As I wrote previously, I lived on a farm near Montevideo, Minnesota when I was about six and seven years old, and then later when I was about ten and eleven. In between those years we lived on a small farm near Delano, Minnesota. I have no memory of school there (3rd and 4th grade), but I have plenty of other memories.
The house was quite small and rickety—much smaller and older than the large Montevideo house. The ceiling leaked, the walls creaked, and the inside of the walls were infested with mice. We would hear them all the time. Though my mom and sister hated them, me and Mark had fun killing them with mouse traps. We would get at least one a day.
Another house adventure was the attic. Dad did some repairs to the attic and to the steps leading up there, but it still looked like an attic. And that’s where us kids would sleep. It wasn’t cold up there like the Montevideo farm was; but it was musty, and we could hear the mice; and once in a while we would even see and hear bats flying back and forth over our heads while we hid under the covers. That was scary. I think my mom felt sorry for us, but my dad didn’t seem to care.
Oh, I’m sure he cared, but I know he had so much on his mind. We were not making it too well financially, and I suppose he was always thinking of any way possible to make more money to hold the farm and the family together. And I know mom wasn’t happy in that house, and any suggestions she gave dad made him angry. I don’t know if it was her idea or not, but I remember that dad worked part time at a macaroni factory in town. I remember that he brought leftover macaroni home, probably swept up from the factory floor, and fed it to the pigs. He actually made a pig slop out of it; he mixed the raw macaroni with feed and sour milk. Oh, those pigs just loved it! They would go crazy over it! In fact, when we fed them, we had to be really careful, because when they would see us heading their way with a pail of slop, they would come running and squealing. If we didn’t quickly dump it in their trough and get out of the way, they would run us over.
We had a few acres of farm land, mainly corn; and we had one or two cows, some chickens, and about 30 pigs, as I mentioned. They were penned up only about 20 yards from the house. I remember that every time my grandpa and grandma came over to visit, they would always be holding their nose—literally. They couldn’t stand the pig smell. But I didn’t mind at all. I guess you get use to it; and I really sort of liked that farm smell.
I have such vivid memories of that little farm, especially the back yard. Not too far from the back of the house, across from the pig pen was an old windmill, used to pump water. And it worked! Then not too far from the windmill there was a row of fruit trees; mainly apple trees, but also a pear tree. Mom would sometimes make apple pies from the apples. And I remember, she would also make chokecherry jam from the chokecherry trees (pictured), which were scattered all over the farm. Mom was really good at making stuff. Besides making pies and jam, she baked bread—which was always wonderful.
We had one of those old-fashioned telephones that you had to crank. And it was a party-line phone—so you had to share it with the neighbors. We didn’t have many neighbors. But I remember up the gravel road, about a quarter mile, was a farm on the right with a crab apple tree and geese walking all over in the yard. Across from that farm, on the left, was an underground house with a flat roof that was about three feet above the ground level.
Then, a little way from that house was an old farm house, more like a shack, where two old bachelors lived, and where they often sat out on their back steps. We liked hanging around them, listening to their stories and watching them whittle their sticks. And they had a distinctive smell of tobacco and beer. Yea, they were a couple of happy, carefree guys, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like them!