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Hjem USA-slekt The Jacob Branch Richard's Story about Jacob's Family

Richard's Story about Jacob's Family

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Original manuscript was arranged and written by Richard Birklid.

This is a short history following the lives of Grandpa Jacob and Grandma Maria (Bryne) Birklid on their lives way in or near Preston Township in North Dakota. Most of the information for this article was given by Alfie Jensen and Martha Ross besides several others in the family who have told me things through the years, some things that I remember Grandma Mary telling me and other things that I have been told just recently. A big thank you is extended to everybody. A fine faintly tree history of the Birklids has been done by Herman Mentzoni and Karl Stensø which Is available here at our 100 year reunion. Hopefully this brief history will be of interest to at least some of you folks.

This history is read by one of our dear cousins, David Birklid.


Jacob and Mary's family

Jacob and Marie Birklid

Jacob was barn on Dec. 25, 1870 in Beiarn, near Bodø, Northern Norway. He was born to his parents Lars and Johanna Birklid who had 12 children in all, names of which are listed in the Herman Mentzoni history of the Birklid Family.

Jacob Immigrated to the US in 1893 and traveled to New Richmond, Wisconsin where he had some relatives and friends who had arrived earlier. Not long after this, Jacob and Eilert Birklid who had also arrived in 1893, traveled to N.D. and found the Sheyenne River Valley which reminded them so much of Norway. Here they settled and found work. Jacob was not a real strong man but was very smart and his penmanship was the finest and fanciest that one could find anywhere. He attended Concordia College for a time. He traveled around the community teaching Parochial School and also was “klokker” in nearby churches, meaning one who helped with Sunday morning services, etc. Jacob was also called on to sit with people who were on their last until late at night, walking home by moonlight or a lantern when it was very dark. At least once Jacob was called on by a neighbor to baptize a baby that was about to die.

It was while teaching parochial school near Svenby, ND, that he met Maria Bryne, whose father Gabriel Bryne farmed northwest of the Svenby Post Office about 2 miles. This was before the town of Kathryn had started. Jacob stayed at the Bryne home and traveled the nearby area teaching. During this time Jacob grew more fond of Maria and they were married on Oct. 11, 1898. Jacob and Maria may have lived a while with Mary’s parents, it’s not certain, but by early 1899 they lived in the house called “Svenby” with the post off ice and small store in the home, with Jacob as postmaster.


The Svenby Post Office was opened on March 4, 1889 in Dakota Territory, located about 2½ miles southwest of the Sheyenne River and 2 miles south of Wolf Creek. Louis Berg acted as first postmaster but shortly after Bergsvend Thorud was postmaster. Alfie said Bergsvend was known by most people as “Svend” and the post off ice was named after him. Mail was delivered to Svenby 3 times per week. In 1891, the Svenby off ice was moved south a mile or so to the northwest corner of Sec. 34. Here then was where it was located when Jacob and Nary lived there. Jacob was postmaster from 1899 until the off ice closed on Sept. 19, 1900. That fall they moved to Katbryn to operate a hotel and a cafe there,a new to’wn1ust begun when the railroad had come trough. Mary’s father Gabriel bad built the hotel for them. Jennie had already been born June 2, 1899 at Svenby and so was Alfie being born May 6, 1900, four months before the Svenby office was closed. Alfie was named after Ane Bryne, her grandmother. Betsy Bryne had been sponsor for Alfie’s baptism along with Ole Dahl of Litchville. Juliet was born in Kathryn, at the hotel on Dec. 28, 1901.

Gabriel and Ane (Vagle) Bryne bad 10 children in all with Mary being their first born. Mary was born in Norway and was 9 months old when they came to this country in the fall of 1879. The other children were all born In the U.S. as follows: Lena Helland, Betsy Wenneson, Lillie (died as an Infant), Esten Bryne, Anna Shefte, Alma Solhiem, Martha Bolme, Esther Krueger and Ambrostius Bryne. Gabriel, Ane, Esten, Ambrose and Lillie are buried at the Nordheim Cemetery on the Sand Prairie. Jennie was the first child to be baptized at the Nordheim Church. Gabriel was a tall, strong man, a hard worker and a good carpenter. He had a large family to provide for. Ane Bryne died in 1931 at 73 years of age. Alfie said she had gotten the flu and pneumonia and later bad a relapse. Alma and Mary came to stay with her, but there was nothing they could do for her. In those days there wasn’t much medicine for pneumonia and many people young and old died from it.

Gabriel a1so died in 1931, a coincidence it would seem. He was found by the creek in Kathryn, just barely alive. It seemed his whole side was crushed as though being hit by a vehicle. There was foul play suspected as his money and a fine gold watch was missing. Alfie remembers her folks talking about it. It was said that 2 strangers were in town that night and that they had walked to Valley City. They were suspected but no sure evidence was located so the incident was never solved. Lars had sung for Gabriel’s funeral.

Eilert Birklid lived in and around the Sheyenne Valley also. He found work here and worked for the Libaks for some time. In 1896 Eilert married Dorthea Johansen, a sister to Oline Fjeld, wife of Kristen Fjeld, who lived in the valley where Gilmore Hanson now lives. They had a girl born in Sept. 1896 by the name of Alida Birklid. Their second child Edine was born in 1898 approximately, but died in child birth or thereabouts along with her mother Dorthea from the dreaded disease called TB, according to Alfie remembering her parents talking about it.

Eilert and Dorthea lived in a small house near the river between the Berland place and Charlie Andersons house. Alfie remembers seeing the house as being a brownish tan color. Alida was taken in and raised by the Kristen Fjeld family after this sad event. This was customary in many communities back in those times when tragedy struck. Eilert some years later went to McGreger to york and met Anna Berkness and remarried. Their history is in Herman’s Birklid history.

Elias came a little later in 1905 from Norway. He worked on farms near the valley. He worked for Michael Baarstad near Nome. Elias sent for his girlfriend in Norway and they were married in Jacob’s house on the Forty by the creek on Dec. 20, 1906. Alfie remembers this when all the people came there for the ceremony. Elias and Charlotte had 11 children. Elias walked a lot, going to york several miles a day to Baarstad’s farm. They later moved to Montana and then to Kent, WA. Alfie remembers when Elias came to see Jacob, not long before Jacob died. He still liked to walk around the farm and even walked to the Baarstad place again. Mrs. Michael Baarstad was still living there yet and when she seen Elias, she said, “Ney, Elias, I’m so glad to see you.” A nice history of Elias is also written in Herman’s book.

Now getting back to Jacob and Mary, they had run the cafe just a few years, and it had been an awful lot of hard york with 3 baby girls to care for besides the hotel. They decided to move to the country again and by 1904 they had moved to a spot near the creek, on forty acres, near the Strand place, or at the present time what we call the Severson farm. Here in their small house Lars was born on Feb. 24, 1904. Jacob was traveling, teaching Bible School, sitting with sick people, etc. Their house was near the creek in a deep ravine. One night real late, Jacob was walking home when be heard the wolves howling nearby, first on one side, then another would answer on the other side. He was glad he was carrying a lantern, as it was pitch dark, and he had seen wolf eyes gloving in the dark from the lantern light, needless to say, I‘m sure he was glad to be home in the cozy little house by the creek that night. Geneva was next to be born on Feb. 25, 1906. She was a pretty little girl, but the family was very saddened that fall when Geneva died on Oct. 11, that year. She had lived only 7 months plus a few days. Alfie remembers this happening and she has the only original picture of the family with Geneva on it.

By 1907 the family bad moved south about 1 mile to a farm Alfie calls the Gustofson place. Here Rolf was born on Oct. 28, 1907. He was the only child born on this farm. Lars, Geneva and Rolf were all delivered by a midwife, Mrs. Knute Olson who lived nearby. This was customary when a doctor was not available. Mrs. Knute Olson was mother to William Olson. Most children were born at home in those days and it was hard for the mother, with maybe several small children to care for, besides the new child.

Alfie recalls when the family moved to the prairie farm about 3 miles away in the spring of 1909. Their new farm was near the school which she remembers had only a few weeks left of the school year when they moved there. This was their final move and this farm is considered to be the Home Place by everyone and still is the Birklid Place today!

Jennie and Alfie walked behind the wagon and horses when they moved. They tied 3 cows to the wagon and some small calves were herded along behind. They had most of the family belongings in the wagon. This 160 acre farm was bare hills and trees prior to 1909. Jacob had moved the small house from the 40 up to the prairie, the only building there, then, that spring. There were no fences. Many of the poplar and oak trees were cut to build fence and cattle shelters in the next few years.

Alfie remembers when they moved in 1909 that it was the same year that a close neighbor, Mrs. John Johnson died. She also tells of the many cattle, belonging to neighbors, were grazing on the farm when they came there to live. The schoolhouse was there already. It had been built in the valley near the Slattums but had been moved to the prairie around 1900 or so.

Here, then, was where the rest of the children were born. Martha born April 11, 1910 delivered by Dr. Spier of Nome. Edgar born April 18, 1912, also by Dr. Spier and Myrtle , the baby of the family, was born on April 22, 1914. She was delivered by Dr. Nesse of Nome.

Edgar Arnold was named after Dr. Edgar Spier and his wife Annie. The doctor was so proud that one day they came about 11 miles with horse and buggy to the Birklids and gave Edgar a baby spoon with a curved handle, which Ed cherished all those years. A few years before Ed died, he gave this spoon to Eugene Allen Birklid, son to Richard and Iverne, who was named after Ralph and Richard. Eugene has the same initials,”E. A. Birklid.” S’, same as Ed,

The Birklid Farm was later named the “Poplar Grove Farm” with a certificate of same received and still exists today “on display here”.

Much hard work was at hand on the farm. Alfie tells of her and Jennie plowing with a sulky plow and 3 horses. They also learned to harness the horses by themselves. Being the oldest girls and Lars was too young yet, they had to do much of the outside work. They had also walked the fields to pick mustard and weeds from the gram fields. The cows were milked outside in the barnyard. Grandma always said she rested while sitting down while milking. In summer months they would build a smudge to chase off the flies, the cows learned quick to move in near the smoke.

Alfie said, in 1910 when Martha was born, it had been a very dry year with almost no crop to sell. She remembers when Martha was little, she had been very sick with pneumonia and Dr. Gronvold from Fort Ransom had come to see her and said she was very sick. Later that day Dr. Gronvold had told a neighbor that Birklids would surely loose a child. But Martha got well and when Gronvold came to see her again, he said that it had been someone much higher then him who had saved Martha! Martha says she was a Daddy’s girl, and she sure loved her dad.

Alfie also remembers when the threshers came in the fall. George Strand from the valley came with his steam engine and thresher along with the cook car where the men ate their meals. The gram haulers ate at the house. Alfie said we were all excited and thrilled when we heard the steam whistle blow. It was a fun time, but also much hard york was to be done. Before the threshers came, the gram was cut and bundled with the horses and binder arid then shocked. After the shocks bad cured some time, the bundles were hauled home and stacked to be later threshed near the place. The straw was used for bedding for the winter months. Grandma Birklid was very good at stacking gram, so that was her job. Stacking bundles was an “art”, not everyone could do it.

When they first came to the Birklid place, there were no wells. They had dug many surface wells in search of water with not much luck. Alfie tells of one hole that Juliet almost fell in! She had come running and felt in, but caught herself on the outside of the hole with her arms, or else this incident could have ended in tragedy.

When they couldn’t find shallow wells, an artesian was dug some 900 feet deep and plenty of water was flowing continuously. Alfie said there was an oil film on the water tank, so much so that the cattle at times wouldn’t drink the water. It was said that there was oil on the farm somewhere.

Alfie remembers the “Dirty Thirties” as they were called, especially in 1934 and 1936, the worst years. In 1934 there was almost no crops anywhere. In l935 a nice crop grew up but rusted so badly it wasn’t worth harvesting. In 1936 there was no crop at all. Many people had to sell all or most of the cattle for lack of feed, most were able to keep their horses. Some had cut and hayed the thistles and tumble weeds which had to be soaked in water to soften before feeding to livestock that winter.

The winter of 1936 was terrible cold when it never got above zero (-18°C) for 40 days straight for the high temperature, with 30 to 40 below zero (-35 to -40°C ) at night. That summer was extremely hot at times. During one spell the temperature had been from 100 to 109 (38 to 43°C ) for several days,when it cooled to 99 (37°C ) and then shot up to 118 (47°C ) the next day. Alfie tells about some of the chickens that died or suffocated from the heat and not getting enough water.

During years like these in a row, even those people who had some money saved up became poor and many lost their farms because money wasn’t even available to pay the taxes. In 1936 the fields were looking pretty good early in the spring but the hot wind started and everything turned brown. They had an iron pump on the well, but the handle was so hot some days that they used gloves when pumping water. Every day the dust storms came. The lamps had to be lit by noon most days. People moving around in the yard looked like shadows! If they washed clothes they had to be washed and dried before 9:00 AM each day before the wind and dirt got so bad!!!

Alfie said that one time Grandma had gotten dust pneumonia! But all in all the thirties were the worst years on the farm. Most of the time the old farm was a good place to live. Every summer many came home. There was just about always somebody in the family staying at the farm, some for a short stay, while others stayed for a few months and longer. Usually the fami1ies that lived far away tried to come home at least once a year. The Birklids have always been a close knit family, always concerned about each other. Many tears have been shed when it came time to leave for home after a visit or when something else was wrong or bad news came to the family.

I‘m sure all you people who came back home for this special reunion all have many special memories that you remember and I hope everyone will hand those memories down to the later generations.

Clerk and Auditor



When Jacob and family had moved to the prairie in 1909, the people wanted him to be Township Clerk but he had to go and get citizenship papers in place before accepting the job. He was clerk of Preston Township for some 24 years. In the old record books you will find Jacob’s beautiful penmanship. It was said by many that Jacob was a very clever man. He became County Commissioner in 1915. He then served both as clerk of Preston and County Commissioner until 1933 when he was elected as Ransom County Auditor. They then moved to Lisbon and lived near the Courthouse. Jacob served as Auditor until about 1940 or so.

Ralph Birklid took over the Preston Township job after Jacob in 1933 and served the township until 1958 when Ralph moved to Kathryn to york as a bookkeeper for the Farmers Elevator there. Richard Birklid then was elected as township clerk in 1958 to present day. That makes 84 years of Birklids serving as Clerk of Preston Township.

Edgar Birklid took over the f arm after Jacob was elected Auditor. Ed married Sigrid Roe in 1950. They lived on the f arm until his death in 1981. Richard Birklid’s son, Robert and family live on the Birklid Farm at the present time.

Things That Happened on the Farm

Alfie tells about their best horse being killed by a mad bull with large horns. Anyway Johnny Johnson’s new bull had gotten out and came over to Birklids and gored the horse in the fence corner. It’s stomach was torn open but the horse managed to walk home to the barn. They called Helmer Lowe, a horse doctor, but nothing could be done. The horse's name was “Dolly”. She was such a good and kind horse. The kids cried and were so sad over the loss of Dolly. The kids could walk under the horse or do anything they wanted with her. When Johnson’s heard about it, they felt so bad that this had happened. This may have been the same horse that my dad Ralph told about. One time at about age 3, I had come looking for Dad and Ed and I was standing in the barn door when the big horse came walking into the barn, lifting his feet over me, one at a time, not touching me as I stood. The men had watched gasping, not daring to talk or move!

One time Jimmy Nelson was at home and was told to get the cows home one morning. He found there was a new calf lying dead near the cows and the bull had gone mad, bellering and pawing the ground and he chased Jim over the fence. Jim told this to Ed and he said,”I’ll get the cows”, like he didn’t believe Jimmy, so Ed went and the bull chased him out of the pasture near the school house, where he called home from the school and told Jimmy to bring the shotgun. Anyway the bull later calmed down and they called a trucker and hauled the bull to market.

Another time Alfie tells how Ed had been walking or hunting 2 miles from home near the Hulet land when a mad bull chased Mm to a tree which he then climbed to safety but sat a long time, as the bull wasn’t about to leave. Suddenly Birklids dog appeared he bad sensed something was wrong and had followed Ed’s trail. Ed said, “take him” and the dog started nipping the heels of the bull and persisted until he chased the bull away. Then Ed went home and told of his experience.

Another time Birklids dog bad sensed that something was wrong. Jacob and Maria had gone to Ladies Aid up the valley about 4 miles to the John Pederson farm. The kids at school had seen the dog go running back and forth north of the farm, barking and sitting on the hills howling steady. The kids said the dog had gone crazy!!! Anyway Jacob was driving the horses and sled when they had come to the Berland place north of the church. Mr. Berland said, “let’s go on the river!” It was early spring and had thawed some so the ice was not so good and suddenly the horses went down. Everyone was scared as the water was deep and and horse’s leg was caught on the pole. Grandma was scared as she was expecting Myrtle at the time. The ice kept breaking more as the horses struggled in the icy water but after unhitching the pole and much anxiety, everyone got cut safely but they turned around and headed for home and were pretty tired out. The dog was very happy to see them coming and bad sensed that something bad happened.

Some of the dog's names on the farm were: Topsy, Pugen & Butch. There were many others also.

One time while leaving a picnic, north in the valley they had spotted a watermelon floating down the river. Someone fished it out and the melon was good so they ate it. They never found out where it had come from.

Alfie tells of the tramps or beggars that walked through the countryside. When the kids were home alone, the folks told them to stay together If a tramp came and to give them some money. Alfie remembers that Jacob had given Ralph a dime one time in case a beggar would come. Yes, a tramp had come, asking for money and showed a card as to why be was out begging. Ralph gave him the dime as he was told and the tramp left. The kids had been scared enough, it was later found, when the folks were told of the incident.

Trapping and Hunting with Ed

Ed was a great hunter and trapper most of his life. He would skip school for a week or more to go trapping. One time he bad been gone so long his teacher had come down to the place to ask him if he was coming to visit school some time?

In his early years he walked many miles a day on the trap line with supplies in his pack basket and rifle in hand. Sometimes walking on snowshoes. In later years he used a pickup. Uncle Ed was noted for his ability to catch the wily fox & coyotes.

Ed raised a large sheep herd in the old days. He had some trouble with coyotes taking some lambs but he would catch the coyote doing the damage and that usually cured the problem at least for awhile. But even if he lost a few sheep, Ed loved the coyotes and other animals. He would go outside on a still night and listen for the howl of the coyotes or an occasional wolf and he would say that this was the “call of the wild”.

Ed taught me (Richard, or Charlie as Uncle Ed called me) to trap, starting when I was 6 years old. I can remember the teacher sending me home because I smelled skunk. After a few years I could catch fox and mink along side anyone, but I could never keep up with Uncle Ed’s instinct and ability to outsmart the animals when the going got rough. We put in many a hard days work on the trapline and many nights skinning and preparing hides, sometimes until midnight. Being over to Ed’s and going trapping together for some 40 years, I could write a book on the experiences Ed and I bad while on the trapline. Besides hunting, fishing, trapping and collecting arrowheads and antiques together, we did lots of hard work on the farm.

Ed was a good person and he loved children, loved to tease and have fun with them, and was always concerned about everybody in the family. Ed could be very firm a few times, but he was very tender hearted and be was a “good old Uncle Ed.”

Town to Trade

To get the usual groceries and supplies the family would go to town once a week but sometimes less. If they had lots of cream and eggs to sell they needed to go to town before the cream soured. Nome and Fort Ransom were patronized the most. Nome had a show house with movies on Saturday night. Those 5¢ movies were a real treat for everyone. The term “go to town to trade” came from going in with cream, eggs and butter to sell or, trade you might say, for a weeks or more supply of groceries and other necessities. Trade tokens were also used, “good for money in trade next time coming to town.” I remember those Saturday nights in Nome to “trade”. I would go into the Nome Hardware and admire the new traps and 22 rifles on the shelf and buy a box or two of shells for my single shot rifle. Then over to Ben Johnson’s Magazine Store to buy a couple funny books, Tom Mix or Lone Ranger for 5¢ each.

Also stopping to listen to Ben’s dozens of gold watches ticking away on the wall behind the counter. Then we’d go to the Drug Store for treats, get a large malted milk for l5¢ and sit by the marble top ice cream counter to drink it. Then we would go to show, now that’s what you would call a “wild Saturday night” back then! This also was at a time when it was customary for the storekeeper to give a kid a bag of jelly beans for free when Dad paid the grocery bill, a time when a 5¢ Three Musketeers dandy bar was big enough to divide between three children!

The Texas Ranger

Texas Ranger
Lars Birklid, alias Texas Ranger

Lars grew up in Preston Township not knowing then that he would become a famous ballad and country western singer called “The Texas Ranger”.

Lars standing 6’ 4” with western clothes and hat looked very much like a tall Texan. Lars started playing instruments when he was young, singing and playing at school and PTA programs, house parties, dances, etc. He was a self taught musician and studied voice by himself. When Lars played the violin he would hold it down low on his chest, most unusual. Lars was selected by the Georgie Porgie Co. in 1932 as an entertainer. They gave him the nickname of “Gangle Shanks” for his being tall and having long legs.

He worked for the radio in Saint Joseph, Missouri and WCCO in Minneapolis for a time. Then he moved to Fargo where he started singing and entertaining for WDAY. Here was where Lars received the name, “The Texas Ranger”. He worked with groups such as: The Co-op Shoppers, The Talent Parade, Dinner Bell Time, Lem Hawkins, Hayloft Jamboree, etc. Tex and other entertainers traveled to many towns in North Dakota and Minnesota to put on shows. Tex sang mostly western and Norwegian songs and some beautiful hymns. Some of the titles were: Goodbye Little Bonnie, Hold on Little Dogies, The Little Red School, My Mother’s Beautiful Hands, Clementine, Lifes Railway to Heaven, etc. The radio station put out at least two song books with songs that Tex sang, one titled, “Songs That Never Grow old”.

Tex and Mary Lou were a famous duet team singing for WDÀY. They were noted for their beautiful hymns. Mary Lou was Jack Dunn’ s wife who was News Editor for the station.

The Texas Ranger is well known yet today among the middle aged folks. As I travel around to various shows and swap meets, when they hear my name Birklid, they say, “were you related to the Texas Ranger”? I say sure, then an interesting conversation takes place. Anyway, Lars spent some 40 years entertaining the people in the Midwest. Tex retired about the time television started. I remember him telling me he didn’t like the idea of people looking at him on the TV.

Lars retired and lived in West Fargo with his wife Helene, formerly Helene Huseby from Nome. Lars died in 1980.

The School Days

All of the Birklid.’s have been quite intelligent in school. Jennie and. Alfie went to eight grades of school. Being the oldest children in the family, they had. to stay at home and. help the folks with the farm work. Both Jennie and Alfie were sensible and smart girls in many ways.

When it came time for the high school years it was Myrtle, Martha, and Juliet who went, the boys also stayed at home to help york on the farm.

Alfie’s first teacher was Anna Bertie Berland, who taught in the valley of Libak School near the Libak Farm. She later taught at the Birklid school for many years, and. was quite a strict teacher. The school year back then was only seven months long.

Later Rolf went on to attend. Business College in Fargo, ND, taking courses in business and penmanship. He was a natural. left handed person, but Bertie Berland insisted and taught Rolf to write with his. right hand while attending grade school. When he came to the business college in Fargo, they were amazed. that he hadn‘t. gone to high school as he was way ahead of his classmates.

Rolf developed. a beautiful penmanship. He was known at the college as “The Man with the Million Dollar writing hand.” Some of his fancy penmanship is found. in the old. Preston Township Clerk books and the Preston church treasurer’s books along with Jacob’s fancy penmanship. Jacob and Rolf were equally both excellent writers.

Myrtle was also a clever girl, her teacher let her skip ahead. one year, so she was only twelve years old when she started high school in Nome, graduating from there as the Valedictorian of her class. She was quite artistic and. was told to go on to more art school. Another one of her abilities was to sing, so could many of the other members of her family, along with the talents of playing different types of instruments ‘by brothers and. sisters. One thing I remember about Myrtle, was when they came home to visit and Myrtle being so concerned. about everyone. Also her sincere hug and a kiss when it came time to say goodbye.

Juliet went on to nursing school in Fargo, where she graduated as Valedictorian in 1925. It was there she met Allen Keltner while he was a patient at the hospital having been hurt while playing football. While Allen was at the Hospital he had said., “I don’t want to get well, I don’t want to get well, I’m in love with a beautiful nurse.”One of the things I remember about Juliet is the southern accent she picked up while living in Kansas City, MO. but Allen kept his ND accent.

Martha was a more quiet type of person,very smart. She is very sensible and does think things through before speaking. She started high school in Fort Ransom and later went to Kansas City to live with Juliet and Allen to finish her education. Jacob and. Mary traveled. there for her graduation and a visit.


Sist oppdatert fredag 29. mars 2013 19:31  
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