Dinner at the Big House Blog/Book Info

English: Mayowood Mansion, Rochester, MN; from...

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My research into the founding of Mayo Clinic began in 2000, when I had the opportunity to live at Dr. Charlie Mayo’s home named Ivy Lodge or Ivy Cottage in Rochester, MN. The entire area referred to as “Mayowood” is such a magical place it inspired me to write this fictional story titled “Dinner at the Big House.”

I have been a Mayo Clinic patient for the past 15 years. All four of my children were born in the hands of Mayo physicians.  I am so fortunate to live in such close proximity to access the best health care available for myself and my family. Rochester is really a great place to call home.

I have met people from all over the world just a few blocks from my home. It is always an adventure to walk downtown. I can never predict who I will meet or from which part of the world they call home.  When I look up at the amazing buildings, I am always reminded of the founders of the Mayo Clinic.

None of this would be possible without their vision and genuine love for humanity, science, technology, education and research. I am honored to do my small part in writing this fictional story to keep the stories of the past alive while we advance in all areas of future discoveries.

Judith Hartzell author of  Mrs Charlie: the Other Mayo, and I Started All This:  the Life of Dr. William Worral Mayo, is also following the blog story. Judith has a unique affiliation with the family and history of Mayo Clinic. Her research and insight is unparalleled.  I am happy to have her presence and comments on my blog.Please read these two important historical books. They can be found on Judith’s website, or inquire in gift shops near the Clinic.  Here is a link to Judith’s website:


“Dinner at the Big House” is a blog style book in which I am posting one chapter per week, or as I see fit.  I am not a published author. This is my first attempt at writing a fictional book. I really appreciate your participation, comments and patience between chapter postings! I am writing this way to gain a following of readers, so I greatly appreciate you sharing this information with friends, family, or co-workers.

You may follow the fictional story by clicking on the link and entering your email address:


or on Facebook at:


This is a free “book” at this point.  I do have hopes of someday printing  hard copies of the book in which a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the preservation and restoration of the Mayowood mansion. Printing will depend on the reception I receive from you!

Two important links to get informed about Mayowood:



Tours of Mayowood mansion are fun and educational. I believe they are closed for the winter season, but check with the Olmsted History Center for opening dates this spring and summer:


A HUGE thank you to Chad Johnson, (a native of Rochester, Mn) for sharing his links to the most beautiful and magical photos of the Mayo Clinic buildings in Rochester Mn, and the Mayowood area. Enjoy them at the two links below:

Mayowood –  http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnson7/sets/72157600013836955/detail/

Mayo Clinic –  http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnson7/sets/72157600013809973/detail/

G.E. Cooper- blogger/author


Posting 7:Twenty Million and Two Dogs

On the ride back to town, Gage stared silently out the passenger side window. There were new houses, a school, a mall, a water tower, and an Arby’s restaurant. Finally he spoke.

“I can’t believe in a matter of a few minutes we can go from quiet solitude in nature, to being right in the middle of daytime rush hour traffic. I bet this city has changed a lot of the years. Wow, look at that big stone tower on the hill. Cool. Tell me about the people who gave you the condo, if you would?” He said and asked all in one breath.

” That stone tower is part of the Henry Plummer estate. He was a big part of the history of the clinic and this city. Charlie and Will said the best investment they ever made in the clinic was hiring Henry Plummer. I’ll tell you more about him later, and I’ll take you up to his tower and home when we have more time.The garden area is just spectacular. It is another magical area of this city.” I explained.

“The couple I worked for were really awesome. The husband suffered a traumatic brain injury. His wife became ill with cancer, so they came here to get the best care available. They had no living relatives when they passed, so they left one side of the condo for me. They sold the other side for a large amount of money. It is 100 % handicap accessible, all the latest inventions and gadgets for someone with a TBI. They wrote the estate into their will, stipulating that I could live on my side for the rest of my life.  The other part of the agreement was when I sold the condo, or passed away, the money would go to medical research and education, namely the traumatic brain injury wing named in their honor.” I told him.

“That’s an awesome story. You have had an exciting life so far. I’m sorry, I need to answer my phone, ok?” He said as he was already answering it.

“My mom wants to meet you for lunch in the hotel restaurant. Are you feeling better now? She also said I am not allowed to come. I don’t know why. She’s been acting really weird lately. I think the radiation or chemotherapy is going to her head.” He said

“Sure. I would love to meet her. Yes, I am feeling much better now. I don’t know what happened to me, I just got zapped for a minute. I’ll go get a table and you run up to your room and get her. Take your time.” I replied

Half an hour later, Patricia was standing in front of me. She was a thin, frail looking woman,  but very pretty even though she wasn’t wearing any make-up at all. We sat and made small talk. She ordered a glass of chardonnay, and I ordered a margarita on the rocks with extra salt. She said she wasn’t hungry, and I agreed, but we ordered a quesadilla appetizer anyway.

“I hope you don’t think it too strange for me to have such a liking for your son. I want you know it is totally innocent and a strict friendship we are forming. Our connection is based on my small amount of knowledge and experience in the history of your family that he seems so inclined to learn about.” I said, blushing a little bit

“Oh God, he’s a grown man. He can do what he wan, but he is still my baby. I have heard some stories about my family over the years, but most of what I know I have read in a single book.” She answered quickly.

“Oh, I thought maybe that’s why you didn’t want him to join us for lunch. I just don’t want you to have the wrong impression of me, or my intentions of hanging out with your son everyday.” I said simply.

“No.No. It’s way more important than that. I don’t know how much he has told you. Gage is my only child, and the last  relative on both sides of our family. I have one brother, but his health is so bad, he will probably be dead before me. Here’s the problem. I told Gage we were coming here for me to get treatment for cancer. The type of cancer I have is not going to respond to treatment. I can feel it eating me from the inside getting more aggressive everyday. I just didn’t know how to tell him. He lost his dad, and his grandparents, and now he will lose me. He doesn’t have anybody. We have two dogs at home. He loves those dogs.” She said as tears welled up in her eyes

Then she continued, “I have a very large inheritance for him, but he doesn’t know about it. His dad and I thought it best if  Gage grew up earning his way in life, and we didn’t want him slacking because we had money. I guess there are a lot of things that need to get straightened out in a short amount of time. I feel like he trusts you, and  I do too. I know it’s weird, but it’s just the way I feel.”

“Don’t think twice about it. That’s exactly the way I live my life. It hasn’t let me down yet. Intuition is key. I felt it the minute Gage first spoke to me. I am being honest with you about our relationship. He is a smart, polite, attractive young man, but I have no interest in being more than friends with him. He is a kid to me, but I try to treat him like the adult he really is.” I said to her

” Now, about the money. How do you feel about handling it for a few years until he is slowly broken into the idea of being wealthy?” she asked straight to the point.

“I can handle it, but how much money are we talking about?” I had to ask.

“Approximately $20 million. ” she said straight-faced

“Wow. That is a huge inheritance for someone who doesn’t have a clue.  I can understand your  concerns. When do you plan to tell him you are not receiving treatment?” I asked

“I need to tell him tonight. We don’t have much time together left, I feel pain inside my bones, it gets stronger by the day. Maybe a month more to live, probably less if I can be totally honest. ” She said quite plainly

“I’m so sorry, Patricia. I don’t know what to say. I’ll help anyway I can. I took Gage to Ivy Lodge today. We never made it to the house though. I started to feel ill, and then I saw a for sale by owner sign by the creek.” I told her

“Buy it.” Patricia said to me “I’ll call my attorney tonight and ask her to fly out as soon as she can. I already put the Colorado property up for sale. Gage doesn’t know about this either. I’ll leave it up to you when you feel  is the right time to let him handle the money. I think its best to give him smaller amounts at a time and see how he chooses to invest it. If he starts wasting or making bad decisions, donate it to medical research. I am already donating the estate, so you don’t have to worry about that part.”she added

“I hope everything goes well tonight when you tell him. I ‘ll be thinking about both of you.” I said as I got up from my seat and gave her a hug.”Will you tell Gage I’ll pick him up tomorrow at 10 am at the coffee shop?  We’ll go out to the Lodge and talk with the owners. Will you answer one question for me?” I asked

“I’ll try” she answered.

“What was your plan if you hadn’t met me to handle the inheritance?” I asked.

“I was going to  give all but 2 million dollars to medical research and education. I figured a couple million couldn’t ruin a kid, but 20 million was too much too soon.” she answered.

“Good call . I think you made the right choice. I hope you can find peace and enjoy what time you have left with your son. He’s a good kid, and he will find his way. I think it’s amazing that you are putting this much faith and trust in a complete stranger, I won’t let you down.” I said to her

“Oh, I know you won’t. Charlie came to me in a dream last night and told me he knows you and your girls. I don’t have any concerns you won’t do what you are meant to do.” She said with the first smile of our meeting.

Posting 6: Man in Black

The next day we headed out to the country just as we had the day before. We parked by the bridge as to not disrupt any possible residents at the Lodge. I didn’t know who lived there now, who owned it, or what purpose it was serving.

I first took Gage over the stone wall, through the blackberry and raspberry thicket of thorns, and thankfully spotted the old “mushroom house”. A round stone structure , with moss and ivy growing wildly around the top, and door.

We entered the small structure and I explained to Gage that I had used this spot to do my nightly meditation, bringing with me a candle and a flashlight. I never saw another living soul around this little mushroom house, so I kind of felt a need to protect and keep it secret. I never took my girls there, even though they would have loved it. I kept this secret place for my own sanctuary.

We sat inside, but left the door open to let some sunlight in. The water still behaved in the same way it did years ago. It truly amazed and fascinated me. Gage seemed impressed as well. We sat on the cold slab of stone. It was over 80  degrees outside, but 20 to 30 degrees cooler inside the structure.

“Very cool place. No pun intended. It had to be some type of cold storage. I don’t know what it is. I have never seen anything like it before. It reminds me of a little hobbit house.” Gage said.

“Me either, I just love it.” I whispered back.

“So what else happened here that makes you hold such a strong connection to this area?” He asked.

“Well, once when Grace was about four years old, she came running into my bedroom with a terrified look on her face. She said ” Mommy, I just saw a man in a black suit on the back patio.”

I ran to the back patio door and saw nothing. I couldn’t deny the look terrified on her face. I thought maybe it was a neighbor, or the meter man, or a stranger thinking he was at the big house. It happened sometimes that someone would wander around the property not knowing it was privately owned. The more I thought about it though, it was very unlikely that anybody would be wandering around the woods in a business suit in 90 degree weather.

I asked Gracie if she saw the man’s face, and she said no. She only saw his black, dirty shoes, and his “crumpled” black pants. She explained that she was playing with her toys while sitting on the floor. She looked up and saw this man in a suit. I told her not to be afraid. It was ok and normal to get startled, but there was nothing to be afraid of.

Then about a year later, during the spring, we had a really bad storm in the afternoon. I worked the night shift, so I had to take a nap everyday with the girls to make it through the day. We were all napping in my bedroom, when Charlotte decided to sneak out of the room. She went downstairs and went outside. It was in the middle of a downpour, and she stood there paralyzed. Apparently, there was a giant earthworm in her way and she was too scared to go past it to get back in the house.

I woke up with her standing at the foot of my bed. She was shaking cold and wet. I said “Charlotte, what in the world are you doing? Why are you all wet?”

She told me about the big, slimy worm that was blocking her way into the house. She stood out in the rain crying, but nobody could hear her. Then she said” A man with a wrinkled black suit and dirty black shoes brought me inside. He was really nice  and he told me not to worry, that I was going to be alright.”

“Was he an old man or a young man?” I asked her

“He was old, like a grandpa. He had funny little ears that stuck out a little bit.” she replied

I went to the book shelf and got The Doctor’s Mayo book off the shelf. I opened it to the photo pages. I showed her a picture of Henry Plummer.”Is this the man who helped you?” I asked

“Nope.” she responded

Then I showed her pictures of Jay Neville, Augustus Stinchfield, Edward Starr Judd,and Christopher Graham. She shook her head no to all of the pictures. I turned the page of the book and she pointed to Dr. Charlie. “That’s him mom. That guy right there, does he live here?” she looked confused

“Have you ever seen him before today?” I asked

“No.” she answered

“Will you tell me if you see him again? I have something I want to talk to him about, but I can never find him. His name is Charlie and he is a doctor. He doesn’t live here, but a long time ago he did. He probably just stopped by to say hi, and saw you were in trouble.” I said calmly.

I didn’t know what else to say to her. She wasn’t even 4 years old. I didn’t know what to think myself. I knew he was the same man who Grace had seen in the woods behind Ivy Lodge cottage.

 I walked downstairs to make sure the door was shut tightly. I saw two large and two small wet shoe prints on the wooden floor. I couldn’t deny Charlie’s presence at the Lodge, even though I never saw him firsthand. Neither one of the girls ever mentioned the old man in the wrinkled suit with dirty black shoes again. I felt him there often, but was glad I never had to explain anything unexplainable to my young girls. It was hard enough to explain to myself.” I told him.

“Wow!” Gage exclaimed.” That is unbelievable.”

“Yeah. I know. That’s why I never told anybody. I figured it wasn’t anybody’s business anyway. There was no harm done, no way to prove anything, and the girls grew up and never talked about the incidents anyway. I don’t know if they even remember it.Their dad always told me he heard” music from heaven” late at night when I was at work. He said it never scared him, but was the most beautiful music he has ever heard. I always thought he was loony until the girls saw the man in black. After he told me that information, I was convinced there was more going on than could be seen or heard by me.” I said

“Those are the main reasons I feel a connection to this place. I believe your great,great-grandfather had been watching over my family since we lived here, maybe even before that. I know it is kind of weird, but it just the way I feel. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that we met each other either. I don’t know the reasons why, maybe I never will, I’m okay with not knowing.  I’m just glad we had this time together to share.” I said feeling exhausted all of a sudden

“Yeah. Me too Guinn. It’s really been an amazing two days of knowing you. I don’t know how long my mom plans to stay here. She doesn’t tell me too much about her treatments or what’s going on. I can’t wait to tell her the stories you told me today.I know we met for a reason.I just don’t know what to think about all of this.” Gage said with a misty look in his grayish, hazel eyes.

“You know what? Let’s come back here tomorrow. I know you are excited to see the Lodge, but for some reason, I just feel so tired all of a sudden.” I said

“Sure. No problem Are you ok?” he asked

“Oh yeah. I just have this feeling we need to get back to town. I don’t know why.” I said gently

As we turned the corner around the stone wall, I looked back to see if I could get a glimpse of Ivy Lodge. It was well hidden behind the pine trees, but I could see the two lions were gone from the front. My heart sunk low. Those lions had been there for almost a century, I could only imagine what happened to them.I noticed near the little stream running in front of the yard, by the old horse hitch, a bright red sign that read “For Sale by Owner”.

Posting 5: Subways and Skyways

On the ride back to town Gage asked me when he was going to meet my husband. I told him I wasn’t married anymore. He seemed relieved, yet I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. I was flattered that he found me interesting but there was no way I was going to get involved with such a young man. 

“You aren’t married? No Mr. Fate?” he said “You are way too smart and way too pretty to be alone.”

 “I have become very independent, and I really like my life the way it is. I don’t feel the need to ever be married again. There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. When you realize the difference, you find out you are never alone or lonely if you choose not to be.” I replied.

” Now you do sound like my mother!” he said

“If she doesn’t need you tonight, you are welcome to come to my home and have dinner with us. Come around 5 pm and we will eat around 6, okay? Just walk through the skyway past the bookstore, follow the signs to the Holiday Inn Hotel, at the hotel elevators type in the code 8955. Take the elevator up to the 11th floor. Take a left off the elevator and knock on door 1115. That’s my house.” I explained

“You live in a hotel? And our two hotels are connected by a skyway system?” He said with some amazement.


“Well it is a condo built into a hotel. Everything in the downtown area is about convenience. You know the temperature fluctuations can be extreme here, so technically the subway and skyway systems make it possible to live comfortably without necessarily having to go outside.  The skyways are walkways built over the city streets. The subways are walkway tunnels built under the city. You can walk for miles, and the system is continuing to be expanded all the time. It is really nice when the outside temperature is below zero or raining. You don’t have to go outside if you don’t want or need to. ” I clarified

“Ok. I’ll probably be on my way later if my mom is doing ok, and provided I don’t get lost in the  skyway system! Do you want me to bring anything?” Gage asked considerately.

“No. We are good. You won’t get lost. There are signs the whole way to direct you.  Are you are allergic to any foods, or anything you don’t like?” I asked him.

“Not that I know of. I pretty much eat anything. Thanks for asking.” He replied

“I’m planning to have a light dinner. The girls and I eat only raw food about 80% of the time. I’m thinking fruit tonight.Is that ok with you?” I said

“Sure. Don’t you like to cook?” He asked with his smile

“I love to cook, but eating raw gives us a lot of energy and we  feel good doing it. The kids love it, and so do I. Sometimes we order pizza, or go out for Chinese food, but we all feel so heavy after eating cooked food. We don’t really like it anymore.  I usually let the kids decide what they want, and they usually choose raw food.” I explained.

“Well, I have never met a raw food family. I look forward to meeting you girls, they sound as smart as their mother.” He said as he waved goodbye.

A few hours later, I heard the knock on the door promptly at 5 pm. I introduced Gage to Naima and Khadeja. Naima likes to be called Neema, and Khadeja we usually call Deeja.  I explained to him as they hid behind my legs. He looked a little bit shocked, and of course I didn’t blame him. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to see two little girls from Sudan. They were both precious in their own unique ways. They were not related by blood, but were best friends and sisters. The girls scrambled into the playroom before Gage could say anything to them.

“They are both adorable. They don’t look like you at all, but adorable still. The younger one, Deeja, has much lighter colored skin than Neema.” he said

“Deeja’s mother was Caucasian and her father was from northern Sudan. Naima is from the southern tribal regions of south Sudan. They have very different backgrounds even though they come from the same country. Sudan is the largest country in Africa. The people recently passed a referrendum to split the country into northern and southern regions.  I got the best of both sides right here with me!” I said

” Girls, we are going to have a raw food night. Can you help me wash the fruit?” I yelled to them from the other room.

“Yeah mama, we are coming. Just a minute we have to finish our drawing for you.” Naima yelled back

” This place is posh. How in the world do you afford to live here?” Gage spoke out loud as he was mesmerized at the city scape scene out of the southern window.  “I’m sorry to ask that. That just came out. I didn’t mean to sound so rude.”

“It’s ok. You aren’t the first, won’t be the last to ask the same question. While I was living at Ivy Lodge, I worked  night shifts for four years with a very wealthy brain injured man. When he and his wife passed away, they left this place for me, along with a very sizable gift of money to pay the association fees and bills. I made some smart investments with the money, and in a few years was able to do what I love. While on a mission in southern Sudan to help drill water wells, I adopted Neema. I went back two years later, and adopted Deeja.

” You can see the whole city from here. This is a stunning view! It’s hard to believe someone just gave this to you. ” He exclaimed

“There are stipulations to the deal, but it works out for now.You should see the amazing sunrises from here. It is nice, but I really prefer to live in the country. Someday, when the time is right, I will get back to nature. It really revitalized me going out to the river today. It was nice being able to share some of my history with you too. I haven’t been out there in the past few years.” I added.

“Yeah. For some reason, I feel like there is a lot more to come. That’s cool that you adopted these girls, I can tell they really love you.They are really lucky to have you for their mom.” He said with a bit of sadness coming through.

“There are a few things I want to share with you, but we can talk about those things tomorrow. Let’s eat, drink and be happy. ” I said

We ate our grapes, mangoes, bananas, and strawberries, along with a nice chilled fruit smoothie. Simple, sweet, and full of life. Just the way I like it. The girls entertained our guest with some songs and dances they learned at daycare. We laughed as the little one shook her finger at her big sister when she sang the wrong words. The girls went to play in their room, and Gage and I finished our conversation.

“What about your other kids? Where are they?” He asked

“They live with their dad up north. I only see them a few times a year, but we stay in touch with the internet, and phone. Grace and Charlotte grew up at Ivy Lodge. It was the best time for all of us. Their dad and I were already divorced when we moved there. I worked the night shift, he worked during the day. We made it work for the girls. Now, they prefer to be up on the lake, and I don’t blame them one bit. When Ivy Lodge was sold, the girls moved up north, and I moved here.” I told him

“Who bought Ivy Lodge?” Gage asked me

“I honestly don’t know. It has changed hands several times over the years. Sometimes when I think about it I get sad.   I’m not sure of the details. I hope it is still standing .” I said as I started cleaning the dishes.

“Hey, what ever happened to Doctor Kulstad after he retired?” he questioned

“Well, his house went up for sale and my mother and father purchased it. My sisters and I grew up in that house. My parents still live their today. There is a book titled “The House of Seven Gables” written by Nathaniel Hawthorne.The doctor’s house was built with seven gables after that book was written.I guess I should read the book, huh? I have no idea what it is about. Of course my mother has a  copy on her bookshelf. I just never felt the urge to read it.” I mused.

“What in the world is a gable?” Gage giggled

“Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either. It’s a structure on the roof that looks like a triangle.Maybe we will drive over there someday and I’ll show you.” I said, not really knowing a better way to describe it. He looked so confused, I had to draw him a diagram like this:



“My parents have owned that house for a good twenty plus years, and I still refer to it as the Dr.’s house. Dr. Kulstad  moved somewhere with his wife, and I never  saw him again. I never got to tell him how important he was in my life. I believed he has passed on by now.” I finished saying  feeling tired from the day.

“Gonna pick me up same place and time tomorrow?” Gage asked quietly, noticing I was ready to settle in for the night.

“Yes. We can stop and have lunch when we get back into town. Say hello to your mom for me. I hope we can meet each other before you go home. What’s her name by the way?” I asked

Gage said “Her name is Patricia, but most everybody calls her Trish. Two of her brothers have passed away, and the other one, Robert, is not doing so well himself. He lives somewhere around Tuscon, AZ. Grandma  and Grandpa on both sides are gone too. I guess I don’t know much at all about my family history. I feel really alone most of the time, especially after my dad died. I am really close with my mom, but I’m afraid I’m losing her too.” He explained

“That’s understandable. You are dealing with a huge load of emotions. I will be here for you as long as you want me to be. You are a good kid with a bright future. You have the same greatness within yourself as anybody ever did in your family tree. You just haven’t found your passion yet, but you will.” I said as I gave him a big hug goodnight.

“Goodnight Guinn. I’ll see you in the morning.” He said as he turned to enter the elevator and follow the skyway back to his mother.

“Goodnight Gage.” I whispered.

Posting 4: Picnic by the River

Chad Johnson Photo Rochester, MN

When I arrived at the coffee shop downtown, Gage was already waiting there for me. He was wearing a white tee-shirt and khaki shorts. He was sporting his University of Colorado hat. He looked more like an eighteen year old than twenty-two. I secretly wondered if he was telling me the truth about his age. I figured other than in principal, it really didn’t matter.

“Hi there.” I said

“Hey. Ready to roll. My mom wasn’t feeling well last night, so I didn’t really get a chance to talk to her too much.” He added

” Sorry to hear that. Feeling ill is the worst. We tend to only appreciate our health when we don’t feel so hot. I’m sure it is tough on you to see your mom like that. I’m sure she really appreciates you being here with her.” I said

“Thanks. I’m the only kid, and she never remarried, so we really only have each other. She’s great though, a real trooper.” He responded

Destination was 3716 Mayowood road, but there was much to observe before getting to Ivy Lodge. There was a good quarter-mile of stone wall on the right side of the road. Each stone seemed to tell its own story, so I slowed down to a mere 15 miles per hour to let Gage take in the scenery. Beautiful open fields of amber grass, a few deer on the edge of a nearby corn field, large Canadian geese flying overhead were the background to the gorgeous stone barns.

We drove on as I explained to Gage that many people now rent out the stone barn for weddings and group events.  I told him that I really didn’t know much about the barns, but always appreciated their simple beauty. I told him at one time, the Mayowood estate was home to eight different working farms.   We were both drawn a big tree in the distance. We stood in silence for several minutes admiring the way the light came through the spaces of each branch and leaf. It was absolutely stunning to witness the stillness filled with so much life and energy.

I said “You know, Charlie was an agriculturist. He  set up the first pasteurization system and dairy regulations in Rochester when he was the health officer. He did this by setting up a first class dairy farm out here. Back in the day, tuberculosis was rampant and Charlie has an idea it was coming from infected, dirty milk. He was not very popular at the time for introducing these regulations to the dairymen. However, after they perfected the process of pasteurization and general sanitation practices, it was made profitable so everybody was happy and healthy!  He also started taking garbage from the city, treating it scientifically to kill infectious disease and then feeding it to hogs. Before that there was really no system of getting the trash out of the city. People left garbage on the street corners for days rotting.  He was really ingenious, a problem solver, and way ahead of his time”

“Wow. That’s cool. I never heard that story before. I did hear the one about a cooked duck falling on the floor at a dinner party. Somebody demanded the staff to bring in another duck, but they only had one cooked and ready to be served. They took it in the kitchen, wiped it off, and served it to the guests.” Gage said.

“Ha, my kind of people!” I replied while chuckling

“I guess that’s why my mom’s favorite quote is “A little dirt doesn’t hurt”. He said

We continued on down the road. We passed the old greenhouses that were now Mayowood Galleries antique shop. There was one small cottage on the right, and then and we pulled over by the side of the bridge. We got out and stood in silence as the water poured over the dam. The Zumbro river was actually dammed for the purpose of bringing electricity to the Big House. This created Lake Mayowood.  I felt reserved telling Gage about the dream I had a day earlier about us both toppling over the dam.  I didn’t want to upset the mood we were experiencing through the peace and magic of the beautiful scenery and sounds.

Finally he said to me, “Guinn, this place is spectacular. Charlie owned all of this?”

“Yes, I believe Mayowood was approximately 3,000 acres at one point. Let me share something with you Gage. I used to live at Ivy Lodge. It was twelve years ago, but living here taught me some really important lessons in life. The main one being…we never really “own” anything. We come here with nothing and we leave with nothing but our life experiences. All we can do is enjoy the ride and do our best to make it a better world while we are living. When we hold on too tightly, we lose our grip on reality. Charlie and his brother, Will, knew this. They let go of everything with such grace and wisdom. They really were a one of a kind pair. ” I shared quietly and clearly.

“No way. You got to live out here? That is so awesome. Tell me more.”  He said enthusiastically.

“Let’s go down to the sandbar and eat. I will share some stories with you that will help you understand my connection to this place and my interest in history and healthcare. It is an amazing area. I have always loved it.” I added

“When I was a kid, my mother worked for one of the last country doctors in Minnesota. This was back in the early 1980’s when everything about health care was different from the way it is now. The Doctor’s name was Oscar S. Kultstad and he was a character. Everyone in the town has a Doc Kulstad story, some good, some bad…but everybody remembers him.  He was my only health care provider. I didn’t see a doctor from age ten until my first daughter was born. Doc Kulstad  was our family doctor. He took care of my father when he was boy. He cared for my grandmother, and the rest of my extended family. He put stitches and put casts on everyone we knew for generations.  He would call my mother in the middle of the night for her to ride with him on a “death call” I explained.

I paused  in my oration to take notice of a great blue heron flying overhead. He looked more like a 747 taking over the entire view of the blue sky. I giggled out loud remembering my dad used to call them “shit stringers”. I had never seen one poop, but I covered my head just in case.

“Holy crap. That thing is huge! What is that?” Gage exclaimed

“Shit stringer.” I said as we both burst into laughter.

“My mother was not a nurse or ever had any kind of formal medical training. Everything she learned about medicine, she learned from Doc Kulstad. I think she would agree with me that what she really learned from him was how to treat the whole person with empathy and compassion.Everything I relied on and knew about healthcare was discovered through the doctor’s office. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. Too many rules, laws and regulations. I am not saying this is wrong, it’s just the way it is. I mean people used to smoke in waiting rooms. There is always room for evolution, but I think it is a mistake to abandon completely the country doctor model. It’s really like that in all fields now, children don’t go to work with mommy or daddy anymore to learn the trade. Some of it is good and necessary, but I wonder how much is lost at the same time.” I said

“I would love to talk with Charlie and Will about some of this. I just wish I could have known them all, even Doc Kulstad.” Gage said with a long distanced look in his eyes.

 “My sisters and I went to the Doctor’s office everyday after school.We each had daily chores of filling the alcohol containers, filling the cotton ball and swab jars, washing out the old foot pedal sinks, and daily mail duty. The doctor had a little bottle filled with water and a sponge on top so we could mail out his billings without licking the envelope and stamp. We each got paid a quarter for our “work”. Then we headed over to the penny candy store or the bakery. Most days, I would buy a twenty-five cent jelly donut, in which I was never charged the two-cent tax because the bakery ladies knew I only earned a quarter per day. I miss those donuts, and those nice ladies.” I said remembering what a mess those jelly donuts could make on the long walk home!

 “We watched many procedures involving blood and suturing. My younger sister was very interested in watching the doctor treat his patients. In fact, when I accidentally smashed the top of her finger off with a hammer, she was instructing the doctor on how to handle the situation(she was only 4 years old). I cried more than she did that day.”  I said, as I recollected my thoughts.

“I only wanted to know… What did they do with the specimens? How did the centrifuge work? Why did they put the equipment in that little oven? What happened to the germs they took from the throat and put them on the red petri dish? What was the doctor looking at under the microscope? Why couldn’t I go in the x-ray room while they were working in there? I was more interested in filing the patient medical records which were all hand written by the doctor or my mother than seeing someone uncomfortable or in pain.” I remembered out loud.

“The doctor was too old and didn’t have the proper equipment, such as computers, to continue his practice. His record keeping system was out of date, so he retired from being the town doctor. It was devastating to me, because I loved the office. I loved being around the medical procedures and information. Personally, it was tough. I didn’t know who was going to take care of me when I got a cold.  It was a scary time for me, and a lot of older people too I’m sure. These older folks had relied on him to do house calls when they were too frail to make it into town. ” I paused for a few seconds.

“My mom told me years later that Doctor Kulstad refused payments from people, or wouldn’t pursue payments from patients he knew would have a hard time paying. Charlie and Will did the same. Do you know where they learned this practice?” I asked

“It’s just the way it was back then, right? A different time, a different era?” Gage questioned me.

“They learned this from their father William , the little doctor, as he was often called. It was an unwritten code for the country doctors. Monetary compensation was not the motivating factor in practicing medicine, yet not all doctors ran their practices in this way, especially ones from larger cities.  The Mayo doctors never criticized any other physician, at least not publicly. They were above that. Their humble beginnings were founded on their father’s principles. Everyone was entitled to care, whether they could pay or not. Not just entitled to care, but able to receive the same care and treatments no matter which social class they belonged to. I think this is what set them apart from others, including the fact that they were experimental scientists and surgeons willing to perform procedures that others were not. This is a foundation of care based on the love for fellow human beings, the awe of life and healing. ” I said

“From the time I was a kid, I always had a love of medical history, research, education,and  technology. Ironically, in the past 30 years, I have only been to the doctor to birth my two children. That’s it. I don’t even have health insurance. I have never broke a bone, had stitches, or any accident. I feel so blessed with good health, and it is hard for me to hear about people like your mom who are so ill.” I kept going, checking periodically to see if Gage was still listening. He was.

” I didn’t start researching the history of the this area and your family until after I started living at Ivy Lodge. I bought the only book I could find which was titled “The Doctor’s Mayo” written in 1969 by Helen Clapesattle. I read it several times. I wished there were living relatives and friends I could talk with to hear more stories, but I never ran into anyone until I met you. I heard a rumor once that the family in the early 60’s had a submarine that  they operated out here at Lake Mayowood. Things like that always made me  wonder which stories were true and which were fabricated. I guess I have you now, Gage, but it doesn’t seem like you know too much!” I said.

He laughed “Well I guess that depends on what we are talking about right? I am sorry I said that yesterday. You know, about people not caring about history. I was obviously wrong. I am the one who has things to learn. I’ll try to be more aware about what I say next time. Maybe if I hadn’t said that to you, we wouldn’t be sitting here now. Who knows?”

“Don’t think twice it is alright. Let’s get in this water and see how it feels. My feet could use a cold soak. I have to get back to pick up my girls in an hour.” I said

“One question for you, Guinn.” He looked up at the sky as if he couldn’t find the right words.

“What?” I asked

“You said your two babies were born at the Clinic, but what about the other two?” He smiled shyly.

“Haaa. That is entirely a whole different story for another day!” I laughed

“Can we come back here tomorrow?” He asked

I responded promptly ” Of course we are coming back tomorrow. You haven’t seen  Ivy Lodge yet.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot that was the main reason we came out here. Is it close to here?” He chuckled.

“Yeah,  just up the road to the right. Not far at all. It’s amazing what is behind those trees. You’ll see tomorrow. Okay?” I answered

” Sure. Thanks for bringing me here. It feels good to get out of the city. I wish my mom felt better and was able to join us.” Gage said with his charming grin

“Me too.” I smiled “Maybe someday she will.”

Here is a link to the privately owned Mayowood stone barns: http://www.mayowoodstonebarn.com/



Mushroom House: Mayowood

In response to Judith’s comment and questions about the “mushroom house”

It is located a few yards behind the red brick house at the foothill drive of Mayowood.

I actually did spend time in it, contemplating what it was used for. Water  did run down the domed inside and drained out in a circular system. Hopefully, someone reading this will know, or I will have to do some digging into what it was used for! I am assuming cold storage. There was also a larger one built into the hill behind Ivy, but not as charming as this one.

This photo was taken from Mayowood Historical District Restoration project link below:


Posting 3: Ivy Lodge

After I  picked up Naima and Khadeja, we went home and took a nap. I fell into a vivid dream with Gage and I canoeing in the lake above the dam. Our canoe tipped over before the falls and we both fell out of the canoe. Neither of us were wearing life preservers, and we both perished as we rolled over the dam and got sucked into the undertow. Dr Charlie was called, but he didn’t come fast enough because he was out on a house call. He never forgave himself for not being there to rescue us. No matter how real it seemed, it was only a dream.

I woke up dripping wet with sweat. I quietly tiptoed to the bathroom to take a shower. I didn’t want to wake the girls. The hot, humid weather got the best of both of them and they needed to sleep it off. The cool water felt nice cascading over my heated body. I let my mind wander 12 years into my past.

Ivy  Lodge was the closest thing to home I had ever known as an adult, even though I didn’t own it. The inside being roomy, filled with wood and stone in the lower level. I loved the family insignia engraved into the stone fireplace. Each time I would walk past it, I would run my hand over it and remind myself that we all have a story to be told. 

The upstairs level was more refined and polished, painted mostly in white. There was another fireplace on the second level, but it was such a mess to haul wood and burn inside the stark white interior, I only did that once. I wondered how Edith and Alice handled the soot mess, but figured they had a few servants who were willing to take care of it.

 There was domed bathroom ceiling in which Dr. Charlie or his son Chuck, painted depicting different parts of the brain.It always humored me to imagine someone sitting on the toilet contemplating and studying brain surgery! 

My bedroom walls were painted in the most calming robin’s egg blue. It was my favorite room in the house. There were dutch doors in the bedroom, and the kids loved peeking over the top while playing hide and seek. The kitchen had a 6 burner stove, which was unheard of back in the days. All of the appliances had been upgraded in the 50’s or 60’s, but was still way ahead of the day. The house was divided up into 3 rental units. We also had a couple of neighbors living in the little cottage, and a few apartments above the garages.

The house was magnificent, but the grounds around the house were purely magical.  I would wake up and take the girls down to the path by the river. We would pick blue bell flowers, explore the river banks, and enjoy the wonders of nature all around us.  There was a small stream that ran right in front of the lodge. On hot summer days, we spent most of our time playing in the stream water. The house was too old and didn’t have a modern AC unit. Even if it did, I wouldn’t have used it.

When I was blessed with a few hours to myself, I would hike up the southern hill and follow the Zumbro river’s edge until reaching Dr. Charlie’s abandoned cabin. There were signs of vandalism, and remnants of broken old medicine bottles everywhere. There were rusty old nails sticking out of the walls and ground. It was not a very safe place to be, but exciting and interesting none the less. I liked to sit there sometimes and imagine what it looked like years ago. I would wonder what kind of thoughts Dr. Charlie had out here. I assume he didn’t think much at all at his old cabin, but just enjoyed the sounds of the animals, birds and the river running lazy. It was easy to lose track of linear time in the peaceful silence of the woods.

The girls loved Ivy Lodge.  They tried to  climb every tree on the property. My favorite picture of them together is in their favorite tree with their stuffed monkey. Thinking about that picture brought a warm smile to my face. They spent hours outside climbing on the two stone lions in front of the house, which fiercely protected us always. I wondered if our lions were missing us as much as I missed them. I wished to go back to that time of magic, freedom and peace in nature.

As I was enjoying my trip to the past, my little Deeja woke up and my time alone was done for the day. I put both girls in the cool shower, and then we packed up to spend the rest of the day and night lounging at the local pool.

 It was nice to be at the pool, but my mind kept rehearsing the dream. I wondered if it meant anything, or if I should tell Gage about it. Little snippets of  memories of  the woods, the lake, the river, would pop in and out of my mind. The visions of the white owls spreading their wings down the hidden paths, the little chipmunk that thought he paid rent to live with us, the fawns that would creep up to the bedroom window and wake us from our daily naps, all played endlessly in my mind for the rest of the day.

I was excited to share with Gage the bridge, the dam, the river, the hidden paths, and all of the wonders I had discovered at Ivy Lodge more than a decade before. Since moving downtown, I had only driven out to the country twice. Both times, the property was for sale, and it broke my heart.

 I felt I belonged there, but never had the means to care for the entire property properly. It was easier for me to forget about it, than to hold so tightly to the memories. Maybe that’s why Gage said “Nobody cares about history anymore.” I thought about it, but didn’t come up with any clear answers other than it was painful to re-live even the best of memories.

The first time I went back to Ivy Lodge the old round stone barn had been torn down. After a certain amount of time and neglect, there is no choice but to demolish certain things. Time errodes that which has been forgotten, this is a fact of life.   I remembered the mushroom house where I would meditate before going to in the summer time. I never found out what it’s true purpose was. I figured it was for cold storage. I was fascinated how the  water would run down the sides of the walls and pool in a circular fashion surrounding the center of where I would sit. It technically wasn’t on the Ivy Lodge property, but I claimed it as a personal treasure anyway. I was hoping it was still standing so I could show Gage.

 I wanted to introduce him to Ivy Lodge before the Big House.  History is linear like that. You have to know where you came from in order to know where you are headed. I couldn’t wait to show Gage what his great-great grandfather had created and left behind. I figured he had seen pictures of Mayowood on the internet, but it would never compare with actually putting your feet on the ground and feeling the energy and freshness of life. There are simply magical places in this world, and Mayowood happens to be one of them.