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Shutdown? Not on the dairy farm of my youth.

There was no “shutdown”—not in the U.S. government sense, anyway—on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

Come to think of it, there was never a showdown, hoedown, lockdown, or shakedown either. There were, however, machinery breakdowns, endless sundowns and, every now and then, a letdown.

But shutdowns? Not one, not even a “partial” one.

In fact, if anyone […]

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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 wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this […]

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Our Garden’s Last Stand

In the unseasonable heat of mid-September, the yard’s many black walnut trees began shedding their heavy fruit. Now, a month on, the stately trees are bare of nuts and most of their leaves weeks earlier than any year I can remember. Does that suggest an early winter? A long one?
      Time will tell. All I […]

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The Measured Steps of a Steady Man

Cool, foggy August mornings like today inevitably carry the 50-year-old sounds of the milking parlor where my father and herdsman Howard spent tens of thousands of hours together over nearly four decades.
The pair—one a college near-graduate, the other an eighth-grade graduate of the schoolhouse you could see from the dairy barn—rarely spoke. They fulfilled their […]

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Summer’s Sweet Bridge

On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, July was a slow, sweet bridge between spring’s hard hustle and fall’s quickening step.
The unofficial usher of July’s slowdown was my grandfather, a bond broker known more for his giddy-up than reining in. Most Thursdays and every Saturday year-around, Grandpa visited clients throughout southern Illinois. Every […]

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Rest in Peace

By default, obituary writers get the last official word on everyone. They tell the deceased person’s story through births, marriages, and deaths; add to it with names of parents, siblings, and children; and round it out with an anecdote or two about hobbies and professional achievements.
Maybe that’s why my father had a hand in writing […]

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Our Trap

The otter, too small to be a wily adult and too unschooled to be fearful of people, was sunning itself on the ice of a small, city park lake when the lovely Catherine and I, also enjoying the sunshine, spotted it on a late-winter walk. Our surprised voices surprised the juvenile and it made a […]

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Those Not Around the Table

The scarlet and gold promise of mid-harvest has slipped into the gray, damp reality of early winter. Last month we smiled at sun-kissed crops; this month we smile when we see the sun.
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, November was a month more endured than enjoyed. Its most memorable features were muddy […]

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Cat’s Feet

The early morning fog, like poet Carl Sandburg once noted, arrived on cat’s feet and remains, napping, on the lake until a warming sun causes it to slip away the way it came, in silence.
Fifty years ago I watched the September fog while waiting for the morning school bus on the southern Illinois dairy farm […]

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Dew Point

The sun’s steady rise slowly spreads its gathering light on the morning dew until the lawn dances with sparkles and the day with possibilities.
The July dew, soaking wet and glistening bright, almost always promised a day of sunshine, heat, and humidity on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Jackie, the farm’s main field […]

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