Wilmes — Letters hidden in an old Studebaker
The final resting place for the battered cars and pickups, used-up corn pickers, elevators and other rusting metal was in the junk pile in the pasture.
My favorite item was the Studebaker pickup, an early 1950s model that was built well ahead of its time. It had been my next-in-line brother’s. He drove it for a long time to get feed for his hogs and do town business.
Great treasure was found in its cubbyhole — a cache of love letters his now-wife had sent him. Neatly written, the tidbits the half-dozen letters contained were nothing less than a gold mine in terms of what could be considered potential blackmail material. At least, that is what I thought and told my brother so. After he threatened great vengeance, he extracted a cross-your-heart promise not to mention anything contained in them to anyone.
She was, I thought, a mighty good writer. I especially liked the way she carefully penned "love’’ at the end of each one. This was news that at the time he didn’t care to share with me or anyone. It was a brief, small victory for the good guy in our little war.
Dad’s wood-wheeled grain drill was almost as interesting. The lid, painted a dull red on the inside, was covered with Dad’s notes about how many pounds of oats or alfalfa seed to plant per acre. Notes and highlights from past spring plantings were neatly written in pencil and still readable a decade or two after they’d been written. The notes showed that in some years oats was planted in March. Dad, who often said snow on top of new oats always made for a better crop, was no doubt happy with such an early start. There also were times when oats didn’t get planted before May, which made it tough because the time for cross-checked corn planting too quickly followed. Dad — like many farmers — enjoyed planting more than harvesting.
Cultivating was his second most favorite field work. It seemed that he could contentedly sit for hours on the WD Allis Chalmers with the four-row cultivator. His straw hat provided shade from the early summer sun. He always thought cultivating was a good time to think. Most times I thought it — especially the third or fourth time through — was time well-spent daydreaming. That was something he thought I did way too much of, especially when the cultivator strayed too close to the pasture fence and knocked wire down or busted a post.
Dad excelled at fixing fence, a skill that he never passed on to me. Stringing new barbed wire over the creek bed at both ends of the pasture required patience. Unrolling barbed wire on land is frustrating enough, but doing it while waist-deep in cold creek water made it downright uncomfortable.
Creek fence fixing was a spring ritual that needed to be done before the cows could be let to pasture. The lush, green grass caused a milk spike that lasted until the flies and mosquitoes came. Most of the cows would dry-off by July and not freshen until late August. Summer was good for giving a young boy milking responsibility. Ten cows milked much faster than 30 and a rookie’s mistakes wouldn’t be too milk-check costly.
I sometimes wish I would have held on to my brother’s Studebaker letters. Although 30 years into his marriage, I doubt that anything written in them would be at all embarrassing. However, his grown boys might enjoy them.