Ed Dahlgren of Aroostook County, Maine
We drive a little way down the road. He shows me the original church. He shows me the potato house where he used to work. We go past the old school he once attended, linked to his home by a seven-mile trolley ride. “If you missed it,” he says, “it was a long walk home. Many a night I made that walk.”
We cross over into Woodland, to his mother’s father’s farm. “My grandfather Anderson had 360 acres,” he says, “but he had a lot of sons and when he died he left most of it to them,” He points out a stream he used to fish from. “Ha,” he says, “that’s Mud Brook. I used to get some big trout there.”
He is silent for a few moments. “My friends in Texas used to write to me to come down, you know. I should have gone. I would have been all set. A fellow named Wilson and I were good friends. He was a smart one. His home was Port Arthur, Texas. His people were oil people and he used to say, ‘When I go home I’m going to buy the biggest and longest Buick ever made,’ And he did. We called him Pops and we served together a long time.
“The first winter I wasn’t feeling good. Then the first thing you know I got married and started having kids right away. Before I knew it I had a flock of youngsters. It’s a lot to think about before picking up and moving out, right? Have to have something to eat, to wear. It’s probably just as well. There’s a lot worse places to live than here. Leastways we don’t have much crime. It could be Worse. Could be a lot worse.”
“… While reconnoitering another street with a comrade, he heard German voices in a house. An attack with rifle grenades drove the hostile troops to the cellar. Sgt. Dahlgren entered the building, kicked open the cellar door, and, firing several bursts down the stairway, called for the trapped enemy to surrender. Sixteen soldiers filed out with their hands in the air. The bold leadership and magnificent courage displayed by Sgt. Dahlgren in his heroic attacks were in a large measure responsible for repulsing an enemy counterattack and saving an American platoon from great danger.”
It’s been two years since he’s seen his father’s farm, where he was born. We drive down a dirt road, crusted with ice. He tells me to stop, and we skid for 25 yards, coming to rest against a snowbank. In the distance he points out the old Dahlgren homestead, where his grandparents settled and raised ten children. “My grandfather bought the farm for 100 pounds of buckwheat meal” he says.
“Is that true?” I ask.
“It’s true,” he says. “There was a log house on the land and he bought it all. They were sailing people from Sweden. They settled first in Boston, then got their women from the old country and came up here.”
We get out and walk down the road. “There’s my father’s potato house,” he says, and points to a concrete wall surrounded and nearly hidden by poplar trees. He can’t find his father’s house. “There was something here last time,” he says. He peers closely into the brush. He smiles. “There’s the cellar hole,” he says, “that’s all.” Then quietly to himself he says, “It doesn’t take long for things to grow up.”
He says he’s cold, and we get back in the car. We come to the crossroads, and he asks if I want to take the long way to Woodland or the quick way back to Mars Hill. He answers for me. “We’ll go home,” he says. We talk about hunting and fishing, and he says the worst thing about his kidney stones is he never knows when they’ll strike. He’s had ten operations, and so many attacks he’s lost count. Once he was fishing a wilderness stream, miles from anywhere and he took a stone. “I just lay on the ground and cried like a baby,” he says. “I lay there all night, until I could move. Sometimes, I admit I feel sorry for myself. But I keep getting up and putting my clothes on, so I guess I have nothing to kick about.