Those sweet memories
Of the way it used to be
When I was safe in my mother’s arms
On the infinite Dakota prairie.
Where life could be hard
And money was in short supply.
But, love would surround me
While adversity passed by.
Passed between these ladies
I clung to their arms
Knowing they’d protect me
From dangers on those family farms.
They were with me when I was young
Advising, suggesting, sometimes stern.
Leading protectively on the long dusty roads
Teaching me lessons, they hoped I would learn.
Challenge This Week: Write about a family gathering. No Word Count limit this week, just no book lengths please.
Sunday Papers Spread Across Saturday’s Floor
Sundays are special! We considered them a day of rest from the normal farm chores, other than milking and tending the animals. Sundays included driving to Fingal for the parish service and returning home to sit down to a meal. Mom and my sister worked long hours preparing the best meal of the week. Next Sunday was going to be extra special. Our parish priest, Father Koehler, would be coming to our farm to spend the day.
Father Koehler’s house keeper told us that he was coming. That simple statement ignited frenzy in my family’s world. There was no greater honor, than hosting the priest for a meal. A Sunday Dinner was more than mom could have imagined.
Everything would have to be perfect. We would be eating in the dining room, with the table fully extended. We brought Great Grandma’s white linen table-cloth out of the cedar chest and ironed it to perfection. The family polished the silver along with a laundry list of chores given to every member. No detail of the preparation was left to chance.
The boys washed windows, dusted lights, and polished wooden furniture. Dad caught, dispatched, plucked, and butchered three spring chickens. We dug fresh potatoes, snapped string beans, and brought canned red beets out of the cellar. Everything had to be perfect!
Saturday arrived with one last major project to be completed. The linoleum covered kitchen floor. For those not familiar with that old floor covering, it was a hard brittle surface that showed scuffs and always needed a fresh coat of wax to avoid looking dull. It was a three-hour chore that no self-respecting woman would omit. So just after lunch mom put water on the stove to heat (We had no indoor plumbing) and moved the kitchen table and chairs to the hall.
With hot water, lye based soap, and back-breaking strokes mom scrubbed and waxed the floor. To protect her work she spread newspapers all over the linoleum to keep dirty foot prints at bay. God help the man who would accidentally blunder off the newspapers and leave a track.
The day of Father Koehler’s visit had arrived. Mom’s day of rest began at sun up, with fresh pies in the oven and white bread rising on the mantle. Dad and the older boys went to milk the cows and feed the animals. An hour before mass, we did our final clean up and put on our Sunday Go-to-Meeting clothing. With the meal set to low, all eight of us loaded into Buick. We drove the five miles to church where we march down the aisle to our pew. We stood taller knowing that so many in the church knew that Father Koehler was coming to our farm after church today.
After church we hurried home to set the table and make sure the meal was ready. Eager to be out-of-the-way, we boys waited outside for Father Koehler arrival. Our mouths watered just thinking of the food inside. We also knew that after the meal, we would clear the table to make room for the Royal Rummy Game and the piles of pennies we would bet.
Father Koehler spent the entire afternoon and most of the night laughing, talking and playing cards. By the end of the evening he had successfully cleaned out our penny supply and deposited them into his coin bag. He laughed as he thanked us for the donation to his cause that he stuffed in his jacket. It was his standard joke; everyone knew he used the money to fund the summer bible school.
Our family waved goodbye as father’s car drove down the prairie road back to Fingal.
Life on the farm was hard, but pleasant recollections stand out the best. Good food and good times are always the best memories.
The dream of a few acres of land, a home, and a machine shop still burns in my soul. My wife and I continue to pour over internet real estate listings and pepper old business associates for farmstead leads in their rural areas.
We have found a number of properties that fit our basic requirements of a home with :
- Bedroom, laundry and bath on the main level.
- Small amount of acreage
- 2 guest rooms
- Trees and grass
- A machine shop to hold my tools and keep me busy
- Priced under $100,000
This property can be located anywhere in three state area of North Dakota, Minnesota, or South Dakota– with our preference being in the Southeastern Minnesota area.
Now obviously we are not expecting to find a mansion in this price range and we understand that we might have to replace an orange countertop or deal with gold bathroom fixtures. But I will hold the line at structural defects like failed roofing, a leaky septic system or no access to internet.
Our new abode must be within a life flight of a hospital (in case work in the machine shop goes badly)
This week we will be contacting a real estate agent about three properties in Southern Minnesota. All have their share of good points and bad. After looking at the pictures of the properties, my wife pointed out we will need a way to clear the long driveways of snow in winter. Guess I’ll have to get a snowplow blade for my old Ford Ranger or a good John Deere tractor.
Perhaps last nights summer storm rekindled youthful memories of a simpler time on our prairie farm. When grandma’s cotton apron meant wholesome family meals.
My Grandma’s old farmyard stove,
Decorated with pitted strips of chrome.
Fueled by wood from the apple grove
That flavored our family’s home.
That old cast iron range
Moved from house to porch.
Tied with the seasons change
And temperatures that would scorch.
For a constant fire the tinder box
Was everyone’s chore to keep filled.
Splitting wood dragged home by ox
That was too small to be milled.
Those 19th century recipes
Of simple German fare
Fueled our family legacies
With bratwurst, kraut and beer.
When the wind would howl and hover
And the frost snuck in long ago
We’d wrap ourselves in patchwork covers
And watch the red embers glow.
– Clarence Holm