Ethnic Fencing

Surface smooth
as winter ice at Meyer's Pond,
the town roiled with lurking
grudge.
Gertrude Pfingston: "We had a lot of parades.
Public school childen in front.
Lutheran childen in back
because they were dutchies.
High Kaiser kids. Kaiser Wilhelm kids.
What are you giving them flags for? They're Germans.
"I was so proud because my father had a larger flag,
navy blue so dark it looked black.
Kids mocked it as a German flag."
Henry Leark: "The night the war was over
Mr. Sadecky dragged a figure in overalls,
stuffed with rags, through the village
by a forty, fifty foot rope.
Kaiser Wilhelm
in effigy. I see it
like it was yesterday."
Myrtle Lauderburg: "If you was Catholic,
they hated you. They were terrible at that time.
The Lutheran minister forbade boys
to go with Catholic girls.
"My brother's partner (at Lauterburg and Oehler)
was a strict Lutheran, my brother Catholic.
The minister preached
in church not to go by that 'Catolischer.'
Lutherans all went to Walter Karstens
to get buried."
George Dunton: "There used to be a war
between public and parochial schools in town.
Whenever it snowed,
there would be a war party from the public school
on the front lawn of the Lutheran school.
Oh, boy, what a snowball fight."
Dr. A. E. Elfeld

By horse and buggy to Elk Grove,
over State Road's cobblestones,
he lickety-splitted
to bring Henry Leark into the world.
It was 1907.
"A big, tall fella', a nice fella',
he looked like Abraham Lincoln,"
Leark said later. "He was all doctor,
you know what I mean. He'd come
to the house.
"He liked to go to the show.
If there was an emergency,
they'd say it right out loud in the theater,
and away he'd go."
He let young patients
staring up at hairs sticking
from his impressive ears
listen to the tick, tick, tick
of his precious watch
as his enormous hands tucked a thermometer
under their tongues.
"If you had money to pay, that was all right.
If you had no money that was all right, too."
(Payment was often in chickens.)
Marjorie Annen Carter named him "a kind person,
no matter what. If he had been paid
(in money) for all the babies
he delivered, he would be a rich man. He had an office
behind the old Methodist church on Dunton."
As a kid, Marjorie got sties. "When I'd wake,
I couldn't get my eyes open. My mother
would bathe them in boric acid solution, hand me fifty
cents,
and my sister would walk me to Dr. Elfeld's office
before school.
"He'd lance my sties, and I'd unclutch the fifty cents.
Nine times out of ten he'd hand it back to me, saying
kindly,
'It hurt me more than it hurt you.'"