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Jeb Monge PrimeTime column: 1945 was an insightful year

When I was 6, in 1945, I had two impressive experiences.

The first was Old Man Schnorr. This was not a derogatory term. We called him that with respect. He was an elderly man who lived north of Andy's Gas Station, which was on Highway 14. He had a house in the middle of the woods.

Mr. Schnorr had two draft horses, which he used to plow the Victory Gardens throughout Tracy. Victory Gardens were as large as each family had room for, and they were used to help our country send more food overseas to Europe and the Pacific to fight the war.

The purpose was to furnish as much fruit and vegetables as we could for our own families so the government could use the nation's food for the soldiers. We loved having Mr. Schnorr come with his horses and watch him plow our gardens.

As was usual in Tracy, he was a kind man. He enjoyed having me bring my dog, Rex - a rat terrier - out to his place. He had a hay stack not too far from his house, and he would challenge me to get Rex to charge into the haystack and drag out a rat. When Rex completed a successful mission, Mr. Schnorr would give me a nickel to spend at Andy's for an ice cream cone. Of course, that was quite a treat for me. Rex had fun, and I had a cone.

On one of the trips that year, Rex and I went further into the woods. I sat down and leaned against a large oak tree. The plowed fields with the rich, black dirt extended further north. I could see a farmhouse on the Airport Road in the distance.

As I sat there with Rex snuggled up next to my leg, I looked into the beautiful, blue sky and wondered: "Is this all there is to life?"

When I was a philosophy student at the University of Minnesota, I learned that I was an existentialist at that early age.

Existentialists asked questions like: "What is the meaning to life?" Another thing I learned when I was 40 and diagnosed with depression is that was a very early experience with my illness.

I have always loved life. Each day is as unique as the changing weather, and I love it. I love Minnesota with the changes in the seasons, and I love each season. The green growth of living things in the spring; the summers in which I wore only shorts and shirt - no shoes. I loved going barefoot - and that is true even today.

Obviously fall is wonderful. I remember going through Ruthenbeck's yard kicking leaves and wondering what kind of adventure I would have when I got home from school.

Winters were blessed with snowstorms, sledding and skating, snowball fighting and just running and diving into the snowbanks.

The second big event that happened that summer was that my Uncle Kenny came home from the war. He had been a prisoner in Germany for nearly two years. He was the rear gunner on a B-42 bomber, and they were shot down over Germany.

The crew bailed out and floated down in enemy territory. They gathered together and buried their parachutes, and then went to sleep. They had been bombing Germany at night. When they woke up the next morning they were surrounded by German soldiers.

They were brought to a prison camp. Uncle Ken said they were interrogated occasionally, but much of their time was spent playing cards and other games. He said the experience was kind of boring and was not too bad.

His favorite meal, as well as mine and my brother's, was potato dumplings. Mom had a ham and ground-up potatoes, mixed that with flour and made our special meal in a large kettle. I remember sitting on the grass out on the side yard and the two of us talked about the war and about life in Tracy.

Ken had a great outlook on life. He enjoyed everything that went on. He and Dad were best friends. Dad was the serious one, and Kenny was the fun one. They made a great team.

For me that was a great end to World War II. My uncle was home, safe and sound, and our family was intact once more.