Time’s Reluctant Elders

      On an April Sunday afternoon a year ago, the last ancestral connection to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was severed when my mother died quietly and peacefully.

      Her passing, quickly followed by her sister’s death, means that this Easter will be the first Easter in the last 64 that I will not be […]

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Shutdown? Not on the dairy farm of my youth.

There was no “shutdown”—not in the U.S. government sense, anyway—on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

Come to think of it, there was never a showdown, hoedown, lockdown, or shakedown either. There were, however, machinery breakdowns, endless sundowns and, every now and then, a letdown.

But shutdowns? Not one, not even a “partial” one.

In fact, if anyone […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this […]

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Our Garden’s Last Stand

In the unseasonable heat of mid-September, the yard’s many black walnut trees began shedding their heavy fruit. Now, a month on, the stately trees are bare of nuts and most of their leaves weeks earlier than any year I can remember. Does that suggest an early winter? A long one?
      Time will tell. All I […]

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Summer’s Sweet Bridge

On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, July was a slow, sweet bridge between spring’s hard hustle and fall’s quickening step.
The unofficial usher of July’s slowdown was my grandfather, a bond broker known more for his giddy-up than reining in. Most Thursdays and every Saturday year-around, Grandpa visited clients throughout southern Illinois. Every […]

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Rest in Peace

By default, obituary writers get the last official word on everyone. They tell the deceased person’s story through births, marriages, and deaths; add to it with names of parents, siblings, and children; and round it out with an anecdote or two about hobbies and professional achievements.
Maybe that’s why my father had a hand in writing […]

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Our Trap

The otter, too small to be a wily adult and too unschooled to be fearful of people, was sunning itself on the ice of a small, city park lake when the lovely Catherine and I, also enjoying the sunshine, spotted it on a late-winter walk. Our surprised voices surprised the juvenile and it made a […]

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Those Not Around the Table

The scarlet and gold promise of mid-harvest has slipped into the gray, damp reality of early winter. Last month we smiled at sun-kissed crops; this month we smile when we see the sun.
On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, November was a month more endured than enjoyed. Its most memorable features were muddy […]

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Ag’s Greatest Innovation

In my youth, May brought two noticeable changes to the big Lutheran church my family faithfully attended. The first was heat. No building on earth better held daytime heat from Mother’s Day through Reformation Day than that century-old house of worship.
The second was the season’s short-sleeved parade of lost limbs, a brutal testament to the […]

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The Auctioneer’s Song

For someone who rarely attended auctions, my father somehow managed to host or co-host four different auctions in the last 20 or so years of his long life. Is that a record of some kind?
The first, held in the mid-1990s, was a dispersal sale for the 100 or so Holstein cows, heifers, and calves that […]

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