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Carl and Alfred Bonde

August 4, 2015
The fancy clothes seem to fit perfectly, although they could be hand-me-downs from their numerous sibs.

The fancy clothes seem to fit perfectly, although they could be hand-me-downs from their numerous sibs.

My grandpa Carl T. Bonde spoke Norwegian fluently with his Kalispell, Montana, cronies and when he said grace at Thanksgiving and Christmas. He was easy going, and old, when I knew him as a boy. He and I often fantasized about mixing concrete. I wanted to be able to say to my friends, in the same way that old workers warned me so importantly, “Wet cement.” With old workers the conversation ended. Grandpa and I spoke of getting the materials together: cement, sand, and lime. Always lime, because grandpa painted his apple tree trunks with lime to keep ants off the fruit.

We collared the market on lime, but we never seemed to get the cement and sand. I didn’t have a project in mind. I was four years old! I didn’t ask for much, just some wet cement to call mine. To make something permanent. Didn’t matter what.

Grandpa smelled good, like cigars, tobacco, beer, whiskey. He had false teeth that he took out after eating peanuts. He used his pocket knife to clean the bits of nuts from between his teeth. He always shared with me. Grandma was not so much fun. She said a child should be seen and not heard. I liked to talk, still do. Grandpa said when I hung around him and chattered my endless monolog about everything I thought, that I was a “big help.” I loved helping grandpa. Whenever he did something that amounted to much, though, he would tell me that what he was about to do was “ticklish business.” That meant I could only watch.

Grandpa wore a nightshirt, same as grandma. I never saw them act affectionate or touch each other or even murmur any kind of endearment. Well, grandma did call us to lunch when grandpa and I were down at the barn at the bottom of the hill struggling with some kind of work. Typically I yacked away even when I played by myself. She would call in a high musical way, “Yoohoo! Yoohoo!” Grandpa and I would put down our tools and trudge importantly uphill past the root cellar and a sort of rock wall.

During the day grandpa wore old worn-out dress pants, often wool. His profession, his livelihood, was what kids in his day called, “commercial.” He had started out after high school as a store clerk. I’m not sure how he came to meet grandma, who had graduated from the Normal School at Valley City, North Dakota. Grandpa dressed as a professional every day, so he had lots of old shirts and trousers and coats. Grandma made huge hooked wool rugs from his old clothes.
I usually wore jeans or cords. Neither was very easy for me to put on by myself because of the zippers and snaps. I never had a belt, but I did have suspenders. I wore brown leather shoes. Grandpa did also. I never saw him wear boots, although he went hunting in the fall when it often snowed.

I think I met Alfred when I was in the fifth grade in Missoula. Grandpa and grandpa came to Missoula to our house and an old man got out of the car and introduced himself as one of my grandpa’s brothers. He said he wasn’t “any good any more.” I thought that was a strange thing to say. Now that I am less good every year, I think I understand what he was talking about.

Alfred and Grandpa were close enough to go into the grocery business together in Buffalo, Montana, in the Judith Gap pass. Family lore says that Alfred and Carl’s wives quarreled, so the experiment ended. I believe Carl sold his interest to Alfred who subsequently sold his interest to someone else. Today Buffalo Montana has been almost completely abandoned, although it had a post office in 2009.

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