Saturday, July 18, 2009

Serendipity in Leola

I received the letter in April. "You are now the owner of this property."

After two years of working with the South Dakota State Attorney, tracking down previous and current owners, the Schaffer Homestead was now mine, the home my Mom and her 11 brother and sisters grew up in. I was very excited, but a bit apprehensive thinking maybe I had bitten off more that I could chew. Now what? And that's when Serendipity stepped in!
A Schaffer reunion had been planned, so the timing to go see what it is I had actually acquired was working out perfectly (Serendipity #1).
As usual, every month I check online for homes for sale in Leola. I see one that peeks my interest and give the realtor there a call (a week before leaving for the reunion). After talking about the various homes currently for sale, he tells me of a program going on in town that for $20, the town will tear down or burn down the home and you (me) just pays for the fill dirt (Serendipity #2). He says that he will introduce me to the town mayor and ask that the home be included in their grant program.
The home is too far gone to restore; it is now the home to raccoons, snakes and ticks. I checked with the Aunts and Uncles and they were all in agreement that it really did need to be torn down (Serendipity #3).

My cousin Tyler was the first to brave it to the front door (only then did I follow). He and I took pictures from there. My cousin Jason was the only fearless Schaffer to actually step foot inside.

My plan is to plant 12 trees, one for each of the brothers and sisters. And then I am going to check with my friend Bob down in California who always has the best creative ideas on things like this ~ I know he'll have some great plan for something totally cool to do with this piece of property!
Before leaving for South Dakota, Lynda had sent me an Itty Bitty magnet picture of herself to take on the trip. I take her out in the Minneapolis Airport to get a picture of she and me in front of the Aberdeen, South Dakota sign. And......

....that's where I lost her! I am totally bummed but I know she will definitely be going on my next adventure!!

Before the Schaffer reunion began I drove to Bowdle, the town my father grew up in. He has a school chum that still lives there that I have become friends with. Edna Erlenbusch ~ I love this lady! Not only does she can the BEST pickles ever, she also gives the best hugs!

My cousin Jason is with me. She takes us next door because I want Jason to see the art work that her neighbor Gideon Schuh creates. He also knows my Dad and he smiles and chuckles when he says Robert Hartung (my Dad's name). They know stories and I know stories - I think my Dad was the source of lots of "stories" in his lifetime. Gideon builds and creates wonderful and intricate wood carvings and houses. Each one is so unique and gorgeous!

And she takes me to the house my Dad grew up in.

My heart is warmed ~ I love my visits with Edna. And did I tell you she gives the BEST hugs?
The next day is a trip up to Leola for their Fouth of July festivities. The parade is one of the best ever.

Leola's Mayor ~ Dean Schock

The town of Leola

The homestead is right by the Water Tower.

The story of when the town burned down in the newspaper commemorating the Quasquicentennial (1884-2009) was written by my Uncle Bud~Theophil Schaffer!

And my Uncle PeeWee (Phillip) ran into his old Navy buddy (after 50 years). They laughed and told me the story of the both of them getting identical tatoos one wild night!

And of course a reunion wouldn't be complete without some "law" enforcement being called, this time the Fire Department (Rockie!! who pulled the fire alarm), adorable cousins (Christina), BEST cousins (Jason) and my Itty Bitty Masterpiece admirers (but that's another Blog!)

It's all working out how it's suppose to be. My Uncle Bud went up to the homestead this last week. I asked him to get a window frame or some wood pieces from the house so I can make little "masterpieces" for each family member that will contain a piece of the homestead. He also got the doorknob off the front door (my Ellis Island theory), thinking that each person that entered had to have touched it!
Yes, it's all working out to how it's suppose to be. I have the BEST Uncles and Aunts (and Mom). I have the cutest cousins. I love the Dakota air. And there is rhubarb AND serendipity in Leola, South Dakota!


  1. Thank you so much for this. I really wish I could have been there but I was lost.
    I can't believe what a huge family you have.

    I can just picture Kristin in this CITY. smile

    Love ya, Lynda

  2. Thanks for sharing about your trip! And by the way, you are looking mighty fine.

  3. I am a miniature house NUT LOL hoping one day to have my own. That carving is very intricate from what I see - how cool! Love the pictures also they tell stories on their own.