By Rod Bernu

Special to the Dispatch

Living in a small town like New York Mills in the 1930’s was a quiet life without modern conveniences, but great farm products. My father, being a farm boy loved buttermilk. Often, on Saturday morning he would send me on my bicycle with an empty syrup pail to buy buttermilk from the Mattson farm located on the road to Heinola on the south edge of town.

On one occasion, Wesley, my close friend and neighbor, who was related to the dairy farmer joined me. We rode our bicycles to the Mattson farm where I paid the going rate of ten cents for the pail of buttermilk and set it in the front basket of my bike.

We were on our way home when suddenly a car pulled up behind us and honked its horn to pass. We panicked. Wesley steered to the right side of the road and I to the left. I wasn’t as lucky as Wesley because as the car driver tried to squeeze by me, his door handle caught my jacket cuff. Realizing this, he panicked and slammed his brakes on so hard that my can of buttermilk and I went flying over my bicycle handlebars landing inches away from his front tires as he slid to a stop.

As Wesley ran to my aid, the car driver was in a daze, walking back and forth saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I thought I could get around you.” Wesley held my head in his arms and kept saying, “Don’t move, take it easy, we’ll get you a doctor.” With the help of the frightened driver, they put me in the back seat of his car and drove me to our town doctor’s office.

Doctor Hanson did a thorough examination and said, “You are one lucky boy. You don’t have any fractures or broken bones, only a few bruises around your hips, hands, and cheeks that should heal in a short time.”

Unbeknown to me, after Wesley got the news at Doctor Hanson’s clinic that I should be alright, he and the frightened car driver drove back to the accident area where they loaded up our bicycles and dropped them off at our home. After the driver and Wesley parted company, he laid the accident news on my mother. She immediately grabbed her coat and purse and with Wesley at her side made haste to Dr. Hanson’s office.

Doctor Hanson was sitting with mother and he said, “I’ve got some good news and some unusual news for you.” 

“Oh my gosh! What is it?” asked my mother. 

“Well,” he said. “The good news is that your son doesn’t have any broken bones or serious injuries, but the unusual news is that you better get your clothes washer going because he’s soaked in buttermilk!