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.
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