The Retiree: March 12, 2014


This article will explain my background, if anyone cares.
Using a little imagination, and dim memories of conversations heard when I was 4 or 5, it's possible to reconstruct the past. This isn't all unadulterated fact, but there ain't a lot in the world you can rely on.
Every story about families includes ancestors being royalty. Whenever someone 'channels' into the past, they were related to royalty. Nobody ever finds a starving potato farmer in Ireland, or a victim of the Crusades. It's always Cleopatra, or King Richard III, or someone similar. So it is with me.
Uncle Vern told me about royalty in the family. Actually, not directly. I overheard it one night on vacation when I was about 7, when he and Aunt Alice joined us at a cottage on Pleasant Lake. Vern got a little tanked on boilermakers, and I overheard his soliloquy. It was mentioned at other times, too, when memories were enhanced by the grape. I don't think that would change the facts, do you?
Anyway, from what I can piece together from notes on old photos, funeral bulletins, family Bibles and my own youthful recollections overheard while I was supposed to be sleeping, here's my royal connection. Not even Vern knew this.
This took place long ago, about 1631, after Denmark’s withdrawal from the Thirty Years' War (1629, as you know). France found out that Sweden had just ended its war with Poland, and with spears and arrows left over, needed another fight. Gustavus Adolphus hadn't gone into the college business yet, so he headed for Pomerania, wherever that is. Winters were terribly dank and cold there, and even kings got lonesome. Not to forgive him, but a milkmaid appeared especially comely one cold night, and the resulting child was one of our ancestors. Gus, as we knew him, had a problem at Lutzen in 1632 and although the Swedes defeated Wallenstein, Gustav Adolf (his non-collegiate name) was killed, bringing a close to a sordid, improvable chapter in our ancestry. Tough luck. You'll have to take my word for it.
Earlier, another ancestor, Jumpin’ Jiminy Swedenborg—Yumpin' Yiminy in Swedish—claimed responsibility for Tacitus’ first-century visit to the homeland. Ancient records show his invitation translated as, “Hey, Benny, come on up. We'll go ice fiskin’ or sumpn. Be dang sure to bring along bunny boots and a good pair of choppers.” Tacitus was known as Benny to his friends.
Benny was studying Germanic tribes, across the Baltic Sea, called Fred's Sea because he was the guy with the boat, and Benny figured, “I'm wet and cold anyway; how much worse can it be up there?” He caught Fred's boat for Stockholm, which didn't exist until 1100 years later, but Jiminy had a P.O. box up there. He had to call the place something, and the name stuck.
I’d like to detail the connections to Norwegian royalty, too, dating to the Kalmar Union in 1397. But no such thing happened. Independence happened in 1905, when my ancestors were on a boat for America. No use hanging around unemployed, waiting for your buns to freeze.
Scandinavian geography and climate lead one to understand the move to Minnesota. Cold, cloudy, with podzolic soils (look it up). An equivalent move now would be from Duluth to Bermuda. Norway sounds like International Falls with mountains and rain. Who’d want to stay where they call the sea “Skaggerak”?
Don't feel bad about not bowing or curtsying to me. Stoic Scandinavians can take it.