ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Month: July 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Bringing in the Hay

Long before bales became popular and common, farmers brought in loose hay. My Don Johnson neighbors unloaded it into the haymow with a lift powered by a tractor; my wife Marilyn in the 1950s worked with a horse-drawn lift on the farms of her relatives. The top picture is a late in the day painting, getting the hay in after sundown.

The photo below is my Aunt Olga and her brother, my Uncle Lawrence, with a huge loose hay wagon on the home farm north of Amery, WI. This photo probably was taken in the mid-1920s.


Strawberries (jordbaer) and Fresh Produce

Just today my cousin Unni from Norway posted this photo, one of several picnic pics. These are wild strawberries, about the size of marbles. The jordbaer pictured here only understand Norwegian. Though I never had the patience to gather a mess of them in a container, friend and neighbor Willis and I picked them in the ditches in our neighborhood east of Amery, WI. Eating each one was like taking a bite of strawberry sugar. Intense, natural.

Today for the first time this season I stopped at our local farm market downtown Wisconsin Rapids by City Hall. What a sight, and what tremendous amounts of produce available. Tomatoes galore, beautiful red beauties along with so many other garden vegetables. The Amish sold bread, pickles, and jam along with their produce, plus fresh eggs, in the same location as last summer. The Hmong stands sold a variety of noodles, egg rolls, rice, and other specialties. Photos to come in August.


Ida Mae’s Cafe in Amery; Inquiring Minds

Ida Mae’s Cafe, downtown Amery. There’s the clock in the distance.

A stranger approached Kathleen and Lou as they scarfed down breakfast at Ida Mae’s Café. He introduced himself as traveling through the area and asked if they’d be able to answer a question.
“Go ahead,” Lou said with his mouth full of bacon.
“I’m headed for Clayton, I think that’s east here.”
Kathy and Lou nodded.
“What’s the quickest way to get there?”
Lou thought for a few seconds, took in an entire fried egg into his mouth, and asked him a question.
“You walking, biking, or driving a car.”
The guy thought that was a foolish question, but in all seriousness answered, “A car.”
Lou looked thoughtful, shoved a half a piece of toast in his mouth, and said to him, “Yeah, that’ll be the fastest.”

Lou and Kathy when they aren’t eating, a quite thoughtful pair of former teachers.

Margie and Me

She surprised me, alone on her bike by the Amery Beach. Told me she felt like a swim but the water safety class had the beach that July day.
“Hi, Loren.”
“Margie. Strange to see you here.”
She smiled and said little except to ask if I wanted to ride bike together. She straightened my collar. I pretended to punch her in the stomach.

“Think you can keep up with me,” followed by her famous chuckle.
We rode to the culvert area where North Twin runs into South Twin. Usually there’s  a lot of fishing going on at this spot but not today.
We sat down facing South Twin, and at the same time asked each other how summer was going.
For me it was going great with lots of reading and an upcoming family trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
For her, a family reunion, plenty of reading, and sleeping in.
Throwing rocks, skipping rocks, a few words.
“Mrs. Wilson was nice, wasn’t she.” We just finished 3rd grade.
Me, I never thought about teachers and nice. Just grumpy ones and regular ones, but I told her she was fine.
Both back on our bikes, I asked her if she knew about the church tent by the football field.
“Yeah, I came by it to get to the beach.”
The tent site was deserted. We rode up to it quietly before dropping our bikes on the grass. Still no signs of life.
The sign advertised the “Amery Revival” Three nights, and the question: “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?”
Nothing but chairs under the middle section, and a platform on the north end.

“What’s that tank for? Dunk tank?”
We laughed. Too small for a dunk tank.
We both saw the name BAPTISM on it at the same time. Catholic Margie and Lutheran Loren: clueless about tanks like this.
We stared at each other, gazing around for adults. Then we looked down at our clothes and decided quickly that they were swim-worthy.
She walked up the steps at one end, and I came up the other. Touching our toes in the water, we felt it pleasantly warm. Laughing, we couldn’t believe we’d soon be swimming.

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Lady Liberty and the Flowers

Just recently a statue was erected  in the Wisconsin Rapids, WI, area. The life-like Statue of Liberty stands close to the sidewalk and the street, across from the State of Wisconsin Office Building. This retired teacher also has wonderful hanging baskets of flowers, and we’ve always meant to stop in and try to find out her secret to those lush and beautiful flowers.. The flowers alone were spectacular, now there’s another attraction.


Blue Blue Blueberries

Not a lot to explain or describe, the photo does it all by itself. Recently picked blueberries in Wisconsin somewhere. Thanks, Judy H., for the photo. You can almost taste them.

Just a note to anyone on my street, 7th Street in Port Edwards. If you stop at our place tomorrow and say you saw the blueberries, I’ll give you a 6 pack of anything, within reason, that you ask for. Checking on whether or not the neighbors are opening the blog, esp. after doing a feature on 7th Street and the famous/ infamous Blalock Mansion of fictive lore from 100 years go. My feeling? I won’t have to buy anyone a 6 pack. Up to 3 prizes awarded. Not a joke.


Good Morning, Miss Dove



My family attended this movie at the Amery Theater in the mid-1950s, and I remember some of the images and scenes to this day. My mom had taught in one room schools during the Depression years, and she thought this movie would be fun for our entire family, all four of us.
Think of the strictest teacher you ever had, then add more strictness. Think of the Queen of England teaching a class and how that might turn out. Below is a description of her character and firm will among grade school kids, first through fifth grades. I’ve paraphrased the author’s words below, helping the reader get a sense of the regal Miss Dove.

On this school morning, in home-rooms the kids gauged the various moods of various teachers. When it came to Miss Dove, however, they dropped their speculation for one good reason: Miss Dove had no moods. Miss Dove was a certainty. She would be today what she had been yesterday and would be tomorrow. And so, within limits, would the students. Single file they entered her room, each greeting her with, “Good morning, Miss Dove,” and in turn she’d look directly at each and greet them with “good morning” along with their name. No informality in this classroom, and the kids would go to their appointed desks while Miss Dove stepped up on the platform that held her desk. The day’s lesson would begin.

Without giving away the story, the stoic and independent school marm develops a physical ailment which means she has to lower herself and ask for help and understanding from the community. In reading this book again, I have to say that author Patton nailed the teaching/ student dynamic. She either interviewed a number of teachers or she taught elementary school for several years.


Country Roads, Take Me Home

Country sideroad off of Hwy 46, north of Amery, Wisconsin.

Country Roads song made famous by John Denver

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River,
Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Blowin’ like the breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads
All my memories gathered ’round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine
Teardrops in my eye

I hear her voice
In the mornin’ hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Take me home, now country roads

Do You Know These Words? 1

This is my first attempt at a low key multiple choice vocabulary quiz. The questions are below with the choices, and click on Continue Reading for the answers. Let me note that these words were not fully in my vocabulary and if asked to define them without seeing them in context, I couldn’t do it. Context helps but isn’t always 100%.
The terms are uncanny, unabashed, dilatory, hoi polloi, and nonplussed.

1. unabashed—a) brave, b) self-critical, c) party animal, d) willing to take a chance, e) not easily embarrassed
2. dilatory—a) a time waster, b) a smart person, c) expresses self well, d) on time always, e) shy person
3. uncanny—a) normal, ordinary, b) brave in a crowd, c) more than ordinary, d) sense of humor, e) self- absorbed
4. hoi polloi— a) the commoners, b) celebration, c) exaggerating, d) fancy as in gifts, e) wealthy and powerful
5. nonplussed—a) confused and bewildered, b) poor at math, c) not easily impressed, d) lazy, e) boring


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That Amazing Season, Summertime

(Recent Amery Free Press Column)
Growing up around Amery I found out that I could write my own ticket for what to do on a summer day. Not a bad ticket but a good one, an open ticket.
Both west of Amery by Donald Johnson’s farm and east of Amery near the Howard Stindle farm, many choices available.
But I’d like to sum up more memories from Jack Harkness who reveled, not rebelled, in the Amery culture.
Biking everywhere, beach swimming and lessons including water safety, and organized summer baseball. Fishing in Apple River or one of the lakes, and daily newspaper routes. The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Tribune bundles arrived at the Amery Hotel, and Jack and Greg T. delivered them.
The A and W Root Beer stand attracted all ages of kids, with root beer floats, hot dogs, quarts of root beer, and hot beef sandwiches.

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A Matter of Priorities

The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.

Ben Stein


The Boy with the Green Hair

This movie released in 1948 stood out because of its title, and at this time green hair wasn’t a statement or a defying of authority. In 2nd or 3rd grade our entire class walked the two blocks from the Amery Elementary School to the Amery Theater on Keller Avenue, all to watch this strange tale. At the time I couldn’t figure out the message, but I know it stuck in my mind because of little Dean Stockwell at one point washed his hair with green soap. The resulting neon green can be seen in the accompanying photos. Self conscious, of course, he met with admiration from some of the girls walking by his house but later the boy bullies and adults made him feel foolish. This story was tied in with the large number of orphans that resulted from the 2nd World War, and no one having a solution to help them.

Just last week I checked this out from our Nekoosa Library, ordering it from the Wisconsin library sharing program that works so well. Again I watched it, and after viewing I still couldn’t figure out the film’s message. And I’m not sure if our elementary teachers thought we’d pull a good message out of it. If you watch this, please write and help me with the underlying theme. It’s a fun movie, and I enjoyed the 2nd viewing of it these 60 years later.


The Village Blacksmith

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

by William Wadsworth Longfellow in 1840


Little Carl Goes to Sunday School


Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Amery, Wisconsin. The Sunday school teachers arrive early and figure out which classes they’ll take.
“I want to make an announcement,” Donette stated, serious as ever. “Carl’s coming today. His mom called.”
Scrambling, they made sure the 4th grade classroom had two teachers.
During class, Robyn wanted to get through to these 9 year olds that heaven wasn’t something they’d earn. They’d get there by God’s grace. A complicated concept for that age, but Beth and Robyn had a strategy.
Beth spoke up, asking them a question. “If I sold my car and all I have in my home, and I gave it to the church, would I get into heaven?”
“No,” they answered as a chorus, Carl the loudest and most serious.
“If I cleaned the church every day and mowed the lawn outside, would that get me into heaven?”
“No,” again. The kids weren’t sure where this was going but they knew the right answer was NO.
She asked a final question, wondering aloud if she loved her husband and kids a lot and was kind to animals, would that get her a chance at heaven.
“No,” they shouted louder than ever.
“Well,” Robyn asked. “How can I get into heaven?”
Some kids were confused about the correct answer, but not Carl. With a sneer on his face and a glare for both teachers: “You have to die first!!!”
Throwing his pencil down, he stomped out of the room, saying he’s got to find a cup of coffee somewhere.

Backyard Deer

We don’t see many deer in our neighborhood, but this one showed up across the street in our neighbor’s yard.  Fully alert and yet relaxed, it snacked on the luscious grasses back there.


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