September 23, 2023

Letter to the Editor: First experiences

As we grow a little older in, the game of life, this thing called nostalgia has a tendency to develop. Nostalgia is described as a desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or to one’s family and friends.

As parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents we all like to share some of those interesting memories of our younger days. Among the mixture of our many laughable and sometimes sober experiences are lingering observations and lessons we learned. Looking back, we recall stories we have told of days gone by ... many times indelible first experiences.

This got me to thinking about some of my first experiences, many going back to childhood days. Some of them have never been told to our own children or grandchildren, who may now be about the same age. So, why not write quite a few of them down, and also share the idea with others.

No doubt some of our experiences will be classified as boring by the younger set, using today’s terminology. But, they will likely become more interesting as years go by. They could likely be put into a little booklet to be shared with future generations.

My first home

My dad and mother were married Feb. 10, 1925, in Churchville, and their first farm was two miles southwest west of the Village of St. Marys, previously occupied by my dad’s parents, Marion and Amelia McNeer. My dad lived there several years before marrying a little farm girl who lived two miles north of Prole, right by North River.

Then in 1929, a 120-acre farm, owned by I.F. Neff, a professor at Drake University in Des Moines became available. The two-story white frame house sat back from the gravel road, about a half mile south of St. Marys and one mile west. This non-modem farm home had a big kitchen, with a pantry, a large dining room and living room downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. Like most farm homes in those days, there was no electricity, running water or indoor toilet, and it was not insulated. An old-fashioned wood-fired black range served for cooking and heat in the kitchen and the dining room was heated by a big round cast iron heating stove that gobbled up wood pretty fast. A huge pile of wood on the back porch was harvested by my dad several times each year. Coal was primarily for the well-to-do in town.

There was no basement, but a large cave right behind the back porch was for storing 500 to 600 large jars of fruits and vegetables canned during the summer months. A rather large barn was for horses on one side, and milk cows on the other, with the middle section for loose, harvested hay. A large corn crib and grainery with an open garage in front of a big chicken house and smaller brooder house completed this typical farmstead.

My dad plowed our large garden with horses each spring, until acquiring his first used tractor in about 1939.

That evening, after dinner he said, “The first thing I’m gonna do is plow the garden this evening.” Sure, and he clipped off a fence post In the process, which we kidded him about the rest of his life.

John McNeer