The rugged land near Bagley, Minn., is still dotted with the woods, lakes and swamps from which Jennings Sunderland's uncle carved a dairy farm 100 years ago -- treacherous territory for an Alzheimer's patient.
Sunderland's wife, Clarice, a retired nurse with the disease, began wandering this summer, so Sunderland would settle her in a chair in the barn while he and his son, Kurt, milked the cows, or take her along in their pickup to the fields.
At home in the late afternoon, he had the chain.
Tired from the chores he began before dawn, Sunderland, 78, would settle in his recliner beside his wife of 50 years, watch TV, and sometimes fall asleep. To keep Clarice close, he looped a length of chain around her and her chair, the other end in his hand. "If she started to get up or lift off that chain, well, it rattled and woke me up,'' Sunderland said. "It was a pretty good idea, I thought.''
The county attorney disagreed. What followed was a two-month drama in which Sunderland was jailed and his fragile wife removed from their home.
The battle only ended late last week when the county attorney dropped the charges and avoided a court showdown Monday over whether Sunderland's method for coping with his 76-year-old wife's illness was cruelty or kindness.
Now the family is concentrating on how to get Clarice home again.
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A Devoted Husband, and a Wife in Chains