No place like home without the coop
The home place — it will always be known as that although I haven't lived there for more than 30 years — recently lost its chicken coop when a fire consumed it. Mother was more than just proud of the building because without the egg money she...
The home place — it will always be known as that although I haven't lived there for more than 30 years — recently lost its chicken coop when a fire consumed it. Mother was more than just proud of the building because without the egg money she wouldn't have been able to afford those things that she deemed necessary.
The egg man — a rotund man who always came with a smile on his face — came once a week when the hens were laying good and every other week when they weren't. On occasion Mother hauled the eggs to Le Center's general store. The store's wood floor, which was soft in places but mostly sound, creaked when walked on. Its owners offered just about anything a farm family needed.
It was better when the egg man's truck pulled into the yard because if a young boy volunteered to help carry egg cases he was rewarded with two white chocolate bars, the likes of which were only available from him.
Whenever I come back to St. Henry, I drive slowly past the home place and remember those things that used to be. The garden and its raspberry and strawberry bed and the fence Dad built to keep chickens and ducks out is gone. Volunteer trees grow where flowers bloomed. Goats roam the hillside behind the house where kids took wild rides down inside repeatedly patched inner tubes. Mother watched nervously while the tubes madly rolled down the hill; there was always the chance that a rider might hit a clothesline pole. No one ever did and the most severe injury was dizziness that sent the world spinning out of control.
Dad and his reliable WD Allis Chalmers would most likely be starting corn planting now that oak leaves were about the size of squirrels' ears. When he checked corn with wire, which was so long ago that manure and not commercial fertilizer boosted fertility, he sometimes took his youngest son with him the field. Seed corn bags stacked high on four sides kept me imprisoned while the planter moved slowly across the field.
Planting time soon gave way to cultivation. If the weather was good, corn grew fast and made it hard to cultivate fields three times. The WD did double-duty and served him well until a broken crankshaft ruined its engine. The Allis and an International baler was purchased new. It seemed a shame when the only tractor he bought new was parked in the pasture near the mound of split wood. It rusted there for years, waiting in vain to be restored to its orange glory.
I learned a lot on the home place. For someone who came from a rented home without indoor plumbing, the H and C on the sink seemed amazing as did the bath tub that meant it was much easier to get ready for Easter and Christmas masses.
Church was important and no more so when fundraisers were held. Mother's contributions included glazed and sugar raised doughnuts and pies — apple and ground cherry mostly. Doughnuts were made fresh, which meant that Mother started work at 4 a.m. My reward for her work was doughnuts that were rejected for sale because they didn't quite look perfect. One could only eat so many before the stomach was stretched beyond its natural limit.
I would happily return to those days, if only for a week or two, if I could. I'd spend a good amount of time beneath the cottonwood tree in the calf pasture. Its isolation made it a perfect place to watch the heifers graze and the west wind change fluffy clouds across the sky. A youngster in reflective mood often wonders what the future might hold. At the that time, I couldn't imagine the home place without the chicken coop and the big garden.
— Wilmes is Agri News managing editor