Sunday, September 06, 2015
“We Had No Fences”
Retired educator Dennis Wilson has lived in Butte County since 1977, but that’s not where he grew up.
Kasson, Minnesota, was the place, a town of about 1500 in the 1940s and 1950s. His memoir, “We Had No Fences” ($9.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle), traces the shenanigans of a small-town boy. Kasson’s claim to fame was its hundred-foot water tower and certain oddball characters, like George the Cop (“a composite of Barney Fife and Stan Laurel”).
Everyone knew everyone. “I could walk down any street in town, pick any residence, and give you a history. … Unfortunately, they could do the same with me. That may be why I waited so long to record my memoirs. It could also be why I left town at age seventeen.”
Everyone talked about the weather, “what it was, had been, or might be, and how it could, had, or might affect the crops. Kids were sent to the movies regardless of what was playing. All movies were ‘G’ anyway. …”
Wilson’s quiet humor (he is a talented writer) is tempered by poignant moments. He and his younger brother were raised for awhile by their Grandma Olson when their parents were patients at a tuberculosis sanitarium. “I wish I could remember the day, the moment our parents returned from the sanitarium, cured and healthy. I am sure there were tears of rejoicing, probably most of them from Grandma. ….”
Wilson does remember a little house where “the spring rains, fall winds, and passing years did their worst, yet it survived … nestled behind the foundation of grandmother’s wash shed. … I have a theory. I believe that decades of use created gas in the pit beneath that old outhouse that kept it upright, much like a hot-air balloon.”
Here are stories of “My Plymouth,” “Pitching Peas,” and “The Egg Caper,” along with appearances by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Later, “I enlisted in the Navy to save my country, get the GI Bill, and because I knew girls were attracted to the Navy uniform.” He was discharged “September 10, 1957, six days before my twenty-first birthday.”