Through my many years, I’ve met quite a number of people I’d consider to be eccentric. Even though I’m quite normal (no comments, please), I’d guess some of those folks might have the same opinion of me.
Each time I find myself thinking of folks who, to me at least, seemed unusual I settle on a pair of bachelor brothers who entered my life when I was only a 4-year-old. They lived in a small house on the north edge of Stratford and, even though they’ve both been gone for more than a half century, they left an indelible impression.
Folks who lived in or around Stratford many years ago will undoubtedly remember Carl and Clarence Rose. Both were born around the turn of the 20th century, probably a few years before.
Back when I was a toddler, my dad still had dreams of being successful in farming. He faced what became an insurmountable obstacle – he didn’t own any farm land. Still, he tried his best to raise crops and a few animals on rented property. He’d taken advantage of one opportunity that was presented to him, however. When the gravel road that runs between Stratford and Dayton was paved, dad was able to purchase a bright yellow Minneapolis-Moline tractor, the first use of which was to pull heavy equipment to pack down the new surface before it was paved. It helped him pay for that tractor.
Since I was still too young to help and my mother was confined at home with me and an even younger brother, Dad sought some help with his day-to-day farming operations. For that help, he found Carl and Clarence Rose. They became quite familiar to all of us living in the Haglund household and, even though I was still a pre-schooler, I still understood they were “different” and I asked my dad and mom about some of the things I noticed.
“Why does Carl always sit in the back seat when Clarence drives?” “Why do they keep all those egg shells on the window ledge by the sink?” “Why doesn’t Clarence talk much?”
Now, it’s also very possible that I picked up on some of those “quirks” because my parents spoke of them. Maybe I was too young to pick up those things on my own, but I do remember vividly those particular traits. And, I took notice. When they came to dad’s farmstead to work, Carl always climbed from the back seat. When, on the very rare occasion, we stopped by their little house on the edge of Stratford, I took note of what seemed like hundreds of egg shells all stacked on the window sill.
The thing that I’ll remember most, though, was one particular Sunday dinner in which the Rose brothers joined us. Mom fixed a wonderful roast with potatoes and vegetables. Clarence sat there, looking down during the whole dinner. Once, he picked up a slice of bread, grabbed his knife and began a ritual that became quite familiar to me. He began using the knife to spread imaginary butter, back and forth over the slice of fresh bread. He did that until my mother noticed and asked, “Clarence would you like some butter?” Clarence just smiled when the butter was passed his way.
I’m sure I was far too young to remember everything, but what I do recall is that they left an indelible mark on my memory. I don’t know the whole story, but I know they had a married sister who lived in Des Moines and she was very grateful to my parents for “watching over” her brothers.
My memory of my first day of school was that I was very afraid to walk over the bridge that crossed the railroad tracks between our home and the country school. I got to the edge of the bridge and warily looked over the side to see if I could spy the troll I knew lived there. I crept from one side of the road to the other and lost track of time. Mom said that, by the time I’d walked to school it was almost noon. She then had the Rose brothers come and drive me to school the next day – I sat in the back seat with Carl as Clarence drove me to school.
Even after we’d moved away from the area and found a new home in Alleman, we didn’t lose complete contact with the brothers from Stratford. On at least one occasion, they came to Alleman for Sunday dinner and one a rare occasion we’d visit them on a weekend trip to one or both of our grandparents’ homes near Stratford.
When Carl died, we attended the funeral, and a couple of years later when Clarence died, my parents made the trip for his final rites. They’re buried side-by-side. Their final resting place is a cemetery southeast of Stratford, South Marion Cemetery I think. Each time I drive past that site, and I do on occasion traveling from Boone to Stratford, I think of the Rose brothers, two of the eccentric folks I’ve met along life’s journey.