Friday, May 2, 2014


For at least the last forty years in our family, if someone calls you, “Clyde!”* you know immediately what that means, and it’s not good.

The Story of Clyde*

It seems there was once a most industrious and pious man named Clyde.*  I picture him as the figure in Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  I have a copy of that painting, but I can’t reproduce it here because of property rights.  I checked when I downloaded the copy and found an account of a person who used the picture and was met with a law suit.  Prints were available at one time, but it seems a relative of Grant Wood bought the rights, which made prints once again unavailable for use. 

I’m sure you’ve seen it though, so  I’ve included a picture of my Norwegian great-grandparents, the Bergs.

Close your eyes and picture them in the attire of Grant's subjects, he wielding the pitchfork, she with her cameo brooch. Didn't they ever smile back then? Picture my great-grandfather  as Clyde.*

Clyde* worked hard on his farm every day.  He tilled the land with unusual industry, divided it into rows with a hoe he sharpened nightly.  He planted the finest seed and prayed for rain.  No weeds were allowed to invade his crops.  He and his also pious wife went to church every Sunday, they tithed from their meager profits, and were the most ardent followers of their god’s commandments. 

And yet, each year their crops failed.  Hail disrupted their plowing, the rains came too heavily or not at all.  His children each in his or her own way succumbed to the sirens of sin.  His wife left him for a traveling salesman who sold him a large volume titled The Book of Wonder.  
Months later, while he was plowing his field to prepare for a new growing season, his house and barn burned to the ground.   He stumbled to the  middle of his newly plowed field and knelt.  Holding his arms high, he pleaded with the god he worshipped every day to give him an answer to his prayers.  

‘Please,” he begged.  “I have done all that I can to please you.  Is there some task I have left undone, some evil thought that has entered my mind, some sin I have committed to bring your curses onto me? 

“Why,” he pleaded, “is my life doomed to failure, no matter how hard I work or how filled with goodness I make my life?”

The clouds opened, and a voice reached him from on high, replying in a booming voice, “I don’t know, Clyde, there’s just something about you that pisses me off.”

*Please forgive my family if your real name is Clyde.


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