Minnesota, My Mother

Nellie Adelaide McKenney was born December 24, 1902 in Pine County, MN, and died January 24, 1954 in San Francisco, CA. She married John George Haffner October 22, 1921 in Billings, MT. He was born February 22, 1897 in Arad, Hungary, and died February 02, 1975 in Salt Lake City, UT.

Nellie was a poet.


Mother of my parents whose parents carved homes out of your woods. Forever, wherever I go, I am yours, tho I die on the other side of the earth. Your limestone has formed my bones. Your brooks run in my blood. Your birds sing in my heart Your cold is in my mind. All around the year I love you. Every minute, every second, night and day. I felt your strength in the thunderheads when the torn torn storm was beating in the far off dusk. In the hush before the wind began, on a hot June night, you whispered something to me. There was dry dust in the air, and the trees stood gathering strength, hushed and afraid. 1 stood with arms uplifted, face to the sky. We laughed together. Lightening stabbed through the dard. The wind, like a rough comrade, pulled at the meadow grass, my dress and the trees. You told me something beneath the crash of thunder, To love me you must be strong, unafraid and humble.” Into my face you flung a handful of rain. felt your tenderness, your powerful tenderness in the spring. In the wet places, frogs sand with a sound like far off sleigh-bells. Earths oldest song of love. Defenseless, they lay all winter, in the dark, under the ice, but you called them forth when you turned your great breast, again to the warmth of the sun. Maple leaves burst, unafraid, from their brown sheathes, and the willows shook their powdery catkins out in the warm breeze. The air was tender, full of the songs of birds, come back, trustfully, to raise their fledglings in your green boughs. I walked by the brook in spring. It tinkled on the surface, but underneath it complained. River sang a song of power and full banks, birds sang their hymns to the sun, and the soft wind sang a song in the trees. Sudden storms, fling their swords of lightening up the dark western sky. Summer sun, green hills and every tree, bush, vine and weed growing in perfection. The brook lies languid in the valleys arms, flowing without effort, down the land. Wild rose and clover scenting all the days. Bird song a dawn. The rustle of leaves. Wild cucumber festoons the willow with white foam. Ripening wheat climbs the slope, corn whispers in rows. Summer and consummation. I felt your gallantry when the cruel priestess. Moon, strode up the cold blue steps of the sky, and stood on the alter of the night, calm, merciless The crickets hushed. The owl forgot the mice and listened. Earth waited, in the silver silence, for the sacrifice. You made your prayer in decency and quiet. There was no sound when the knife of frost plunged, but the next morning, I saw you had worn your best dress. It was lying, scarlet and yellow, on the hills, and the hem of the garment was gold, with ears of corn, and sewn with purple grapes. I felt your peace, when all the debris of summer was put away, and pounded down by late rains. You dusted your evergreens, turned off your brooks, setting them to waken you in the spring. You sent your weak children south, or put them to sleep in snug corners, stocked your pantry for the rabbits, jays and squirrels. You covered your perennials, put your seeds by, lay down and refused to worry. Pulled your white coverlet up and went to rest.

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