A Feit Family Five-FectaRUSHMORE — It’s not unusual for a family to celebrate the milestone of a century farm with a shindig of some sort.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
RUSHMORE — It’s not unusual for a family to celebrate the milestone of a century farm with a shindig of some sort.
But Tom and Karen Feit have a lot more to celebrate this summer than just their farm’s age, so they’re calling their shindig, set for August, the Feit Family Five-Fecta Festival.
“Originally, I thought (the century farm date) was 2014,” explained Karen. “Then Tom came home and said, ‘Do you realize it’s 2012?’”
Shortly thereafter, their daughter, Tanissa, became engaged and indicated she’d like to be married at the farm. They’d also discussed hosting a welcome home party for their son Kyle when he returned from Kuwait, as well as the need to have a reunion with their cousins. So Tom and Karen decided to have one really big party and celebrate their own 40th wedding anniversary a bit in advance to boot. More than 700 invitations have been dispatched.
“I love alliteration,” said Karen about how the event’s name was conceived, showing a brochure-type invitation that used a five-pointed star as its graphic theme. “The groom’s sister is in graphics and said ‘Let me help,’ so she helped design this.”
The theme will also be carried out in decorations and party favors — star-shaped ornaments Karen has fashioned from clay.
Tom is a little less enthusiastic about all the plans, but it’s obvious he’s proud of his family and the legacy they’ve built on the farm located three and a half miles west of Reading.
The property was originally homesteaded by his grandfather, Stephen Feit. Stephen was born in Illinois, but his father — Tom’s great-grandfather — had emigrated from Luxembourg. Stephen married Eva, whose family was from Belgium.
“My grandfather was deceased before I was born,” noted Tom. “So I never knew him.”
But Stephen was a foresighted man, and when he built a home for his family in 1917-’18, it was wired for electricity, although it would be 13 years before electricity made it to the farm.
“My one aunt always tells about how her sister kept praying for electricity to make it out here,” Tom related.
Grandma Eva continued to live on the farm after her father’s death, relinquishing the property when Tom’s parents — Raymond and DeVonna — got married.
“He got married later in life,” noted Tom.
“He was 37,” Karen added. “They had their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974.”
The house that Stephen built is still where the Feits live, although it has changed quite a bit.
“It’s the only place I’ve ever lived,” Tom said.
What Tom remembers best about growing up there is “working.”
“We had all different kinds of critters back then — cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens,” he explained. “The first things to go were the chickens, then the sheep. But then somebody’s father bought bottle lambs when the kids were small and we suddenly had a flock of sheep again.”
(That somebody would be Karen; her father bought the bottle lambs at the sale barn for his grandchildren.)
Tom attended school at the Our Lady of Good Counsel school in Wilmont and was in its last graduating class. He met Karen — then a northwest Iowa hairdresser — during a visit to Sheldon, Iowa.
“He said, ‘Do I know you from someplace?’ — the oldest line in the world,” related Karen.
“I was really shy,” injected Tom.
“So he asks me to dance, and when we’re out on the dance floor, he asks my name,” continued Karen. “I said, ‘Tell me your name first.’ He said, ‘I’m Tom Feit from Rushmore, Minnesota.’ Well, that sounded like a fictitious name to me, so I said, ‘I’m Penelope Pitstop from Pittsburgh. I’m here visiting friends.’”
Karen’s friend deserted her, so Tom offered to drop her off at her friends. She finally had to fess up that she wasn’t from Pittsburgh when he dropped her off. Thus began a quick courtship.
“We met in February and got married in December,” said Karen.
“I tell people that I crossed the border one too many times and came back with a wife,” Tom quipped.
“I grew up on a dairy farm, and I always said that I’d never marry a pig farmer — stinks to high heaven and I always figured pig farmers weren’t that bright,” Karen added with a laugh. “And here I am, married to a pig farmer. But we have a lot of things in common, so I can overlook the pig smell.”
The Feits had five children in eight years: Kevin (now living in Highlands Ranch, Colo.) Kirk (Worthington), Kyle (Luverne), Tanissa (Farmington) and Tori (Lakeville). They now have nine grandchildren — seven girls and two boys.
“When I think back to my time on the farm, I go to a very happy place in my mind,” said oldest son Kevin. “I can still remember the wonderful smell of harvest time or fresh cut alfalfa, catching hundreds of bluegills in the tiny pond behind the trees, playing basketball in the old hay mow, sledding down the big hill in the winter. We had access to so many things — things that most farm kids take for granted. I didn’t understand that fully until I moved away. Now those things are what I remember most.”
Even though none of the Feit kids decided to go into farming, they still take pride in their family’s history on the land.
“The history of the farm was also something we were reminded of often,” Kevin continued. “You could walk behind the grove and see old horse-drawn farm equipment. In the barn, hung several reins and an old yoke. Grandpa Feit (Ray) would tell us stories of threshing machines, Belgian draft horses, how the dredge ditch was created, etc. He was a living historian. … I guess the old adage holds true with me. ‘You can take the boy from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the boy.’”
Karen just marked her 25th year working as a paraprofessional at Worthington Middle School, while Tom is “starting to downsize” on the farm, although he continues to raise hogs and farms 560 acres. He also occasionally drives charter bus for Reading Bus Lines.
For the next month or so, the Feits expect to be engrossed in preparations for the Five-Fecta Festival. A big landscaping project is in the planning stages, including “FEIT” spelled out in pavers. The celebration will encompass just about every building on the property, so there’s a bit of work to be done. Sons Kevin — a competitive barbecuer — and Kirk will prepare the pork for the party, while Karen cooks up a bunch of turkeys. All of the members of the family — 21 in all — will play roles in the wedding ceremony. Porta-potties have been ordered, and contingency plans are in place in case of rain.
“I love this kind of stuff,” Karen said, pointing to a plaque hanging in the kitchen that says “Squeeze me real hard — I’m good under pressure.” “I always have to have 10 irons in the fire.”