Column: Farm memories of a city girlWORTHINGTON — During my long (24 years the end of next month!) tenure here at the Daily Globe, I’ve been assigned to do a number of agriculture-related stories, particularly for this Today’s Farm publication, which publishes four times a year. I often begin such interviews by telling the subject that I’m a city girl, so a few ignorant questions can be expected in the process. The farmers and ag professionals have always been very patient and understanding of my lack of farming knowledge.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — During my long (24 years the end of next month!) tenure here at the Daily Globe, I’ve been assigned to do a number of agriculture-related stories, particularly for this Today’s Farm publication, which publishes four times a year. I often begin such interviews by telling the subject that I’m a city girl, so a few ignorant questions can be expected in the process. The farmers and ag professionals have always been very patient and understanding of my lack of farming knowledge.
I did indeed grow up inside the Worthington city limits, but can claim a bit of farm heritage, at least on one side of the family. My mother, Dorthy, grew up on a dairy farm in Benton County, Iowa — Big Grove Township, if my memory is correct.
By the time I joined the family, the farm had long been home to Uncle Robert (my mom’s older brother) and Aunt Eleanor and their four children, all much older than me. My grandmother, Margaret, had passed away, and Grandpa Bob had moved to nearby Van Horne, Iowa, with my stepgrandmother Helen. My older siblings have much clearer memories of going to the farm, because they went there much more frequently while grandma was still alive.
After grandma’s death, the visits were fewer and farther between — maybe once every year or two. But a visit to the farm was always a treat, because it was an alien environment to explore, and as the youngest of all of the Thompson family cousins, I was doted upon quite thoroughly.
At Grandpa Bob’s house, I would sit at the breakfast table and watch him pour coffee over his Rice Krispies. Evidently Grandpa got so tired of milking cows that he couldn’t bear the sight of milk. The thought of those snap, crackles and pops still brings a smile to my face.
If there were any dairy cows still around on the farm, I never saw them, but I did ride on the tractor with Uncle Robert to feed the cattle he kept “up at the 80.” I have vague memories of going into the big red barn on the main property, the chicken coop and the stained tree stump that Uncle Robert used as a platform to butcher the chickens.
Many years later, when we took niece Gretchen, then just a few years old, to the farm, Uncle Robert told her that one of the chickens was named Gretchen, and she wanted to take it home so her namesake wouldn’t end up on the dinner plate.
In later years, Uncle Robert also developed an orchard on the property, and I can remember going out back of the house to see what we could find growing on the trees. There was also a hammock strung between two trees, the perfect place for a late afternoon nap.
But my clearest memories are of the farmhouse: the kitchen where Aunt Eleanor fried up that chicken; the big dining room table that we gathered around for meals; the steep flight of stairs that we climbed to go to bed. I never tired of listening to Uncle Robert relate how my mother was born right there, on the main floor of the house. I couldn’t imagine why Grandma Margaret didn’t go to the hospital!
A few years ago, brother Marty and I made our last pilgrimage to the Big Grove Township farm. The occasion was Aunt Eleanor’s 90th birthday party, and all the relatives had come from far and wide to celebrate with her. The farm is now home to my second cousin Jenny — Uncle Robert and Aunt Eleanor’s granddaughter —and her husband Brian and their children. It is no longer a working farm, most of the land around having been sold, and the outbuildings have fallen into disrepair. But the house is still well-loved and lived in, with a few updates made along the way.
After a lovely pre-birthday party picnic under the trees surrounding the house, we all traipsed to the clearing behind the house where a bonfire was blazing. Although it was pitch dark, our path was lighted by millions of fireflies hovering above the grass — more fireflies than I had ever seen — creating a fairy carpet effect. It was a magical moment that seemed to celebrate our family’s heritage on the land.
Since then, Aunt Eleanor — our last direct link to the area — has died. We no longer have reason to detour through Benton County on our way south or east. But I hope to make it back to the farm again some day, and know I would be warmly welcomed by Cousin Jenny, of course. But until that time, I can close my eyes and picture that magical summer scene of the bonfire, the fireflies and the old farmhouse in the background. I may be a city girl, but a piece of my heart can be found on that Big Grove Township farm.