TOWNER, N.D. -- Neighbors can come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, colors and varieties. That's because neighbors are people and that's the way people come to us in this old world. Honestly, there's not much variety of color in our neighborhood --...
TOWNER, N.D. -- Neighbors can come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, colors and varieties. That's because neighbors are people and that's the way people come to us in this old world. Honestly, there's not much variety of color in our neighborhood -- pretty much pale Norwegian or German Russian, but some still add a lot of color to the neighborhood. Harry was one of those. He added a lot of color to the area.
And now he's gone, after 84 years of good, clean living. Everyone who knew Harry will have a smile on their face when they read the "good, clean living" jest, but we would all admit that regardless of what habits were picked up along the way, he darn sure did a lot of living.
My dad and Harry were different from each other in a lot of ways in terms of personality, but they were also the same -- both ranchers, appreciative of the cowboy way of life, knew a lot of interesting stories, and they were neighbors. For about 40 years, Harry was basically our closest neighbor, a few miles north of our place, and then a few miles west of our place.
I don't think Harry ever missed Dad's birthday. Around about Aug. 9, you could expect Harry to drive over to wish Dad a happy birthday and bring over a bottle of brandy.
We live in a place where the normal activities of the ranch stop when someone comes to visit. I was visiting with Harry's son-in-law from Iowa after the prayer service about some of the visits to Bud Taylor's that he and Harry would always make when he was in North Dakota.
"That clock on the wall didn't matter once you sat down for coffee," he said. He talked about one time when they came over and Dad had an A John Deere torn apart "right there in the sand," which was probably right because Dad never had a shop big enough to work in. "Harry and I got there and Bud was working on that old John Deere. I mean he really had that 'A' stripped down.
Bud basically threw his wrench down in the sand and said let's go to the house for coffee." That's what neighbors do. The visit was more important than the tractor.
Harry would eat whatever my mother set in front of him at our table. He was surprised, OK outraged, when she fed him some of her brother's "wild game summer sausage." It was made partly from beaver. He was in tastebud heaven if he came over when she was pulling side pork out from the oven.
As Harry began to battle cancer, he continued to live on the ranch and run a full herd of cattle. I distinctly remember a visit to him that I wished I didn't have to make. Dad had suffered a stroke and we knew it was the beginning of the end after his health had been failing for a year and a half while in long term care at the hospital. I went to deliver the news to Harry because I figured he ought to know.
I went over, and Harry, who wasn't really well himself, was in bed. I got him up and we sat down. I looked over at him and said, "Dad had a stroke yesterday, Harry." He looked at me with the same sadness in his eyes that I had in mine and he said, "It's OK to cry." And then he did. And then I did.
I guess that's just one more thing that neighbors can do together, but it wasn't one that I was expecting. But it felt as natural as drinking coffee, or visiting or eating side pork together.
The way things turned out, it looks like Harry won't miss Dad's birthday this year. I just wonder if you can deliver a bottle of brandy in heaven.