Friday, September 26, 2014

The Character and the Cornstalk - Friday Funny

There is no doubt in my mind that Henry Meinzen was a character.  The kind of character who does unusual, even slightly odd, things.  The guy you love because he's sweetly, funnily, or endearingly different.  He earns the status of character for several reasons. 

Henry is the guy who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 29 in 1866, then four years later, at the age of 32, had the audacity to claim a 17-year-old immigrant from England as his bride.  (The marriage lasted until her death 50 years later.)

Henry tickled the funny bones of his young grandchildren causing laughter and giggles at bedtime.  The noise brought their mother to silence them but just moments later they erupted again in joyful glee at Henry's humor. 

Henry grew plants, a common enough activity for men of his generation.  What's uncommon is the size of some of the plants and what he did with them.  Perhaps Henry was a show-off and wanted to broadcast the success of his gardening skills.  Maybe he was just full of himself.  Or his intent could have been to share the surprise, wonder, and joy of his out-sized plants.  Here are two examples.  You decide.

In October, 1898, Henry harvested a 6-pound white radish.  Did he take it home to eat it or did he sell it?  No.  He took it to the the office of the local newspaper where they put it on display in their window then published a notice about it in the newspaper to call attention to it.  Henry must have been tickled pink.  Or was he just pleased that others could enjoy this extravagance of nature, too?

A year later, in September, 1899, the prize of Henry's garden was a cornstalk.  Not just
any cornstalk, mind you.  This cornstalk, at twelve feet, 4 inches, was nearly two and half times taller than Henry.  He had to look nearly to the sky see its tassle.  Think him transporting it from the farm to town then toting it into the Herald-Star office.  I imagine Henry felt surprise and wonder at the size of his corn plants.

That "Another." at the top of the note about the cornstalk causes me to wonder how often Henry took bounty from his garden to show off at the Herald-Star office.  Will I find "One More" or "A Third" brief note about a heart-shaped beet, a 3-legged carrot, or some other wonder from Henry's garden?  If he grew it and took it to the newspaper office and a note about it was published, I hope I find it.

These two notes from the newspaper were tiny paragraphs in fine print in the midst of long columns of other tiny notes.  I doubt I would ever have found them without the aid of OCR.  But here they are, found and shared.  I hope they either give you a chuckle of amusement or cause you to shake your head in wonder at a man who showed off his unusual produce.

As for me, I'm still chuckling at the character who is my great-grandfather, Henry Meinzen.

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

12 comments:

  1. People always enjoy seeing fruits and vegetables that have grown unusually large or developed into some other shape (like a face, for example). So hurrah for Henry contributing to the fun. Imagine the conversations around the dinner table as he watched that radish continue to grow and debated when to pick it.

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    1. Oh, yes, Wendy. I've even imagined Henry showing off his produce to his children, then carefully picking, admiring, and transporting the radish and corn stalk by horse-drawn wagon. Just at the moment I'm wondering if there was a county fair and if he entered any of his produce into it. One more thing to research.

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  2. Oh I LOVE it! It's so fun to get beyond the basics and see the personality of our ancestors in the things that they did. Don't you wish he had left behind a journal or diary? He sounds like a truly fun character.

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    1. Yes, Michelle, I'm like you. I love getting beyond the names and dates to learn about my ancestors' lives. I do wish he'd left a diary or a journal but I've never heard that he kept one.

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  3. Oh heavens! He could SO party with my Grandpa George! He was just crazy funny! And could say anything with out the slightest hint of sarcasm on his face or in his tone :)

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    1. It's fun to find those characters among our ancestors, isn't it, Kassie?

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  4. Oh! What fun to find these fun little tidbits in the newspaper about your great-grandfather!

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    1. They are, Jana! I hope Henry harvested more eye-catching vegetables and that the newspaper published the news of their arrival.

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  5. Hi Nancy, I wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Linda Stufflebean at www.emptybranchesonthefamilytree.com.

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    1. Hi, Linda. What a sweet surprise. Thank you so much!

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  6. Aren't it these lovely little things that make the different and reward us for our long research? Love the story, thanks for sharing, Nancy!

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    1. Thank you, Karen. I agree: these kinds of news items are just so fun to find. In a small way they bring an ancestor to life.

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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