Saturday, June 17, 2017

For our Father on Father’s Day

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

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I was born the year our father decided to become his own boss and return to farming. He knew the hard work and long hours that would be involved, since he had grown up on a farm in the Plain, Wisconsin area. Back then he worked the land with a team of horses and horse-drawn equipment.


After he left his parents’ farm, he had several jobs working for other people. Two of those jobs were working at implement companies setting up farm equipment for farmers after their purchase.


He was working at Oscar Mayer in Madison when he bought his first farm and he continued to work there for a short time, working the farm when he got home from his day job.


Maybe it was during his implement days working with the different brands of equipment, and maybe it was talking with the farmers who bought equipment, but he became a life-long John Deere man.


When the state came through and took land on that first farm to expand Highway 151 north of Sun Prairie, Dad hunted for a new farm. He found one outside of Lake Mills -- a much bigger farm where we kids would have to really step up and help.

During the school year, the biggest farm job the kids had was helping with morning and evening milking, but during the summer we also had to help with the harvesting. The biggest part of that was making hay.


After Phyllis and David, our oldest siblings, left the farm, I became the hay mower and raker. I only remember mowing with the sickle mower a couple of times, and I didn’t like it. All of those little blades really worried me, and I was glad when dad bought a combination mower/conditioner.


I think most times we don’t realize how smart our parents are, but once I started mowing hay, it became very clear to me that Dad was awfully smart. Weather forecasts back in those days were nothing like they are today, where they can predict weather by the hour.


And as a farmer, you had to know when to cut hay and when to hold off until after rain. The cycle was to cut hay on day 1 and let it dry, rake it on day 2 and let it dry again, then bale it up on day 3. Other than the first year on the Lake Mills farm, when it rained almost every single day all summer, our hay rarely got rained on.

Dad would always open up fields, which included cutting the outside edges, and, depending on the size of the field, cutting a swath or two in the middle. Then he would move on to other chores and I would cut the field. One day, as I was sitting on the fender, and he was opening up the field, I asked him how he cut straight lines through the middle of the field.


I was asking because he almost always cut dead-on straight lines, but on this day, he was driving very crooked. He told me that he picked something at the far end of the field to focus on, like a fence post or a tree, and drove toward it. The field we were in was sloped, so at the start of the field, you couldn’t see the other end.


I asked what he was focusing on that day, and he told me he was focused on a cloud. Then he turned around and looked behind him. He had a big laugh about how crooked the cut was, since the cloud was moving across the sky and he was following it. The he told me that I would have to work hard to straighten out the rows in those sections as I continued mowing.


There was a lot of field work that Dad did himself or with the help of one other person. We didn’t have to help with the planting, with chopping hay or corn for silage, or with picking corn. During those times of the year, it wasn’t unusual for him to be in the field long after we finished milking. He tried to get done before dark, but sometimes, especially during planting, he wouldn’t come in until way past dark. And yet, he would be up before dawn the next morning for milking. And when it was light enough, he was right back in the fields.


During the winter, you would think it would be a time of rest, but there was always a full day of work for him. He maintained all of the equipment and farm buildings himself as well as the two houses (for three families) on that Lake Mills farm.


I won’t lie and say that farm life was wonderful, but we learned a lot from Dad and we all learned the value of hard work. We learned to always do our best no matter the task.


And even now, when Joann and I are out shunpiking, we have a special fondness for John Deere tractors and freshly mowed hay fields. Sometimes, we even slow down, and put the windows down just to get a whiff of that nostalgic smell.

Next month Dad will be gone for three years, but he lives on in us and in our memories.

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

So to all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day, and Happy Shunpiking!

Ruth

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Barnstorming Iowa

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes. Just click on the desired photo and look for the blue “BUY” button.

In the early fall of 2006, just after Joann bought her first digital camera, we planned a 3-day trip to Iowa. We had stumbled on some information about barn tours in the state, and decided that since you could tour the inside of barns, rather than just taking all photographs from the road, we would go and see what the tours were like.


The tour was state-wide, so we decided that we would leave on Friday, photographing our way to the area where we were going to visit some of the barns on the tour. We would tour barns on Saturday and Sunday when the barns were open, then photograph on the way home.


You probably already have an idea of how this went! We had only been to Iowa photographing a couple of times before this, so every area we went to was new to us. Iowa has many counties with Quilt Barn Trails, and we ended up chasing quite a few of those barns.


Barns on the tour open at 9:00 A.M., but we like to get out early, so we had to find something else to do until the barns opened. On the second morning, we left our motel and headed to the historic Fields stone barn outside of Cedar Falls.


This historic limestone barn was built in 1875 by William and Charles Fields, and once housed prized stallions. By the time I found out about the barn, it was already starting to crumble in the back, and I knew we had to visit at our first opportunity.


There were rumors of a tunnel from the barn to the farmhouse, which was reported to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, but no tunnel was ever found.


Sadly, the barn continued to deteriorate, and even though locals tried to find funding to repair the barn, it was demolished in December of 2008.


We made our way to Story County and visited the Handsaker barn. Finally we were at a barn on the tour! It was a square barn built in 1875. A table in the downstairs of the barn was covered with many containers of cookies and bars. The treats were baked by the barn owner, who was getting up in age, and didn’t come out to the barn. Her family members were answering questions about the barn and offering the treats.


The barn also had a barn bridge leading to the second story. These are less common than the traditional bank barn with an earthen ramp.


We stayed Saturday night in Pella, and the following morning, we didn’t have a set destination for our starting point, so I picked a road heading east and we took off.


We were lucky enough to stumble on this old feed store. It had such a unique front on it, and all of the windows were still there.


We had the location on our wish list to return to, but by 2010, all of the windows were boarded up with plywood. Recent pictures from 2015 show the building still standing, and still boarded up. Again, we were so very lucky to have found the place with the windows and doors intact.


We did manage to visit a couple more barns on the tour as we headed towards home. We also discussed our approach to these trips and decided we should try to make it to as many barns on the tours as possible on our trips.


For several years, that’s exactly what we did. And then we figured out that we were driving too many miles and passing up other opportunities. So, we’ve come full circle, and we pick an area, try to fit in as many barn tour barns as we can, but also stop at other interesting things while we’re in the area.

If you’re interested in the barn tours, you can find information at the Iowa Barn Foundation website. The spring/summer tour is this weekend, June 10 & 11. If you don’t mind hot and humid, and have no weekend plans, you could go and check them out. (We had planned to go, but we both hate hot and humid!) These are some of the only barn tours we’ve found that are self-guided rather than paying a fee and riding a bus to the barns. This way you can stay as much or as little time as you would like at each barn.

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Happy Shunpiking!
Ruth

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Honor of Richard R. Murray

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes. Just click on the desired photo and look for the blue “BUY” button.

In October, 2015, on a very sunny and warm day, Ruth and I visited St. Mary’s Cemetery in Juneau County, Wisconsin. Often, when the lighting is harsh, as it was that day, we decide not to do cemetery photography. But we didn’t know when we would get back there, so I decided I would make an attempt to get a few photos.


And maybe this decision was divinely guided because, as I walked around the cemetery looking for interesting gravestones, a big tree on a knoll enticed me to see what was in the shade of the tree. There, I found the most interesting military plaque I’ve ever encountered.


The bronze plaque read, “In Memory of Richard R. Murray, Pvt, US Army, World War II, Apr 16, 1916, Jul 26, 1942.” Above the plaque was a concrete strip that read “Bataan Death March.” Below the plaque was a concrete strip that read, “Died at Cabanattuan Philippines, Japanese POW Camp.” To the upper left, a World War II military marker was stuck in the ground.


After doing some extensive Internet research on this young man, who died at the age of 26 during World War II, I learned that Richard was inducted from Montana and served the Army Air Forces as a member of the 409th Signal Company. During the war, he was located in the Southwest Pacific Theatre, Philippine Islands.


On April 9, 1942, the U.S. surrendered its forces on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines to the Imperial Japanese Army. Approximately 66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans were captured by the Japanese. Richard R. Murray was captured and sent to PW Camp #1, the largest POW camp in the Philippines.

The captured soldiers were forced to walk 65 miles over rough terrain in intense heat to San Fernando where they boarded trains that took them to the POW camps. Along the way, the men were beaten and starved by the Japanese guards, and thousands perished before reaching San Fernando in what became known as the Bataan Death March.


Thousands that did reach the Prisoner of War camps died there from being starved and mistreated or from disease. Richard R. Murray died as a prisoner of war on July 26, 1942. His awards include the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, a Purple Heart, and a Prisoner of War Medal.


I hope to return to St. Mary’s Cemetery in the near future to capture Richard’s plaque in more suitable lighting conditions. He went above and beyond the call of duty to serve his country and secure our freedom. Please take a moment on this Memorial Day to honor Richard R. Murray and all the other men and women who died in service to our country.


Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Happy Memorial Day and Happy Shunpiking!
Joann