Friday, February 4, 2011

My Eyes Are Full Of Smoke

We made the hour and a half journey upslope to the patch-treed, rumpled farm landscape, snow and ice refracted illusions of shadow and light at high speeds on two lane highways. Then, downslope, treed, over the Minnesota River, into the town of New Ulm, Minnesota. Unprepossessing, downtown paralleling the river, low rise, unanticipated one story marketplatz, grain elevators, powerplant, and grid of house-planked streets.

New Ulm is the site of significant battles during the Dakota War of 1862. New Ulm is also the ancestral town of my wife's paternal family. Mention her last name on the streets of New Ulm and any devotee of local history will first say, "ahh yes, first white baby born in the county." It is hard to hear these words without focusing on inflection. I joke with Rex that his ancestor is like some sort of Abraham of the Midwest.

The Dakota war led to the largest mass execution in United States history -the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Mn. Hermann the German, rising above New Ulm from its heights above the river, is a monument to German settlement in Minnesota. To me it's a bit ironic that 'Hermann the barbarian' should rise above a town with this difficult history, that he should become the symbol, controverted, of civilization over 'savagery.'

First stop, the New Ulm Historical Society in the old post office building.

Rendition of the mass hanging.

Little Crow.

Hermann, from behind.

New Ulm, after sunset, from the heights.

Wilhelm and Wilhelmina. The expression on his face seems a little out of step with the portraits of the times. I detect a little smile and she may even be suppressing laughter. Or not.

Apiary was the norm.

Day in the yard at "Waldheim." There are people who name their property and those who don't. What drives this difference?

Apiary in the orchard.

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