Voices from 1979

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In March 1979, the students at Long Prairie High School published the second edition of a magazine they called “Snowshoe.” (I’m not sure that there ever was a third, but this issue is available at the Todd County Historical Museum in Long Prairie.)

In colorful detail, it documents the lives of some of the older people living in and around Long Prairie at the time. It’s well worth a look. The students let these elders speak in their own voices, seemingly without much editing.

One highlight is a story about Josie Lunceford, an avid hunter who looks fetching with a rifle. “I and my little dog Sparky would go out in the woods and if I found a den and the holes weren’t too small, Sparky would go down in the hole and bring the pups up one at a time… Sometimes they got a hold of him, and he would pull them right out to the edge of the hole, and I would say, “Hold ‘em, Sparky.” He would hold ‘em right there till I’d shoot ‘em with a 22.”

Lunceford says she used to get $12 a piece for a live fox “when the bounty was on.” But, as of the time of the article, she says, “You can’t dig ‘em anymore. It’s against the law, or I would probably be out today.”

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Albert Zellgert, 82, also had a lot to say. A violin player and wool spinner, he describes his childhood as “pretty darn hard.” He walked a mile to school every day and wore hand-knitted socks and mittens. “We had to toe the mark. There was ten of us in the family so you know what they said to us, we had to do. If they told us to get the wood, we better do it!!!… Otherwise, we would get slapped around the ears. I didn’t like that.”

Asked whether people in 1979 were different from those back when he was a kid, he says, “I think they are a little more fresh. They’re more forward, but I think years ago the people were more accommodating than they are now. They helped one another out if they needed help because that was the only place they could go was to the neighbors to get help. Now you can walk down the road and there’s nobody to stop and pick you up. You have to walk.”

Zellgert describes his life as a happy one. “I don’t know what more I would want. I have a good life. That’s all a person could ask for.”

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