Raymond Norrgard has always been a story teller. It only takes a few minutes of letting the 90-year-old Brainerd resident talk to know that he is full of stories.
Stories of serving aboard the U.S.S. Hancock during WWII and surviving seven major battles at sea.
Stories about how he met his sweetheart.
Stories of growing up on a farm in Central Minnesota and being the middle of seven children.
Norrgard said when his five daughters were young they would constantly ask him to tell them stories — something he never minded obliging to.
“I had a very good relationship with all of my girls,” he said “I don’t think a day went by that they didn’t hear a story I told.”
Norrgard, a native of Milaca, has lived in the Brainerd area with his wife Gladys for more than 50 years. Even the story of how they met is a good one.
Norrgard said he first time he laid eyes on his wife was, who was teaching school in the Milaca area, at a birthday party for a cousin of his that happened to be a friend of Gladys’. “He didn’t waste a day,” Gladys recalled. “The next day he was knocking on my classroom door.”
The couple has been happily married for more than 63 years. “And we’re still in love, Norrgard said.
There’s one story in particular that Norrgard made sure would be remembered long after he’s gone — the story of the chicken and the well.
It’s a simple story about a little boy who was sent down a well in his father’s farm to rescue a stranded chicken. The story happens to be about a 6-year-old Norrgard who rescued the bird on his father’s farm in Milaca back in 1927.
Norrgard’s daughters loved the stories as children and it has remained a family favorite through generations. “They’d ask for it over and over and they’d ask me to repeat it,” he said “So I wrote it down so they’d have something to remember me by.”
Norrgard’s “The Chicken that Fell in the Well” is now immortalized in a children’s book.
As the story goes, Norrgard’s father dug a well near their farmhouse and soon after the well was dug one of the family’s 100 chickens fell down the empty well while chasing an insect through the yard.
Norrgard was lowered down the well in bucket. He rescued the chicken who, sadly, he never received a proper thank you from and never saw again. “Leghorns look alike — every one of them looks the same,” Norrgard said. “By the way, that well never did produce any water.”
After decades of repeating the story of the chicken and the well, Norrgard said with the help of his children he decided to have the story published as an autobiographical children’s book. The fully-illustrated book was released in 2011 and is available on Amazon.com.
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.