Carl Fredrick Heinrich Von Dietrich


Is it environmental or genetic?  Either way, I’m hoping that some of my 2 Greats Grandpa Carl is now a part of me.  Though the details are a little sketchy, his life seems so incredible that I wouldn’t dare make up fiction like this.  If I did, my critics would call the story too far fetched, to be believable.  But since it’s a true story, I feel the obligation to tell the story.  As I have studied his life, I have envied his strong character.  His strong will to stay true to his personal convictions and beliefs regardless of consequences.  Just as I hope that part of Carl is in me, I hope he’s in my children too.

In the Prussia of 1813, five year old Carl was placed in a Cloister to be raised as a Monk.  I can only speculate two possible reasons for his parents to send their small boy away like that, never to see him again.  Perhaps it was considered a great honor and opportunity for their son to become a Monk.  Or maybe family circumstances were dire, and it was a matter of survival.

What ever the reason for being there, Carl was now living with and taught by the monks of this Prussian Cloister.  Undoubtedly, his growing years were spent doing the many remedial tasks of living life in the early 1800’s.  But besides the cooking and cleaning, along with gardening and tending flocks, came the tutoring and teaching.  Carl likely learned to read and write in more than his native German tongue as he was taught the doctrines of the church from their Latin documents.  Carl was artistic, and this talent was likely nurtured in his early years.  

Problem was, somewhere along the way, as Carl was taught the church doctrine, he found conflict inside with what he was being taught.  Ultimately, he did not believe the teachings.  Because of how he felt, he chose not to become a monk, and he tried to leave the Cloister.  But the Monks would not let him leave.

Carl then lived for many years in this Cloister as a prisoner and slave.  Because he now refused to go against his conscience, he was now relegated strictly to a role of servitude.  No more teaching and training in Latin.  Gone were the opportunities to further develop his artistic and other talents.  Now life consisted of doing the heaviest and dirtiest labor of the monastery. 

Carl exchanged his imprisoned thoughts for physical chains around his hands and feet.  Carl felt it was a good trade.  For many years, he continued in this condition.  His mind and integrity were free as the birds which thoughtlessly flew over the high stone wall of the monastery.  But he body was physically chained down as a retaliation from his captors for not believing as they did.  If they couldn’t blind his mind, they’d at least bind his body.

Now it wasn’t that Carl didn’t believe in God.  On the contrary, he was very religious.  Today, I don’t view the religious denomination that held Carl prisoner, bad or evil.  I’ve seen enough ungodly behavior from people in my own denomination.  So I know not to blame the church what the people in the church are doing wrong. 

Carl was in this Cloister/Monastery for about 37 years before he finally managed to escape.  He later told of hearing the bullets flying past him as he ran.  He then made his way to Berlin just when there was a revolt against the Kaiser.  Carl now suddenly found himself facing another choice.  Should he follow his conscience and help the Kaiser, or would he think of his own personal safety first.  Carl immediately did what he felt was right, placing himself in great danger once again.  He was in the right place at the right time to help the Kaiser escape the mob.  So in this way, Carl met William I, the Emperor of Germany. 

Showing gratitude for his help, William made him the artist to the Imperial Palace.  So in a matter of a few days or weeks, Carl went from the life of a dungeon slave to a revered hero living in the palace and mixing and mingling with royalty.  Here in the palace, Carl painted many of the royal family portraits.  He was also present for the many state and social events.  Back then, the royal artist would have been present to record all such things with his brush and paint. 

It was in this environment where Carl found love.  Caroline Gustone Friedericke Ludwige Lisette Junnius De Junge was a baroness.  She was 39 years younger than him.  They were married and had 5 children.  But this part of Carl’s life didn’t begin until he was in his old age.  His children were all still small when he became ill.  He was now 75 years old.  My Great Grandmother, Freida, was 7 years old.  She remembers how sick he was and the sadness when he called his two girls to him to tell them goodbye before he died.                 

            So as I have researched Carl’s life, as I learn of the political climate he was thrust into soon after he found his freedom from the monastery, I wonder what I would have done in the same situation.  Would I have helped save the Kiser from the mob?  Or would I go along with the crowd just because that’s what the crowd was doing?  And what of the first half of his life living as a prisoner only because he wasn’t afraid to disagree with the establishment?  The man had integrity.  In face of all most certain annihilation he stuck to his guns. 

Like I said, I hope a piece of Carl came though to me.  I hope that regardless of what the establishment believes, I can think for myself.  I hope that even if my personal safety were threatened, I would follow my conscience and do the right thing.  I hope these same things for my children.  So I don’t know if it would be environmental or genetics, but I hope a little bit of Carl is in us. 


For this past month, and especially the last two weeks, my work has dominated my wakening hours.  It has also reduced my sleeping hours as the work days stretched on.  One work stretch went from 5:00am last Friday to 3:00pm Saturday.  34 hours with no naps, no lunch hours, just the “Got to get this plant up and running and catch up the production line… this is costing us over a thousand dollars a minute to be down.” kind of pressure.  Personally, I don’t know how my “Beautiful Wife” works around the clock like this so routinely.  I am hopeful that my labor and maintenance problems at work have diminished to the point that I can begin to resume some kind of life outside of work.  

These past few days, while in the thick of battle (hiring new employees, catching up the production line, shipping out the orders, and plowing through the stack of paperwork which has been on “ignore” for much too long for Corporate’s liking), my pondering time thoughts have been on work in general. 

I love my memories of working on our farm.  With no child labor laws applying to family farms, I can’t remember NOT working.  But for the most part, I didn’t think of it as work.  I was just out helping Dad, and my brothers on the farm.  Much later, when I was about 12 years old, I got my first paying job from another farmer.  For 6 cents per 40 foot pipe, every morning at 5:00am and again at 5:00pm, I got to move sprinkler irrigation lines across the field to water the crops.  Other outside jobs followed.  I was a movie projectionist, a lights and sound man at the local college, along with many other personal projects I did in my spare time.  Mechanics, photography, electronics, you name it… I always had something going. 

In the years since, as a manager, I have hired and worked with hundreds if not a thousand or more people.  I am always intrigued with how an individual reacts to a job.  Generally, a new hire (whether they are new to the workforce, or just new to that particular job), said all the right things in the interview and is happy and excited to GET the job.  It takes about as long as it takes for them to really learn how to do the job, and how they fit into the organization, to separate the wheat from the chaff.  It doesn’t matter if they are entry level (first time ever employees), management, or something in between, there is plenty of chaff mixed in with the wheat when it comes to workers. 

I am thankful for the strong work ethic in my childhood home.  The very stringent child labor laws have done many children a disservice just as no child labor laws disserved the children of my ancestors.  As I watch many young adults, fresh out of school, trying to make it in the world, I wonder what makes a few workaholics, while many experience work culture shock. 

Because I have studied my family history, I know where my strong work ethic comes from.  Samuel Webster and John Smith in the British coal mines.  Harald, Christoffer, and my other Norwegian ancestors out on the oceans of the world battling for their lives in leaky ships.  John Everett, my Prussian ancestor who at the age of 13, left home never to see his family again to work as a sailor.  Johann Tillack who was a farmer from Prussia, who chased after the gold fields of Australia in 1855.  Jorgen Jensen, my Danish ancestor who always was a farmer, even when he immigrated to America.  Frank Rubbra, who at the age of 16, left his Eastern Canadian home, joined the Canadian Mounted Police, and ended up going to South Africa to fight in the Boar War.  All these and the many more that were not mentioned have given me a legacy of work.  If it’s in the genes, then I should be an all time classic workaholic.  I should look into the ancestry of my “Beautiful Wife”.  There must be some awesome untold work stories from her genetic past.

Obviously, the key to a happy work life is to do something that you love doing.  Like too many others, economics and a changing world has forced me to trade what I loved to do (continuing our family farm), to something that I like to do.  Too bad I can’t get paid for storytelling.  Then I would be a workaholic comparable to my “Beautiful Wife”.    


Since I discovered the world of blogging a few months ago, I have traveled the world, made a few friends (a rare thing for me), I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of talent and personality (visiting the spaces of my new friends), and I’ve even recieved some really good advice and encouragement.  And all this right here in cyberspace.  Thank-you my friends and visitors, for giving me one more thing that I love to do in my spare time.  However, problems at my work will see to it that I won’t have any spare time for awhile.  I’ll be back when I can… though it may be a week or more. 


I can’t seem to get more than 3000 miles out of my bike tires.  I guess that’s what I get for buying the cheapest I can find.  Bad bike tires have had me on foot (or behind the wheel) for a few weeks, but finally a few days ago I got back on my two wheels again.  Oh, it felt soooo good to get out and stretch my legs and feel the wind in my hair again. 

Hey, that’s the only way I’ll feel wind in my hair.  I’d love to be able to afford a nice mid-life-crisis red convertible, but if I could afford it, I’d spend it on my family instead.  So even with money, I guess I would choose to be out pedaling.

My love of bikes started when I got my sister’s little blue bike as a hand-me-down.  I can tell from the pictures now, by the style of the frame, that it was a little girl’s bike.  But since it wasn’t pink, back then I didn’t know the difference. 

Out on our farm, I learned to ride by rolling down the hill in our yard, crashing in the rocks and dirt at the bottom for the first twenty or more times.  Training wheels would have been of no use on the rough roads around our farm.  There was nothing like sidewalks or pavement anywhere in my five-year-old world.  But once I got my balance, riding my bike was my favorite past time. 

As I got older, and could venture out farther, my bike became my ticket to adventure and travel.  A neighbor’s potato cellar had dirt mounded just right to make a bike ramp.  That’s where I learned to “Catch Air.”  Once on a borrowed bike, while in town for school, I discovered how wonderful paved roads were to ride bikes on.  Even while still attending elementary school, I began bicycle commuting the four miles to school.  Actually back then my mom wouldn’t let me take the main hi-way, so it was more like 5.5 miles to school. 

My childhood bike memories include, rides after the farm work was done in the evening with my dad.  Once I was in a family bike race with my brothers and my dad.  It was fifty six miles long.  Less than an hour after that race, I got back on my bike and rode it the three miles to work, where I moved sprinkler pipe.  Then of course I’d ride it back home.  My bike was transportation to town to go to the movies, or even just exploring the big city (of about 5000 people). 

During the summer before my first year of Jr. High, I rode the four miles to summer Band class, carrying my trumpet the best I could while still holding on to the handle bars. I don’t know why I didn’t use a back pack for that.  Maybe they hadn’t been invented yet. As far as that goes, I have never had any of the special bike equipment that I see the serious cyclists decked out in.  I’ve never owned one of those form fitting and aero-dynamic jersey and bike shorts.  My helmet is just a basic bike helmet with no fancy style and venting.  I pedal with regular shoes and pedals… not the latest and greatest road shoe which snaps into special pedals for maximum efficiency and speed.  my bike itself is made of steel, instead of the light weight carbon-fiber frames.  There’s nothing special about my seat, or gears, or wheels, tires and so on. 

Maybe someday, when oil is discovered in my backyard, I’ll know how I would stack up next to Lance Armstrong with all the same fancy equipment and training.  But most likely I’ll go on enjoying my pedaling as a physical fitness hobby.  Come wind, rain, or sunshine, cycling is my preferred method of travel. 

During my adult life, I have bicycle commuted to work depending on my circumstances.  I drove truck for a year, and I had my bike strapped on waiting for an evening ride away from the truck stop.  Often, my bicycle commute was no big deal because I lived only a few miles from work.  But when we lived in Colorado, our home was 20 miles from the processing plant that I managed.  It was here that I enjoyed my biking on a whole new level.  Most of this daily commute was down I-76, between Roggen and Wiggins Colorado.  It was common for cars taking other commuters over the same road every day as well, to stop and ask me what I was doing.  Why would I ride my bike that far everyday?  One of these concerned neighboring commuters asked me if I had lost my drivers license to a DUI conviction or something.  Many offered to give me rides.  But those forty miles of biking everyday became a few hours of great thinking time everyday.  And I didn’t want to give it up for mere comfort and rest.

I could tell many stories of my ride down I-76.  Biking along in the dark and narrowly missing stalled cars which were parked along side the road. (I didn’t have very fancy lights either.)  I saw and almost ran over a rattlesnake and other little critters scurrying along the side of the rode.  Sometimes I could help a stranded motorist by making a cell phone call for help.  But I think I’ll end this ramble with one short story of my winter biking.

Maybe it’s from my Norwegian genes.  But the cold doesn’t bother me.  It’s not that my hands and feet don’t get cold out in the snow and ice, but like I say, I just don’t mind it.  So naturally, I wouldn’t stop my bike commuting for something as trivial as the onset of winter.  Well, my wintertime biking was troubling to the general manager (my boss) at the processing plant.  He thought it was unsafe for me to be out on the dark winter roads on my bike. (He was probably right, but that wouldn’t stop me.)  

So on this one morning, Northeastern Colorado had one of its famous winter ice storms.  The snow and ice were inches thick covering everything.  Power poles sheared off under the weight of the Ice.  Power lines snapped from the load, taking out power for several days in some areas.  And of course the roads were covered with ice as well. 

So early on this morning, the general manager was standing in the front offices with one of our truck drivers.  They were undoubtedly discussing whether anyone would be able to make it in to work at all that day.  I heard afterward that the truck driver started making jokes about if I would be crazy enough to ride my bike that day.  Well, apparently the joking became a discussion, which turned into a debate, which led to a wager.  The truck driver told me later, that no sooner had they shook hands sealing the bet, they could see my red flashing bike lights reflecting against the ice and snow.  As I carefully rode across the rutted parking lot, dismounted and tried to brush the ice and snow off, and then carried my bike inside the front door, the general manager just glared at me and then he walked away without saying anything.  I guess it wasn’t hard to see who had won the bet.