Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Welcoming Committee..

This is what you will see, if you drive by our house
when we are at work.
Where are our people?
Is it 6:00, yet?

Old Country Cemetery

On a corner of a quarter section of land, adjacent to the county road, sits an old cemetery, that has long ago been abandoned. This is located just a half mile from the old run down farm house in the previous post. One headstone has been fenced around, probably to keep cattle from stomping on the grave. You wonder how many unmarked graves there are in the areas between the standing, and surviving headstones. It's really a peaceful spot.
There are many clumps of iris growing in and around this burial area. I hope to go back in the spring, in May, to witness their bloom.
My Great Grandparents Lewis and Hattie Johnson are buried here. He passed on December 13, 1894, the year before his grandson, my grandfather, Van Austin Peterson, was born to Jacob and (their daughter) Amanda Peterson. He emigrated from Sweden, she was born in Illinois, of Swedish parents. She lived until 1913. The inscription on the bottom reads, "To dwell with the happy and blest."
This old implement sits by the side of the road, in the weeds, just 1/2 mile from the old homestead, on other property. I just couldn't resist snapping a photo of the rusted and weathered piece of farm equipment. It's kind of sad that it was abandoned in the weeds, and not in a museum. Do you think people were so glad to have the new and improved tractors and other farm implements, that made their jobs so much easier and the work faster, that they were none to glad to leave it, forgotten in the weeds, to rust and rot, for industrial progress?

Visiting the South Divide

An old hand pump, sitting on a knoll in wheat stubble, is all that is left at the location where my Dad grew up south of Palisade. The camera is pointing north, and just to the left of the camera,
this oil well storage tank sits.
Don't you think the sky is a beautiful blue in these photos?
This field to the south of the county road is what my Uncle Frank hoped to come home to farm, after WWII. I'm not sure how the family no longer owned it, perhaps, other opportunities off the farm beckoned, and it was sold. Uncle Al was of the opinion the lawyer who handled the deal misrepresented it's worth, especially when he saw present day oil wells in the area. There is a working oil well pumper in the center of this photo, if you look closely.
This dilapidated old farm house sits a mile north of the old home location and is characteristic of farm houses of that period. When I try to imagine the old farm, I like to think it resembled this, with kids playing in the yard, a dog or two, and some farm equipment sitting near a windmill, a chicken house and of course, a barn. In many cases, the settlers planted fruit trees, too, to insure their long term survival, and to provide much needed shade. It was a beautiful Indian Summer day, and thankfully, I did not encounter any rattlesnakes or ghosts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Searching for the Old Home Place

It was a gorgeous fall day, last Wednesday, driving home from Trenton to get our new vehicle licensed; so, I turned off Highway 25, to do a little road trip past the general area where my Dad lived when he was a little boy. It is between Palisade and Trenton, about a mile west of Baker's Acres. The last time I had been there was the summer of 2005, when my Uncle Al Peterson was here for his class reunion.

That summer, Uncle Al drove out to the old home place, with his son, and my cousin, David, to show us where he grew up with my Dad. It was really exciting for me to have his input of memories to add to what little I could remember of what my Dad had told me. Many times, I had wished I had kept a written record of what my Dad related through the years. Many times, I wished I had listened closer. Many times since then, I wished I had asked more questions.

As we made the turn to go east, and slowly drove the mile, Uncle Al told us that the field to the southwest was a piece of land that his older brother, Frank, had hoped to farm after he returned from the European theater of WWII. He got quite agitated as he remembered family history. He recalled some doings with a lawyer, in which the result was the family lost that piece of ground. As he gazed upon the oil wells that dotted the land on both sides of the county road we traveled, he showed a mixture of anger and sadness. He remembered they had been poor as church mice. Dirt poor.

As we came over a slight hill, he stopped in the middle of the road and though, there was nothing there, he expressed great disbelief. "It's gone!" he exclaimed. "There's nothing left!" he choked out. David and I were very quiet, for all we could see was plowed fields and nothing but horizon. Behind us was a large oil storage tank that probably sat where the old barn or chicken house formerly stood with the animals that kept the wolf from the door and starvation at bay, from day to day, for a family of 7 people.

"I can't believe there is nothing left!" he said, again. Then he pointed where there once had stood the windmill, the barn, the house they lived in, and the fields that my Grandfather would have plowed with the most primitive of tools and work horses.

"Mom used to cover the windows with quilts, at night, during the winter, to keep the snow from drifting on us while we slept."

"We used to take turns climbing the windmill to see how far we could see. On a clear day, you could see for miles and miles."

"In this direction," he pointed, "was the garden Mom planted every year. During the dirty thirties, when I was little, the grasshoppers literally ate the onions out of the ground, after they had eaten everything else. One of us kids made the claim that at least, we would have potatoes, if they ate everything else. Those damn grasshoppers ate the stems clear down to the ground, then ate the taters, too!"

He sat there for a long minute or two, and then he said it again, with sad disbelief, "I can't believe it is all gone." I couldn't believe it either, but I was so glad to be a witness to what he could remember from our emotional road trip.

Back to the present, as I slowly drove the same hallowed ground, and stopped and searched for anything that could be a sign, I discovered there was an old hand pump that may have been a part of an old windmill in that spot.

Is it where my grandparents once lived and where my dad grew up? I can't say, but, I have an idea that it very well may be. There is nothing else in that area to ever indicate a family once worked the land, and scraped out a living as they worked the land, and weathered the years together in this place on the prairie.

My next step is to try to locate land records that might support this claim. I am also hoping to find documentation of some sort to support the family history that my Grandfather Van A. Peterson was born in a sod house south of Palisade, about 1895.

I did not have my camera with me that day, but I hope to go back soon, and get some photos, particularly of the hand pump, at this place that no one can go home, again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More Butterflies

Admiral butterfly on the Autumn Joy Sedum, which also attracts lots of bumblebees and wasps and other moths, too.

Blanket flower and an old plow. Thank goodness for today's roto-tillers that are gas powered and not human powered!
Monarch in the cosmos.
The zinnias have been beautiful this year. Such vibrant colors.

Monarchs in the Sun.

There have been many butterflies in my garden in the past few weeks. This is some of the photos I've been able to take in the zinnias.
Admiral butterfly.
Two admirals having lunch.
The monarch.
Closeup of an Admiral.
Monarch sunning while there is the chance.