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Memories in the clutter. Weeds, 1/26/12

February 7, 2012 - Randy Krzmarzick
A year ago, the night after Christmas, we were just getting back from the Cities. We were putting things away in the house, when we heard a low rumbling sound, loud enough to shake the house. We looked at each other and then looked around, and my best guess was a chunk of ice sliding off the roof. A while later, daughter Abby went outside. She came running back, yelling she knew what that sound was, that our machine shed had collapsed.

You remember last winter was about as far from this winter as you can get. Layers of snow and ice had indeed taken their toll on the shed on the north side of our yard. There was some damage to machinery, but it was repairable. And some insurance money to go to a new building helped matters.

It may not have been the way we planned it, but the event triggered a whole-farm cleanup that was overdue. We were able to get in that shed and clean out 50 years worth of wood/parts/steel and a bunch of “you just never know when you might need it again” things. Eventually, the shed itself was knocked down and buried. The smaller “truck shed” next to it was also taken down to make room for a larger storage building built this fall.

And as long as we were burning and burying those, an aging, sagging wood corn crib and an aging, sagging brooder house went, too. And as long as we were on a roll, an overgrown field windbreak went under the surgical scalpel of a Mathiowetz Construction bulldozer. The place still isn’t in any danger of making the cover of Farm and Ranch Living, but wife Pam and I were feeling good about the steps taken.

Ah, but then the reviews started to sift in from the children. Oldest, Anna told of exploring the dark, dusty world of the inner shed. And how she used to crawl about and imagine all sorts of things in that agglomeration of stuff back there.

Youngest, Ezra was upset over the demise of the windbreak. It was planted thirty years ago, and may have been the last planting of honeysuckle and buckthorn in America. It seemed like the day after we planted it, we got word of the honeysuckle aphid and the horrors of buckthorn. It had also grown up in volunteer cottonwood trees. I love cottonwoods, but these wanted more of my farmland every year. To Ezra, the shrubs were great fort walls and the trees, battlements. Many a battle was fought behind and through them. Sometimes, armed with sword, other times he brandished guns. With farm dog Winnie at his side, enemies were vanquished and rabbits were chased.

Middle kid, Abby was most upset by our “cleanup.” She had a vibrant imagination, and this whole messy farm was her playground growing up. The thicket that the windbreak became created tunnels for her to burrow and hide in. She spent hours in there and scampering in the grove---a cheetah, a deer, or a squirrel. Occasionally she spent time as a human being, and much of that was in the broken down brooder house which she filled with house and school supplies. And that old corn crib, despite the missing floor boards, had castle-like qualities.

All three of them hung out with the farm dog in the truck shed, whether that was Winnie, Molly, or Bagel. And they all played on the great snow hill created on the leeward side of the windbreak after a blizzard. So when one of them scrawled, “Good bye childhood memories” on the chalkboard in the kitchen, another added, “True dat.” And, all of them agreed that there was no reason to ever come home again, since the farm they grew up on was gone; they appear to have a genetic predisposition to hyperbole.

It wasn’t like our kids had nothing else; there was an abundance of playthings, a swing set, and even buildings that were not dilapidated. But, no, those were like the proverbial toy on Christmas morning that goes ignored while the box gets all the attention. Those old sheds, the piles of junk, and the messy tree line were where their imaginations got legs. Those eyesores were where memories were composed.

That, of course, is what kids do. Parents are always scripting their children’s lives, and, then we’re surprised when they write their own script. I suppose that’s a good thing. We grownups don’t have great imaginations; our brains have been too ground down. But kids have vast, unlimited imaginations that stretch to the horizon.

Farms are great for that. In those years between old-enough-to-not- get-lost-in-a-cornfield and driving-off-to-town, there’s room to roam. They need only be watched a bit to keep them safe, but perhaps spiced by a wee bit of danger: like falling through a floor board, stepping on a nail, or getting a branch in the eye. The modern plight for kids may be that we don’t give them enough empty space to fill. There’s amazing electronic gadgets that do the imagining for the kid. Then, too, there’s the urge to structure every moment with organized activities, to the point of stifling.

I do feel a little sad that our kids’ “memories” got burned, buried, and hauled away. But I’m not too worried they’ll never will come home again. Winnie’s still here.


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