllis Wyum, Mike Wyum and Marcia Brakke. Three lefse makers, including: Mary Ann Levery; Kathy Brakke; and, Marcia Brakke; held one more lefse making session on the morning of Tuesday, September 5, and produced 167 more, to bring the final total to 4,573. Again this year a number of students from the Family Living class at Lidgerwood High School came over to learn how to make lefse and participate in the fun of preparing for Uff-Da Day. The LHS students who participated in the morning lefse making session on Tuesday, August 29, were: Mikenzi Anderson; Lily Baldwin; Mason Buehre; Hannah Ciesynski; Maxine Ebel; Kaylee Harles; Samantha Kill; Andrew Lehmann; Kennedi Meyer; Lino Quintero; Alex Witt; and, AJ Woytassek, accompanied by their teacher, Rebecca (Evenson) Dathe. The following report was received from Uff-Da Day XXXIII Chairperson Marcia Brakke: ““What a blessing to have such great contributors to the Rutland Community to make it the best place to live. We had 17 sessions of making lefse and started at the end of July. This year Gabrielle “Gabi” Christianson was chosen to be Rutland’s first Uffda Day “Miss Lefse” by the Uffda Day Committee. Gabi, age 11, is well deserving of this honor. She is dedicated, hard-working, cheerful and showed a positive attitude while helping to roll, turn and package lefse. She can do it all and with a smile. We are lucky to have many youth in and around Rutland that are enthusiastic and love to make lefse with the Lefse regulars. To all our youth we wish to say a big thank you. And to all the adult volunteers …ladies and gents, mothers and daughters, farmers and bartenders, nurses and teachers, newcomers and old timers… that took the time to make this year’s more than 4500 lefse…Thank You! Uffda! That’s a lot of lefse.” Thanks to Marcia for the report.

Uff-Da Day XXXIII is coming up quick, on Sunday, October 1, and the Uff-Da Day Committee has furnished the following schedule of events: 7:30 to 9 AM Coffee and Rolls at Main Street location; 8 AM 5K Walk/Run, commencing at City Maintenance Building at 315 First Street; 10 AM Craft Booths open throughout the day; 10:00 am, Display of early 20th Century photographs from the Haldor Anderson Photography Studio of Milnor throughout the day at the Bagley House, 301 First Street; 11 AM Pioneer Demonstrations and Sale of Scandinavian Foods that include Lefse, Rommegrot and Abelskievers commence; 11 AM Scandinavian dinner at Rutland City Hall, featuring Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Scandinavian Goodies; 1 PM Parade commences at intersection of Dakota & Gay Streets; 1:45 Nickel Scramble Main Street; 2 PM Minute-to-Win It Contests on Main Street, sign up at event; 3 PM Finnish Wife Carrying Race at course adjacent to Bagley & Gay Streets, register in advance at 763-221-7862, or sign up before the race.

Meanwhile, on the national scene, neither lefse nor legislation is being produced by those in positions of national leadership. Considering who they are and what they stand for, that is probably all for the best. As of Friday, September 8, there are 33 weeks down and 175 weeks to go until January 20, 2021. Something to look forward to.

Well, that’s it from Rutland for this week. For additional information about what’s going on in the little city that can, check out Rutland’s internet web site at, and stop by the Uff-Da Day and Rutland Facebook pages while you’re at it, too. Don’t forget to patronize your local Post Office, and remember to keep the pressure on the U. S. Postal Service and the North Dakota Congressional delegation to SAVE OUR POST OFFICE! Later.

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