November 23rd…“WHAT WAS THE MAILING ADDRESS OF YOUR CHILDHOOD FARM, THERE IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA?”
Our father’s name was our mailing address. As for the innumerable farming families near and far from our own farm, their own imprinted legacy upon the soil they cared for was enough of an address for the days and times of my parent’s generation. I truly am of the mindset that the agrarian strength of family bonds has been the major backbone of our nation over its long tenure of existence. Each farm address was a matter of heart.
Proverbs Chapter 22 and Verse 1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold”. A good name; that is how farm families were recognized and found in the sprawling, cubical land sections of southern Minnesota in those days. Intersections of graveled country roads sported no street signs of any kind. The reason for that was because generation upon generation of farm owners, and their ancestors, had lived in the same area for so long, everyone knew where everyone lived. Multi-generational farm families like Mutschler, Heitzeg, Lorenz, and so many others were caretakers of their beloved farms for as much as 75 to 100 years. That kind of longevity made a natural mental picture to all other local farmers as to where “so and so’s” farm was located. The only thing our parents, Russell and Clarice, had to do was mention a neighboring farm family name and immediately, our farmer’s “GPS” (Great People System) knew exactly how many country blocks one had to drive to reach that farmer’s home place and “address”.
Take our own farm, for instance. At least two generations enjoyed caring for those ebony soils before our parents began farming (via renting) the acreage in 1946. In those days, other farmers would’ve known the “address” of our home place as the Santmaier or Holstad farm and they would’ve automatically known how to get there, too. Our Landlord was Morton Holstad (from whom our parents eventually bought the farm). Morten’s wife was Tina “Santmaier” Holstad. It was Tina’s parents who likely homesteaded the land back in the 1800’s.
What an awesome “address” to have for my first 13 years of life. I became intimately acquainted with every acre of land and every nook and cranny of every building on our dear family farm. Formative, as youth is, this sacred soil held magical moments for me in my span of life then, and still does up to this very day. For on this soil, and within these buildings, I learned of life with family. Then there was an enrichment of knowing the birth, life and death of the many animals under our care. And, most importantly, there were the joys of being “rich” as farmers. Oh, not like dollars in your pockets “rich”, for we were monetarily challenged like the majority of farmers around us. Yet, for me, in the blissful positivity of youth, I felt we were just as rich as the folks on any neighboring farm in the sense that I never went hungry and I had plenty of clothes to wear. And ohhhhh, how rich I was for the luxury of our beloved mother’s heavy quilts on our beds to shield us from the bite of Old Man Winter at night. Also, at this “address”, I got a gift for my birthday and even a gift for Christmas. What more can any kid, at any address, ask for.
When 1963 rolled around, although farmers still knew each other’s “address” well, the local postal system developed an address for our farm and tagged us as Rural Route 1. At the same time, a new fan-dangled system of faster U.S. Mail delivery began, as well. It was known as the “zip code”. So, on top of being Rural Route 1, Kiester, Minnesota, there was added the zip code for our town which is 56051. There’s a happy part of my heart that will always live at that address of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.