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The Farm Bleat: Kept secrets lead to blank looks when kids bring up 'Remember when'

How can anyone "Remember when" when the initial act was kept a secret?

Julie Buntjer 01 31 22 S1.jpg
Tim Middagh / The Globe<br/>

WORTHINGTON — Sunday afternoon, once all 28 attendees of the Buntjer Easter celebration had their fill of ham, cheesy or mashed potatoes, fruits, veggies and a bevy of salads, one of my nephews started one of those “Remember when” stories that are all too common among families — particularly farm families.

“Remember when,” he started, beginning a tale about how he and a cousin flipped the four-wheeler out back (as in, behind the grove, on the 80-plus acres of farm fields and pasture land) and had to walk up to the farmyard for some shovels before they could get the machine sitting upright again.

Now, I can tell you that not another person in the room recalled the “Remember when” tale, because young boys who flip a four-wheeler out back certainly aren’t going to admit to such a death-defying incident until years later — 20-some years later.

As I listened to the barrage of tales, I couldn’t help but look at my mom — the grandma who could say very little when the grandpa (also known as my dad) bought toys for the grandkids. Her face contorted to one of shock, delayed fear that one of her grandkids could have been killed, and then the likely thought, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell us.”

One thing was apparent by the look on her face — she didn’t find it funny.

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There was a “Remember when” tale about hitting the tongue of a farm implement while being pulled on an innertube (just imagining the close call makes me shudder), and another of an unplanned exit over the handlebars of a three-wheeler while attempting to cross the waterway that splits our farm fields.

And then, the nephew who shall remain nameless said, “Remember when” that 3-foot-long mark was put in Grandpa’s pickup? The too-young-to-drive nephew was driving — and pulling a hayrack — when he attempted to maneuver around a parked hayrack in the yard. Suffice it to say, it didn’t go well.

At the time, Grandpa blamed one grandson — one who was totally oblivious to why Grandpa was so mad and yelling at him — while the one who was too scared to admit it was his fault kept quiet … for years.

I wonder what my dad’s reaction was, finding out the truth years later. I am sure he hadn’t forgotten about the scratch!

One “Remember when” tale involved losing three-quarters of a hayrack filled with small square bales as Grandpa rounded the corner of the field drive. The grandsons were inexperienced in stacking hay and, apparently, they learned some new cuss words that day.

After listening to an afternoon of storytelling, my own tales from the farm seem less death-defying. Sure, I broke my arm while driving a John Deere pedal tractor, and yes, I had the wind knocked out of me when my brother (I don’t recall which one) pulled me and my innertube across a snow berm one winter day. (The innertube stayed connected to the three-wheeler; I did not, and did a belly flop onto the driveway after going airborne.)

After my dad’s death, I wondered what would happen to our family farm. Where would we create our family memories of Easter egg hunts, deer hunting, shed hunting, four-wheeler riding, baseball in the back yard and so many other activities we do when we get together? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that the next generation of Buntjer kids want to see their kids making memories on this land for which my parents built a home and their family on when they settled in Bigelow Township 55 years ago.

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Opinion by Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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