Friday, March 21, 2008

Grandpa's Contraption

I come from a long line of "Contraption Makers". In fact, one of the most enjoyable and satisfying activities my Gardening Buddy and I engage in is contraption inventing and building. As we stand back and admire our work, we congratulate each other on our ability to make something useful from bits and pieces of this and that. Sometimes we buy bits and pieces. Mostly though, we look around for the odd pieces of wood cut from some other project, a bit of fencing wire, or some leftover piece of conduit.

My Grandfather was a maker of contraptions. Born in the late 1800s, he originally had a career as a pharmacist. Later, he became a Lincoln motor car dealer. But then, fate intervened. My Grandmother inherited a quarter section of farm land when her parents died. Her brother, my Uncle Charlie, inherited the adjoining quarter section.

Grandpa called a family council, including his five children, and spoke about what it would mean for them to leave the city and move to the farm Grandma had inherited. The family conferred on what work would be needed, who might take on what responsibilities, how life would change from living in a city brick home, to a small, frame house in the country.
The family voted to move. They would raise cows, pigs, poultry, corn, milo...and have a garden. These activities would have to feed the family and provide income. Each of the children, of whom Mom was the third oldest at age 14, would have tasks. The boys would tend the larger animals and do the field work, the girls would take care of the poultry and the garden. To help with income, the girls would sell eggs, poultry and butter. With their plans laid, they moved to their farm in 1923.

The photo to the left is Mom with part of the flock of poultry. There were ducks and geese. and chickens of several breeds, such as Barred Rocks, White Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds.

My Mom liked the Reds the best. She had several pets from among the Reds.

In this picture she was about 15 or 16 years old. She was always very tiny for her age. When she was full grown, she was all of 4 feet 9 inches tall.

A quarter section of land is 160 acres. In addition to fields and pastures, there would be a garden. It would have to be large enough to feed a family of seven during the season, and yield enough produce to put up for the rest of the year. Equipment - tractor, cultivator, planter, harvester - would be needed for plowing, planting and harvesting in the fields. Grandpa and Uncle Charlie decided that they could share larger equipment and help each other with field work. But a garden of the size needed would be very hard for my Grandma and her three daughters to handle alone. The hardest work would be turning under the manure and garden waste in the fall, and loosening the soil in the spring.

When you turned off the main road onto my Grandparent's farm road, you went over a wooden bridge that crossed "The Branch", a creek that ran into a small, local river. On the right side of the road, past the bridge, was Grandpa's machine shop. I still recall the smells of oil, gas, and metal inside. Next to the machine shop was the windmill. In addition to the tools inside the machine shop, there was a bank of batteries. The windmill charged the batteries, which provided electricity before the county came through with power lines.

The machine shop was a magical place. I was never allowed inside without Grandpa or one of my Uncles. Most of the equipment Grandpa had was purchased used. Tractors needed repairs, parts needed welding - something was always needing maintenance and fixing up. Out of Grandpa's shop also came "contraptions".

To be continued...


  1. This is really interesting.

    (If I knew how to use html properly, I would have underlined, or italisised the 'really'.)

    Esther Montgomery
    P.S. So glad you like

  2. Anonymous12:02 PM

    I'm so glad you're doing this, Grandma! I'm not sure I remember this story, although "contraption" sounds awfully familiar...Can't wait to read the rest!

  3. Hooray, this is like having a good book waiting for you on the night stand. I'm enjoying the story so very much and can't wait for the next installment :-)

    Thank you!

  4. Esther, Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you're enjoying the story!

    I'm certainly enjoying yours. Your blog is just delightful!

    Hey, K! I'm glad you de-lurked! It's partly thanks to you that I've been encouraging her to get some of these stories down, so you can help me encourage her to write another. . . and another. . .

    Melanie, I'm so glad you're enjoying the story. My grandma was a wonderful story teller, and I hope my mom can help me get some of these down before they are forgotten.

    And my mom has some good stories of her own too that I hope to talk her into sharing here in the future!

  5. Anonymous11:34 PM

    Our family history is similar for my mother's side. I had a grandfather inventor also. You write very well. And your mother is beautiful. I hope you will include in your story how they inspired you. The craftiness sure took hold on you. Can't wait to read the rest.

  6. You've written this story so well, with an obvious love for the history of your family. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
    Happy Easter to you.

  7. Anna, I think Mom inherited Grandma's story-telling genes! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm glad she agreed to guest-post. I hope to talk her into being a regular guest-poster!

    Kerry, I'm glad you're enjoying Mom's story!

  8. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Hello Mom, it nice to meet you :). I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed your story. My Mom was raised on a farm as well, in northern Minnesota. I remember fondly the time I spent at the farm while growing up. Small farms are a lost history, so thank you for sharing your story. I encourage you to share more, I look forward to hearing more from you.

    Happy Easter!
    Kathi :)

  9. Kathi and everyone, I appreciate your feedback, and I'm glad you are enjoying this bit of the past. My Grandparent's farm was in southeastern Nebraska. That is also where I was born. I have memories going back to when I was maybe two years old or so, enhanced, I'm sure, by my Mother's stories and confirmations of what I thought I remembered.

  10. As a girl who spent a great deal of time on my grandparents' farm, this post took me back to those days. It was WONDERFUL, as was this post, beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. This sounded so much like my father's family and the grandmother who taught me to garden. Can't wait to read the next piece.~~Dee


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