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Story is long over and covered with dust.

August 2, 2016

Carl Bonde with a friend in Grand Forks, North Dakota, January, 1944.SCN_0384I can’t figure how to tell it.  As a child of five, I learned it was over.  The story had been long ended and the dust had settled on all the evidence about the details of the fate of Carl Ralph Bonde, Jr.  To hear my mother tell it, the evidence was all in, the deed was done and years had passed.  All of that was true.  Except for a few nagging questions.

Okay.  Carl’s mother was depressed.  She was Norwegian.  Doesn’t that explain it?  Perhaps.  Or probably she was sad and bitter because she had lost her son because of World War II, a war she didn’t believe in.  She hated the liberal President who took the country to war, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Now all she had of her son was the folded flag and the purple heart award in a little presentation case.  Who would understand?  She wasn’t a complainer, although the look on her face most days did plenty of complaining for her.

When Carl’s father died in 1960 the finality of the young soldier’s life was more real to me because his mother sold the house in Kalispell and moved to Missoula.  We visited the old place later and the old house had been radically changed for the worse.  The beautiful old high ceilings had been lowered to look “modern.”  The place smelled altogether different too.  Less tobacco smoke.

So how do I tell the story?  On the one hand I’ve collected what I can of Carl’s life’s story, all 21 years and three months of it.  He was a smart, funny character.  He had friends whom I visited and interviewed in 2006 and 2010.  I’ve pieced together his childhood, his school years, his adolescence, his teenage years and his experiences in the U.S. Army.  I know a depressing amount about his final 48 hours.  So there’s that.  Carl’s story.

Then there’s my story, my searching for Carl.  The quiet brooding and musing of about 55 years before the breakthrough.

The breakthrough was the television program about the wartime tragedy that included Carl’s demise.  Then came 16 years of research and writing reams and reams of stuff nobody would want to wade through.  Most of the writing had little to do with Carl, more to do with the contemporary world of mental depression and dogs, hand wringing and writing.

I’ll spoil the story right here.  War stinks.  Nobody ever wins and no war is ever over.  The lucky guy is the one who gets to write reams about his old girlfriends, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, trying to remember their names.  Did they have a sister?

Wondering how to tell it.  The dog, depression, the Great North Trail, Carl Bonde.

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