Returning to the magical land where everyone knows how to spell “Kueber”

So my dad was born and raised in this really tiny farm town, Aneta, North Dakota. One hour west of Grand Forks, 2.5 hours north of Fargo, in the middle of the big wide Dakota prairie. I visited as a child, but not again until recently. In 2004 I went to see my Grandma in the nursing home. A few years later, I returned for her funeral. The association with Grandma’s last days are sad — but also happy, because the place meant so much to her. And I have to say, I fell in love with Aneta, too. I’m heading back there in two weeks to attend, for my first time, The World’s Largest Turkey Barbecue. Oh, and it’s no normal The World’s Largest Turkey Barbecue, it’s the 50th Anniversary. As my cousin Timmy said to me yesterday on the phone, it is going to be Epic. It is going to be Monumental.

On top of that epic monumentality, we Kuebers are also having a reunion the day after, Sunday, June 20. The photo above is of my grandfather, Aloysius aka Al, and my grandmother Aggie (full name Agnes.) Isn’t my grandfather strikingly handsome? And, my grandmother — she was the most well-tempered, sunny, happy person I ever met. And she cheated at cards. I like to hope I got one smidgen even of her temperament, let me tell you. Anyway, they had eight children… who for the most part all had a bundle of rugrats themselves… so we’ll see how many we get at the reunion. Three of my four siblings will be there, so I am super excited about that, for sure. Also, cousins I grew up with in California and haven’t seen in forever: Timmy, Angie, Bridget.

Jacob Kueber was my great-grandfather. The first time I was in Aneta, visiting grandma, I got a personal tour of the historic society museum from a second cousin who runs it. Well, basically, the place is always locked, but if someone has a visitor who want to come in, you call Joann. I think that was her name. I can ask my dad. It’s his cousin, and he went to high school with her. We are related to everybody. Like, everybody. Everybody. My head spins as I try to follow the how-we-are-related-trail, when we meet at the cafe or at the nursing home or at the Legion, and they kindly introduce themselves. And oh, they know who I am, for sure. Word has spread that there are visitors. And it is super important that I say this, and that it is clear: I relay all of these stories with the absolute utmost respect. I love this place. It is the absolute salt of the earth. Even though I have been there rarely in my life, it is a place I really feel connected to. Probably because… it is soooo comforting to be in a place where you are related to everybody. The “clan” instinct = so powerful.  Our world today can be a very lonely and disconnected place, don’t you think. There was something very special about places like this one, and like where my mother grew up, too, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. I know that the world had to move on, and there were plenty of traumas associated with small town living, and that there are so many more opportunities today. But still… just like our mid mod neighborhoods, these places had … roots. Anyway… when I toured the historic society museum, I also was able to buy a huge book from when they had the centennial a few years earlier. That’s where the image and text about Jacob Kueber and my  great grandmother Mary Catherine Bichler was featured. I think that’s grandpa standing next to Mary Catherine. Oh, in one of the other articles, it mentioned that Jacob’s brother and his wife lived for a few years in A SOD SHANTY while they worked their farm and raised money to build their permanent homestead. In the winters they went into town. You don’t know what cold is, until you’ve been to Aneta, North Dakota in the winter.

This postcard is from Aneta’s centennial. It is very flat. The land goes on forever. Stand at the end of the road, 10 steps outside Town, and you can see California.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood the weekend of June 19, festivities surrounding The World’s Largest Turkey Barbecue begin Friday night, with the Event All Turkeys Deplore on Saturday. Here is all the info from the Facebook page (of course, there is a Facebook page):

  • Friday: 7:30pm- Talent Show @ Auditorium
  • 5:30-8:30pm-Pats Buffett @ Legion
  • 9:00pm-1:00am-Dance w/ live music @ Whitetail Bar
  • Saturday: 7:30-11:30 am- Pancake breakfast @ Sundahl Luthern Church
  • 11:00 am- 4:00pm & 7pm-10pm WELCA Lunchstand @ Aud. Basement
  • 12 noon-8pm-34th Annual Craft Show @ pavillion
  • 3pm- Parade
  • 4:30-7:30pm- TURKEY BBQ @ Aneta park
  • (Music by the Chuck Gust Band & Others)
  • 7:30 pm- Dixie Cups @ Aud.
  • 9pm-1am- Dance w/ live music @ Whitetail
  • 9pm-1am- Chuck Gust Band @ Legion
  • Sunday: 10 am – All faith Service @ Aneta park

Doesn’t it look like the BEST TIME EVER?

  1. Mike Michon says:

    My dad was born in Aneta. My aunt Leah married John Clark. My grandfather was a tailor in town. Dad’s full name is Emile Paul Michon. Uncle John was the rural postman for Aneta. My cous

  2. Guy H. says:

    Wow…. now I need some BBQ turkey!

    Great story, it’s events like this that make life fun.

  3. jkaye says:

    Why turkeys — is it a turkey producing area? I bet they are delicious. What are the side dishes? Does everyone bring something, like potluck? It sounds like lots of fun. Have a great time! And, surely you will take photos of any cool houses you stumble upon.

  4. Heidi Swank says:

    My mother’s maiden name was Kueker. I don’t suppose the Kuebers and the Kuekers have any shared roots? I wouldn’t even know where to look for that! Anyway, my mother grew up in St. James, MN, so in the same state but quite a bit further south. In any case, sounds like a swell time.

  5. Cindy says:

    sounds like it is going to be a fantastic weekend and great stories to tell us when you return! Family histories, especially with the kind of photos you displayed, are always fascinating. Have fun!

  6. I’ve lived in the Dakotas for 12 years now and my husband’s family still lives in a small town not too far from Aneta. I know exactly what you mean about small towns and the people that live in this flat country. I originally came from the West Coast but have found that truly the best people live out here on the prairie. I may have to see if I can talk my husband into visiting his family over that weekend. 🙂 Not sure if he’d understand my wanting to get a chance to meet you, but it’s a fun thought. I hope you have a wonderful time with your family.

  7. Gavin Hastings says:

    “Clans” are such a force in who we are! Enjoy yourself.

    Sidebar: A few years ago, my sister was our family representitive at a big funeral in Boston. Within 20 minutes-she was on the phone instructing one of my other sisters to “Get over here, right now…the room is filled with clones. It’s like looking in a 200 mirrors at once!”

    It made this huge impact on the two of them.

  8. Amy Hill says:

    Oh, how fun! I come from the mid-west, too. My mother recently passed away and I got to visit with some of my cousins at the funeral. They are all from Dakota County, NE, and the homesteading heritage is familiar.
    It’s good to know where you come from, and I hope you have a wonderful time with your family!
    And that looks like a barbeque of Biblical Proportions!

  9. Jennifer says:

    My Mother’s family comes from Borup and Perry in Minnesota, the closest city being Fargo, so I know *just* what you are talking about. Flat country that goes on forever, lots of farms, and everyone, literally *everyone* knows who you are. We used to visit my Great Grandparents in the summer when I was a kid, and everyone always knew who we were, and who we were related to. My Daughter has gone with my Mother in recent years, and she mentioned everyone being so friendly. I told her it’s because they’re all related somehow, and they all know who she is, even if she doesn’t know them. Wonderful fond memories.

  10. denise says:

    That’s cool stuff, Pam. I can’t believe the EPIC Turkey Roast!! very exciting! and to see family and more family and people that are and aren’t ‘family’…very very cool. Your statement is so right on about gathering where there is the ‘clan’ and how things have changed but you can still grab that feeing now and again. Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!!! can’t wait to hear stories.

    I still can’t believe the turkey roast! LOL LOL

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