Last Link, Dakota Territory Logan County 1887
Review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota
Mueller, Tom. The Last Link, Dakota Territory Logan County 1887. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2004.
In a series of 45 stand-alone essays, some originally printed
other works, Mueller skillfully connects 21st-century readers to
of pioneering on the North Dakota prairie. My stomach tightened
recalled living many of his stories of hard work on the farm: making
things yourself and doing without modern amenities, caring for animals
and eating what you produced yourself, haying and harvesting, milking
and attending a little one-room school. There are oddities in his
stories, things that may have been unique to his family’s
but most of his stories have a rough equivalent in other families’
experience. Examples: The practice of witching to find graves that
determined the sex of the person buried. A white rock that was special.
A woman who practiced brauche and healed his ringworm.
Books like this have proliferated--thank goodness--as many sit
to pass on the story of a way of life lived during days that have
vanished. So you might ask, why would I want to read this book when
know (or have read about) others who have experienced a life similar
the one the author describes? Because Mueller projects an unusually
powerful sense of family, of connection to his forebears and relatives,
and to place. He listened carefully to oral histories passed by
family concerning the very earliest settlers of his family who came
from the Russian steppe to the plains of North America. He also
the site of the old home place and identified the old clay house
the other buildings where his pioneering forebears homesteaded.
includes biographical sketches of family members and the local country
doctor and describes a 1903 wedding dinner. He doesn’t have
work" very well in focus, but he has proved to be a much better
than he dreamt he could be when he started writing these essays,
has made a fine contribution to the personal-reminiscence literature
the Germans from Russia.
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