Site icon Common Sense and Ramblings In America

Chapter One: How It all Began

It is 2:00 o’clock in the morning and it is cold and blustery as I roam the Highlands in Washington, D.C.  These streets have some of the highest reported crime rates anywhere in the country. I have reached a point in my life where I am actually begging for any violent altercation to take place, mainly because my blood lust has not yet been sated. I am armed to the teeth and I fear no man as I saunter aimlessly without focus and intent on these deserted streets. I have ended up here at this juncture in my life because I have just completed  a journey that began 22 years ago. It was a journey of discovery. It was also taken in an attempt to right the horrific wrongs that were perpetrated against my family. There is an old saying or quote that makes the following point, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” I am truly discovering how true this statement is as I am finding that I yearn for the embrace of the cold earth.

For the first time, I feel like there is no longer any meaning or purpose in my life. This mission or quest has been my sole reason for living all these long years. I have no wife or children, I only have one surviving relative, Aunt Christine. I am now finding that there is a gaping hole in my soul and heart. Everything that I have done  has been geared towards reaching these ends. My life has been all about finding out what happened to my baby sister Yua. My family’s course was irrevocably altered in the year 2000 when she was kidnapped while playing in a local park with my step-mother’s sister Ichika.

Prior to my baby sister’s kidnapping I thought that I would follow in the footsteps of my grandpa Gordon who crossed the Canadian border and joined their Royal Air Force in 1939 and flew fighter planes in WWII where he recorded ten confirmed kills. At the conclusion of the war, he joined the U.S. Air Force and flew fighter planes in the Korean War where he recorded 5 more kills and he did something that only one other flyer did he flew fighter planes in the Vietnam war. But what set him apart is that he recorded 2 additional kills in that war. There is no one else in history that has had kills in these three wars. He retired as a Two Star General. My father Sam following in grandpa’s foosteps became an F-16 pilot and fought in the first Gulf War.

There is one thing that still drives me now that I have avenged my sister and have somewhat balanced the scales of justice and that is to relay the facts of my sister’s tragic end and the story of my family. I am doing this so that their trials and tribulations will live on in pertuity. I believe that I owe the members of my family that much, especially my beloved sister. In order for you, the reader, to comprehend how this tragedy affected our lives, we will need to take you back further in time than those aforementioned 22 years. 

My name is Peter Anderson and I am a retired missing person’s detective and self-appointed dark avenging angel. What I am about to relay to you is a story that encompasses three generations of my family and four global-centric wars.

I am passing on our story in this manner because I feel that it is important that the reader understands not only our background but our heritage as well. Only after you have gained this insight into our family will you be able to come to grips with the dogged tenacity and singleminded determination that it took for me to complete my quest. My journey has been a long one and has taken me across three continents and countless countries only to have it reach its climatic conclusion in Washington, D.C.

Even though our ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal in the early 1700’s, our story for all intents and purposes began when my grandfather Gordon Anderson was born  in 1921 to Thomas and Lillian (nee Ackerman) Gordon. The Gordon family owned a small farm in Sauk Centre located in Central Minnesota. The town is best known for its Original Main Street which was made famous by Sinclar Lewis in 1920.

Three major projects composed the industrial portion of the town and helped to provide jobs for many working class families. The first one was a dam built on the Sauk River which provided hydroelectric power for the town. Secondly, a flour mill and thirdly, a Northern Pacific Railway Depot. The main thoroughfares in the town were simple paved roads with concrete sidewalks. The town was comprised of your typical businesses such as the Minnesota Meat Market, the Belmont Hotel and Cafe, the Palmer House Hotel, and the 1st State Bank to name just a few. The houses in the town and surrounding areas were mainly simple bungalow, farmhouse or craftsman style structures.

Grandpa Gordon was born in hard times. Minnesota farmers were feeling the pinch in the 20’s. They had enjoyed prosperity in the 1910’s and continued through World War I. They had been encouraged by the Federal Government under President Wilson to increase production.  So, many farmers including the Andersons took out loans and bought more land and new farm equipment.

In 1916, to help the farmers Congress passed the Federal Farm Loan Act, creating twelve federal land banks to provide long-term loans for farm expansion.  It was only a matter of time before the war ended and the much feared market crash took place. When the war finally ended in November 11, 1918, the expected slump did not immediately occur mainly because of the relief efforts in Europe which kept the demand for U.S. agricultural products high for a while longer.

However, the writing was on the wall and all the signs pointed towards slim times for the farmer. As Europe began to recover from the war, demand for our agricultural products declined. The farm related  economy began a long downward slide that reached a critical level during the Great Depression.  Unfortunately, farmers were caught in a bind, they had large loans to pay off and many hungry mouths to feed, so they continued to overproduce agricultural products. This overproduction caused a glut in the market which further dropped the prices of staple foods.

As surpluses continued to increase the Federal government finally reacted and started promoting lowering production. It also created programs designed to help level prices out. Laws like the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922, the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922 and the Hawley-Smoot Tariff of 1930 were all passed to stabilize the farming industry. In 1933, Congress passed additional farm relief bills such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Federal Relief Act. The Works Progress Administration was also created towards alleviating farming debacle. States took part in helping struggling farm families. Minnesota, in particular created the Resettlement Administration in 1935 which served to move 300 families from poor quality land in northeastern Minnesota to better farms in other regions. It was eventually replaced by the Farm Security Administration in 1937.

In time the measures taken by both the Federal and State government’s did in fact help. There was no denying that times were definitely tough when Grandpa Gordon was born. He was born into an already cash strapped family, with too many mouths to feed. If not for his being born to a family of farmers, there is some question on whether or not he would have survived.  But survive he did, mainly because the Anderson family were not only hard workers but they also provided a loving and nurturing environment for their children. An environment where he and his siblings all flourished.  Grandpa Gordon was the 6th child born to a rapidly growing family which eventually rounded out to 5 surviving children. Two more siblings died at early ages from cholera.

Life for the Andersons was typical for farmers in the Farm Belt in the 20s and 30s. While there were some technological advances showing up in the towns and cities such as paved streets, municipal electricity and water, telephone and sewage systems, and street lights for the most part they had not made it to the farms. If there was electricity at all on the farms it was only supplied to the barns. Light was mainly supplied by gas lamps and water was handpumped from wells. Bathing was done in large water collection barrels that were hand filled during times of drought.

I remember Grandpa Gordon talking about getting his bath every Sunday morning before he went to church with his brothers and sisters. Since water was hard to come by all the family shared the same bathwater. Mother went first, followed by father and then it started with the eldests and ending up with the youngest. By the time it got to Grandpa Gordon the water color was a earthen brown in color, and getting clean was just an effort in futility. About the only thing that got cleaned was behind the ears. For some reason that seemed to be sore spot with our Great Grandma Lillian. Your whole body could be a shade of gray but as long as your ears were clean you were good as gold. Since there was no running water in the house, calls of nature were performed in the outhouse located on the other side of the property and a goodly distance from the well. The Anderson’s may not have been educated but they knew that body wastes and drinking water did not make good bed fellows. Maybe that is why the family remained so healthy. You never heard of the family doctor visiting the Anderson family except when Great Grandma Lillian was delivering one of their brood.

It was more common to see a veterinarian show up on the farm than a family doctor. Breach births were all too frequent on the farms and required the skills of the veterinarian. Since cash was hard to come by in the 20’s, eggs, jams and other items served as payment. Even a calf or even a few chickens were given in trade. In the later 30’s, money became more readily available and payment for services rendered were paid for in cash.

Farm work was hard and everybody except for the very youngest had chores to do. The eldest boys always helped Great Grandpa Thomas in harnessing the horses and the plowing and haying the fields. The older girls helped by milking the cows. The younger children including Grandpa Gordon gathered the eggs, fed the chickens and helped Great Grandma Lillian in her family garden by pulling weeds. Very little was purchased in town, all the families food was raised or grown on the farm. Even basic blacksmith work was done on the farm, such as shoeing the plow horses. However, major repairs to farm equipment was done by traveling blacksmiths. Great Grandpa Thomas lacked not only the time but the advanced smithing skills to fabricate parts and repair farm tools. Grandpa Gordon and all of his siblings walked to school. Rain nor snow were considered to be viable reasons for missing school. The only excuse was when it was time to bring in the crops. Then it was all hands on deck. Grandpa Gordon’s parents were both poorly educated, neither making it out of grade school. So they were adamant about their children getting a good education.

The family looked forward to church gatherings on Sundays and other social events. The schools and churches held religious plays during the holidays. The children made up most of the cast, so there was a lot of good- natured camaraderie and competition on seeing which child got the choice roles for the plays. Sauk Centre was a small close knit town, where everybody knew everyone else. There was little drama present in everyday life because everybody was too busy just surviving. So everyone got along. When natural disasters took place like fires, tornadoes or even floods everyone helped out. When a barn burned down, the whole town helped to rebuild it. Because no farm family could survive without a barn, the winters were just too cold for the farm animals to survive without shelter.

Even though electricty started appearing in homes in the 20’s, this was as I stated previously mainly in towns and cities. By the early 30’s, washing and sewing machines, irons, toasters, mixers, and vacuum cleaners started cropping up. Refrigerators began to replace iceboxes for short-term food preservation. Electric fans were a godsend for the hot summer days. Again I can’t emphasize this enough, progress was slower in the country and on farms. It was not until the 40’s that these appliances started showing up in any numbers. The biggest life changer was the gasoline powered automobile, truck and tractor. Once the tractor came into play the workload decreased substantially. Since you no longer needed plow horses, you could convert some of the land dedicated to feed them now to land for cash crops such as corn, wheat and sorghum.

It was not until the economy recovered during WWII, that the Anderson family finally clawed its way back into the black. Their corn and wheat fields were flourishing thanks to their hardwork and progressive farming techniques. One thing was certain, they did not cave to governmental pressures to go back into debt to increase production. They stayed within their means and thusly prospered. By this time they were able to offer their children options that were not available to them, like college.  However,  Grandpa Gordon had other plans.

There is something to be said for the spartan lifestyle that Grandpa Gordon experienced while he lived on the farm, and that was he was used to hard work and having few amenities. His lifestyle had really hardened him and enured him to much of the suffering that other recruits from the cities experienced in the first days after enlisting. So when he entered boot camp, the conditions he experienced were really no big deal. Maybe that is why he breezed on through the pilot training regimen as well as he did.

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