Monday, August 04, 2008

1,000 Acres: A Farm Tale (Part Four)

My dad, Sam, was born in the 1930's, and his sister Carol came along four years later. Aunt Edith, in her sixties, married and moved uptown with her husband. Her house, which had been quite the showplace back in the days when all four children were living at home on the thousand acres, was closed up and later rented out.

When Aunt Edith died, her 200 acres, plus 75 acres she had inherited from her mother, was left to William and her other two living nephews. (His twin, Richard, an insulin dependent diabetic--one of the first to learn to use injectable insulin--had died at age 38.) William had been managing her farm for her for years without pay, and she had raised him like a son, so this 3-way split caused tension in the family. The other nephews wanted to sell their land, but they put a high price on it and William wasn't sure he could afford it. Once again, his father-in-law said, "You can't afford not to." William told the nephews he would buy them out, and a few days later, one of them came to tell him they had decided to raise their price. My normally mild-mannered grandfather drew himself up to his full six feet plus and firmly told him, "No, we agreed on a price and that's the price it's going to be." And with that, he acquired another 275 acres to add to his and Richard's 200--nearly half the original 1,000.

When their son Sam, my father, married, they gave him an acre in the woods, about 1/8th of a mile from their farmhouse, on which he built a ranch house in the 60's--and that's where I grew up, in the middle of those 475 acres. It is mostly planted in corn, beans, oats or wheat, though a dozen or so acres are wooded. The only animals left on the farm by the time I was born were some beef cattle, but my brothers and I had dogs, cats, rabbits, a pony, and several 4-H calves or cows. We played in the barns and in the woods and in the creek, and we could always stop in at Grandma's for a snack and a story or two....

Like the one about Grandpa and his twin brother setting a bed on fire...and the time my dad, as a toddler, spilled kerosene from a heater all over a bunch of baby chicks and tried to explain to my grandma, "Chicky all wet, Mama; chicky all wet!" There was the time my great grandfather backed a wagon into a bee hive; the bees swarmed and stung him and the horses so many times that both horses died, and my great grandpa nearly did too.

It was from Grandma that I first heard the story of the 1,000 acres.

Grandma is 96 now, and the plans are for the farm to stay in the family for the next chapter of the tale. When it comes to my generation, things are more uncertain--and hopefully a long way off!--but it's hard to imagine not being able to return home there.


mama said...

Jeannie -

I've loved reading your four-part series! It almost satisfies my urges for country living. What a sweet record you've created.


Megan (FriedOkra) said...

Fascinating story, Jeanne. I'm so glad you've captured it - I wish my family's history was so well documented. Any chance this story could grow to booklike proportions?

martha said...

Thanks for sharing these stories! I've enjoyed reading them. You've left a wonderful record for future generations. What a meaningful way to put your writing talent to good use!

Margaret Cloud said...

I like your farm story, I know how you feel about it, when growing up in Ohio my Aunt Lottie had a farm in West Virginia and we spent many childhood days visiting her. Is the picture of the farm?