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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
(1978)

Wisconsin is a kaleidoscope of change -- the land transformed. . . ,   pp. 83-96 PDF (8.8 MB)


Page 83


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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