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"A Rock"

Written in August 1999 by Marlys Mankell Schilz
Remembering an event during the summer of 1958, when she was 11 years old.

Some people say that they climb a mountain because it is there. I have a story that needs to be told simply because it happened. It was a hot, summer day...sultry, my mother would have called it. Sultry is somewhere between sticky and muggy. We were talking about starting a club, my friend, Nancy and I.

We did not have a purpose for our club or name yet, but we did know that there would be "No Boys Allowed". Not that we knew of any boys clamoring to join our club. Not that we knew of any boys period. But...back to the story. We drove our bikes down to the end of the driveway into the hot sun, emerging out of the canopy of cool cottonwood shade trees. We were going no place. We found ourselves in our neighbor's pasture. The sign said, "NO TRESPASSING" but we knew that didn't mean us. We weren't strangers. We opened the gate and closed it dutifully behind us, something farm kids know instinctively. We walked along the river bed, hopping on the stones trying to keep our tennis shoes dry. It wasn't too hard. The water was hardly at flood stage.

We both spied it, simultaneously. "It" was a rock, about the size of a cantaloupe. Light pink in color, it was ubiquitous to the area. Sitting alone, it looked like it had been kicked out of one rock group and was looking for a new group...perhaps something a little more new age. We brought the rock to my house. After cleaning it up, we could see more clearly the strange symbols or hieroglyphics. We wondered what it was. It is dangerous for two 11 year-olds to wonder on a quiet afternoon. We talked of spaceships and aliens and UFOs. We decided that it was connected to the Kensington rune stone. We got on the internet. Ooops, I'm ahead of myself. We got out the World Book Encyclopedia and got some information. We mailed a letter to the Minnesota Historical Society describing what we found and our theory. We also drew a picture of the rock. At no time did my mother ask "What's that rock doing under your bed?" Probably she clunked it with the dust mop every week.

The summer went on, the county fair came and went, the state fair came and went, school started and stayed. One afternoon a knock came to the school house door and I could hear two male voices along with my teacher. My stomach fell to my feet when I heard Nancy and my name mentioned. I was sitting towards the back of the room and couldn't resist peeking around the corner. There were two "suits". They looked like the FBI or undercover agents. Someone should tell those guys that if they want to go incongnito in a farm community, they shouldn't wear suits. I did a quick review of my recent criminal history. Not too bad. The details are a little fuzzy from here on out. I think it's called "selective forgetting". We got to Nancy's house somehow. Maybe we took a ride in a state car. After all, the teacher couldn't leave a classroom full of kids. At their first look at the rock, I watched their faces fall like warm wax. Were those tears I saw in one man's eyes? But somehow the fact is that two administrators from the Minnesota Historical Society drove over 200 miles [round trip] to see a very unusual rock. A very unusual rock that had too many run-ins with farm machinery. A very normal rock that had two girls with creative imaginations on a roll, or so they thought.

For more information about the Kensington Runestone, fact and/or fiction:

Next story: A Summer Afternoon

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Last updated: October 18, 2014