Photo courtesy of The Informercantile
The frozen tempest foretold the story about to unfold.
In the farming community, along the northern plains of North Dakota, the normal time for butchering hogs is in the fall. For reasons unknown, Frederick and Helga had waited until January, in the dead of winter.
Butchering hogs is excruciating work and involved making sausage, smoking meat and rendering lard. Rendering lard was particularly tough as fat is cut into chunks and piled into a boiler and simmered over a hot stove. Grease permeates the air, covering walls, floors, ceilings and people with a thick, slimy film. Helga tended to this pot 24/7.
The blizzard raged on as the pace of this work reached a frenzied, feverish pitch. Helga, exhausted and delirious, could not take it anymore and suffered a mental breakdown. Frederick sent his eldest son, Erich (age 12), to the nearest neighbor for help…several miles away. When Erich returned with the doctor, Frederick and Helga hadn't slept in over 3 days.
Frederick signed the commitment papers. Helga was to be transferred to the insane asylum, about 100 miles south of their farm. Erich was sent to do chores in the barn to keep him from witnessing these events. But he couldn't help himself. He peered through the fence post and what he witnessed would scar him for life: he saw his mother, fighting with all her might, as she was being forcibly pushed into the police car.
Helga never made it to the insane asylum. The storm prevented that. The sheriff decided that she would spend the night in the county jail instead. It was there, on January 22, 1937, that she died sometime in the middle of the night at the age of 30. The official story is that Helga suffered a heart attack.
The above story is based on true events. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.