Rich in the Fewness of My Needs with Berdine Erickson (2001)
Printer: Paper & Graphics
In 2000 I began writing a book called Rich in the Fewness of My Needs, about the life of 86-year-old Berdine Erickson, who I had met at church.
Berdine was one of seven children of Christian and Betsy (Kittleson) Erickson who grew up on a farm in Bridge Creek, nine miles southeast of Rushford, Minnesota. Though he spent the majority of his adult life as a counselor at the Rochester State Hospital and led an active community-service life, Berdine wanted the book to cover his early years on the farm.
"It is fitting," he wrote, "that our book will concentrate on farm life and what it was really like. The farm life ran the engine (totally) that made the city life possible. Living close to nature and God's creation was truly a luxury." Berdine and I completed the book in May 2001 and he eagerly distributed his one hundred copies to family and friends. Interest was so strong that he had another set of copies printed.
When Berdine was eleven, his father died of pernicious anemia. He credits the writing of the book as a significant aid in dealing with the sadness of that loss. Berdine, now 89, and I became friends through our writing, and we visit one another regularly. "You made me feel young again" is what Berdine said of our writing experience.
Sunday Mornings Sunday mornings have always been special times in my life. This is especially so when the Sunday morning sun shines brightly. I have tried to understand why this is so. Even while in the U.S. Navy during World War II, I found this to be true, when in fact there was little to be happy about. In trying to understand this happy, thankful feeling, I keep harkening back to a rather unique setting on the farm (in the 1920's) that meant so much to me during my formative years.
Our farm home on Bridge Creek was situated on a side hill next to a township road. About three hundred feet below and east of our home, the road disappeared into the woods and began the bluff road that led to the valley below. If weather conditions were near perfect, that is to say when the road was dry and frost-free, it could be negotiated with most any kind of horse-drawn vehicle. With extreme caution, automobiles (as they were in the 1920s) could go down the steep road, but coming back up via auto was something to be avoided, even under the best of driving conditions.
Our farm home was surrounded by five huge maple trees and a shrub here and there. On the hillside west of the house was the apple orchard with eighty trees of different varieties. Directly south of the house were the year's supply of stove wood and the outdoor toilet. Further south were the currant and gooseberry bushes, four rows of grapes, and three plum trees, and further south still were the farm buildings. All of this on our 243 acres of land made up the farm homestead.
Now the punch line. At about nine o'clock on Sunday morning, after the farm chores were done, after Pa had finished his weekly shave, and after he had changed to clean Sunday clothes (maybe a clean overall) is when the beautiful moment arrived. The kitchen windows were open at the bottom, the smell of food cooking on the old wood cook stove was finding its way outdoors, the apple and plum trees were in full blossom, and all else was aglow.
Pa's voice could be heard as he began singing his favorite hymn. I can see him yet as he sat in the kitchen next to the open window with his elbow on the windowsill. His voice carried well into the stillness of the farm surroundings. I recall playing in the orchard when this singing took place, and I really felt great. I felt good because Pa seemed so happy, as did my mother and other members of the family. As I look back, it was as if the kingdom of God were at hand.