the Musical Drama,

by Ronald Ginther

Act II

Scene 1.

Opening music is given by the flute or autoharp, played by the Plain View Farm angels in farm clothes, if angels are available (otherwise, recorded music will do). For the first time, it has some definitely melancholy but sweet strains in the music. The tempo picks up at last, then abruptly cuts off.

Narrator: "Mama gets her boy at last! Her fervent prayer may have been delayed by the charming, vivacious, big-hearted Estelle, but her seventh child was clearly a boy. His name was Arthur, an angel of a lad of the most quiet, grave, and sweet disposition. Soon followed by another girl, a handful of activity and selfless devotion if there ever was one, as if to make up for the "mistake" in Arthur's gender, and she was named Ruth but mostly called Ruthie. But again Providence turned mysterious and chose to temper the staunchly feminine or Valkyrie-graced line of the Alfred Stadems with yet another male Viking, perhaps for Arthur's lone sake, giving him a brother, Leroy, the last of nine Stadem children but certainly not -- with his steadfast and caring ways -- the least. Soon, all too soon, however, comes a parting of their respective ways as they take different paths in life. And for the bid Stadem family it began with a firmly-founded-on-faith Christian high school, that followed the pioneering Scandinavians to this part of the country, entailing a trip by train from Bryant to far-off Canton, South Dakota."

The Chorus sings "Off to the Academy!" along with the intermixed melody of the old hymn, "Praise God From Whom all Blessings Flow," as the oldest Stadem children stand on a railroad platform and then go and put their sad faces into the "windows" of a cardboard train compartment.

Narrator: "Papa and Mama have worked, loved, and prayed unceasingly, and the fruits of their long labors are now maturing on the big family tree. They have brought up a family on the Dakota Prairie, right through the Great Depression and the worst droughts and dust storms of the `Dirty Thirties.' Many farmers and their families fled the Dakotas during these hardships. The Stadems stayed, and, in faith in God and family at least, flourished. The nine beautiful male and female children are now grown into mostly teens and young adults. The seven sisters are attractive and marriageable young women. Somehow getting all their varied schedules and locations to agree, they assemble with their two brothers, along with Papa and Mama, slightly grayed in hair and stockier, for a family portrait."

The Chorus sings "Family Portrait."

The Narrator calls out the names of the girls and boys in turn as they take place for the portrait, so the audience can learn all their names as a photographer out front makes the motions of taking the picture. She begins with the eldest, Pearl, and continues to the youngest, Leroy.

Narrator: "Pearl, Bernice, Myrtle, Cora, Alida, Estelle, Arthur, Ruth, and, last but not least, Leroy!"

The picture-taking over, young men appear and go and pair off with various of the girls after a respectful bow to (and an approving nod from) the dignified, seated parents. The first young man, dressed in a spotless white flight cap and uniform, comes to court his chosen sweetheart and first hands a little gold airplane to Papa Stadem, who makes it swoop about in the air before he "crashes" it nose-down on the floor for fun. Papa Stadem throws his arms around the young man when he approaches, leading Pearl as his choice. Evidently, he has taken Bob close to his own heart. For Arthur, he stands quietly with his brother like Joseph with Benjamin in Patriarchal Times (see Explanation).

The curtain is raised (or lowered as the case may be), and Ruthie stands before the audience. Mama Stadem goes into the yard, dressed in her everyday housedress and apron, to water her flowers with dish water from the sink. Ruthie, the youngest Stadem daughter, gazes at her while the Narrator speaks her thoughts given in poetic form. She has a little mixed bouquet of Papa's lilacs and Mama's flowers from the garden. A "wind" is blowing on her, ruffling her hair. The sweet scent of the flowers is carried by the breeze to the audience.

Narrator: "`Mama and Papa," by Ruthie Stadem."

Papa and Mama truly love the Lord!

They sing the 'Doxology' in the old Model T Ford.

When they come home at midnight from Lutheran Fellowship League meetings,

the cows waiting to be milked give them a warm, mooing greeting.

Papa never complains about the weather.

He always says, 'It's going to get better!'

Each morning Papa comes in from the barn to say,

'It's BEAUTIFUL in Chicago today!'

When things don't go so well as a whole,

Papa likes to sing, 'It is well with my soul.'

Papa and Mama have family devotions each morning,

and Jesus Christ is the One they are adorning.

You ought to hear Papa when he kneels to pray

for old Mexico, day by day.

Papa is strict but in the right way;

he tells us that later we won't have to pay

for acts of sin that could drive us from God

as we travel to heaven from Dakota sod.


Papa is strict but in the right way;

he tells us that later we won't have to pay

for acts of sin that could drive us from God

as we travel to heaven from Dakota sod.


When `Mama and Papa' is finished and Ruthie leaves the scene, Leroy, the youngest Stadem boy, comes out. Papa replaces Mama in the "yard." He sits on a stool fixing something, or he is mending boots and shoes after looking at the sky through the open sole of one of them and giving a doubtful shake of his head.

Narrator: "`Papa,' by Leroy."

Dear Papa, why do you still say

"Yah" for "J" the Norske way?

It makes kids laugh at you sometimes,

as if you're quoting funny rhymes.

Dear Papa, you are different,

you act just like an immigrant!

Working hard, you till the sod

and never forget to thank God.

Horses, mules, share your toil

as you plow Dakota soil.

Sweat lies often on your brow,

thick as cream fresh from our cow.

When I do wrong, I miss a meal,

or get a switch I can't help feel!

Oh, Papa, you are stern but true

to all you built here at Plain View.

Dear Papa, why do you still say

"Yah" for "J" the Norske way?

And that blue sky in your eye--

it's not like ours, I wonder why.

That color is a deeper blue

than we see here at old Plain View.

And sometimes when you look at me

I feel mountains and the sea.

How odd you are, dear Papa, still;

you heap no riches for your Will.

You're just content with daily bread

baked the way your Mama did.

It could be swell to live in town,

but you hold town-life is unsound.

To be God's farmer is your aim,

and have a wife to share your name;

a family to train up right

kin God's own eye and neighbor's sight--

that's the life here at Plain View.

Dear Papa, how I love it too!


Dear Papa, why do you still say

"Yah" for "J" the Norske way?

Dear Papa, why do you still say

"Yah" for "J" the Norske way?


Scene 2.

The flute music, turning even more plaintive, resumes. It dies away, again abruptly. The curtain moves and is gathered in folds about a bed on which two sisters, Alida and her youngest sister, Ruthie are lying. Alida is tossing about, her eyes closed. She suddenly sits up and cries out soundlessly.

Narrator: "They crashed! They crashed! Arthur and Bob crashed! Oh, the smoke and fire! It's that plane the man who owned it sold Bob - it wasn't fixed after all like he said!"

Ruthie clutching a faceless, worn-out doll, does not awaken. Alida stares at her, looks as though she will try to wake her, then shakes her head, covers her face with her blanket, and the scene ends with the return of the music, but it is very sad and gentle, like a funeral dirge. There is once again the sweet scent of lilacs in the air.

Scene 3.

Narrator: "But dreams are dreams. They may not come true. Thinking it the wise thing to do, Alida keeps silent about her terrible visions of the night. After all, who - she thinks - would believe her? Who, indeed? On the other hand, something is definitely wrong with Papa Stadem. He has grown more and more upset and unhappy. His pastor's children, for instance, can do nothing right, according to his view. He is also upset with Bryant, the merchants who have turned so `worldly' in their ways he will not allow Mama to do business with them. Even the baseball club comes in for its share of Stadem fire when it holds a meet on a Sunday. Papa Stadem has only to see the pastor passing in the street and he is filled with uncontrollable fury. What has become of the man who planted all the sweet and beautiful lilacs? He is on the verge of becoming a fire-breathing dragon! And Mama is concerned - very concerned."

Chorus: "Fishin' on Sunday."

While the Chorus is singing, a group of "slackers," "loafers," " Town ne'er-do-wells" are acting out various pastimes - practicing casts with bamboo fish poles, reading the funnies in the paper, playing cards, or catching forty winks with a bottle in hand, all while Papa Stadem looks on with dour and disapproving grimaces, a Bible clenched in hand.

Then flute gives out wild catcalls and devilish whoops and Papa Stadem, unable to endure the merriment any longer, swings a horse whip about and scatters the laughing peanut gallery. He follows them out as soon as the Narrator has spoken what he is soundlessly mouthing.

Narrator: "`To the firepits of Gehenna with them! May they all burn on Gehenna, I say!'"

Mama Stadem comes out, looks sadly around, shaking her head. She stands, facing the audience, head down. Papa comes back out, his clothes all rumpled and a big stick in his hand, and he stands face to face with red-haired Mama like a snorting bull before a red cape.

Narrator: "Uff daaaaa! Oh Papa, God might take von of us, if vi don't stop dis all dis judging and putting down of others!"

The music, now unmistakably ominous, resumes, and breaks off with a clash of cymbal as of thunder as water pelts down and Mama stands her ground while Papa ducks his head and scurries for cover. She seems to be pondering something only she knows.

Narrator: "What is Mama thinking might happen to her beloved family? Does she know something of what is in store for her? Arthur - what of him? He has gone off to war in the South Pacific, serving in the Navy. Little Ruthie - the soul of family devotion - is staying close by the home fires, and Leroy (who looks to her eyes like a small boy yet, not the young man he is now turning into) is thankfully not yet the age to enlist as another Navyman, but her other children are scattering to the far corners of the earth, to Alaska, Washington and California, even to the jungles of Brazil as missionaries. Yes, what does the troubled heart of Mama Stadem discern in the dark clouds swirling overhead, darkening the sky over Plain View Farm?"


Act III, Plain View Farm, the Musical Drama