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Inspecting the 'goulash' of the home office

The hodgepodge of items in the home office Mychal Wilmes shares with his wife remind him of the past and bring him back to the present.

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Mychal Wilmes
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The home office Kathy and I share is not unlike goulash in that it involves a bit of this and a dash of that.

Goulash — be it Hungarian with meat, vegetables, and lots of paprika, or the American variety that includes hamburger, tomato, ground beef, and macaroni — remains a mainstay at supper tables and church potlucks. Mother made it often when every chair around her large table was full. Homemade bread, dill pickles, cookies, and laughter were included.

The computer, which helps keep me somewhat connected to agricultural issues in the wider world, faces a large mirror. The previous owner operated a beauty salon out of the home, so the mirror was essential. A wash basin remains as does a loud red door leading to the outside. All were marked for replacement when we moved in a couple years back, but get-around-to-its are hard to come by.

To mark her place as both a home and business, the outside door in the office was painted a garish red. When we moved in, an elderly neighbor stopped by to welcome us. Although she said it was none of her business, we ought to paint the door a different color because it was the ugliest red she had ever seen.

A disabled telephone hangs next to the mirror and not far from a wall shelf where a Ford and two John Deere tractors are parked alongside a pickup truck. A giant clothespin made by daughter Sarah in the sixth grade has an honored place along with a couple of sports trophies and seed and sports caps.


Three stuffed Winnie the Poohs, a Winnie the Pooh wall clock that doesn’t keep time and an old-fashioned-appearing record player ordered at the height of the virus outbreak round out the jamboree.

What I consider the office’s centerpiece is an oak desk, which years ago started life as a dresser. Mother’s brother remade it into a desk and gifted it to her. She kept many precious things in its drawers, including but not limited to old Christmas cards and letters her son wrote her during his year-long stay in Vietnam.

Each letter was worth a billion dollars more than its weight in gold because they provided proof that he was OK. She bounded them together with a strong rubber band and gave them to him when he returned.

The bookshelf on the other side of the room is filled with books — most are history related; not all have been read but someday they may be. Three National Geographics published in 1917-1918 are chuck full of World War I battles, advertisements for products designed to make a housewife’s life much easier, and amazing new cars.

I would be remiss in not mentioning three large binders given to me by my sister documenting my column-writing career dating back to 1991. She said it might be enjoyable for me to read them again.

It also might be a tad bit embarrassing because a writer standing on a soapbox was often too sure that he was always on the side of right.

“You could see what you got right and what you got wrong," she said in urging me to focus on the past.

A few pages reveal columns blasting consolidations in the meatpacking industry, the devastating impact of the 1980s economic crisis on farmers and rural towns, and farm policy directions. Nothing was particularly well written, which meant editors were forgiving.


My sister asked if I read through the collection.

Ten were enough, given that if one stares into a mirror too long imperfections are magnified. Anyway, there are more important things to be done. Tomatoes have ripened and must be canned, sweet corn must be frozen, and the county fair begins this week. It is always a week before the Minnesota State Fair begins.

It has been a remarkable summer as fall approaches.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.

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