Minnesota Fiddlers

by Walter Sigtermans

    We don’t know if Gilbert composed this tune or if he learned it from someone else.  It is also somewhat of a mystery as to just how Elmo learned this tune.
    Gilbert's father, Ole Rime, was born in Norway in 1841 and immigrated to Minnesota in the 1860's. He joined the second Minnesota cavalry in 1863, but instead of being sent south to fight in the Civil War, he was sent west and served in the Dakota War theater. Ole Rime (Gilbert's father) fought in the battle of Killdeer mountain in what is now North Dakota. After the war, Ole settled down and bought a farm just north of Sunburg, Minnesota in the early 1870's. Gilbert was born in 1895 to Ole's second wife Ragnild Anderson.

Photograph of Gilbert Rime (courtesy of the Rime family)

     Marit and the boys moved to Spicer, Minnesota (twenty miles south-east of Sunburg) around 1934. Gilbert eventually found work as a carpenter in Spicer, and became a founding member of the Spicer American Legion. Gilbert continued working until 1964 after which he spent his retirement years in Spicer often associating with another carpenter/fiddler Reuben Pederson.

Elmo Wick's notation of Gilbert's Polka

      Gilbert’s grandchildren remember Mr. Rime being quite deaf when they knew him and were surprised to learn that he had ever played fiddle. According to his family, Gilbert's hearing was impaired because of the First World War.  It was possible that his hearing had been compromised by his work environment at the Raritan Arsenal, but it is also possible that his hearing had been affected by the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. 
      If Gilbert Rime was deaf after 1918, how did Elmo Wick, who was born in 1924, learn this tune?  One possible solution to this riddle was that Elmo’s Dad, Andrew Wick, may have played the tune with Gilbert before 1917 and taught it to Elmo years later.
      It’s a pretty fast moving tune, which starts with a big quadruple stop and has a fun run down the scale in the B part.  For anyone so-inclined, this piece has been used to win first place in the adult division of at least one fiddle contest.

here to listen to an mp3 of “Polka after Gilbert Rime”
here to access a pdf of “Polka after Gilbert Rime”

Click here to see a youtube recording of “Polka after Gilbert Rime”

The Monson Lake Monument (of 1917)

     On Gilbert's draft board papers, it is stated that he was employed by Ole Flolo as an apprentice carpenter. Ole Flolo had been a fiddle player of some repute in the Sunburg area – Mr. Flolo had a string band which played for many dances and garden parties in the area during the 1890's.  So, it is possible that Gilbert learned his polka from Ole Flolo.  When Gilbert reported for duty in Dec 1917 he was sent to boot camp in Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, before being sent to the Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey where the U.S. army manufactured and shipped its high explosives for use on the battlefields of France.

      In March 1919 Gilbert was honourably discharged from the Army, and in June 1921 he married Marit Eliason. Shortly afterwards they bought a farm south of Sunburg a little over a mile east of Monson Lake Park and raised three sons.  Elmo Wick was born in 1924 roughly the same time as Gilberts sons.  The Wick and Rime farms were only a mile apart, so Elmo probably spent a portion of his youth around the Rime farm and playing with Gilbert’s sons.

The Monson Lake VCC Shelter

      By 1934 the depression had forced Gilbert and Marit to sell the farm south of Sunburg. These were hard times. Farms were failing, jobs were scarce and people were discouraged.  President Roosevelt promised a "New Deal" and one of the first work programs was for World War I veterans, called the Veteran Conservation Corps (VCC).  The VCC had a project between 1934 - 1938 to build a set of granite and log shelters in Sibley State Park and Monson Lake Park (which became Monson Lake State Park in 1937). We don't know for certain, but it is possible that Gilbert participated in this project - he was a WWI veteran; his farm had failed; he had apprenticed as a carpenter, and he lived very close to the project.  The winter of 1936 was a very harsh, one of the coldest on record, and the housing for the VCC workers was very basic.  It’s also possible that Gilbert may have stopped by the Wick Farm and played fiddle with Elmo around this time.

Polka after Gilbert Rime

Ole Rime (Gilbert's father) Willmar Times obituary 1929

    On June 1st 1917 a monument was dedicated in Monson Lake Park to memorialize the Sunburg residents that had been massacred during the Dakota War.  Since Ole Rime had fought in the conflict there is no doubt that the Rime family attended the service. Four days later twenty-three-year-old Gilbert registered for the draft.