Kathy insists that I use a cane when walking on hard surfaces and urges me to use the walker that resides in the garage. I fight against both on the grounds that the aids make me feel old. Life’s wear and tear make me a worthy candidate for knee and hip replacements and a back brace to boot.
None of this is meant as a complaint, seeing how the health issues are minor compared to what others experience. However, this is not the retirement that was envisioned. It was meant to be spent raising a few cattle, hogs and chickens on the acreage we raised the children on.
Warning signs that it was not meant to be began when Kathy mentioned that it was becoming nearly impossible to keep the place up as it should be. We sold it a couple years ago and moved to West Concord, a town that once had a grocery store, creamery, implement and car dealers, a school, and a clothing store. Dairy cattle shipped from the rail station traveled across the country and went to Mexico and Canada.
Its better past is best seen in the Historical Society building, which in a former life housed the consolidated public school. Much of the building was constructed when the 20th century was new. The former classrooms depict farming, town life and memorabilia from soldiers and sailors.
The building, when the mood is right, can make one wistful for the past when the small town — and thousands like it — had their heyday.
Our home is bedecked in a history all its own. Numerous teddy bears and stuffed animals from the children’s past remain along with grade school photographs and sporting event moments. Where did all the time go? It careened from diapers to graduations in an instant.
Change in life and farming astounds.
I was reminded of that while talking to an old friend whose dad (like mine) checked corn in the ground using wires before advancing to a four-row planter. My friend’s son has taken over most of the operation.
He shook his head when asked if he was ready for another planting season.
“The planter is spread all over the shed,’’ he said, adding that his son is retro-fixing it with advancements that will allow on-the-go changes in seed populations based on soil conditions.
“It’s amazing stuff,’’ he said. “I hope he gets it all put together in time for planting.’’
Corn seed planting populations have increased dramatically over the years — in some cases the increase cannot be supported based on soil and weather conditions.
The farmland around our old place was rented by its owner to a large operation that grows soybean and corn on more than 30,000 acres across Minnesota. Massive planters worked the fields, and harvest involved three or four combines. I visited with the combine operators and found most of them were from South Africa.
They were happy to be in the United States because jobs were scarce in their native land, and social unrest had worsened living conditions. Political pressure was mounting on the South African government to redistribute more land to the majority native black population. The workers would return home once the Minnesota crop growing and harvesting season was finished.
Retail prices, as farmers and consumers know far too well, increase more easily than decline. That has been the truth since a John Deere scouring plow overturned the first virgin sod.
The realization that the knowledge about farming that I took youthful pride in is obsolete makes me feel almost as old as using the cane and walker.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.