Presho, SD, farm flies flag memories over the Forest
There are a lot of memories tied to the 20-by-30 flag that flies over Lynn Leichtnam's farm near Presho, S.D., including the time a passerby assumed the big flag marked a Perkins.
Editor’s note: Every year for Independence Day, Agweek reporter Mikkel Pates presents a feature called Flags on Farms — a collection of vignettes.
“There’s just something about the two that seem to go together nicely,” Pates said. “To survive and thrive, farmers and ranchers must possess a kind of independence and toughness that is emblematic of an American spirit. And the red, white and blue just look great against a farm background, any time of the year.”
PRESHO, S.D. — You can see the flag on Lynn Leichtnam's farm from Interstate 90, more than a mile away. That’s no small thing, because the flag measures 20 by 30 feet, and it stands on a prairie hilltop that has been planted with trees that Leichtnam has dubbed “The Forest.”
In 1975, his father, Charles Leichtnam, started planting the trees, which have become a kind of a patriotic landmark. A memorial.
Daily flag duty
“Every day that I can remember, my dad went out and put the flag up every morning, and took it down every night,” Lynn said of his growing up years. Initially, the farmstead flag was closer to the house.
And it wasn’t just certain times of the year.
“He did it every day,” Lynn said.
The family was of German heritage, and immigrated to the Presho, S.D., area in 1905, the year the town was established as the railroad made its way across the prairie. The Leichtnams moved to their current headquarters in 1957. The original homestead is 9 miles north of today’s farm site.
Charles Leichtnam was never in the military but was very patriotic.
“He loved his country,” Lynn Leichtnam said. “Us kids had duties of doing it, too. He taught us how to take the flag down, and fold it. We all learned how to do it.”
There were seven Leichtnam children.
“My two brothers had to go to Vietnam,” Lynn said. “I was next in line, about 8 years old. I got to be the full-time hired man. I loved it. I stayed.”
Both brothers were in the Navy, and one spent his career there.
Today, Leichtnam raises corn, sorghum, spring wheat, winter wheat and sunflowers. He’s also put some stories in the bin, over the years.
It’s the pigs . . . or me
A visitor inquires about a statue at the end of Lynn's driveway. It’s a concrete cast of a heavily muscled Hampshire pig — black with a white strip “belt” that covers its front legs around the body. Not many pigs out here today.
“I had a lot of pigs, from when I was 5 years old to about 50,” Lynn said. There were 225 sows in a farrow-to-finish operation from the early 1980s to about 1988 — Hampshires, crossed with the Poland China breed.
“The reason I got out of the pigs was I got married,” Lynn said, recalling a bit of family lore. “The first year I was married, on our anniversary, my wife come out of the bedroom and I asked what she was so happy about. She said, ‘Someone’s leaving the farm today — me or them hogs.'”
So he got rid of the hogs. “You’d say I went in a different direction,” he said.
He sold the pigs and bought more cropland. The marriage didn’t last, but the pigs were gone and the statue remains.
Time for a a story about that flag, he asked. “True story,” he said.
One day, a vacationing family in a car pulled into his yard. Leichtnam walked out of the house and asked if the driver needed help.
“Where is the Perkins?” the traveler asked, gesturing to the flag
Leichtnam chuckled and told him this farm wasn’t a restaurant. “I just fly this for myself,” he said.
The exasperated (hungry) driver dropped his jaw, waved him off, and drove away in a huff. (If he was looking for a Perkins, the nearest one is was 180 miles to the west or east.)
On the day Agweek stopped by, Leichtnam's Old Glory was standing straight out, with gusts up to 70 mph.
"Tough on them,” he said, of the wind.
"It’s a $1,500 bill, Lynn said. “We put two of them up every year."
He added that he'd tried to get the flag down for this windstorm.
“But I couldn’t. You look like Mary Poppins, trying to hang onto the end of that.”