Yesterday my dad and Uncle Rich and I went tootling (I think that’s a word) around farm country north of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Beautiful! I wish I could post more digital shots of the autumn colors, but alas I’ve had my videocam pressed up against my eye so much that I forget to take regular pictures. The shot posted here was from a hike with my dad and Uncle Loren through a wildlife reserve today where the fall colors seemed to be fading a bit. It was still so beautiful. I saw lots of butterflies, white cranes, candian geese, a blue heron and a fast-moving fuzzy caterpillar.
We stopped off to visit my Aunt Arlene along the way. That was a real treat – mostly because I was able to tell her how much all of those childhood visits to their dairy farm meant to me. My aunt said that all the nieces and nephews seemed to feel the same. It’s no wonder! How many kids get the gift of hanging out on a farm… minus the chores? Running through cow pastures (very carefully), communing with cows and barn cats, playing in the hay loft, riding on a tractor, harvesting vegetables in the bountiful garden, eating mass quantities of ice cream at the church socials next door, consuming huge yummy meals with more family members than you knew you had, and just generally squealing with delight from sunup to sundown. What a treasure those memories are. My aunt no longer lives on that farm, but it’s still just right around the corner from where she lives now. On our way back out I asked my dad to pull into the driveway on the old farm. Apparently the family who owns it now was out of town but the farm hands said it was OK for me to wander about with my camera if it made me happy. It made me happy.
As soon as I stepped out of the car I was greeted by a ‘guard cat’. I swear this little orange tabby felt it to be her duty to ‘meow’ and announce our arrival as loudly as possible. She followed me everywhere I went – with booming commentary the whole way. I peeked into the barn and saw a few kittens playing in the aisle between the two rows of dairy cows waiting to be milked. I said hello to a few of what could have been the descendants of the cows that I used to talk to when I was a little girl. My legacy on my aunt and uncle’s farm was that because I found it a disgrace that the cows had no names on the little chalkboards above their barn stalls (only numbers) I was ‘called’ to name each and every one. And God bless my uncle. As busy as he was he managed to get a step stool, pull down each chalkboard and gradually over time had every intention of writing down the name that I assigned to all the cows – which must’ve been at least 30! My favorite cow on the farm was ‘Spot’. I know that’s an unusual name for a milking cow, but truly there was no better name for her. She sported a very distinct black circle on her left side. I loved that cow. Maybe it was wholly my childhood imagination, but she seemed to love me too.
We also stopped in Norwalk, Wisconsin yesterday and popped in on 85-year old Hilda. Hilda used to have a farm along with her sister and brother where my family bought fresh eggs so many times. She looked great. We sat down and talked for awhile before Hilda invited us to some fresh muffins that she had made that morning. The town was exactly as I remembered it – quiet, peaceful and slow – and a place where people still know their neighbors.
Tomorrow I’ll be having lunch with one of my childhood chums. Let’s see… was that 35 years ago? Whoo boy. Was it really that long ago? I tracked her down only because her mom and dad still live in the same house and more than likely still have the same phone number. Now that’s impressive to a gypsy girl like me.
We’ll be leaving Wisconsin on Monday – back to Southern CA. Sorry Santa Fe, New Mexico, I won’t be dropping by this time… but sometime soon I hope. On Monday morning we’ll be loading up the giant ice chest with Wisconsin meats to take back to all the California family members who know first hand how fabulous these weiners and bologna are. (I’ll try to refrain from making a noticeable dent in the supply on the way home.)
I hope to have one more update here before departure. For now, I need to get ready for the Friday night fish fest. See you there!