Our 1993 Gnome, John Solie, was born in the small rural community of Fountain, MN in 1914. His father owned the town’s Drug Store, which was really a General Store. He attended grade school in Fountain and then on to Preston, MN for high school. After graduation, he attended U of M where he met his best friend and the girl who would give him encouragement for many years to come. Her name…Mary Carney of Des Moines, IA. They have three sons; Eric, Roger and Mark. After graduation from the U of M he taught at Renville, Mn for 3 years.
In 1938, he arrived in Dawson and the rest is history. He left for a time in 1944 to join the Navy during WWII. He returned to Dawson in 1946 and thereafter Dawson became home for this gnome, and for the next 30 years he brought his special brand of music to the Dawson community.
John made a difference in the lives of many students who came in contact with him. Mary also taught music in the school and at their home, between raising the boys. John retired from teaching in 1976. Now John and Mary spend their time enjoying their home, grandchildren and making music.
The Power of the Stick – In the Land of Gnats and Gnomes
This is the tale of long ago, in the land where gnomes prevail. Once, rivers and lakes consumed the prairie, and then reduced themselves to more reasonable proportions. A land that becomes rich with the power of the sun and rains.
Then, quite regularly, the sun retreats; the land becomes still and dormant while the snow and wind take their toll. Enough about the land. What about the gnomes, and the gnats, and the stick? You say you are Gnometown folks and you have never seen a gnome? You have, dear reader, I assure you that you have. As I was saying, in the land that was resting in the frostiness of winter, the young boy, John, was beginning to show gnome-like qualities. He had the business of the eyebrows, the enlarged dimples in his cheeks and the huskiness of build that would allow him to survive in the wild land. One day, walking home from school, he heard the sounds of cruelty coming from the frozen river. Now, there are two sure signs of a gnome; one, being unable to accept cruelty to other living things, and two, an unyielding alliance to animals and nature. As he approached the river, the yells of boyhood cruelty became louder. He also heard the frantic yelps of the neighbor’s dog, Shep. John felt an overwhelming compassion for the dog and a terrible anger at the cruelty his boyhood friends were showing. The elders say when gnomes feel this anger they are most powerful and their anger becomes magic. He ran on to the ice and found the largest stick he had ever seen. He began swinging it back and forth with frightful vengeance at the dog’s tormentors. With all his strength he pounded the stick on the ice until it shattered into hundred of splinters! His friends stared in disbelief. Could this be their comrade in fun and frolic? He had never acted so –surely he must be a gnome!
The boys quickly stopped taunting the dog and fled from this incredible gnome power. The boy was exhausted. He stood in the silence of the still river while tears of fear for the dog and exhaustion streamed down his face. At that very moment four gnomes appeared. Each with a long beard, bushy eyebrows, and a mission. Each walked onto the ivy river and carefully picked up one of the splinter of the stick. Each gently pulled the longest, strongest grey hair from his gnome beard and tied it to their sticks. Then, each reached deeply into his picket, pulled out something small and black and tied it to the end of the string. Could this be the gnats? They seemed to be gnats- in the extreme cold the gnats came to life. They flew and danced in the air until they began to make sound. The sounds began to take shape and color. But they were not beautiful sounds yet. They were sounds of confusion and disorganization.
Then a fifth gnome came over the hill and down to the river. He was angry because of the loud, unmelodic noise. He grabbed one of the splinters of stick and waved it frantically at the gnats. At that moment the sounds became crystal clear musical notes to John’s eyes and ears. The fifth gnome thrust the magical splinter of stick into John’s hands and disappeared over the riverbank as quickly as he had appeared.
In disbelief John lifted the stick in the air and slowly directed the movement of the gnats. The sounds were truly beautiful. It was a magical stick. He would carry it with him all his life and perfect its powers. He would share the magic and bring out the very best sounds of others. Just in case his stick would wear out he decided to gather up all the other splinters too.
John, that boy on the ice who experienced real magic that day, did go on to be a waver of sticks. He carried his magic with him; he shared it with others and sent all he taught and directed out into the world to share the magic of music.
Whether waving the magical stick of drawing the bow of a violin, the Maestro of Gnometown continues to make musical magic. So you see – you unbelievers – you have been looking at a gnome for years. You just didn’t know it!