In their customary eight-a.m.-check-on-Dad phone conversation this past Thursday morning, Celeste Teale and her father-in-law, David A. Fischer, were comparing notes, so to speak, about the current batch of Christmas letters they, she in town, he at his farm, had received from relatives. Celeste mentioned that cousin Genevieve claimed to be sending out her first-ever mass-mailed Christmas letter. Gen, at the age of sixty, retired from nursing this past spring, completed seminary studies she had been quietly pursuing, and became ordained as a Methodist minister. She promptly began serving two small congregations in towns almost exactly an hours travel to the north of Fjord, Wisconsin.
At first, neither Celeste nor Big Dave could recall the names of the towns, but Little Dave (Young Dave, as he might rather be called), while boiling steel-cut oats for breakfast, overheard the speakerphone chit-chat and he furnished the names: Wild Rose and Hancock. Well! Yes! Those were the towns. Wild Rose, a pretty name, Celeste and Big Dave agreed.
And Hancock! Big Dave remembered once, when he was a boy, in the 1930s it would have been, his family had visited a family at a farm outside of Hancock. The people, he said, were related to Grandma Estlin, that is, Fischers mothers mother, who, as he recalled, accompanied the Fischers on this visit.
It was summer. The kids went fishing at a nice lake nearby and caught some fish, but when they returned from the lake, they forgot to take the worms off the hook, and as a consequence, Big Dave now reported, we also caught their Barred Rock rooster. So his head came off.
Celeste, ofttimes a literal-minded and orderly person, was for a moment pained and puzzled by that punch line. But the two Daves gently provided a more explicitly descriptive narrative, and she was able to see that the tragedy was not quite so thoroughly tragic as she had, in that first instant, envisioned.