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Painting sparks memories from the farm

I suspect that some people who come to our house wonder why the central item hanging above the sofa in our living room is a large oil painting if a farmstead. Both of us grew up - actually across the street from one another - in a town of about 22,000. While I never lived on that productive farm, it was a vital part of my family's life.

When the local bankers were advising my grandmother on investing her money in the 1920s she ended up buying farms in Iowa and the Dakotas, but one farm was just three miles out of the Illinois town where we lived. It was always worked by families hired to do the job, and for many years, our main contact with it was that there was a lovely field in the back 40 that had a creek running through it and some big trees to shade a picnic table where we often came for family gatherings.

After my father died when I was 9 and a few years later my mother re-married, my new Dad took a four-day course at the Universdity of Wisconsin, and because he was bright and eager, he took over the management of not only the farm but also the small dairy business that the renter had begun. In no time, he became the authority the area's farmers consulted for ideas and advice, and the dairy had grown into a thriving and growing business.

In those days it was still legal to sell raw milk, that is not pasteurized. Dad made sure that his operation, from the automatic milking machines to the cooling and bottling of the milk were done in such a way that our bacteria count was far less than that of milk from the commercial dairies.

As a young kid, I liked to go watch the milking machines do their work. They were a relatively new invention at that time, and even as late as when my uncle, who farmed in a remote corner of North Dakota, came to visit at the time of my wedding, he had heard of them but not seen any in his part of the world.

When I reached the age of wanting to find a job during summer breaks in high school and college, the economy did not make that easy to do.

The result was that I became a regular in the milk house during morning and late afternoon milking sessions and not only learned a lot, but also enjoyed the special contact with Dad in his working world.

The picture is a view from back up on a hill in a rock quarry that was a place we kids loved to go to hurl rocks in all directions It was a painted by our school art teacher. He was not my favorite person, since I spent the whole quarter that I was in his class trying to print a poster that met his approval and earned the lowest grade I ever had. But he and his wife were friends of my parents and on that level he could be pleasant. He was, of course, talented and his colorful reminder of that special place in my young life will always hold a spot of honor in my living room.