Tales From the Four-Poster Bed
By Edy T Johnson
If only beds could talk. What stories they might tell.
This beautiful mahogany bedroom set came from the second-hand store, minus any history. The mattresses piled on it (more like thin old pallets that one could roll up rather than the thick and firm ones you can buy nowdays) were "inherited" castoffs.
"This mattress came from Auntie Engquist's death bed." that certainly caught this child's attention.
But, if that old bed had no tale to tell, our Papa made up for it. He'd gather his little flock at bedtime. We'd climb to the plateau at the top of all those mattresses, knowing we were in for a treat (no tv distractions back then). Sometimes he tried to teach us Norwegian from an old primer. About the only thing I learned is that Norwegian dogs don't say "Bow wow." They say "Vuv vuv!"
In addition to Bible stories, sometimes Daddy read us classics from Greek, Roman and Norse mythology books. "Pandora's Box" was quite an eye-opener, and Thor, the thunder god was funny, because our grandpa's name was Thor (except he added an "e" to the name, to avoid confusion).
Most of the time, however, our dad told family history stories, some funny, some very sad. Dad was the youngest of 14 children, so you can imagine all the fun they had, along with the hardships. In one story, our dad's pa (Thore) had his wagon and team of horses helping to build the dam on the Pelican river. Trying to pull a wagon load of huge rocks up the steep and muddy bank proved to be more than the horses could manage. They couldn't get a footing and the weight of the wagon pulled them backwards into the rushing water. My dad's oldest brother Carl, horrified at the screaming, struggling horses' situation, offered, "Pa, I can jump in and cut the traces...!" "No!" the father of the 15-year old insisted. "It's bad enough to lose a team of horses. I don't want to lose a son, too!"
Still, as my dad told the story, grandpa Thore wept so loudly people all over the town of Pelican Rapids could hear him. A team of horses was a terrible loss, especially to a farmer's livelihood. The town dentist took pity on grandpa and went door-to-door to take up a collection to buy him a new team of horses. Forever after, Thore expressed his admiration and gratitude to this kind-hearted man.
Then, there were stories from our dad's early years, teaching in a one-room country school while still a teenager, himself. The characters in these stories rivaled Dickens' classics. One father of students made the hair on dad's neck stand on end. Mr. Sorem had a full flaming red beard and a gruff persona. The first time he showed up at the school, Dad thought he had opened the door to the devil, himself. But, it was Mrs. Sorem who really took the cake. She had been an actress in Norway, and she might well have gotten away with murder, if she'd had it in mind. She sure got away with everything else, including a new Singer sewing machine.
I think Dad's favorite school was P.S. 109, the school the county superintendent called the worst school in the county. The students were so tough, no teacher would stay past the first semester. Dad's predecessor kept a loaded revolver in his desk, and bullet holes in the floor bore witness to the lengths he had to go to keep order. Dad had a better way. But, that's a story for another bedtime!
All that remains of that mahogany four-poster bed and the stories told are filed away in our memories. I am particularly grateful the Creator included such a gift in His magnificent design.
Written for the Southern Porch second writing incentive prompt "Bedtime Stories"
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