The walking stick was the first clue. Made from the branch of a tree, it was the kind you often see carried by travelers and people who’ve seen a lot of places and things. It was nearly six feet long and stood higher than Donna Bellinger, the woman who was holding it and waiting patiently to talk with me at this month’s Harvest Time Festival.
In Donna’s other hand was a clipping of my last column, in which I asked people to tell me about when they touched, or were touched by, history. She wondered if I might be interested about her experience involving Navajo Code Talkers, and I naturally replied “Are you kidding me?” We sat and chatted in her lovely Brentwood home on Monday.
Donna was born on a farm in Minnesota in 1930. Summers in her early years were spent as a live-in caretaker on a nearby farm. She was mostly on her own, sometimes scrounging the streets for coins, sometimes washing dishes for meals and sometimes getting a ride somewhere from the compassionate town cop.