They Walked Here

I have not spent much time writing in recent years. I know my last blog (in 2014!) was about my search for a certain tree I identified with. I would like you to know that I did, indeed, find it way back in 2014 and now again in 2021.

On this most recent Mother’s Day of 2021, my daughter asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I knew immediately what I wanted. It was the most precious gift of her time. I yearned to go back to re-live some of my most vivid memories. I wanted to walk the path that my ancestors once trekked and struggled and were valiant in their efforts…. where they laughed and cried… where they felt the sun shine down upon them… where they prayed to God for strength. I am not sure why we feel that need, but I knew I wanted to feel that connection — those roots — one more time.

Take care of your heart. 

This has been my mantra for eons.

Yes, I have been around for a long time. I have succeeded in taking several successful rotations around the sun. I know and understand how important it is to take care of my heart health, both physically and mentally.

There is a head-heart connection that demonstrates that unwavering mental health can improve heart health, thereby reducing cardiovascular risks. I know I have said it before, but it bears saying again. Caring for our heart – our psychological and spiritual heart as well as our physical heart – is what makes us healthy. Yes, our heart physiologically pumps blood through our body, but it is the heart that loves, feels, and remembers.

An article “The Benefits of Thinking about our Ancestors” in the Research Digest of the British Psychological Society summarized a study of 2010:

“Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,’ the researchers said. So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.”

Enough said! We are off…

On the top of my list of viewing pleasures was, of course, MY TREE! I guess not everyone has a tree that they consider their very own personal tree.  I was drawn to this tree the first time I saw it and feel the same deep connection every time I go visit it. This tree has a uniqueness all its own. MY tree stands proudly in St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Drywood, WI, where many of my ancestors were laid to rest.

It seems to tell its own story, simply by existing, by being present in the moment.  The branches are twisted and tangled.  The trunk has been vulnerable and exposed to all of life’s struggles.  Surely, this tree has weathered many storms, obvious from its meandering branches and knotted, distorted trunk. It has a longevity factor despite the hardships it has faced.

I see the years of wear and tear have taken its toll. My tree actually did not even have many branches left but its trunk surely looked strong, although exhaustively gnarled. You can see it is working hard to produce new branches and it still has some small green leaves sprouting. Surely, I am that gnarled tree, once young and vibrant and now after being attacked by winds and storms, still standing with the love of our God, trying to still serve Him who gives me life.

Like my tree, I am not OLD, I am simply GNARLY!

Enough reflecting on trees… we are off to Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s house! As kids we would often sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” when we traveled to our grandparent’s home. The song simply fit our excitement of making the trek “up North” to see the warmest and kindest human beings who made us feel so loved… and always had the best and the biggest 3-gallon tub of ice cream in their freezer! I wanted to make that anticipation and delight come alive again:

Hop in the Car… we are off on a road trip!

I hope you saw the Cobban Bridge as you rode with me to our grandparents home. Did the hill down to the Chippewa River on Cty HWY TT seem less steep than when we were kids?

Cobban Bridge

There was a notation in the video showing the approximate spot of Great Grandpa Frank Goodman’s Store. I do not know if that is the same building. Perhaps not. The store was located along Hwy K to the best of my memory.

In 1885, Frank Goodman bought a store in association with his brother, Mathias in Drywood. The partnership was maintained until 1896, when he acquired his brother share and maintained the store until 1904.

Great Grandparents, Frank & Anna Bohacek Goodman

You will hear some inaudible words and see some buildings as we approach Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s house. Those structures are across the street from their home on the Chippewa River. That is where I remember the Goodman Sawmill to stand.

I would love to have a picture of the log home of Grandma and Grandpa Goodman as well as Grandpa William Goodman’s Sawmill. Perhaps someday I will find that gem. I have many treasures yet to find in the roots of my ancestors. I would love to have a picture of my maternal great-grandparents, Paul and Mary Babicky Dupey. Their life story, especially Paul Dupey’s, remains a mystery to me.

Driveway to Grandma and Grandpa Goodman’s Home at 18980 Hwy K in Cobban WI (Cornell)

(How I wished I could have gone in there! I guess I will never know if they have ice cream waiting for me now.)

Address Marker on Hwy K, Cornell WI

Maternal Grandmother

Helen Dupey Goodman

Maternal Grandfather William A. Goodman

Along the way to the house, we also passed Little Drywood School which still stands today. Many of our family members attended that school, including both Mom & Dad — Jim Straka and Eileen Goodman. I believe all of Mom’s sisters —- Vera Goodman Komro, Dorothy Goodman Krouse and Leona Goodman Ramharter went to Little Drywood School. I know for certain that Dad’s sisters — Aunt Rose and Aunt Lydia attended the school.

Little Drywood School

Our last stop is James & Emilie Straka’s farm, where they lived from 1917 to 1950. Quoting our Aunt Rose Straka Roch’s autobiography: “When I was three and she (Lydia) one and a half, our parents moved to an 80 acre farm seven miles north of Cadott, WI. The place had a log house with two rooms – a kitchen and a living room on the main floor. Upstairs was an attic where we all slept. The place was heated with a wood burning stove and illuminated with kerosene lamps.”

“There was a log barn for the cows. The land was only partially cleared and Dad and Mother worked very hard cutting trees and blasting stumps to clear the land so crops could be raised.”

It was in 1922 when Grandpa, Jim Straka built a barn. He had cows and was in the dairy business. A year later he built a home.

Jim & Emilie Straka Farm at 26115 Hwy S in Cadott WI in 1920’s

Farm at 26115 Hwy S in Cadott WI in the year 2021

Front: Emilie Kure Straka, James Otto Straka, held by James Straka Sr.

Back: Lydia Straka Loss and Rose Straka Roch

Our ancestors had busy, full lives. They walked along these roads. They worked in these fields. They made their trek to Little Drywood School. They drove over the creaky Cobban bridge and fished in the Chippewa River.

All is quiet now… but we know that they walked here. I can feel their spirit and love still.

Please remember: Take Care of Your Heart.

10 Comments on “They Walked Here”

  1. Absolutely beautiful..thank you Sharon for these words so well given to all of us. Lainer

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  2. My Dear Cousin, Oh the memories you brought back with that road trip. My mother, Vera, learned to swim across from the store near the Cobban Bridge. I guess it was like the local swim spot. Also, playing in the sawdust piles, attempting to climb up it, an endless feat. Going to get the cows with Grandma Helen while shouting, “KaBoss”. I think it was supposed to be “Come Boss”.LOL

    • I can see Aunt Vera smile as you tell her stories. Summer memories were a cherished time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I hold you all so close to my heart.

      Tom was telling a story about Fred and Ron and a water moccasin snake when they were out on the Chippewa River one summer. It did not take long for Marge to chime in that she, Sandy and Mary Jo were there too when Grandpa took care of that snake for them. The tales of our childhood summers will always be a time when life was slower and we were filled with innocence, wonder and adventure!

  3. Sharon….I loved your wonderful memory of Grandma and Grandpa Goodman. I have a pic of my siblings when we were small sitting on the wayside stop across the River from their little house. We just drove that river road and looked across to see where they lived…house is gone but the memories are never gone. I remember grandmas wonderful frosted molasses’s cookies. She was known for her awesome cooking..chicken dinners at her house were the best. I have her coleslaw and tea ring recipes and make them all the time. My grandchildren and daughters all have learned how to make her tea rings as her tradition keeps going at Xmas! I remember her catching snapping turtles in the river and making soup…she was a hard worker and as a young child I recognized that in her. Family reunions with all the cousins in their yard…makeshift tables and chairs all set up…the small metal swing set they had for us grandchildren. I remember Tom and Ron and Fred in a boat and Margie and Jo and I in a boat paddling to the Cobban Bridge and Fred saying” I claim this bridge for Fred and his Goiles”. We laughed so hard. Saddens to see that bridge will be removed…but again…those memories will never be gone. The six of us cousins would stay in their little cabins by the river…we would play in the hay mows in the barn.
    Our grandparents have left us with memories that go on…from their little Cabin House on the river. Thank you for writing on the past…so glad I got to read your Blog and glad Kathy shared with me.

    • Sandy, so WONDERFUL to hear from you! Yes… extraordinary memories! I so LOVE all your stories. I can feel all of the treasured emotions in your words. Thank you, Sandy, for taking the time to share your thoughts and stories with us all.

  4. Grampa’s saw mill may be why I renovate now. We always got lumber and build tree houses, club houses, go carts etc. using his discards. Fishing and boating on the river also. Fred and I learned you go upstream first. Exploring downstream we almost did not make it back. Every time you rested the current takes you downstream again. A problem for two small boys in a row boat. It was there I got to milk a cow (by hand) and discovered what an electric fence was by experiencing it.

    • How wonderful to hear your memories, Ron. Tom talks about your excursions on the river often and with much enthusiasm. Little did we know back then, what great memories we were making with such special grandparents. Thanks so much for sharing. It means a lot to me.

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