Memoirs and Biographies from Sherburne County provide fascinating reading. If we all took pen and paper to record our memoirs, imagine the excitement we would generate. Imagine the information and knowledge we could share with the world. Two books, a memoir and edited letters provide examples of the great value of written, personal history. Rod Hunt’s book A Boy’s Guide to Big Lake, Minnesota and Other Stuff and Herb and Corinne Murphy’s They Called Her Maria make the history come alive.
Rod Hunt describes fishing at the confluence of the Elk and St. Francis Rivers, you understand his hopes, desires, and prayers to catch a Northern Pike. And, you dread reeling in the Rock Bass. The nasty, gritty taste of a Rock Bass permeates your mouth as Hunt remembers “they are called Rock Bass because they taste like the bottom of a rock.”
Straight forward, serious history comes alive in the pages of Herb and Corinne Murphy’s book They Called Her Maria. These are the edited letters and diaries of Hannah Maria Nutting Benham Knapp a woman whose circumstances forced her to travel the world. She finally settled with her children in Sherburne County. You feel her pain when she writes of life as a widow and single mother. “When I look back to that dark period of my life, I wonder I was even carried through it. Wonder how I ever came to be where I am now.”
A recent memoir to cross my desk is Robert Bystrom’s Savanna Sunsets Growing Up in Sand Country. Like Rod Hunt’s memoir, Bystrom paints pictures that create for everyone a sense of life in the past. As he wrote in his introduction, “Life on the farm was grueling. It was mostly work and the work was dirty, smelly, sweaty and interminable.” In spite of the pessimistic introduction, the memories seem special. Chapters entitled “In the Outhouse” and “The Barn” provide even this urban refugee with a nostalgic sense of farm life in the 1930s and1940s. When he describes battling bees in the barn, as every young boy will do, we all realize poking the hive and tormenting the bees will not end well. Yet, we can all imagine the ensuing battle.
Writing memories and putting family life onto a page present some challenges. Yet, these memoirs provide important details for future generations. Recording memories and (to use the cliché) putting ink to paper is rewarding. I would urge everyone to write their memories. Whatever you write on the page, future generations will find value. Record those memories and save history for the future.