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COUNTRY ECHOES

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If someone had said, 'All of this is going to happen in the next two weeks,' I would have said, 'Impossible!' But it has happened and it is unbelievable.

It began with the wedding of a neighbor boy on a Saturday. It was quite an occasion because he is past thirty. The following day was the ninety fifth anniversary of a church where we formerly belonged. The service was inspiring, they served an excellent dinner, and we renewed old friendships and reminisced of days past.

When we returned home a Steam Engine Man was awaiting us. How surprised we were to find 81 year old Louie Trapp of Columbus sitting in our kitchen chatting with Dan. Mr. Trapp doesn't look a day past 60 but he is the youngest of six living brothers and sisters. I wonder how the other members of this remarkable family carry their years.

Originally there were fifteen in the Trapp family. Louie has a sister who is 83, a brother 85, a brother 87, another brother 90, and a sister who is 100 years young.

The family farm in Columbus was purchased in 1854. Mr. Trapp still lives on this farm and has been there all of his 81 years. The Trapps are a musical family who had their own band for about 40 years. The band was composed of six Trapp sons, Father Trapp, and two cousins. The father and sons could all play two or more instruments. The house had a music room where all practicing and rehearsing was done. Father Trapp instructed them. No money was paid to others for music lessons.

Our Mary asked our guest, 'How about practicing?'

'Oh,' answered Mr. Trapp, 'You practiced every night -at least an hour-and you didn't get out of it either.' There was pride in his voice as he spoke. Something great had been accomplished and family ties were strong. Father Trapp also sold instruments and made a bass violin, a size violin, and a full size violin himself. They owned two harps at one time. What a record to set while farming and raising a large family!

After Mr. Trapp and my husband left for a meeting of the Steam Club here, we had much to think about. But my thoughts were rudely interrupted. Our 77 year old neighbor suffered a heart attack that same day and was rushed to the hospital. We have been close neighbors for over 40 years, and good friends.

On Monday the telephone rang urgently. We were getting houseguests on Friday. 'Will you pick us up at the Milwaukee airport?' they asked. Happily the answer came, 'Of course, of course!' But strange thoughts ran through my mind as I said it. How would I ever 'be ready. The lawn looked like a hayfield. The garden needed planting it was worked up and ready to go. The upstairs needed cleaning, there was washing and ironing to do, and shopping. All of this in three and a half days!

Things really flew. Our son and his wife were coming home! Oh! I had forgotten! A concert at Mary's college tomorrow night. And Mary would be home for the weekend too. Oh my! Where was all the steam coming from? I'd have to dig up Father Trapp's recipe somehow. The day before this memorable weekend began we had finished planting 650 little evergreen trees, Norway Spruce, by shovel and wooden potato masher. Father dug the holes, Mother tapped in the roots, with the masher, and had a blister on the palm of my hand to prove it. We had some help but I ended up using a bed pillow stuffed into a plastic sack for my poor abused knees. It was cut over land. But we are happy with the results.

Our family arrived at the airport on schedule and we had two great days of visiting. Another trip to Milwaukee. On the way we dropped in on old friends and visited some more.

But the weeds and the grass didn't stop for company. And our young couple were home from their honeymoon. There had to be a charivari. About 35 neighbors gathered here at our house, I got out my two old banged-up kitchen covers I save for charivaris. Alfred found a hammer and a plowshare, Dan a circle saw and something to pound it. Away we went for an evening of old fashioned fun, ice cream, cookies, cake, and koolaid. A friend brought a new element for noisemaking, his chain saw. What a racket! My autoharp goes along to charivaris too. Someone had a cornet there which Mary played and most everybody sang. We dug out all the old songs and added some new ones. When we went home, about midnight, we told them, 'Now you are really married. You have been charivaried.'

How Father Trapp and his boys would have enjoyed themselves, I thought as we sang. But there was a note of sadness too. We were all missing our neighbor, Arnie.

Usually he is there with his accordian but their nine-month-old grandson had just passed away. I had made a call of consolation in the afternoon.

When Saturday night rolled around again the house wasn't looking 'too whippy' as Mary says. I was putting away the groceries about 6:30 when company came. I took one look around and groaned. 'Oh me! Company!' But when I opened the door I was so happy I could have shouted. Here were guests from Germany with our daughter-in-law's parents. The one man we knew well. He is our daughter-in-law's cousin and he lived with them for almost a year in 1964. Now he had brought his father with him and the two elderly men hadn't seen each other in 47 years. He could not speak English nor we German. His brother and wife interpreted as we went along.

Heinrich Schultz has lived through being hidden in a haystack while the Nazis ran spears through it. The family lost everything they owned twice. The brothers were herded into a concentration camp with their mother at one time. Rudy, the son, saw his grandfather shot to death in their dooryard. The two brothers, Heinrich and Gottlieb, still have a sister living in Poland, another in Occupied Germany, and there are two brothers here in Wisconsin.

We talked (over coffee and a quickly assembled lunch) until almost eleven. I washed up the dishes and fell into bed. At 2:30 the telephone awakened me. The hired man was in jail some traffic violation. He wanted to talk to Dan. It is now 5:00 AM and I haven't slept since 2:30. Somewhere during these two weeks another Steam Man, Art Frase stopped by and had dinner with us. He had on the prettiest red corduroy shirt. One thinks of such strange things so early in the morning. My orchid cactus has four large blossoms on it right now and they are just the color of Mr. Frase's shirt. Perhaps that is why I'm thinking in red. Or maybe it is these two hectic, wonderful weeks. Again the Lord has been so good to us. Our beloved neigh-is recovering from her heart attack so we are anticipating having her back. But frankly I hope things calm down. One can take just so much. That is, if you don't belong to the Trapp family.