Once upon a time, when I was only 56, I followed a dream. I had wanted to visit Norway ever since I first met my mother’s Norwegian uncle, Peter Ringstveit, who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s. Since I never met Peter’s brothers, including my grandfather Lars, Peter was my only link to the family’s Norwegian roots.
Oddly enough, Uncle Peter’s stories were rarely of Norway.
Uncle Peter told great stories, but oddly enough, his stories were rarely of Norway and his family. He focused on his life in Montana as a sheepherder on the 3,000-plus acres he had accumulated, his treks to move sheep into Yellowstone National Park for grazing and back to the plains when the seasons changed, and the harsh northern frontier of the early 1900s. When my adventurous mother was in high school in the mid-thirties, she and a friend took the train from northern Illinois to visit Uncle Pete. While he slept at a neighboring ranch, those two girls camped in the sheepherder’s wagon. The way the confirmed bachelor told it, two giggling girls had invaded his camp and he needed to go pretty far away to get any sleep.