My father’s grandfather, early years

I note the following account of the early years of Lewis Haugen Knutson, my father’s grandfather, which is contained in family historical documents. My son Anthony received his middle name, Lewis, in honor of Lewis Knutson. (Lewis’s father, Ole Haugen Knutson, was born in All Hallingdal, Norway, in 1839, and came to America in 1870.)

Lewis Haugen Knutson was born August 24, 1873 in Illinois to parents Ole H. and Olena Fransdatter Knutson. In the year 1877 he moved with his parents to Polk County Iowa. Shortly after moving, his mother died leaving seven small children, two of whom died shortly after their mother. Ole Knutson was married again to Martha Johnson in 1880. They moved with their family to Lyon County, Iowa the same year. This farm is known as the Lehalmen place. Lewis was seven years old at this time.

We are told that at the age of eight years he was an apprentice in a harness shop in Canton. This was arranged by his father and his only pay was room and board. His father agreed that this was better since life was hard where he was. At an early age he had lived on the range and had taken care of cattle over long periods of time in rain and bad weather. His clothes would get wet and they dried on his body. He developed an itch which made him so uncomfortable that he slept in the barn. He worked as a hired hand for some years.

Lewis aspired to become a Pharmacist and he spent a few months in a school located in a city east of Iowa. He had only a 3rd or 4th grade formal education. He tells of a test that he had to pass and he passed it with a perfect score which was outstanding. It was called the white powder test in which he had to identify twenty powders by taste. He was employed at Noid Drugstore, and he assisted Dr. Lewis on emergency cases. He was married to Hannah Tomain Olson on July 11, 1895, at the age of 22 years…

(Among his 10 children were my grandfather Raymond Knutson, born 1907, and Virgil Knutson, born 1914, who reminisced about his country school days in an earlier post.)

Virgil Knutson recalls country school

I encountered the following reminiscence from my Grandfather Ray Knutson’s brother Virgil Knutson. Ray spoke of Virgil often. Virgil was born in 1914 in Inwood Iowa, so this reminiscence may cover the years 1920-30.

I remember the little country school with its pot belly stove, cold floors and outside toilets which seemed a mile away. The student body was made up of Norweigans, a few Hollanders, and a few shanty Irish that ate pancakes with lard for lunches. I remember the little ball diamond with Merle Lewis (our Babe Ruth). I seems I was a self appointed one man committee to keep the teachers from being bored and to create excitement and diversion. I did a good job, so good at cutting off girl’s pigtails, dipping hair in inkwells, spit balls, shooting paper clips, and fighting and talking.

My Grandpa’s father dies during World War II

Given our almost hidden wars today, few of us can comprehend the complete transformation of America as it bent its entire will to the prosecution of World War II after Pearl Harbor. Factories switched almost overnight from the production of cars and sewing machines to the production of weapons. Many consumer goods were rationed including gasoline. It was in the year 1944 that my grandpa Adolph’s father died. The father of a friend of my mother’s owned an oil company in Yankton, South Dakota, and she related this story to my mother:

…You might be interested in knowing that when your grandfather died, it was during the war and your dad could not get gas stamps from the OPA [gas rationing] board to go out of town for the funeral. Adolph came down to dad’s [oil company] office and was in tears, and dad gave him the gas without stamps. He could have gotten in trouble, but dad understood as his father had disappeared and we have no idea where or when he died…

Ole Klongeland, a man who travelled a long way to die

My grandfather, Ray Knutson wrote the following about his great grandfather Ole Klongeland who left Norway at the age of 70 in 1859:

Ole Klongeland, my great grandfather, lead a caravan to Lyon County [Iowa] to claim land [in 1869]. Three weeks after their arrival, Oleana was born, the first white child to be born in the county. Ole Klongenland was presumed to be the first white buried there [died 1870] . An Indian, in a friendly manner, once said to him “You have come a long way to die, old man.”

The ‘God Particle’? No, but an important one

Physicists have recently announced that they have ‘all but discovered’ the Higgs Boson. What this means is that they have found evidence of a sub-atomic particle who’s existence was posited by Peter Higgs in 1964. The nature of the particle is such that its existence could not be proven (detected) until the recent construction of the largest ever particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider built in Geneva, Switzerland–or at least such detection was the hope when the Large Hadron project was initiated.

To explain how the existence of a given particle can be posited 48 years before it may have been isolated at the Large Hadron Collider, imagine that scientists have discovered some objects that share two properties. One property can be in two states which can be arbitrarily named up and down. A second property can similarly have a binary range called red or green. Combinatorically, a pair of binary properties can produce 4 different object types.

Lets imagine that a red up, red down, and green up objects have been discovered or isolated. While nobody can know if a green down object exists, a notion of symmetry suggests it might exist–that all combinations of properties exist. This sort of pursuit of symmetry, or filling in of missing combinations of properties has worked quite well for physicists exploring the building blocks of so-called atomic particles such as neutrons, protons, and electrons.

Many of the properties of the evanescent Higgs Boson, and any number of other particles and forces have also been inferred by the effect they are thought to have on systems of other particles–effects that cannot be explained by previously discovered particles and forces. Much as the shape of a missing puzzle piece can be inferred after the rest of the puzzle is assembled.

Of course, quantum mechanics, quarks, mesons, bosons, and the like, are much more complex than I have described, and are far beyond my comprehension–though I understand the big picture. Also, the process of detecting said particles is an extremely complex matter itself, and is not blessed with certainty. Hence, the reluctance of the research teams to declare the particle definitely detected at this point. For example, while the Higgs Boson may be singled out by breaking up a larger particle in the Collider, it may also be unstable and re-combine into the larger particle in a matter of billionths of a second, further complicating detection.

So, what of the media’s ignorant sensationalism? Well, the Large Hadron Collider hasn’t initiated some sort of cataclysmic reaction that will destroy the universe as some predicted, and the Higgs Boson is an important scientific discovery if scientists upgrade their ‘all but discovered’ with a bit more certainty. But in the end, its not a God Particle, and we still live in the same world we always have, with perhaps no more than 5,000 people in said world able to fully comprehend the nature of the Higgs Boson and whatever knowledge arises from its detection.