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How it began.

July 3, 2016




How it began: Carl R. Bonde, Jr.

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., September 16, 1929, Kalispell, Montana.

The bathwater was almost warm this time.  Carl got a dog and a scooter yesterday for his sixth birthday.  And a wooden boat from Pete Paulson.  He laid down in the tub and swam the few inches from where he could push off with his feet on the drain end, to where his head touched on the round end.  He did this again and again, pretending to be swimming.  He couldn’t swim.

In another part of the house he could hear his mother’s agitated voice:  “Well, I’m going to have it annulled,” she shouted.  Well, she didn’t really shout or yell, but she was emphatic. Buddy didn’t know what the word “annulled” meant, but he knew it had to do with his oldest sister, Corinne.  His mom’s voice dropped and Buddy could make out no more.

Even though he had his birthday the day before and he felt entitled to a long bath, he heard the insistent knock on the door, heralding a sister.  It was Helen, two years younger than Corinne.  He thought about his dog.  His German shepherd puppy.  His warm, fat puppy, already named Prince.  His dog.  His father had also given him a leather collar, too large for the puppy.  Buddy could hear his puppy race about the house, down the hall that connected the bathroom with the parlor where his dad liked to sit and smoke his pipe, his cigarettes, his cigars.  Everyone in the house smoked except him and his mother.

Buddy wasn’t allowed to have more than two or three inches of water in his bath, nor to spend much time playing with his new wooden boat.  His was a Norwegian family and they considered baths a luxury. Just wasn’t decent to have a lot of bathwater. Especially not hot bathwater.

His new boat was solid wood, home made, about five inches long, three inches wide, painted yellow on the hull, green on the cabin.  It floated a bit crooked.  Probably too much weight up above.

The knocking continued, so Buddy got out of the tub, wrapped a towel, and unlatched the door.  His high school-age sister Helen barged in.

Buddy, modest about his nakedness, had stopped letting Helen powder his body, including his private parts, with lavender talc.  He put on his pajamas after Helen shut him out of the bathroom.

Buddy crept barefoot up the hall so he could hear his parents.

“I think it’s a crime the way that man just took off with Corinne on that motorcycle,” his mother said. Corinne was at least five or six years younger than Gordon Smith, the man she eloped with.

“It would be a good idea for her to stay away from him,” his dad said mildly.

“If you ask me, he’s a — a little puke!” his mom said.  Buddy hadn’t heard his mother swear before.

“That’ll do, m’love. That’ll do.”  His father didn’t usually confront his mother in such a direct way.  He spoke in a soothing way, with a Norwegian accent.

His dad was seated in the overstuffed chair; his mother was pacing back and forth, clearly upset. She was wearing a house dress. Dad had dark wool suit pants and a white shirt with his loosened tie still around his neck.

Carl’s father sold groceries wholesale to stores. He restocked them using a notebook and wrote up the store’s orders in a flowing, ornate style of penmanship.  You see, in business college in North Dakota, he had studied penmanship from the master, himself:  Austin Palmer of the Palmer Method. 

Thus, Carl Bonde had secured his profession with his beautiful and legible grocery orders, written longhand in pencil, duplicated by means of a heavy purple carbon paper. Carl’s fluency in Norwegian helped.  Many of the grocers and other commercial people in Northwestern Montana were Norwegian immigrants or children of immigrants who spoke little or no English.

Even though they still lived in town, Prince still could roam freely.  He was protective of Buddy and trotted along most everywhere with the six-year old boy.

Buddy’s birthday was September 15, so he didn’t start first grade until he was seven. One day later and he’d have been a first grader.  This gave him a year to explore Kalispell with his dog and any kids who got up as early as he did.

Ashley creek rolled silently through the edge of town, changing to noisy rapids by the time it made a bend and flattened out until it reached the sawmill, out of bounds to the curious child.  The boundary was a practical one; it was just damned hard to get to the sawmill, so it was never a place Buddy routinely visited when he made the rounds with his dog.

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