Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo-finish Friday: The home place

Thought today I'd observe the statistically coldest weekend of the year and commiserate with everyone enduring another Siberian winter. This is a pic my dad took from the top of the windmill on our farm in Nebraska, in what was to be remembered simply as "48".

The worst was still to come in the rest of that winter as snow blew from miles of open fields to the north and drifted deep into the shelter belts trees. As a seven-year-old, I could walk along in their upper branches. The vehicle tracks emerging from behind the house at the right show that we had already abandoned the drifted-shut driveway that connected the place to the road.

It was three years after the war, and we were driving that '46 Ford parked by the gate. We had that car until dad bought a new white Fleetline Chevy in 1952. (You'll have to take my word for it that I'm remembering this all correctly. There's hardly a soul alive anymore to contradict me on the details.)

The tank in the middle of the photo was for the fuel that burned in the heater that stood in the dining room outside my bedroom door. The only other source of heat in the house was a corncob-burning kitchen stove in the kitchen. We apparently had indoor plumbing by this point, as there is no path in the snow leading to the outhouse.

The shed in the foreground is a "brooder house" for baby chickens, which would come in large flat boxes from somewhere and spend their first months in the warmth of their own heater. Don't know what my mother thought of it, but there seems to have been no other place to park the manure spreader beyond spitting distance of the house (left edge of the pic).

The house disappeared sometime in the late 1950s after my father started a new house to take its place. I say disappeared because I came home from school one day and it was gone. Someone had bought it for a hired hand and towed it away. I never saw it again, except in dreams, where the home of one's childhood stays put.

For at least a couple years, only the basement of the new house was finished, and we lived there like old time pioneers in their dugouts. It was a dugout with central heating, however. And a piano.

The new house when it was done was enlarged by my cousin who farmed there until he retired recently and moved to Phoenix. I learned just a while ago that the place has now been sold to someone else. Along with all the other property going back to my grandfather's days, I can no longer lay even a distant claim to it. Except in dreams.


  1. Sounds like this brought back memories. Unfortunately, the house I grew up in has long since fallen in. But we still own the land and that is important to me. When I retire I will move back to that land. Sounds too like we should be grateful this isn't the winter of 48

  2. I have the distinct pleasure of not being around in `48!!!
    Now is that good or bad? However, in `88 while a Police Traffic Officer, that winter was odd. In the sense that it dropped snow in unusual places. The highest road arounf me at the time was the old A66 from Penrith in Cumbria to Bowes, in Durham. The road had become blocked with snow, and about 40 trucks and semi`s had been caught out. When I went, to find them near the summit, I couldnt see them at first. It was when I fell through a drift and landed on top of a semi cab!!!!! The drifts had covered the road which passes through a deep cut in the landscape.!!!! All the drivers were found, about a mile away in the Punch Bowl Pub!

  3. What memories a photo can bring back--looks like a tough winter! I remember those fuel oil heaters from when I was a kid. Both of my great-grandparents had them. The sitting room where the heater sat was always warm!

  4. We are very fortunate that our family farm in western Nebraska has stayed in the family all these years, ever since my great-grandfather homesteaded it in the early 1920s. It's the same house and the same land, though the house has been remodeled and added on to and jacked up (we put a new basement in it when I was just a little girl). My brother and his family currently live there and I can only hope that my nephew decides to follow in his father's and grandfather's and great-grandfather's and great-great-grandfather's footsteps and keep the farm in the family. :-)

    Love the photo.

  5. That is such a neat photo, especially with all the detail and history in it! All the farm properties where some of my grandparents grew up have passed out of the family too, so I've only seen some of them from the road nearby. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Charles, I had an opportunity to buy the house I was born in a few years ago, but the timing was bad. I was on the West Coast and not ready to retire to a remote farmhouse in Nebraska.

    Cheyenne, got a chuckle out of your response. How bad can being stranded somewhere be if you're within walking distance of a good pub?

    Sage, in the winter months, it was a ritual to warm the pillow from your bed on the heater vents before turning in for the night.

    Melissa, the original Scheer homestead is (I believe) still occupied by a descendant of my great-grandfather. Just a different branch of the family.

    Elisabeth, I'm guessing that a vast majority of homesteads have passed into the hands of others.

  7. What a fascinating post. I've been re-reading 'The Long Winter', by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and your experience has so many similarities with that.