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February 11, 2016     Tri-County News
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February 11, 2016
 

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PAGE 6 11, 2016 www.tricountynews.mn Compiled by the Kimball Area Historical Society By Duane Stanley dining room. (I say dining room During the funeral, an adjec- but the table stretched from the rive kept being repeated as a back door to the never-used front church full of family and friends entrance.) said our finalgoodbyes to Marjorie The nature of threshing was Jean Greeleylastmonth:Gracious. itself an exercise in commu- It is a term we don't hear as often nity. Four or five farmers, includ- in these days of in-your-face con- ing Merton and "Stretch" (Alton), frontation and society's me-first owned an old grey threshing orientation. But for Marj, gra- machine driven through a trac- ciousness was both a personal tor's power take-off pulley and virtue and a community value, long drive belt. Amid a deafen- I explored the definition of the ing rattle and roar, that pulley term and its synonyms: courte- drove a variety of belts, gears, and ous, well-mannered, thoughtful, chain drives. Bundles of oats corn- considerate, friendly, hospitable, ing from the field were unloaded merciful, compassionate, tender- onto the feeder belt. Then, in hearted, sympathetic, benevolent its fury, the grey beast churned, -all Marj to the core. spewing forth a straw pile at the My admiration for our long- far end and, at its mid-point, time neighbor meant Kathy and I poured golden grain into a high- left our daughter's bedside in ICU sided wagon box. Everyone on the recovery in a Twin Cities hospital crew fought dust in their eyes and to rush to Kimball for a final good- throats, and itched in every crev- bye: a goodbye to the person who ice as straw worked its way where most emphatically exemplified it didn't belong, When harvest was graciousness. But also, I pondered completed on the first farm, the as I drove to Kimball, this might crew, with their parade of trac- similarly be a goodbye to gra- tors and wagons in every state of ciousness as a cultural norm in an repair, headed for the next farm, increasingly demanding modern including Eckman's, Pope's and age, unsympathetic to any oppos- Bongaard's. In 1959 it took a com- ing views, munity to build a straw pile. Ours was not the closest of rela- In this setting, I too had a job, tionships, but amulti-generational suitable to my ten-year-old capa- connection of un-verbalized con- bilities, and was expected to work fidence, caring, and admiration, the samelong, dirtyhours. Myrole, The Greeley and Eaton farms sat utilizing my newly acquired skill across the Fair Haven road from of tractor-driving, was to speed each another, and the relationship the work of those who pulled the reached back two generations to shocks apart and, with those long- Orrin and Bessie Eaton and then tined pitchforks, tossed each bun- to my mother and Uncle Merton's dle onto the wagon. I, and other generation. For me and my sib- young crewmembers, pulled a lings, it was a more sporadic con- tractor and wagon up close to each nection lived out during mission- successive shock. When the wagon ary furlough years when my fam- was full, we gave up the driver's ily returned from Africa. For me, it seat to the owner and walked over was a comfortable, trusting rela- to the next driverless farmer. tionship with the family I have In that day of traditional roles, viewed, through the decades, as most womenfolk spent much of the epitome of all that is good and the threshing day in their kitchens, right about small town rural life: preparing fabulous feasts for.the faith, family, community, returning menfolk. Suppertime at Family members shared many the Greeley home is etched deep memories of Marj during the in my memory. With two or three funeral, but I want to share my runs at it, we washed off the worst memory, with my thanks, of one of the dust, sweat, and straw out summer well over five decades in the yard with a bucket of water ago. Its images are etched - not drawn from the red yard pump just in my memory- but in myway below the windmill. Then some- of thinking about the world. I lived one yelled that supper was ready, that summer on the farm with and we made our way indoors Uncle Merton because I didn't to the tables overflowing with "travel well" (read that as "got chicken and meat loaf and pota- car sick a lot"), while my parents toes and corn and .... And, of traveled extensively to report to course, just when we were stuffed churches that supported theirmis- to the gills, out came a vast array sions work. Of all of the treasured of homemade pies and buckets of experiences of that 15-month fur- ice-cream. lough, most significant and endur- And I had a seat at the table. I ing was the threshing crew work learned that day what no class- that brought in the harvest of room or personal lecture could golden grain. The sharpest images teach. We pre-teens were NOT I have retained are ofthe long, hot, relegated to a children's table itchy days in Alton's fields, and the in another room. Yes, the food sumptuous evening mealin Marj's was fantastic, but far more The threshing crew at the Alton (Stretch) Greeley farm shows the production line feeding stalks of freshly cut and dried oats from a high-piled wagon into the threshing machine. The machine poured the separated grain into a wagon and blew out the straw and chaf into an ever-growing straw pile. Submitted photos. importantly, I experienced that I belonged. I was valued, and I was contributing. And when I later hit the sack, it was with a sense of sat- isfaction and secure belonging. That experience of commu- nity was for me a paradigm shift. Although I could never have described its significance at the time, it made me see my world in a whole new way. It defined for me what "community" could, and should, be. Perhaps it was so striking to me because of the con- trast with a life in Apartheid-era South Africa, which focused on separation rather than together- ness. And, a decade later as I pur- sued my studies in theology, the images and feelings of belong- ing and community from the threshing crew gave me a real- life framework for understanding God's love and His community- the church. I am well aware that rural cul- ture is not what it was a half cen- tury ago, but I want to believe that small town life in rural America still provides that sense of belong- ing, community, shared faith, and personal value that I learned on the threshing crew and at Marj Greeley's table. I wish every ten- year-old had - not a fairy god- mother, or rich uncle - but rather neighbors who live out these life values in graciousness such that every child can grow up into adulthood with unconditional security to become a responsible and contributing member of the community. Thank you, Marj, for impacting my life as you did so many others around you for nearly a century. You can find 1,O00"s of photos in our photo gallery at www.tricountynews.mn. Videos are there toot. JoEIlen Greeley (now Mrs. Dennis Loewen) is pictured with Debbie Stanley (Duane's sister) at the Greeley farm in the winter. Somewhere close by is the red water pump so well remembered by many neighbors and friends. Free Gardening Seminars By Beth Berlin, spruce or oak trees on your prop- UofMExtension erty, come listen to "The Future of Getting tired of this winter? Oaks and Spruce in Minnesota." Starting to dream green and think Gary Johnson, Forestry Extension about spring? Join the University Educator, will give us some insight of Minnesota Extension Master of what might be going wrong Gardeners of Benton County for with your trees. This free semi- their Free Gardening Seminars. nar will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Have you ever been at the March 28, at the Commissioner's county fair and seen a beauti- Room at the Benton County ful array of award-winning flow- Government Center in Foley. ers and vegetables being displayed All events are free and open and wish you knew how to enter to the public, registration is not your flowers or veggies in a show? required. If you have any ques- Join us for a free seminar on how tions about the event, please con- to do just that, "Best in Show: tact the University of Minnesota Exhibiting Flowers and Veggies" Extension Office at (320) 255-6169 will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, ext. 1, or (800) 450-6171, or visit Feb. 29, at the Sauk Rapids-Rice www.extension.umn.edu/county/ Middle School Media Center, benton. please enter door #1. If this doesn't interest you, and you are having issues with the