The Covid epidemic put a damper on many of the class reunions over the past two years. This June I returned to Nebraska for a special gathering of my rural one-room grade school students. I write about this iconic school in my memoir. In Search of Pink Flamingos. However it was demolished due to school consolation. See my 2020 blog entitled One-Room School House
Of the twenty attending the school (1st-8th) in 1957, seven attended the reunion. I’m in the middle. Two others were in the area, but had event conflicts. Had they come, we would have had a 45% turnout. Not bad for a bunch of old codgers.
I also attended my 53rd high school reunion. Monroe High (Morgan, the name given in my memoir) also closed, some years ago. Here is just a portion of the 40 in attendance from a variety of classes. I am on the far right. I was asked to do a presentation, so I presented a slide show describing my journey from the farm to a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia and Tonga and back to the US. I talked about the events that happened in my family. I left them with a takeaway message that focused on the subtitle of my book – forgiveness and unconditional love:
“Our time on this earth is precious
Find it in your heart
to Love and Accept
Family and loved ones NOT for who you want them to be
but for who they are…
Nebraska is not without its thunder and hail storms. Here is the grain elevator in Morgan (Monroe) silhouetted by an impending thunder head that later poured causing local hail damage to crops and cars. Just a regular summer on the farm.
The nearby town of Monroe (Morgan) and other small surrounding towns, have shrunk from once vibrant small community centers to barely the essentials: a bank, a post office, a church and a tavern. Here is downtown Platte Center, 8 miles from Monroe, population 450.
I was saddened by this change that happened since my last visit 12 years ago. However the nearby town of Kanton (Columbus), the center of commerce, is growing and prospering. Farming is still the core and the pulse of this community as well as most of Nebraska, as shown by my friend’s son, Doug, and his helper.
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5 thoughts on “Going Back”
Good morning! I’m working on a cup of coffee while my grandson is sleeping. Your message was right on! We need more tolerance and acceptance of each other to make the world a better place!
I’m glad you were able to reunite with your former classmates. I’ve never made it back to a high school reunion (yet); my graduating class had over 700 members!!
It was the last year of a single high school in a town of then 35,000 people; now there are two high schools. I was usually out west on a fire assignment when there was a class reunion in August. I have reconnected with several classmates, one a cousin of my wife who I used to date and a buddy who moved to Wisconsin from Kentucky when we were in junior high. It’s been good to re-establish those connections. Is Ken the one I met at my wife’s aunts funeral in Silver Creek?
Yes, these small towns seem to be slowly fading away. But, they are a testament to hard working, good people, the backbone of our country, who put in long hours and days in an often thankless job of growing crops, raising animals for those less fortunate who don’t know where their food comes from, who often don’t appreciate the good life they have. Those of us who served in the Peace Corps don’t take these things for granted. Turning on the light switch, running water, medicine we get at the drug store or just getting into our car to go downtown.
I often fly fish in what’s called the Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin. Small farming communities there amongst the rolling wooded hills. It’s a quiet area, but I enjoy the small towns there and those overgrown, abandoned farm houses and out buildings are monuments to someone’s hard work on the land. I often photograph these old buildings, I’m not sure why. But one can imagine the families who previously resided there. I guess, besides the fishing and enjoying the outdoors, it’s my “happy place” (among others) where the trappings of modern, hectic life are temporarily left behind. The Amish are there as well, and I enjoy seeing their horse drawn wagons going down the road. Guess I’m just a romantic!? I live in the country now, about 3 miles north of town (Baraboo, WI) where it’s quiet, no street lights, and I can see the geese fly over and hear the Sandhill cranes in the morning. As I write this, I’m in the big city near Minneapolis where I can hear the cars whizzing by nearby on Highway 100. While our daughter and her family live here, the big city isn’t for me. I like smaller towns, which is where we lived while I worked for the Forest Service. Baraboo is about 12,000 folks, a full service community, county seat with a town square, in town farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and concerts on Thursday nights on the square during the summer. So, Hope you are enjoying your summer. Nice to read your blog!! Best wishes!
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Hello Randy, thank you for your comment over your cup of coffee. I forgot to mention important piece of data about my high school reunion. We only had 16 in our graduating senior class. Of course, I wrote about this in my memoir but just to refresh your memory. Farmers are hard-working individuals and the love of farming has never left their soul. My dad was one of them but also all my friends who are now in their 70s are still farming alongside their children. At least those who wanted to stay on the farm. It is a hard life and the cost of farming is exorbitant. No one person can farm alone as my father had. Consolidating with your children or families to make it go of it is the only way. One piece of Machinery can cost a quarter of a million dollars. To fill up the diesel tank is between 500 and $1,000 to run the machine. So if we think our food prices are rising think about where it comes from. We need the farmers.
Great photos Susan, which relate so nicely to your descriptions in your memoir, even though things have indeed changed over time. Must have been a very special trip back to Nebraska for you!
Good morning, again Susan!
Yes, farming is a labor-intensive, capital heavy occupation, which I think is a calling and one where farms are frequently passed on to the next generation. My sister-in-law and her husband ran a “Century Farm” for years but are supposedly “retired” but Harold will probably die on his tractor, he just can’t stop farming. I often equate it to the logging or forest products industry with whom I used to interface with: its dangerous, hard, dirty work, often working alone, long hours with insufficient pay, terribly expensive equipment, breakdowns, completely at the mercy of the markets and the weather, with more bust years than boom years. But, the folks are independent and wouldn’t have it any other way. And they are proud of who they are and what they do!
Hello Randy, so well said. Many “old and busted-up farmers” die on their tractors. My dad would have if my mother had NOT wanted to stay one more day on the farm after his retirement. Yes you can take the “farmer out of the farm but not the farm out of the farmer”. I still have that farm deep inside my soul. Susan