Smoking Adventures

If you’ve grown up in a small town, you know that there are some serious benefits to having spent your formative years roaming safely, freely, and without a care- well, till you were doing something your shouldn’t. Today I share with you some “smoking adventures” in our little town of Friesland.

The DMU certainly had their grip on the “goings ons” in the community. But don’t think the ladies were the only ones with their eye on things. The “old guys” kept a great eye on things as well.

Smoking in the cemetery

Image by Hans Rohmann from Pixabay

I remember one cloudy summer afternoon. I was making my way downstairs and my brother was making his way up. He looked a little sheepish and asked if he could talk with me.

We must have been at least fourth and fifth grade. With me being the eldest, I guess it became my duty to hear the “stairway confessional”. I found a seat on the stairs and he began to “spill his guts” on his recent misadventure.

As he relayed it, I began to conjure up the pictures in my mind. Somehow, someone found some money and had the wise idea they’d go buy a package of cigarettes. At that time cigarettes were about $2.31 a package. CHEAP compared to today’s price. Today’s price pretty much includes your health care costs, along with the program cost to quit smoking in every package. Anyway, back to my story…

So a few of the boys ran down to Friesland Foods and bought a package of cigarettes. Old Tuenis Tillema was working the till that day. He may have been “older than dirt” to us at the time, but he was pretty wise and sneaky. The money was laid down for the cigarettes, Tuenis eyed the group up and surmised that this really wasn’t for someone’s dad, this was for THE GROUP!

Thinking they pulled a fast one, they bolted out the door of the store, hopped on bikes, and drove up to the Friesland water tower and cemetery. They were right next to each other.

“Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.” – John Wayne

After holding a caucus at the base of the water tower, they decided that was too “out in the open”, and so chose to hide behind some big tombstone to being their smoking adventure.

In the meantime, back at the store, Tuenis had watched out the big store window where these boys were going. Tuenis told one of the other store clerks he was heading out to do some business, grabbed 2 additional packs of cigarettes and some lighters, and headed out. This is where the plot thickens.

Back in the cemetery, there are about five boys huddled behind some poor civil war veterans large tombstone. The cigarette package is open and they are trying to figure out how to go about smoking. Three boys decide to try smoking: Darren, Jason (my brother) and Randy. The rest of the guys were all just there to witness.

Hello boys!

As each new smoker attempted to light the cigarette and take their first puff, their lungs met this idea with great resistance. Coughing, sputtering and spitting, they each tried to make a go of this new past-time.

They all were so enthralled with the antics of the three virgin smokers they didn’t see old Tuenis walk upon them. Before they knew it, there stood Tuenis in the middle of the smoking session. “Hello, boys!”

Nobody moved as he took a seat on the little fishing chair he carried with him. He politely told them, that if they wanted to smoke, they were going to smoke like men. Those guys that were just witnesses to the smoking session jump and ran, but Darren, Jason, and Randy all froze.

Smoke’em if ya gott’em

I’m sure Tuenis was very pleased with himself. I can imagine his wrinkled face, with the wrinkles piling up in a large smile, so full of satisfaction, he probably had all he could to do keep from roaring with laughter. Tuenis was about to get the “show” of his afternoon.

Making each boy grab a cigarette, Tuenis gave them all the pointers they needed to start smoking right. The minutes ticked by and soon a regular cloud of smoke was rising from the tombstone. Through spits and sputters he encouraged them on. First one cigarette, then onto the second.

By the end of the second Darren, Jason and Randy began to feel light-headed, a little… nauseated, and smoking wasn’t as cool as they thought it was. But, Tuenis persisted that real men could handle it, so on they went to cigarette number 3. This is where the glamour wore off…

Cliff hanger! Till next time friends… here is to good food, good friends and a good life.

Read Part Two Here!


Red Apple Beauties

I had spied those red apple beauties from the biking through the church parking lot. The temptation to sneak under the fence into the horse pasture was mounting. But, I restrained myself. It was Sunday after all and you can’t knock on doors asking to eat someone’s apples. I decided that tomorrow after school when folks were working would be better suited to my red apple beauties thievery.

Tick Tock

I watched the school clock slowly ticked down. My eraser tapping my desktop certainly wasn’t in tempo with the clock- it was MUCH faster. All through the day, I thought about those apples. I thought about how good those red apple beauties would taste. I thought about their sweetness, the crisp “snap” and best of all, the juice pouring out and onto my cheeks… it was something that couldn’t be beat. Not to mention being all by myself. There was to be no sharing.

School finally came to a close- thank goodness. I grab my backpack and jacket and sprinted to the bus. I was going to sit as close to the front because I needed to get to that apple tree!

Won’t be long now

Safely on the bus, I quickly grabbed a seat as close to the front as I could get. I was in 4th grade and the first four front seats were saved for the “littles”. Not wanting to degrade myself I casually slipped into the fifth seat and took out a book.

Mr. Bender, satisfied with a full bus, looked into the mirror gave a nod to the riders, closed the bus door and we were off. Even though I lived 10 minutes from the school, I had to ride for an hour. Most of the time it was a pleasant ride, but other times a kid just wants to get home!

After 45 minutes of chugging through the countryside, Friesland was in sight. I gathered my items and scooted forward in my seat. I was ready to stand and be first off. Unlike earlier escapades of my younger years, there were no sandwiches to throw into bushes, so there would be no delay there.

Eat my dust

The bus came to a stop. I launch from my seat and made it to the front of the bus just as the bus door swung open. I pounded down the bus steps and hit the ground running. This backpack full of homework was weighing me down, but I managed to keep up a pretty good pace and made it home in record time.

Bursting through the front door, I dropped my backpack and headed to my bedroom to change out of my school clothes and into my play clothes. Then a quick pit stop in the bathroom, followed by a lackluster hand washing and I was out the door. I heard my mom say “STOP!”. Shoot! Delays, delays.

She wanted to know what the hurry was. I explain my plans to my mom somewhat cryptically. To which she gave me “the look”… not very convinced, she told me to be back by five.

Wheels don’t fail me now

My bike was ready. I grabbed the handlebars, started a jog and jumped on-peddling my heart out. I needed to throw anybody tailing me off the scent, so I biked up to the old school ground, around the cemetery and then quickly into the church driveway.

There they were, those red apple beauties. Hanging. No, floating on the unseen air currents… just tempting me. Scanning the area I wanted to make sure nobody else was in the church parking lot. Coast clear. Now, for the challenging part. The electric fence and the horses.

Bringing my bike to a stop, I hopped off. Swinging my foot I set the kickstand and looked into the pasture. Vander Streeks had several horses and they partitioned off three different sections of land. The first section was where the horses normally hung out between the barn and the church parking lot. The second and the third sections were the apple trees and then pasture for grazing.

Checking my options

Stepping up to the fence I could hear the “snap”. So I knew that it was live. With that off my checklist, I looked around for horses. Ah, shoot! Here they come. Horses are so snoopy. They always need to know what you’re up to. Scratching my head I quickly decided to drop, roll and run.

Dropping to the ground I quickly tucked myself into a ball, rolled under the fence, popped up and made a run for the next fence where I had to repeat the exercises all over again.

Safely under the fence, I glanced behind me to see Trigger, Buck and Lightning monitoring my every move. They knew what I was up to and an apple or two would by their complete silence.

First floor. Going up!

Giving a nod of agreement to my three nickering friends, I dusted myself off and assessed the tree climbing. I had climbed this tree before. Just a little bit of spit onto my hands rubbed in good. Then a jump up to grab the first limb. Success!

Swinging my legs up I caught the limb and together with my arms pulled myself up to straddle the branch. The horses were enthused by my progress. Soon we would be enjoying the goodness of those red apple beauties up above. My smile and nod to the horses were met with impatient foot stamping. Get on with it kid!

I took a few moments to scan the houses up on the hill. I have mentioned before that Friesland has the DMU. So I knew all to well to check and recheck to make sure no DMU members were spying on me. Sensing the coast clear I shaded my eyes and scanned the hefty branches above me.

Ah! There it was, or better yet… there they all are! Like picking out a Christmas tree, so many good ones to choose from. Spying a few favorites I pulled myself up to a standing position and began my climb further into the tree.

Good Clean Fun

I loved to climb trees, build tree forts and bike around. It was good to be a kid, outside, getting fresh air and using my imagination. This was “the life”. Standing there on the branch, the wind blowing gently through my long hair, sunshine dancing in-between the leaves- pure heaven. Not to mention the great woodsy Wisconsin air mixed with a bit of dairy and my horsey friends below.

For a bit, I got lost in exploring the tree, scanning the horizon and chattering to myself about the day. Finally, I settled on four red apple beauties and made an apron out of my shirt and loaded them in.

Carefully I climbed down, back to the original branch. Trigger, Buck, and Lightning were ready yesterday for these apples. I threw each horse and apple. It was fun to watch them eat.

How many bites does it take?

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Trigger was taking his time by using his front incisors. Neat little nips were taken along with a nod of agreement. It was if he was critiquing each bite and found it completely agreeable with his assessments.

Buck was a plucky fellow. He wasted no time in taking the entire apple into his mouth. Juices flowed freely and a green mash caught in the corners of his mouth. His eyes were closed, neck stretched out and a puddle of apple juice and horse saliva was forming on the ground.

Lightning had grabbed his apple and moved to the end of the fenced section. He was going to have his apple in peace. He stood facing us all, with his back right foot cocked and tail happily swishing, flicking the occasional fly off his stomach.

This is the life

I decided to find safety in the crotch of the tree. One leg dangling down the other pushing up against the trunk and my head leaning back on a bigger branch.

Taking a bite, I was met with a pop as my teeth sunk through the skin into the bright white fruit of the apple. Juice began to pour around my lips. The more I chewed the bite of the apple, the juicier it got. I wiped my mouth with my hand and gave Buck a nod. Now I knew how he felt. The apples were so delicious!

Quite content, I began to relax. I let my dangling leg swing as I enjoyed all my thoughts. The red apple beauties, three interesting horses and the warm sunshine.

Closing my eyes I listened to wind blow through the leaves. I heard the horses blowing air through their noses; searching the ground for one more lost bite. For a moment, nothing really mattered. I felt at peace, content and if this was what heaven is like, I was ready to go.

The Dutch Mothers Underground

Where the DMU ( Dutch Mothers Underground) got their start no one knows for sure. But it is thought to have been birthed at a 3 pm tea time in either Grand Rapids, Michigan or Orange City, Iowa. Some much frazzled Dutch mothers banded together to put a stop to “the nonsense” going around the neighborhood.  They were going to get a handle on things or lose their wooden shoes doing it.

To this very day, Grand Rapids and Orange City claim to have established themselves as charter members. This has sparked a rivalry somewhat akin to the Hatfield and McCoy feud. No loss of life has occurred. Just some good “trash talking” about old recipe originality and the questioning of one’s Dutch heritage with threats of using 23andMe.

Welcome to the club

Friesland had its very own DMU chapter. Once you had children, it was an automatic induction. No fancy ceremony like the South and their coming-out parties.

A Dutch Mothers Underground induction went more like this: A DMU member pulls into your driveway. She makes a dead run from her car to your front door. She is hoping to make it to your front door, give you a casserole and her best wishes by saying “Congratulations on your baby! Here is a casserole. It’s the last warm food you’ll eat for a while!” Then a mad sprint back to the car before her passel of children figured their way out of the car. Not classy, but you get the picture.

Once a DMU, always a DMU

Photo Credit: ChaminaGallery pixabay

The Dutch Mothers Underground was never one to be showy. But, they made up for it with their impeccable network of tattle-tales, informers and retirees- aka grandmothers. The DMU is like the Chicago Mob. You NEVER really leave.

For the most part, we kids never knew the DMU existed. They had no secret meetings. No special handshake or membership dues- as mothers, they had already paid enough. They met in broad daylight, right under our noses. At the Tuesday night band concerts, they would publically share their information. Nice and civilized looking, sitting there eating pie and drinking their coffee. All the while sharing information on “such-n-so was doing this-and-that with you-know-who!”

Let’s not forget Church. Church was one of their major meetings. Well disguised to be sure. It’s where they gave a “recap” of the past week and an “FYI” for the coming week. The DMU was a force to be reckoned with.

Drive-bys and Looky Lou’s

The trips my mom took to the store- those were just opportunities to pass secret messages in the store. If you saw your grandma driving uptown to get her mail- that was just her spying on you. The Dutch Mothers Underground was everywhere.

Remember all the times your mother put out Kool-Aid and cookies for you and your friends? She was just taking notes on the conversations while pretending to iron shirts and checking the oven.

This is for your own good

Photo Credit: Elsamargriet pixabay

If you happened to get away with something, you’d have considered it a major accomplishment. Not much slips past the DMU. But if you got caught in a DMU sting operation, you were finished.

I remember Tim and Jane (not their real names) went out to the old chicken coop to kiss. Well someone on the DMU found out and told Tim’s Grandmother. Tim’s Grandmother, Sarah (not her real name either), found out and ran like the wind to the chicken coop to throw some cold water on the situation.

Another time some girls went down to “inspect” the boy’s fort in the woods by the railroad. Lucy (still not her real name), the mother of one of the boys and staunch DMU member, caught wind of the plan and with toddlers in tow, came marching down the tracks to put a stop to the “inspection” and possible war with the boys.

Thinking outside the box

Upon arriving at the boy’s fort, she found a group of girls mid inspection of a “bathroom” the boys constructed of brush and an old kitchen chair. The chair was missing the seat, which made using it as a toilet all the more impressive. Lucy also quickly figured out where all her toilet paper had gone a few days earlier. It hung neatly near the old seatless chair on partially snapped of limbs of the tree. Convenience and decorum.

We all know that every town, big or small has its version of the DMU. They always have your eternal best at heart. It takes a village to raise a child, and the Dutch Mothers Underground did their very best.