Last Friday we laid Uncle Conrad to rest at Artichoke Lake, Minnesota-- a beautiful, lonely resting ground out on the prairie. Forty-five years ago there was still a general store at Artichoke and the name of the town appears on most Minnesota maps. But no people live there now.
The message at the funeral created a buzz around Big Stone County, in part because of the length, but mostly because of the content. The preacher, Brother Jobe, came straight out of the distant past or perhaps the not so distant future. He flew in from Pennsylvania (note--he wasn’t native to this place) and was presented the honor of giving the funeral message.
Brother Jobe’s message was old-timey, riveting, and delivered with the best oratorical skills I’ve ever experienced. I was rapt at his words and gestures. Brother Jobe called for the complete subjugation of women in business, church, government, and home. He called for the uplifting of men. The 80 and 90 year old women in front of me squirmed in their seats.
Out here on the prairie they suffer no illusions about women. Uncle Daniel said- with an economy of words that I lack- this land would not have been settled without pioneer women. Leadership, fortitude, grit, strength- was called for from every pioneer—man or woman. Men and women had different work- but every effort was needed and valued- a partnership for survival.
When a First Lady at the turn of the 20th century began a national campaign to eliminate girls athletics in high schools, rural Minnesota was among the very last to abolish women’s basketball. My grandma- who would have been 100- played basketball in high school. Why was rural Minnesota the last to ban women’s sports? Because those immigrants who settled this harsh prairie had no illusions about the frailty of women.