First customer

Here is the obituary for Jeanette, who I will always remember as the first customer I ever waited on at the nursery. 

In the early days, Grandpa never kept hours. You were free to come when you were free. Jeanette was a night owl, and she usually showed up late. Really late. It was 10 p.m. in May. Mom and Dad were exhausted. And up drove Jeanette. I offered to go out and wait on her, even though I didn't know prices or how to use the till. Dad said, go do the best you can. I was in second grade.

Jeanette and I were friends after that. I have enjoyed seeing her in the Halstad Living Center when I play there. I interviewed her for my book Pirates on the Prairie. She recalled driving home from Concordia College to attend the big game in Thief River Falls with her father. They could only find one ticket, so Jeanette sat in the car the first half while her father watched the game. They switched for the second half. It was 12 degrees. She had the radio on, the windows cracked open, and the radio on. 

Jeanette was not just a little eccentric. After she finished her late night shopping at the nursery, she drove 100 miles to Barnesville for a steak. It was the only steakhouse in the valley open that late, she claimed. She usually had an old man in tow, somebody near 100 years old. There were many different ones. They liked the free steak. 

We found out later that Jeanette never planted a single flower. She just let them sit in their pots until they died. All that work we did to stuff her car to the gills with flowers, and she never planted or watered them.  She also couldn't resist artificial flowers. In the barn on her farm, stall after stall was filled to the brim with artificial flowers. 

Jeanette had plenty of money from renting out the good farm land she inherited, but she also could be tight. Rather than buy a dryer, she hauled her wet laundry out to Augustana cemetery where she laid it out over the gravestones. The warm gravestones dried the clothes in a hurry. Not so crazy after all. 

In her later years, Jeanette became convinced that the FBI was after her. They had bugged her car. Last time she traveled to the Cities, she told me, she had to go 95 miles-per-hour on Highway 94 just to shake the FBI cars. Now that was something I would have paid to see! She could barely see over the wheel, and she sometimes wore a scarf. The visuals would make a great scene in a movie. 

After going into the nursing home, her "survelliance issues," as a mutual friend called them, subsided. They must have found the right medications.

Jeanette was educated and well-traveled. As with every old timer who dies, you wish her stories were written down. She was one of the reasons living in a small town can be so interesting. She will never be forgotten, at least as long as I am alive!