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A story so ironic we couldn’t have made it up if we wanted to

By Staff | Nov 9, 2009

Every parent and grandparent can identify with the story in this week’s Register about the little boy lost in a cornfield.

That is because we all have a concern for the safety of children, and a lost child would put any of us into a panic mode real fast.

We have that concern when we are out in public, as well as in our own neighborhoods and backyards.

Seeing the driveway at the Johnson’s home, northeast of Blue Earth, one can easily see the problem. The whole farmyard is surrounded on three sides by huge cornfields – all of them yet to be combined.

Seeing the size of the fields, I am amazed Greg Johnson was able to locate his lost grandson as quickly as he did. There are many acres of corn around the home.

Johnson even admits he walked between two fields for quite a way, and was about to give up and turn around and search elsewhere. But he luckily decided to go just a bit farther. He didn’t think the boy could have gone so far from home barefoot, but he had.

Yes, it is easy to see how a child could wander off into the corn and get lost. It is amazing it doesn’t happen more often.

As a matter of fact, it has.

In an unusual and amazing twist of fate, exactly 70 years ago a young boy wandered off from this very same farmhouse, and got lost in this very same cornfield.

Can you believe it?

The boy’s name was Carl Heinrich, and he wasn’t chasing the neighbor’s cat, like young Aidan Johnson was. No, the 2-year-old Heinrich was chasing his dog.

Heinrich, now 72, says he really has no memory of the incident, but he sure heard about it from his parents.

“It is a famous family story,” Heinrich says. “I heard it all repeated for years.”

Heinrich’s parents rented the same farm 70 years ago, before it was sold to Cleighton Johnson, young Aidan’s great-grandfather.

“My parents later moved to a farm by Delavan after leaving the one in Blue Earth,” Heinrich recalls. “That was about the time I was moving on.”

Heinrich, who now lives on an acreage by Courtland, doesn’t recall being told there was a huge search for him when he wandered off, just some neighbors helping out. He also doesn’t remember who found him, but admits it could have been his grandfather, who lived nearby.

“Wouldn’t that be ironic?” he says. “The two stories sure have a lot of similarities.”

After graduating from Blue Earth High School in 1956, Heinrich went into the Air Force and was trained in electronics. After the service he worked in the electronics field until he retired.

“Some people in Blue Earth might not remember me as ‘Carl,'” Heinrich says. “That’s because when I lived there, I was called Larry. I changed my name later.”

The next natural question is, of course, ‘Why?’

The answer is that while his mother wanted to name him Larry, his birth certificate listed his name as Carl.

He was called Larry all through his youth, and he did not have any idea it wasn’t his ‘real’ name.

That changed when he entered the Air Force and they determined his actual name was Carl F. Heinrich.

“My middle name isn’t Larry or Lawrence, either, so Larry was just a nickname I guess,” Heinrich chuckles. “I just decided to become Carl – which was my dad’s name – instead of going through the trouble of legally changing it to Larry.”

There is one more ironic note to the story.

The land Heinrich now lives on along the Minnesota River has about 80 acres of woods with it.

“About a year ago my grown daughter went for a walk in the woods with her dog,” Heinrich says. “Yes, you guessed it, she got lost.”

Since Heinrich had recently had hip surgery, he called a neighbor with a 4-wheeler to come over and look for her when she hadn’t returned home by dark. The neighbor quickly found her and brought her back.

” I guess getting lost runs in the family,” Heinrich laughs. “I’m just relieved all of these stories have happy endings.”

So is every other parent or grandparent who has heard this story, or one like it. We all know from reading the news that happy endings are not always the outcome.

The lesson from the stories is to keep an eye on the kids, and give them an extra hug tonight.

And, maybe a warning not to follow any animals into the corn.