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Carl and Sonny

Carl and Sonny Carl and Sonny

The Table

Carl sat slumped on the seat of the wagon, his body swaying to the steady pace of the horse that was taking him home. It was good that Prince knew the way--Carl had been surprised to find that night had fallen while he was in the tavern. Maybe he had a little too much to drink, because he couldn’t quite recall why he had taken the horse and wagon instead of driving the Nash.

As the wheels of the wagon ground over the gravel of the country road a white-painted church loomed out of the dark, hovering over its flock of gravestones. They were almost home, then. Carl turned his head to take the measure of the cemetery and spat into the dust. Religious folks. Well, at least Evelyn wasn’t there. People had said he was wrong to move her to the town cemetery, but after what that woman said… His adoptive father had given a piece of his land for the building of the church and Carl had raised his own family on the homestead, so Prince was pulling up to the barn before he had a chance to shake off the gloom from thoughts of his daughter’s death two years earlier.

The house was dark when he approached after putting Prince in the barn. Everybody was mad at him, he supposed. Again. Didn’t matter. Norman and Lee were already grown and out on their own. Sonny was nineteen, staying at home to save money while he worked for Gowey Abstract, but he would be heading off next. A few more years, Harvey and Lynn would be out the door, and it would just be him and Estella May again.

Carl blundered into the kitchen in the dark and fumbled a light out of the kerosene lamp, figuring he would see if there were leftovers from supper in the icebox.

“Hey, Pa.”

Sonny stood in the doorway in his drawers, scratching and squinting into the light. Carl grunted in reply and sat at the table with a piece of cold chicken. Sonny shifted from foot to foot.

“We were waiting for you, Pa. To come back with the lumber to build the new shed.”

Right. That’s why he had taken the wagon.

“Got held up, son. We’ll get it done another time.”

Sonny nodded, hesitated, then took a seat across from his father. He was a good boy. Carl’s namesake, called “Sonny” to avoid confusion. He stood by his Pa, when the rest of them were angry, complaining. Sonny watched his father eat for a few minutes, looked down at his hands, glanced at his father’s face, finally worked up his nerve.

“I’m going to college this fall, Pa. St. Olaf, in Minnesota. That’s where Edna’s going. She wants to be a teacher, write books and things. You know my English teacher in high school said I could be a writer, thought my poetry was pretty good.”

There was a long silence as Carl finished his chicken and wiped his fingers on a towel.

“Well, aren’t you something.” The statement was delivered with a slight smile. He was pleased for his son, though perhaps not as optimistic about the quality of his poetry. He rubbed his jaw, looking off into the distance. “Edna, huh?”

Sonny fidgeted, then looked his father in the eye. “You know I’ve been seeing her, Pa. It’s not her fault, what her mother said.” He looked down at his hands. “After Evelyn’s funeral.”

Carl’s arms were folded, his mouth set and grim. “ ‘That’s what it takes to get some people to church.’ What she said about your old man.”

A long silence followed, neither looking at the other, the clock ticking on the shelf. Sonny’s face brightened as a thought came to him.

“Ma made applesauce cake for supper--I saved you some.” He opened a cupboard and reached to the top shelf, taking down a plate with a large square of cake brown with cinnamon and studded with raisins and walnuts. Carl raised his eyebrows and grinned, breaking the cake in two and tossing half across the table.

The two men sat together, eating silently in the lantern’s pool of light.

Another fictionalized account of a day in the life of my ancestors.

Grandma Nelson’s Applesauce Cake

Cream together:

1 cup butter 2 cups sugar Add:

2 beaten eggs

In a separate bowl combine:

3 ½ cups flour ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking soda 3 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon cloves


2 cups applesauce

Stir the applesauce and flour mixture into the butter mixture in alternate batches. When all is combined, stir in:

2 cups raisins 2 cups nuts Bake in a greased 9x13 pan at 325° for 45 minutes to an hour, testing until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.