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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 84


There is still pride in accomplishments.
cattle are upon the hillside. I know that once a family of
seven arrived on that flat by the creek, and built a cabin
and broke sod for a crop of Indian corn. Now the hillside
herd is large; great black and white Holsteins with swell-
ing udders. On that hillside there was once only one
beast: a thin, brindle cow newly dried of milk.
    When you envision the people coming from Eu-
rope and from New York State and New England
and Virginia and Ohio, and you stop a minute to
remember what they went through, how they wor-
ried through the wheat-growing era, and got dairy-
ing started, and raised hops, and improved the cattle
and horses and sheep and hogs ... all of that, strug-
gling all that time. And they learned about better
seed and more economical ways to farm, then strug-
gled through World War I and the Depression and
finally achieved the success story, where you can be
successful on the farm if you follow the right pre-
scriptions and have the right machines and cattle....
It isn't hard to identify the struggle, the clearing
and breaking of the land, but are the people still
there? The struggling people, the family people, the
ones who created our state and national strength
and traditions. Are they, or the spirit of them, still
there?
     They do live on, for the spirit of Wisconsin
grew out of experiences of the early families
their descendants who found their strength in
land. Generation after generation, leadership in
community and the state has come straight from
family, the home, the values of home.
    Farm homes were gathering places. New meef
ods developed at the university were synthesized az
exchanged there when, from time to time, the E4
tension people would drop in ... Soy Bean Brigs
Jim Lacy, Ranger Mac, Tom Bewick, Verne Varnej
Warren Clark, Henry Ahlgren, Rudolph Froke
Dave Williams, Bruce Cartter, Nellie Kedzie Jone
Abby Marlatt, Almere Scott, Edith Bangham, L.
Sorden, Walter Bean, Ray Penn .... Many othi
of the great ones who took a personal interest in tl
farm people would just drop by the home place
see how things were going. That was the way it
done; the whole thing evolved in one crucible ...
perts, farmers, all devoted to the same end: the be
terment of a condition, of the land, of personal lif
Community problems, farm problems, and comma
nity culture were what concerned them.
    When meetings were held in the schoolhouse
the town hall, folks came from all over the coun
side to discuss matters important to the farmer,
to the farmer's wife, or to his kids. Sometimes thi
concerns were expressed in the form of plays, usui
ly obtained from the university, that told about ti
problems of the dairyman producing milk and chee
or about a farmer raising chickens or geese or m
keting produce, or about the farm wife saving
her egg money to buy a piano or organ.
    The plays were done with lots of humorl
fast action. Sometimes "Old Brindley," the all-pu
pose cow, was portrayed onstage by boisterous fan
ers covered with a large cloth and holding a paint
cow's head. The plays were entertainment and moz
They furnished a good reason for the busy farme
and their families to get together. The men wov
come in the evening to build a stage in the school
in the hall or outside. To some it was a great hon
just to pull the stage curtain, to make the siml
scenery, or to put up the lights-often just bulbs
tin cans, if there was nothing better. It was all
of the rural community spirit.
    In the background of the entire rural Wisc
sin way of life was what had happened. To und
stand the Wisconsin of today, one must appreci
the courage, determination, humor, and awaren
of home and home place that accompanied the tra
formation of the land.
     In working on this book, we talked to
farm people who helped shape this agricultural s
ting. All of them found it necessary to speak of t
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