Gard, Robert Edward / My land, my home, my Wisconsin : the epic story of the Wisconsin farm and farm family from settlement days to the present
Wisconsin is a kaleidoscope of change -- the land transformed. . . , pp. 83-96 PDF (8.8 MB)
WISCONSIN IS A FKA EIDOSCOPE OF CHANGE - THE LAND tRANSFORMED... It is the human struggle that is important in Wis- sin: the devotion of families to the welfare of the isconsin land. The course of the struggle is not d to follow: from the earliest settlers with their mestead problems, the stubborn sod, the loneli- ,the hard labor, often the advent of death from se or overwork. It is easy to appreciate the man the simple farm instrument, toiling to make his me, his place, and a future for his children. Out of t struggle came the Wisconsin spirit, and the isconsin Idea . . . a better life for everybody, a nce at books and education, at a cultural side to e, an inspirational side, a religious side, certainly 'fun side. The struggle can be seen in earlier parts the story of the Wisconsin farm. But what did the uggle mean? What did it become? Were the set- rs successful? Did they achieve what they worked valiantly to accomplish? What of the family? hat of the land? Are the values of determination, rd work, regard for land and for neighbors still there? What of the youth, the vital young who gave th land its flavor and ultimate meaning? In answer, there is a kaleidoscope of achieve- mIent, of development, of meaning. First the youth left the farm. The cities were the benefactors. The #frm and family life suffered. And there were the machines that grew larger and more efficient, spawned from the simple ones made by Wisconsin inventors in the days of the primitive reaper, the )low. One man could ultimately do as much as twen- ty, using the machines. And the cattle improved to purebred herds on every side, and the farms grew larger, with fewer farmers. Was all this what the Edwin Bottomleys had in mind? What has happened is fascinating and paradoxical. Wisconsin has be- come the leading dairy state and is known far and wide as a home state, a neighbor state, a state of beautiful farmlands; and the kaleidoscope, in order to understand, is put together from the memories, the statements, the hopes of many persons from all parts of the state. The spirit seems to be there still, though the pioneer cabins are all gone now. And there is something else ... a sense of largeness, as though the land has taken on a mysterious dimension that is bigger than life. Wisconsin is the land where the image of rural America grows, waxes, and spreads itself in the eyes of the world as the state where achievement of the farm has grown almost beyond belief. But now it is a different world and we search for motifs from the past, cherishing them: The prairies now are nearly all gone. Along old rail- roads are some prairie plants, undisturbed; and the wild growths are not trampled. In a country cemetery on an old prairie acre, there is still a bit of the tall, tall grass, and at times the winds weave it into patterns of strange memory. The valley below where I stand is one where settlers arrived on a June evening in 1856. The Norwegian who led them carried a staff of locust wood. This he suddenly thrust deeply into the sod and cried, "We have here our home! It will be here, in this valley! Here I'll leave my staff until it takes root in the good soil." And, as they say, the staff took root and became a shade for the old man when he reached ninety. I do not know who lives down there now; or whose 83
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