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The ants go marching one by one?  No way!
The ants go marching one by one? No way!
by Jeff Steinborn, May 22
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Part 21--July 10: Departing Vienna.
The Herrmann sisters and Bill Ayers had heard nothing from the embassy in the three days that had elapsed since the meeting. Now, as they prepared to leave Vienna for Budapest, they discussed what, if anything, they might do. In the hours prior to checking out of the hotel Ayers had a knock on his door. opened it and saw his contact at the embassy standing there. Inside he announced, "The plan is in motion but it will take time; how much we don't know. We won't be able to give you updates as you travel to Budpest and then on to Rome." Ayers responded, "So you're telling me to sit tight, hope for the best?" "I wish I could be more precise but that's the nature of actions like this. It entirely possible that when you depart Rome for New York you'll not hear from us. My advice: Relax and enjoy the trip. That's what you came for. This bit of intrigue is not what you signed up for." As the attache preprared to leave he said, "We do have your addresses back home and when we have news you'll hear from the State Department, most likely. Enjoy the rest of your stay. Budapest and Rome are exciting cities." With that the two men parted ways.
"A watched teapot does not boil."
To be continued...

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Part 22--"Enjoy your visit..." the advice of the attache in the embassy in Vienna rang in to the ears of the Herrmann sisters and Bill Ayers..."That's what you came here for." And for the next two weeks that's precisely what they did. First, to Budapest, Hungary, on the Danube--the "City of Bridges"; in many ways even more captivating than Vienna. Then across the low mountains over into Italy: Venice, Padua, Bologna, and a stopover in Florence. The Herrmann sisters, students of history, were enthralled by the city, the people, the churches, and the art museums. Finally to Rome the "Enternal City." They did what all visitors to Rome did--they gave in to the magic of the city. The Fountain of Trevi; the Spanish Steps; St. Peter's and the Vatican. Bill Ayer made one exception. On a walk down the Via Veneto they passed the U.S. Embassy. "Let's check. It won't hurt." With the sisters in tow they entered the embassy and Ayers presented the introductory letter he had originally received from the attache in Berlin. The letter got them past the receptionist but little more. After explaining their interest, an embassy officer replied, "Sorry, we can't help you. Even if we knew anything we couldn't talk about it. Oh, by the way...since you're in the area there's a wonderful coffee house two blocks down on the Piazza Barberini. Wonderful pastries! I think you'll enjoy it." They headed down the Via Veneto straight to the shop on the Barberini. Every bit as good as "advertised."

Three days later the group departed for Civitaveccia, the port servicing Rome, and boarded the ocean liner SS Gripsholm for the return home. On August 6 they arrived in New York. There they boarded the train for Minneaapolis. They persuaded Bill Ayer to continue on with them to Henderson. Ayer had not seen his Uncle Ben in some time so he looked forward to a brief visit with his Henderson relatives.
"Back in Henderson on the River."

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Part 23: It was a hot, steamy mid-August afternoon when the Herrmann sisters and Bill Ayers stepped off the train and onto the platform at the depot in East Henderson. The Berla Livery truck was parked nearby and George was unloading boxes for shipment on the next northbound train. Inside the depot building agent Bill Schumaker was taking down an incoming message on the tap-tapping telegraph machine. Bill Ayers, who understood Morse code, stopped to make out the words as they transmitted. At length the depot agent looked up and greeted them. Ayers had worked as a railroad detective in earlier years and knew the salty Bill Schumaker quite well. "Nice to see you back here. I was asking about you just last week when I saw your Uncle Ben." Berla had loaded their bags onto his truck and soon they were making their way along the narrow dusty gravel road that hugged the east bank of the river leading to Henderson. "Water's really low," Berla offered. "As low as you ever see it. Do we need rain!" After dropping the sisters off at their home on North Fifth Street Berla headed for Lehman's place on Main Street. "You can get a room here," he told Ayers. Lehman's had earlier been a hotel, was converted to a private residence, but still made a business of renting out upstairs roms.

Over the next several days returned travelers visited with friends in the area. Ayers dropped in to see cousin Irma at the Farmer's Store and caught up on town and family news with Uncle Ben.
On Tuesday after their return Loretta had set up a meeting with Dr. Jacques Duclos at his office. Win Workings, the Henderson Independent reporter was invited to join them. For an hour the sisters and Ayers related the tale of their meeting in Berlin and how the German minister Goebbels had surprised them with the offhand reference to Professor Heidelburg; how Ayers had gone to the U.S. Embassy for guidance; that they learned that Heidelburg had been arrested; how they met the opera singer Anna Karols, who turned out to be Heidelburg's daughter, Emily Rose; and the possibility that she might be coming to the United States. At the conclusion Win Workings spoke first, "Outside of that, did anything really exciting happen?" Duclos added, "It sounds as though I might have put you at some risk by giving you that letter and by asking you to make inquiries about Heidelburg. I'm sorry about that." Loretta spoke up, "Actually, Doc, it made our trip much more interesting and exciting. And I don't really believe were in in any danger." Minerva added, "And it gave us the opportunity to get to know Bill Ayers. He was so much help during the whole trip."

"Tell me," Duclos asked, "Did Ms. Karol...Emily Rose...did she make any mention of Henderson? Did the subject of Hnenderson come up at all?"
Loretta answered, "She did indeed. She started her discussion with us at the coffee house that morning by saying that she had been in Henderson when she was a very young girl." Minerva chimed in, "She also said she'd tell us more about that later but things happened so fast we never got back to the subject. So, we're still in the dark about that." Duclos replied, "Well, I'm still curious, the important thing, however, is their lives and well being and where it goes from here."

By the end of the week the sisters packed for their return to Chicago. The school year would start in two weeks and they had much work to do.
They traveled by train to Minneapolis with Ayers where they said goodbye. "We'll let you know if we hear anything, Bill." With that they made their separate ways.
To be continued...

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Part 24: Mid-October, 1934. Chicago, Illinois.
The phone rang in the home of Loretta and Minerva Herrmann. Loretta answered and a woman's voice greeted her: "My name is Elizabeth Smith...I'm calling from Washington, D.C...from the office of the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull." She continued: "I believe you're familiar with the situation surrounding one August Heidelburg and his daughter?" Loretta answered in the affirmative. "Ms. Anna Karol has asked that we notify you that she is in Washington now having arrived earlier this week. She will be here for several days before traveling to New York in the company of Ms. Jeanette MacDonald. She asked that we advise you that she is well and will call you when she arrives in New York." Loretta quickly interjected: "Do you have any news on her father?" "I'm afraid I'm not in a position to answer that," Ms. Smith answered politely. After exchanging pleasantries Loretta hung up the phone. "Well," she said taking a deep breath, "she made it this far."
Next: New York and the Metropolitan Opera.

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Part 25--Where we are: Anna Karol a.k.a. Emily Rose Heidelburg, had emigrated to the U.S. and with the help of friends auditioned and appeared in several Metropolitan Opera productions. Critics have been favorably impressed. Meanwhile, her father remains in jail somewhere in Austria on trumped-up poliical charges.

We fast-forward now to the summer of 1935. The political atmosphere continued to heat up across Europe as Germany under Chancellor Adolph Hitler further flexed its military muscle. Few European governments were willing to confront Hitler. "Ignore him and he will go away," seemed to be the attitude of most. In the U.S., however, Cordell Hull, Secretary of State in Franklin Roosevelt's administration, took a special interest in August Heidelburg's case. Diplomacy is based on mutual back-scratching and Hull discovered that the Austrian government was interested in gaining some concessions from the American government. In a complicated exchange of "favors" the U.S. succeeded in securing Heidelburg release. In the summer of 1935 he was on an ocean liner bound for New York City.

After a debriefing by the State Department Heidelburg was reunited with his daughter. With the help of friends--among them singer/actress Jeanette MacDonald--he was successful in securing a teaching position in a university in upstate New York. Life began to take on some semblance of normalcy for both the educator- father and the opera singer-daughter. Anna had established some contact with the Herrmann sisters. Now August sat at his desk one evening and began to write what he knew was a long overdue letter:

"My dear friend, Dr. Jacques Duclos...."

To be continued.

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Part 26:

"...I hardly know how or where to start this letter. It has been close to twenty years since I last saw you...and several years since we last exchanged letters. So much has happened...so very, very much. I am in America now, teaching psychology at Eastern New York University. In a way we, my daughter and I, owe our being here to you. Emily Rose is in New York City now and appearing in La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera. If you see the cast listing her stage name is Anna Karol. Yes, your conversation with Loretta and Minerva Herrmann, and then their inquiries about me in Germany and Austria, set off a chain of events that brought us to where we are today. For that we will be forever grateful to you.

"There are some answers I owe you reaching way back to that night many years ago when I knocked on the door at your little cabin on the river. And about what really happened at the place where I was staying...what was it you called it, Devil's Jump-Off? Yes, I think it was. I will not attempt to cover such a complicated story in a letter; I could not do it justice; but I owe you the truth about what happened and why it was I was so secretive about everything.

"When this term is over at the university I plan to travel to Henderson and visit with you. I will ask Emily Rose to travel with me. We can then have a face-to-face conversation and I will tell you about that time so many years ago. I should like to see that little shack out there on Devil's Jump-Off if it is still standing. It would not be surprising if the winds had blown it down. Thankfully we did not have to spend the whole winter there. The early snow storm we did experience there was enough. Are the boys who came to visit me still around? One I remember was Fritz...was it Kelm? And the Johnson boy...didn't they called him 'Swede.' yes? It would be nice to see them again. They are grown men now. I remember, too, the wonderful reception we had in that marvelous brick building in Henderson after we were rescued from the snow storm.

"I will stay in touch with you and let you know more about our travel plans. For now I remain, your good friend...August Heidelburg." [Dated February 15, 1935.]
To be continued.

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Part 27: July 1, 1936
August Heidelburg and his daughter, Emily Rose, boarded a train in New York's Grand Central Station bound for Henderson. By pre-arrangement, they met up with Bill Ayers, the retired police detective, in Minneapolis, and continued the final leg of the trip on the C&NW to Henderson. The Herrmann sisters and Dr. Duclos were aware of their travel itinerary and looking forward to their visit. They were met by an entourage at the depot in East Henderson. Among those there to welcome them: The entire Herrmann family, Dr. Duclos, Gus Buck and Win Working from the Independent, Ben Ayers; even the mayor, Ray Molitor. After all, the visitors included a nenowned international professor and a New York Met Opera star, not everyday visitors to the historic little town on the Minnesota River.

They arrived in the midst of one of the hotest summers on record in Minnesota. The days immediately preceding their arrival had been in the 90s and on this day the forecast was for the mercury to climb to 100 degrees! The three arrivals checked into their rooms at the Lehmann boarding house, which conveniently was located next to Duclos' office on Main between Third and Fourth Streets.

Out on the street they walked up Main headed for a luncheon planned at Frenchie's Cafe. In front of the post office, however, they noted a crowd gathered on the sidewalk. "Wonder what that's all about?" "Booney" Herrmann remarked. In the crowd they noted "Bit" and Leo Whitford, Fred Laabs, "Skinny" Brahs, Mark Dempsey, Dr. and Marie Traxler, and--with a camera--Win Working. "What in tarnation...?" Lay Herrmann exclaimed. Kneeling in the middle of the group was postmaster Carl "Jittle" Beecher and his assistant, Walter Comnick. Beecher had cracked two eggs on the sidewalk; Comnick was standing over them holding a spatula. "You guys gone goofy?" "Booney" Herrmann asked. "Jittle" answered: "Did you ever hear the saying, 'It's so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk'? Well, we're about to find out." Minutes later the two would-be 'fry-cooks' stood up and Comnick said, "Look! They're turning white around the edges. Should I get the bacon?"

Watching the antics, August Heidelburg, the psychologist, remarked, "The people here have a sense of humor. That is good for a community."

The day went by swiftly and the travelers, weary from the long trip, retired early. The plan for the next day included a trip out to Devil's Jump-Off on Rush River. Heidelburg had expressed great interest in returning to the place he had lived for several months almost eighteen years ago. Interest and curiousity ran high among townsfolk. At least three cars were lined up to make the trip. Thus far Heidelburg had revealed nothing about why he had been there...nor the events that surrounded his stay.

Next: The trip to Devil's Jump-Off.

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Part 28--July 2, 1936:
By mid-morning a four-car caravan was forming on Main Street. The lead car was Doc Duclos' 1934 Willys-Knight, and in it, along with Doc, was Professor Heidelburg and Emily Rose. Next, "Booney" Herrmann's Model A with his sisters, Loretta and Minerva. Then, Ben Ayers, also piloting a Model A Ford, with his nephew, Detective Bill, in the front seat beside him, and Win Working, the Independent reporter, in the back. Bringing up the rear was Fritz Kelm in a 1934 Ford pickup he'd just purchased at Steckman Brothers ("Frank and 'Butch' gave me a deal I couldn't refuse," Fritz proudly announced.) Riding with Fritz: The Johnson brothers, "Swede" and "Bubber," and Harold Haas; the four who had been caught in the snow storm with Heidelburg, lo those many years ago.

West on 19 to the top of the hill the caravan drove; then over the network of gravel roads, crossing the bridge past Langes, to the Devil's Jump-Off area on Rush River. Doc commented as they drove that it was the route they'd taken back to Henderson that snowy afternoon back in '18.

As he stepped out of the car near Devil's Jmp-Off, Heidelburg felt an adrenaline "rush" as his thoughts went back to 1918. "It seems like a different lifetime," he thought to himself. It was a half-mile hike from the road to the site of the old shack, and as they came over a knoll the building came into view...what was left of it, at least. Roof half caved in, windows broken, front door missing. One strong wind away from total demolishment.

Emily Rose spoke up, "The creek...it looks so different from what I remember. There was a lot of water in it then, now it's almost dry." "The dry summer," Fritz Kelm spoke up, "We've had almost no rain." The conversation moved to the snow storm and the Johnson brothers, Kelm and Harold Haas all reminisced about the days they had been snow-bound. "It was fun," Fritz Kelm said, "After we got to know Mr. Heidelburg and we really knew we were safe there. We knew the snow would end and people would be out to get us." The small talk continued for the next half-hour as the group slowly walked back to the road and their cars.

Back in town, Working invited the visitors to stop by the Independent office above the Sibley County Bank. Editor/Publisher/Owner Gus Buck scrambled to locate chairs among the piles of old newspapers; Gus wasn't much into filing. "We'd like to do a story on you," he said to the Heidelburgs. "Can we arrange that?" The professor answered slowly and thoughtfully, "We are meeting tomorrow morning in Dr. Duclos office...I believe Mr. Working is invited...we shall talk then. But am not sure we are much of a story. We are not much for publicity. But...we'll see..."

Next: Duclos office. The story unfolds.

Last edited by Don Osell; 03/14/07 03:05 PM.
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Part 29, July 3, 1936:
Another hot day. The following gathered together in Dr. Duclos' office: August and Emily Rose Heidelburg, Loretta and Minerva Herrmann, Win Working, Bill Ayers and, of course, the doctor himself. Professor Heidelburg is the first to open the discussion on the subject of his visit to Henderson in 1918.

"We had experienced a tragedy in our family back in Vienna. I was devastated and lost interest in my work and most of the things in my life. A friend suggested I get away and try to refocus. 'You need a complete change of scenery,' he advised. So, with Emily Rose with me I decided to go to St. Paul where we had friends. Once there they told me about some property they owned near Henderson...and that there was a small cabin there that was quite liveable." Heideburg paused to collect his thoughts.

"We decided to go on to Henderson...actually we went to Le Sueur...and finally found our way to property out there on Rush River. The cabin turned out to be less than it had been described to us...but, yes, it was quite liveable...and we absolutely loved the countryside. Things were going very well. I felt as though I was getting a new lease on life. What I came for I was finding.

"Then came the day that Emily Rose became ill...and that fateful night I pounded on the door of your cabin on the Minnesota River.
I felt as though a nightmare was starting all over again."

For a while no one spoke. Finally Duclos broke the silence. "The man that came to your place while I was there...you know who I mean. I had never seen him before. If you prefer not to talk about him, I understand." The professor was quiet again.

"Yes, of course...my brother, Arnold. We have to talk about him. He is part of the story. Not the easiest to explain. In fact, very complicated, but..."

To be continued.



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Part 30: July 3, 1936, continued--The office of Dr. Jacques Duclos:
Professor Heidelburg continued his story: "...My brother, Arnold, is a brilliant man...eccentric...others have even stronger words to describe him. He has a doctorate in psychology and is a licensed psychiatrist; in the Freudian school. He has written books and he lectures on telekinesis and extrasensory perception; out-of-body experiences, that kind of phenomenon. I tell you this not to confuse you but for you to understand his make-up." After a moment he continued: "I also tell you I love my brother but I do not agree with all of his beliefs. He is...very complicated, to put it simply.

"So...three days before Emily Rose became ill I was startled one afternoon when Arnold suddenly appeared at the door of our cabin.
I was certain he was still in Vienna but there he stood. How did you get here? I asked. 'I'm not sure I can tell you...and if I did, you probably wouldn't believe me.' I pressed him further and his expaination was, 'Somehow I was cosmically, bodily transferred across space. It has happened to me once before. I don't cause it to happen...I don't control it.' You are right, I told him, what you've said is preposterous, impossible! 'The other time it happened,' he went on, 'was during a time of crisis and it turns out I was there to help out. Why? I can't explain.'

"There are no problems here, Anold, so your theory, if that's what you're suggesting, doesn't hold up. We talked well into the evening and his presence there only became more confusing to me. Yet I could tell that Arnold was dead serious in his explanation. 'I have found a place to stay near here, the farm just over the hill. I can only wait now to see what, if anything, happens next.' We met and spent time together each day, but it was as though a dark cloud had come over my head.

"Then two days later Emily Rose became very ill. I knew about you, Dr. Duclos, and that you had a cabin on the river. I took a chance that you might be there that night, and you were." Duclos answered him, "You didn't go to your brother?" "No, frankly, I didn't fully believe his story, it was just...too... totally unbelievable. I'm a rational man, Doctor; she was ill, you are a medical man, so I came to you first.

"But later on, after you said told me Emily Rose wasn't responding, I thought back to Arnold's words, that he might have been transposed here to help out in some sort of crisis...and, well, when a loved-one is in trouble you grasp at anything that might help, no matter how unreasonable it might seem. That's when I went to get Arnold. Do you understand?"

The circle of listeners in Duclos office sat silently, totally at a loss for words. Under his breath Win Working thought, "Bizzare. Unreal. If I wrote a story on this no one would believe it! No editor would even print it!"

Heidelburg went on, "That is the story...of what happened that day out on Devil's Jump-Off on Rush River. I don't blame you if you find it unbelievable. I do think it's quite enough for one sitting. Maybe we should go out in the fresh air. Yes, a breath of fresh air would do us all good. After all, we are here in a beautiful town, on a wonderful day. Let's enjoy ourselves."

Next: Fourth of July and a performance by the Diva. To be continues...

Last edited by Don Osell; 03/16/07 04:28 PM.
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