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Bob Lind column: Neighbors: Party line saves man's life

Years ago, the "party line" didn't necessarily mean sticking to the position of your political party. Back then, it meant several people had the same phone line, meaning your neighbors could listen in on your conversations. That could...

Years ago, the "party line" didn't necessarily mean sticking to the position of your political party.

Back then, it meant several people had the same phone line, meaning your neighbors could listen in on your conversations.

That could be a curse, because everyone knew all the gossip.

But it could be a blessing, too, as it was for Truman Loge. The party line was a key to saving his life.

Truman, of Cooperstown, N.D., turned 80 Nov. 11. But his family and friends threw a surprise party for him earlier, because as Philip Hetland, Moorhead, Truman's second cousin who sent in this story says, you never know what the weather will be like in the middle of November.


And it was the weather, in the form of an old-fashioned three-day blizzard, which almost did Truman in six decades ago.

He was 20, back in 1943. Later, he'd go into the service. But in mid-March that year, he was still on the family farm southeast of Cooperstown.

Both the storm and the discomfort in Truman's abdomen hit on a Sunday. The storm was still howling Monday, and Truman was feeling worse.

His mother called the doctor in Cooperstown. He thought it might be appendicitis, but the storm prevented him from coming to the farm to make sure.

By Tuesday, the storm was easing off. But Truman's pain wasn't.

The doctor called back. He'd been thinking about Truman's symptoms all night, he said, and he now was sure it was appendicitis. The appendix apparently had burst. "You need to get to Fargo and have surgery right away," he said.

That suited Truman and his family just fine, except for one little detail: The area roads were in bad shape from the storm.

That's when what Truman calls "the good old party line" came to the rescue.


A neighbor, Lawrence Zigesaa, had been "rubbering," as listening in on other people's conversations was known, while Truman's family was talking to the doctor. He jumped into the conversation and said he thought he could get to the Loge farm, about 1½ miles away, in his car.

He tried it and he made it. Truman and his mother piled into Lawrence's car and took off for nearby Karnak, where they'd flag down the Great Northern passenger train. Truman's father followed with a sled and a team of horses in case there was trouble.

There was. The car had to be pulled through drifts a couple of times.

But then they came to a section of the road covered with deep, deep snow. No way could they get through.

Then another neighbor came to the rescue. Ole Helmer was a farmer living nearby. Seeing the situation, he volunteered to drive his car to the other side of the snow bank covering the road.

Somehow Truman and his mother climbed through the snow to Ole's Ford Model A coupe, and Ole got them into Karnak. It had been a six-mile trip from the Loge farm.

They flagged down the train about 4 p.m. About three hours later, after the train plowed through drifts on the tracks, it pulled into the Great Northern depot in Fargo.

No taxis or buses were running. Truman and his mother had to walk through deep snow to St. Luke's Hospital (now called MeritCare) about four blocks away.


"I never felt better about getting into a bed," Truman says.

Surgery was performed immediately. His mother, seeing he was doing fine, went home. But Truman had to stay in the hospital about a week. He'd have stayed longer, but by then the spring thaw was flooding Fargo. This put St. John's Hospital, by the river, in jeopardy, so patients from there were taken to St. Luke's, crowding out patients who were not seriously ill.

Truman stayed with his uncle in Moorhead for a few days and received out-patient care, and then returned home.

He says there is no question the party line, and the kind neighbors who got him to the train, saved his life. "I am grateful to a lot of people," he says.

Postscript: About 50 years to the day from the day Truman had the appendicitis attack, he had a heart attack.

This time he was taken to the Cooperstown hospital, from which the MeritCare helicopter flew him to Fargo. Total elapsed time: about three to four hours.

Truman came through that ordeal just fine, too.

But it makes him pause and think about how times and transportation have changed.


There aren't any good old party lines any more, either.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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