As I sit here and look out at the 20″ of snow that fell recently I reflect on the visit my wife and I paid to the Rudi Memorial in the Minnesota River Valley this past Summer. I begin by admitting that I do wonder why people from this state flee to the South as Winter approaches since the countryside is positively breathtaking with the brilliant white set against the clearest of blue skies. The lower temperatures, which are rare in this part of the country at this time of the year, resulted in wet snow clinging to every twig of every branch of every tree in the entire region. It even makes the telephone poles look grand in the brilliant sunshine. The fields are white as far as the eye can see and the light is so bright from the reflected snow it almost hurts the eyes. The wind creates magnificent snow sculptures around the base of the trees and bushes and in the roadside ditches, every one different from the next and each a delight to behold. People leave this beauty for Florida with its pink flamingos on the lawns and the rooftops, pulling Santa’s sled. Seriously? Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get back to Rudi’s cabin.
The web page set up to highlight the Minnesota River Valley’s “Scenic Byways” tells us about Lars Rudi’s cabin:
Located on Renville Co. 12 south of Sacred Heart
The Rudi Memorial is a tribute to Lars Rudi and all pioneer families who settled in Renville County. The log cabin, built in 1868, illustrates the dovetail notching of logs typically used by Scandinavian settlers. The Rudi family lived in the cabin until 1913. It served as a place of community gathering, such as school and church for the pioneer families. The Rudi Cabin is listed on the National Registers of Historic Homes.
As I say, I was in the cabin this past Summer and it’s about 14′ by 15′ with a small loft above attached to a set of rickety stairs. When I think about Lars Rudy, his wife and his wife’s sister who all lived in the tiny cabin for all those years I cringe. And while I can readily imagine how they kept warm on cold winter nights . . . I cannot imagine what it would be like to be stuck in that cabin with nothing to read but the Bible and no one to talk to day in and day out but two other people whom I would be getting to know awfully well — perhaps too well! The description above tells us that the cabin was a place for “community gatherings,” but that is a stretch: not much of a community could fit in a space that small! But those people somehow persevered and apparently developed a toughness that we can all envy.
We are told that many of the pioneers who farmed this region got discouraged and went back East because they couldn’t make it. Many more went mad, as the number of institutions on the Great Plains in that era demonstrate. But some, like the Rudis stuck it out with their unshakable faith and the grit and determination which set them apart.
But as I think back on that small cabin and look out at the beauty that surrounds me today I do marvel that those hardy folks could have persevered for 45 years together through Minnesota winters that could last five months or more with only the freezing temperatures and relentless wind outside to keep them company. It tends to give one perspective.