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Woodworking column: That's America for you

In 1870, my great grandad reported in his diary that he had contracted with a 29-year-old" Norske" named Ole Hegg to do some farm work for him. Ole was a "newcomer" from Norway who homesteaded many miles away and Dave was hard up for help on his new farm in Lincoln Township. This was the deal:

Ole Hegg would work for Dave for two months and also harvest 15 tons of marsh hay from old man Crane's neighboring farm and deliver it to Dave. For his work, when all was accomplished, Ole would receive two three-year-old steers, presumably to be used as beasts of burden—oxen—on his own farm.

Dave called the deal "a dicker."

Subsequent entries reported that fall that day by day Ole harvested and brought loads of marsh hay from Crane's farm to the Wood homestead and then worked his tail off helping Dave and his brother-in-law Dewey Parsons thresh their wheat, dug 32 bushels of potatoes in one day, built a new chimney and tuckpointed Dave's basement, mended wagon tongues, plowed for weeks, worked on the road to town, banked the new house with manure, hauled and spread manure on the fields.

Finally, on Nov. 13, 1870, "Ole came and got his steers to day. He still owes me 1 and 1⁄2 days of work and 1.25 on exchange of tools & a pr of boots he got from [my] Father."

So Ole headed home leading his fine team of of oxen.

On the following day, Dave wrote that "I heard in town that Ole lost one of his steers on the way home."

Apparently the steer was never found. It probably ended up at a steak fry in Arcadia Township where Ole was headed. Subsequently Ole became a prominent politician: the clerk of Trempealeau County Court.

His descendent, the Reverend James Hegg, left the pulpit to help found the Lutheran Brotherhood Insurance Company (Thrivent to you) and later became president of Lutheran Mutual Insurance Company in Iowa.

One hundred years later, Dave's great-grandson, that's me, moved to Minneapolis and decided to use our free coupons to a popular downtown steakhouse run by a fellow named Jimmy Hegg. Jimmy was a basketball star at the U of M, as was his mother years earlier. He later became semi-pro and played for a barnstorming Northeast Minneapolis church team that traveled the upper Midwest. When the church's priest asked coach Johnny Kundla who the red-haired kid was, he replied: "Reverend Hegg's son."

"The LUTHERAN pastor?" asked Father.

"Yep," replied Kundla. "He's six-foot-six."

"Keep him," replied the good father.

Jimmy went on to manage night clubs, emcee talent shows, sing on the radio, marry Jeanette and raise a family. When he found out I was from Whitehall, where his father the Rev retired, and that I taught at Augsburg College, he gave me a fistful of tickets for free steaks, which we used until the great supper club was closed by its owner Northwestern Bell.

Coincidentally, two of Jimmy's bartenders were his sons. One of them was Tom Hegg, who published best-selling books, including the blockbuster, "A Cup of Christmas Tea," written between mixing jumbo martinis. He now teaches at Breck School, a long way from Arcadia Township, where his ancestor lost a steer. But that's America for you.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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