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Kari's Stories

About the life at Trefall in the period 1893-1913
Written from stories by Kari Trefall at the 1970s
Collected and edited by Karen Windheim, Oregon, USA.
Introduction by Kaare Trefall

Introduction:
Kari Nilsdotter Trefall (1893-1984), daughter of Nils Jonson Ekse (1859-1938) and Anna Johnsdotter Trefall (1869-1947), grew up at bruk #2 at Trefall, and was sister of my grandpa, John Nilson Trefall (1890-1985). In 1913 Kari married Rasmus Nilson Yksendal (1884-1969). They went to North Dakota USA the same year. They changed the family name to Oksendal. Kari died 91 years old in the Washington state. Hugo Solhaug (Kari's aunt, Ragnhild Jonsdotter Ekse (1869-1953), is Hugos great grandma), the translator to Norwegian of this article, told Gary and Karen Windheim, Oregon USA, about my page www.trefall.com. Kari is Gary's grandma. Karen wrote down these stories (and others about the life in USA), and I am very thankful to her for allowing me to use her material on these pages. More to read on the pages about immigration to USA from Eksingedalen.
The story:

Kari. Photo by Karen
Kari Trefall's life [1] as a child sounds like what you would read of people of that time living in Norway. In summer time, her mother took the smaller children and moved up into the higher mountains (about two miles, I think she wrote "stolen") where there was lots of grass for the cows. They stayed there in the summer months and made butter and cheese from the milk. They lived in a small house that had two beds. The two neighbors on the Trefall farm did the same. On one trip up to the mountain house Kari remembers carrying the baby (maybe Arne), tied on her back with a long shawl.
As the children grew, the older ones stayed on at home with their father and put up hay for the winter to feed the cows and sheep. Since there were no cows at home in the summer, a barrel of milk was stored up and if it became sour, they drank that with their food which was flatbread and cured salted fish and some kind of pudding her dad made every morning to eat with the sour milk.
Every Saturday her father would go up to the mountains where her mother and the younger kids were. He would chop them some wood for cooking, visit some and leave for home Sunday evening. On Sunday, the kids spend their time picking flowers, blueberries and chokecherries. They climbed the hills and mountains and waded in the streams. The older ones at home spent Sunday cleaning the house. In the fall, mother, children and the cows would come home. The winter months were spent at school.
When Kari was 7 years old she started school which was 3 miles from home. Her and Elisbet would stay at the home of her uncles. (I believe that Kari wrote that the school was not far from her uncle Jakob's house. Nils' brother.)
In the winter time they would use skis to get to school on Monday, and would stay at the uncle's home for the whole week, and would carry their week supply of food with them. This would be in a box carried on the back and filled with flatbread, pote kaker (potato cakes), summer sausage, a bowl of butter, and so forth. Kari remembers that "We ate the same thing in the evening as we ate in the morning, except the lady we stayed with would make us a bowl of prim soup which was good". They never felt sorry for themselves sitting at one end of the table with their dry bread from the box, and the family sitting at the other end of the table eating all kinds of warm good food. This was just a common thing for children away from home.

Nils and Anna. Photo by Kaare
In the mornings she and her sister, Elisbeth would go to the barn to wash their faces and comb their hair. Kari says, "It was warm in the barn where the cows stayed". At night after going to bed, if they happened to awake, she recalls the "midnight sun" peeping in the windows. They didn't see the midnight sun at the Træfald farm. Coming home from school one time, she recalls a blizzard came up and she had to follow the teacher so she wouldn't get lost. She did lose one of her skis and had to hurry to find it so she wouldn't get left behind. Every Saturday, they went home, getting there about 4PM and Monday morning they had to be at school by 9 AM. So it went through the long winter until school ended in the spring. And when summer came again they were off to the mountains with mother and the cows.
When the children were older they worked away from home. Kari's brother John left home at 15 years to live and work for his aunt in Bergen. Brother Johan died when he was 12 years, and Kari became the "tom boy" in the family. When Kari was 16, she began working for other farmers. She worked for Ivar, her Dad's brother all summer putting up hay. She recalls she earned 89 Kroner or ? dollars, and she gave all of this to her Dad who put it in a trunk. They had very little use for money as they lived far from town. The family made all their clothes at home. They spun sheep's wool into thread and made stockings, sweaters, mittens, dresses and suits. The girls curreyed the wool and mother spun it into yarn. This was work done in the winter by her mother and the girls. Also they made quilts. The women fed the cows, calves and sheep, cleaned the barn, milked the cows and fed the calves. "Winter time seems to be easy for the men except to travel over the mountain after wheat, and we had a big wheat grinder at home to grind it into flour. The men would grind wheat for flour and cut wood for heat and cooking". The wood was from the hills around the house, they would go up in deep snow, stamp down the snow to make a road, then tie a rope to the tree, over the shoulder with the rope and drag it home. There was a big lake close to their farm and a river running by the barn. "One day dad took his net and put it in the lake and in the morning he had a tub half full of fish". He cleaned them and hung them up for smoking.
When I was about 3 years old I was sent to a good friend of mothers by the name of Nils and Anna Nesheim (they were good and loved me) I don't know the reason they sent me there but maybe my mother was sick or some other reason.
As the rule was in Norway (in the dark ages) mother and the girls had all the responsibility for the chores in the barn and house work. Feeding the cattle, sheep and claves, hay and water and cleaning the barn floor. In the winter we had to carry water for the flock from the river (on something over the shoulder with one long strap attacked to 2 buckets, one on each side) and fill up the tank in the barn. I slipped one time coming up the hill on ice with 2 buckets full of water and hurt my back.
The work in the house was cooking, (which mother did most of) in the wintertime we did the (karing) of the wool (we got from shearing the sheep in the fall) to make yarn. We had a spinning wheel to make yarn to make stockings, anklets, sweater and undies all by hand knitting. We girls learned to make our own, also for father and brother. One of my brothers died when he was 12 yrs' old. Johan fell from a cliff in the mountain and down onto a stone pile breaking legs and hands. Dad had to walk maybe 7 miles to get a Dr. and they had to walk maybe back 7 miles but not much could be done. No roads, automobiles, phone, horse and buggy. I and mother were home watching Johan, when he gained his senses or come to, he was praying for us and all mankind. He was thinking about us when he left. After Dr. was gone little Johan fell asleep, he did not go to heaven like the false religious clergy said then, and they say now that when one dies and believes in God his soul will go to heaven and be with God. Father made a little (kista) or box and put Johan in and we went to Nesheim -that's where the church and graveyard was, and there Johan is now sleeping in death and the rest of the family that has died - mother, father, Elizabeth, Ingeborg, Bertha. Five more living which soon may go to the same place if God does not hurry his great war of Armageddon.
When us children came to (Kirkegarden) the graveyard we walked a long way around it because there was an old man telling all the children that there was a ghost walking around in amongst the graves. We were so afraid. One time father said to take the "ferry" or boat - row it to the other side of the lake and pick up something he had forgotten. I was so afraid to go alone but I didn't tell him. We always did what dad told us to do. I went and loosened the "ferry" and in to the "ferry" taking hold of the oars rowed as fast as I could to the other side, picked up the forgotten thing and rowed back as fast as I could. The "ferry" was a box like raft where as the others had boats. Dad made the "ferry" himself.
Another time he told me to pick up 10 to 12 scythes used to cut hay with and go to a river (that runs into the river that goes by our house) and sharpen them. Again I was afraid to go alone but did not say anything. He tied them together, put then on my back and off I went to the little house that Dad and a neighbor had built for grinding flour. There were 2 big stones, one on top of the other. They were over a yard in diameter and had a hole in the center of the top stone. The top stone would turn and the wheat kernels dropped in the hole and the wheat was ground into flour and the flour dropped into a box. There Dad had his sharpener - a big round stone which also went around by Dads building a trough reaching from the river to the stone. I got on the seat, put on the water which would turn the stone. Here I was sitting sharpening the whole mess of scythes. When done I was very glad I put them all on my back in the rope and was on my way home. I didn't go through the neighbors but took another way. Yes, the time had come to use the scythes, the whole family helped. The men cut the tall grass and mother and children raked it nicely together and hung it on (heshas) or a fence like to dry. (Kari's drawing looks like cross hatches, the fence you see in Norway farm pictures) When the hay was dry we had to roll it into big bundles and tie one rope to each side and tie it on our backs and cross a river, to get to the barn and store it to feed the cows and sheep during winter. Not once did we let the cows and sheep out in the winter. The snow was so deep and to let a cow out we would have to dig her out.
We had a grass field on an island in the river. One time I had a load of grass on my back and crossing the river I fell. The stream was so swift I was afraid I would drown - I let go of the bundle of grass so it was lost. My Dad sent me home after he came running to see what had happened. Later on in the summer after we had let the cows out into the pasture and when there was no more grass to find we had to move the cows back into the mountains.

Kari and Rasmus. Photo by Karen
This is what Kari wrote about her wedding:
"The wedding - time went on, 17-18-19 years (old), asking me to marry him. This was 4 years after coming back from America, after thinking about it all we set the day for this wedding, next June. Mother got busy sewing my wedding dress. Dad got busy traveling 4-5 miles from home over mountain to get _____ for my mother to make for that great day. My wedding garment was a skirt - blue that mother made from waving, with green (fløyel) velvet around the fall".
White blouse, long sleeves with embroidery on the cuffs and next outside I had a red vest with pearled [2] floral on front and a big pin on top. And an apron with embroidery across the end, a white skaut (scarf) on the head made for only married women.
The man to be my husband had a dark blue suit, all dolled up Wedding guest start to come, mother and sister Anne, a sister of the man I married got busy cooking and putting all the goodies she had made, before hand on the long table with white tablecloth. Lefsa (griddlecakes), flat bread, Rømmegrant (sour cream porridge), dravle (curds of milk) and great Bresta[3]. The bridal party began to set down on the long benches; the bride with finery still in the little house just across the hall had not come out yet. I tell you why; I fell down on my chair asking God, is this the way for me? They came after me; we were to set at each end of the long table. Something about they were all happy and having fun. We had to walk to Nesheim to where the ____ was in the church. We all went in, the minister come as we two stood at the alter and told is that this joining together as one, was to last as long as we lived. The wedding was over." They went to live at Øksendal.

[1] Kari's life is from letters she wrote to her daughter Alice Dexter
[2] "pearled vest" would mean that the vest was embellished with pearls. They would have been hand sewn on in a design. Very pretty, and very popular in that time. I would image the head scarf was adorned also.


The farm Trefall, bruk #2, where Kari grew up. Photo by Karen

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Copyright © kaare@trefall.com 2004-2019 (pgp)
Last updated 17th of August 2019

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