Plains Folk

Waking Up Just in Time


I’m not sure how it was going to end, but I think I awoke from this dream just in time.


Lots of you know what I’m talking about when I say I am in the fourth week of a persistent infection characterized by a deep and violent cough. My producers here at Prairie Public have been wonderfully patient as I have croaked through my Plains Folk essays.


So last night I decided to spare the household the disturbance generated by my misery and went downstairs into the library, to sleep in the big bison chair, a recliner that fits me. I lit the fireplace, and Angie the History Dog loyally padded down to keep me company.


Antihistamines play havoc with my system, especially affecting sleep habits. This includes the stimulation of strange dreams.


So as I dozed off, I found myself riding in a car with my Suzzanne and another couple, not immediately identifiable. It seems we were going out to a fall supper at a country church. As we approached I recognized the physical form of the church as Waldheim Lutheran, in Barnes County.


The stream we crossed en route to the church, however, was not the Sheyenne River; it was Little Cheyenne Creek, a fishing place from my youth in western Kansas, with a suspiciously similar name.


Inside, among the fall supper diners, the atmosphere was oddly subdued. People were speaking in hushed tones, almost like a situation of mourning. All right, this seems to link up to a conversation I had in Bismarck last weekend, where I ran into Eric Lahlum, and we talked about the discontinuance of the fall supper tradition at his home church, Trinity Lutheran of Litchville.


There was something else more dour in the situation, however. After supper we were in the car outside the church, where I recognized that our companions were our friends from the University of North Dakota, Susie and Bill Caraher. I have no idea how they got roped into this dream. Anyway, we all got on the internet to search out information about this oddly somber parish.


We discovered it was a mixed congregation, comprising both Norwegians and German-Russians, which caused some dissension. The catalyst of controversy was a German-Russian woman who was a healer, a Braucher, and who had come to the district from another place, already married to a Norwegian guy.


I realize now that the narrative was colonized in my mind by a story my mother, who died a few weeks ago, had told me about the organist of the country church where she was married, an affair, a baby, and the break-up of the church.


As in my dream we read and talked about the various episodes of conflict that had plagued the church, we noticed that some people in the car parked next to us were listening and were glaring at us. At this point the ladies of our party went back inside for some reason.


There sat Bill and I in the car, when the vehicle began, slowly at first and then more rapidly, to roll downhill toward the creek. I kept telling Bill to set the brake, but he was absorbed in something on his smartphone.
And then I awoke with a Labrador retriever licking my ear.

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