Life can hold a variety of surprises


There are some things that can’t be wrestled, wrangled and wrapped in to making sense, unless given the ability to look at the world through the eyes of someone else.


In the impressive book about homesteading the West, “Nothing To Do But Stay,” Carrie Young writes of her sister Barney, an extremely intelligent, well-educated woman who taught in one-room schoolhouses in North Dakota, Idaho, and Minnesota. She loved teaching, but was tiring of those desolate towns.

World War II was about to change everything.

Nursing school

Barney applied for admission to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. Because she was 31 years old with vision in only one eye, she didn’t get her hopes too high, but with the duration of the war unknown, nurses were needed. Signing an agreement that she would be available and willing to travel anywhere for an unknown length of time, Barney was placed in a grueling 30-month-long accelerated course at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.

Having grown up in one-room schoolhouses in the West, this country girl proved that her education was stellar. She graduated at the top of her class, saying that she felt her whole life had been vindicated when she was named valedictorian. She had hoped to serve overseas, but the war was over.

Job offers

Released from her agreement with the U.S. Nurse Corps, this well-educated, hard-working woman was besieged with job offers. The shortage of nurses remained acute, and she could have gone anywhere in the world. She took a position with the Department of Health in Mankato in southern Minnesota. A few months later, she went on a blind date with a Minnesota farmer, fell in love, married him, and “in nothing flat was a full-time farm wife,” her sister writes.

Surprising life

Their mother had a hard time wrapping her mind around this. She would visit her beautiful daughter on the farm after her marriage and see her hoeing in the garden and the fields, hauling grain to market, culling chickens, candling eggs, sticking hypodermic needles in to pigs and sheep. “Seven years of college,” she would say of her one daughter who had struggled the longest and the hardest for the type of education that could have set her free from the hard farm work her mother had known forever.

Some are born to travel the world, some are born to hold down the dirty jobs that keep the world turning, and find joy in being there.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, putting one foot in front of another, the path revealing itself, just as intended.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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