A Fine Plethora of Cousins

We started our day yesterday with a special treat. We got to meet one of our Graf-descendant cousins on our way up to meet another set of cousins. Jeff and I have been in touch via email but we’d never had the opportunity to meet in person and we finally got the chance. It was like meeting a brother we hadn’t seen in a while…the most natural thing in the world. We had such fun talking about our common ancestors and catching up on family stories.

We had brought out the old brand that our great-great grandfather had used to mark his beer kegs when he owned a brewery in Marine-on-St. Croix. Jeff is a dentist and was able to bring some special impression material to use to make a cast of the brand.

The stuff he used was basically the quick-setting material that dentists use to make impressions of your teeth. He mixed it up in a plastic container and then pressed the brand into it and waited for it to “set up.” In the meantime, I was quite impressed that he was able to give a dental patient some emergency advice over the phone while working on this task as well. That’s a good dentist AND multi-tasker. Jeff was able to leave with a very nice impression of the brand that he’ll be able to use to recreate the original Graf & Son brand so that we can both enjoy this unusual bit of family memorabilia.

After saying goodbye to Jeff, we headed off to Lamberton to hook up with our cousins on the Van Rossum side. Anita, John, Anita’s brother, Lon, and I used to always hang out together when we were in Minnesota. We were pretty inseparable. Look closely. I MIGHT have made another Prius convert. Only time will tell.

It was great to see two of their sons, including one who had just gotten married in January and to meet his new wife.

We had lovely picnic meals and then had a quick visit with our Aunt Maxine. Maxine and Mom were first cousins but really, they were more like sisters. She’s had a series of strokes now and doesn’t talk much but it sure was good to see her and to just hug her and tell her how much I loved her. I didn’t tell her about Mom. I just figured I’d let Mom live on in her mind.

Next up was a trip over to the huge grain elevators in town. Anita’s husband is in charge of the internet network for the school districts in the area and I think, private internet for some folks, too. They keep many of their antennas on top of the grain elevators because these are the highest points in the area. He was going to take us to the top for a tour. Well, when I saw that I was going to have to go up in a tiny one-person wire cage elevator with ME operating the controls to get up there, I freaked out and decided to stay on terra firma and just let the guys go up. If you look closely at the connecting walkways between the two sets of elevators, you’ll see two little specks. That’s John and Lenny. No thank you!

Next stop was a tour of the fields that Lenny farms with his nephew and brother. Then we got to ride in one of their big tractors that uses GPS navigation to do the planting. You set the coordinates and then sit back and let the navigation do the steering. You only have to turn the wheel at the end of a row. It’s always a high point for me when I come out to Lamberton and get to ride in one of these huge tractors.

Just to give you some perspective…the big red thing behind my cousin and brother is a combine. It was HUGE!

Later in the evening, we all trekked out to the cemetery and visited the family graves. We were semi-joking to each other that, when we were kids, our parents always dragged us out to the cemeteries to see all the relatives that were buried in the area. Now we seem to have continued the tradition.

When we got back to the house, it was time for some family fireworks. No, I don’t mean from the tasty beans that Anita fixed. They had bought some fireworks that are legal in Minnesota and we went outside and sat down while the guys lit the fireworks and Anita and I oohed and aahed.

Then it was time to say goodbye to all, including our cousin, Dale, who had popped over to join us for the afternoon feast and grave visits.

Today we drove from the Lamberton area to Mankato, Minnesota. Our mother graduated from the Mankato State Teacher’s College there and we have (you guessed it) relatives living in the Mankato area. You just don’t realize how rare it is for John and I to be able to talk about so many relatives because we are from a small family and have always been the ones who lived far away so when we can get together, it is a real treat.

We ran over to our cousin, Monetta’s home first and her daughter, Jodie came over and we had lots of laughs sharing stories of our trip so far and then watching slides that John had brought that date way back to when we were kids. We also had the good fortune to have our cousin, Romaine, in town so he was able to join us for supper and that was a great treat, too. We had lots of catching up to do with all of them.

I got a kick out of the place we ate supper. It’s right by a dam and it’s called “The Dam Store.” They make some pretty good fries, I’ll tell you. I’m glad they didn’t kick us out for being too loud or laughing too much.

All too soon, it was time to part ways. I sure hope it’s not another 4-10 years before we see each other again. Tomorrow we start the trek back to our homes. Guess that means I’d best get to bed early tonight. I wonder how many outhouses my brother is going to drag me to tomorrow?

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