Summing up a true love story

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happily ever after sign

(Part Four, the last of a four-part series)

The love that brought our young parents to a house with no indoor plumbing in 1951 took root, and things got better as their success in farming began to pay off.

“We were in it together, and I trusted your dad completely because he studied everything before he spent a dime.”

By the mid-1960s, they had worked their way to a respectable equity position, an inventory sheet with tractors and implements, always cleaned up and tucked inside a new, but simply designed, machinery shed when not in use.

Mom often helped in the fields, telling me recently, “I liked the big, flat fields where I could make a wide turn with the disc or the cultipacker. Your dad knew better than to ever criticize me or I wouldn’t do it again!” she said with a laugh.

Dad wasn’t one to criticize. He was a gentle man, his statements often starting with “dearie” and ending with a thank you. He reminded his children often to be grateful for a mother who was always there.

She made three big meals daily for her family, plus hired hands. Nearly every day she baked a cake or cookies to offer with fresh coffee.

And she somehow managed to always look pretty enough to host a party, and still does to this day.

The large coffee pot was always on, and nearly every day a friend or neighbor would pop in to enjoy a visit with Stan and Dimp.

During a blizzard in January, 1964, the last member of the family arrived, a son who was named David, after the agriculture teacher Dad had long admired.

A progressive-minded farmer, Dad worked hard to make the farm productive. A new hog building was put up, a corn crib running through the middle and a straw mow above it.

My sisters remember running the length of it before it was put to use, while Dad built farrowing pens nearby.

When family friends came to visit, their sons taught us to stand on either side of that barn and toss a ball over the top, improving our catching skills.

There were four boys in their family and Dad joked with Bill Raubenolt, “Well, you had the boys and we had the girls. Maybe someday we will find ourselves meeting in a chapel somewhere!”

That jovial tone runs through so many memories. With sows and feeder pigs on our home place, and a growing herd of Holsteins on the adjoining farm, we all kept busy, but there was fun and laughter in the mix.

In time, our parents bought additional farms and Mom would fix up the homes on each property to rent out, teaching us how to paint and wallpaper alongside her. Each day we learned something, it seems, and most of all, we learned the joy of accomplishment.

There was sweetness between our parents, and we never heard them argue. If there was a disagreement, it was talked out rationally and reasonably. The older I get, the more I appreciate the calm home they created for us.

Dad taught us how to drive on a small WD-45 with a hand clutch, then would brag us up to our mother over lunch. My older sisters remember the pride in driving that small tractor while Dad picked corn by hand.

Sandie and Sherry started helping in the milking parlor, age 11 and 12, washing and feeding the cows while Dad handled the Surge milkers.

The pipeline milking system was put in a couple years later, to great excitement.

Out in those barns, we helped with small repair jobs, putting a wrench and reasoning skills to work. We learned kindness and patience in challenging circumstances, as Dad held respect in all creatures, from testy milk inspectors and new hired hands, to livestock to wildlife, and expected the same from his children.

When the older girls graduated, married, started families of their own, I remember those years tinged with melancholy for a time. Our parents had so enjoyed the building years, and Dad often said walking his daughters down the aisle was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

Grandchildren came, and the love kept right on growing. Together, my parents taught a new generation to love the land while working and playing under the big blue sky on the wide open farms.

My kids remember their first dollar, earned by picking up rocks out of a newly worked field, tossing them on a flat-bed wagon along with their older cousins. This truly was a family farm in every sense.

When Dad died at age 63, the loss was tragic and nearly unbearable. His presence, his character, which had seemed larger than life, left an emptiness beyond all measure.

All these years later, Dad is still missed every day, but his love of life shines on through a family still growing, still speaking of him often while respecting all that he taught us to be.

A wooden plaque in my mother’s home sums up their love story: “Loved you then, love you still, always have, always will.”

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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