4  G E N E R . S TA R K steepled churches would ring across this place, calling the faith- ful to worship. God had sent me here to make a difference. Even as a young man of thirty-one years, I had been worn by the loneliness, desolation, and brutality of my first winter. Chronic bronchitis still tormented my sometimes-frail body. Clinging to the Word of Life, I was still besieged with doubts of my continued existence in this godforsaken land. Thankfully, I was now at least blessed with a horse and wagon; feeling it would have been very difficult to reach my destination on foot, my usu- al mode of transportation, especially with the travel conditions as they were. As a young missionary-pastor, I had set out early on that Sat- urday morning, heading for my preaching station in Perham. I had stopped at Hermann Petermann’s place on the way. He was one of my parishioners who had opened his home to me while my cabin was being built. Pushing back his fur hat, the sleeves of his wool plaid shirt stained with grease from preparing beaver pelts for market, he had warned, “The bridge across the Ottertail River is gone, burned by the prairie fire in late summer. Go to Otto Luedke’s, he’ll put you up for the night; try to cross the river in the morn- ing.” I had crossed the river on the winter ice, but now I knew the stream would need to be forded. “Do I cross where the trail crosses?” “Go up toward the lake; there is a shallow spot there. Remem- ber, some places are over fifteen feet deep.” I wanted to reach Luedke’s by evening. The day blew gently from the southeast, the old horse blew steam into the cold day. I had never experienced weather that would thaw and seem like spring and then turn around and freeze back up like winter. The earlier signs of spring had all disappeared. Leaves were piled across the earlier traces of my route, deep and crisp in the freezing day, and where I crossed prairies, the grasses were bronze and steeled from the winter cold. Fields