Archives

Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm.

Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved through the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

“I believe this is the […]

Read More

Life on the Mississippi

As widespread rains begin to slowly refill lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, Thanksgiving thoughts turn back to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth where the Mississippi River, just a mile from our dairy barn, was a constant, often dominating presence.

Except, that is, in the late summer months when everything around the farm–cows, hired men, […]

Read More

Every Day was Labor Day–Including Labor Day

One certain way to raise my agricultural bona fides among farming friends was to casually mention my upbringing on a 100-cow, southern Illinois dairy farm.

“Oh,” they would say reverently, “that’s real work.”

Yes, it was, but mostly for my father who began his farming career milking cows by hand in 1950 and ended it in 1989 […]

Read More

Vacation Essentials: Mayonnaise Jar, ‘Light Breakfast,’ Butter

Each of my parents had an unwritten list of essentials to take when our family–of, holy cow, eight–left the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth on our annual August vacation.

For example, my mother never crossed the state line without a wide-mouth quart jar filled with soapy water and a washcloth so she could keep […]

Read More

Cattle Never Judged Me, So I Never Judged Cattle

Despite spending every day of my southern Illinois youth on what at the time was a very large dairy farm, I never really had a clue of what made one Holstein cow or calf better or worse than the next Holstein cow or calf.

Most of that inability lay in my complete disinterest to show any […]

Read More

In the Heat of the Night

Of all the daily chores my father performed on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, the most vital to me each winter morning was his rekindling of the banked fire in the tall, round wood stove that dominated my mother’s kitchen 60 years ago.

The stove was, no kidding, a Warm Morning model. It was as […]

Read More

Friday Night Lights

Every farm kid who grew up before the change-everything 1970s changed almost everything will recall Friday evenings meant quick chores, a quick supper, and a family night in town.

Back then, nearly every store in nearly every rural community remained open for business until 9 p.m. on Fridays so everyone–but mostly farm families–could shop, stroll the storefronts, or just visit […]

Read More

Riding the Metal Wave Left by My Iron-Bending Uncle Honey

One job on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was to walk just-cultivated corn or soybean fields to find the cultivator parts–disk blades, sweeps, even whole shanks–left broken and unseen by my quiet, iron-bending great Uncle Honey earlier in the day.

Honey was a skilled cultivator killer. The problem wasn’t the design of our Case cultivator. […]

Read More

The Boys of My Summer Arrive Every April

 I was very young—I had just turned eight—to begin a torrid love affair but the St. Louis Cardinals made it easy. It was 1963, Stan Musial’s last year in baseball, and the young team began the season hot and stayed hot through July.

      So hot, in fact, that the starting infield for the National League’s […]

Read More

Happy Slow, Quiet, Dull New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was wonderfully different than every other week of the year on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      Overall, it was the slowest, quietest, and—especially for my hardworking parents—dullest week of the year.

      Most post-Christmas weeks, Mom and Dad napped longer than usual, actually had time to enjoy […]

Read More