Winter Coming On

Our first snow of the season came late last week, on Friday, November 9. A light dusting, but enough to turn the countryside and lawns from brown to white. When we were kids growing up on the Oak Grove Ridge farm outside of Seneca, Wisconsin, in Crawford

County in the 1940s and 1950s, it seemed we could always expect a snowfall between the dates of November 8 (sister Teresa’s birthday) and November 13 (brother Bob’s birthday).

Dad listened to radio station WMT out of Cedar Rapids for farm reports and weather forecasts. Chuck Worcester came on at noon with the farm report and livestock markets. I think Dad learned much about farming and livestock, poultry, crops, and farm machinery from listening to the radio.

WMT, 600 on the AM dial, broadcast obituaries. There were tons of Scheckels in the Bellevue, Springbrook, Preston, and Maquoketa area. Once in a while he would hear the passing of someone he knew. Same with my mother. She came from the Lewig family in the area of  Luana, Monona, Alpha, and New Hampton area of Iowa. Both Dad and Mom were born and raised in the northeast corner of Iowa.

Weather forecasts in those days were not very accurate. I recall one forecast in January1953 that said we were to have partly cloudy weather for the next few days. The next day we were shoveling 6 inches of “partly cloudy”.

During my first three years at the one-room Oak Grove school, from about 1948 to 1952, we burned wood in the pot-bellied stove. A wood shed stood a few yards from the school. It served as a back stop for our softball field.

I recall seeing the woodshed full of slab pieces that had been hauled from Vedvik’s sawmill on the north edge of Seneca. Every kid had duties at the end of the school day. It was the task of the older boys to haul in sufficient wood for the next day’s fire.

 

 

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A Reader Writes

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A Reader Writes

I received an email this past week and have excerpts below:

“Thank-you for your great book, “Seneca Seasons….” I grew up on a farm in Racine, County. The part that blesses me the most about the book is that you took the time to write it down!!  It’s not that you had such an unusual life…in fact it’s uncanny how similar our farm lives were….but PRAISE GOD, ALLELUIA!!! YOU WROTE IT DOWN!!! You’ve preserved for all posterity our lives on the farm in the 40’s and 50’s and beyond, and in that I wholly rejoice!

My husband and I live back on the farm that I grew up on near Kansasville, WI.  in Racine County. Last June I was at a funeral for Ken Burton, who grew up near Fairview and Seneca. The funeral was in Burlington, WI.   Ken’s wife, Mary, also grew up in that area, she was a Sime, and her nephew was the Ag Teacher at Seneca High School when we bought out there, he too has passed away, way too young.

Anyway, at the funeral, realizing that I was going to be around many people from the Seneca and Mt Sterling area, I started asking people where they were from. So in the course of conversation someone mentioned to me about your book….someone said to me you should really read the book “Seneca Seasons”.   I thought it sounded interesting, but didn’t think about it again until I saw the book section at Johnson’s over Labor Day while we were “at the farm”.  Needless to say, I read almost all of it that week-end. Thanks so much for writing your memoirs.”

The email again indicates the importance of recording our memories by committing them to paper, or tape, or video. Someone once remarked that when we die, a book is lost.

 

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October Skies in Tomah

Very nice article in Farm & Ranch Living magazine Oct/Nov 2018 issue about the Potter Cranberry marsh and harvest in The Way We Live section. It is written in diary form by the sister-brother team of Sandy Potter Nemitz and David Potter, with references to their father, Todd Potter, and Todd’s mother, June Potter. The article is liberally augmented by photos by Jim Wieland.

We have been busy promoting and selling our latest book, Murder in Wisconsin: The Clara Olson Case. This past week,  I took books to Westby’s Dregne’s store and Viroqua’s Market Place, then down to Seneca to deliver 30 books. 
It’s always a beautiful drive down Highway 27, on the spine of Crawford County. From the north and heading south, Rising Sun is the first village.

The Finley grocery store has been closed for decades as has Bernie Hanson’s barber shop and Bill Crowley’s tavern. St. James Church on the outskirts of Rising Sun has also been closed for some time, but the grounds and cemetery are meticulously cared for.

About a mile south, Highway 27 winds past Battle Ridge, the site of Clara Olson’s murder and burial. She was entombed there for over 3 months before her miraculous discovery in early December 1926.
A few miles south takes one to Highway C, the road paralleling Sugar Creek. When I was a boy on the farm our Dad took us down that highway, where a flash flood carried a family of 5 or 6 to their deaths. That would be in the early 1950s. My brother says it was Rush Creek.
I go past Fairview, Utica Lutheran Church, Mt. Sterling, Evergreen Cemetery, and Stony Point road. Clara Olson was a member of the large Chris and Dina Olson family on Stony Point road. Then it’s on to Seneca. The whole venue of the book centers around Rising Sun, Mt. Sterling, and Seneca.
The home of the Seneca High School Indians, Johnson’s One-Stop Shopping Center, Big Gain Feeds, and Greener’s Corner. Greener’s Corner is as close to a Kwik Trip as you will find in those parts. I deliver my books and take Highway E (Dixon Ridge) and drop down into Lynxville. Got it name from, you guessed it, those big cats were found there in the late

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An Early Frost

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An Early Frost

We awoke yesterday, Saturday morning, September 29, to witness the first hard frost of the Fall season. Our temperature gauge read 30 degrees. There was frost on the grass and frost on the house and garage roofs. We three Scheckel boys growing up on the Crawford County farm outside of Seneca in the late 1940s and 1950s looked forward to Fall. It was the opening of the squirrel hunting season.

Fall is the most enjoyable of seasons, full of sights, sounds, and smells that delight the senses. The skies are pleasant as the humidity of summer is largely behind us, and the white cumulus clouds stand out against the azure blue sky. The sumac has turned bright red.

Rabbits, in abundance this year, hasten to their hiding places. Squirrels gather nuts, storing them for the long winter ahead. Butterflies are abundant. We see sandhill cranes feeding in the harvested oats and hay fields. Wooly bear caterpillars are spotted. I stopped to examine a couple of them. They will tell us about the winter ahead. Narrow brown band means a bitter winter ahead. Wide brown band will indicate a mild winter. You can count on it. What’s the verdict for this year? I find a wide band, it’s going to be a balmy winter. No need to travel south this year!

A few V shaped flocks of geese are overhead. Maybe some have headed south already. It’s good to get to Missouri and Arkansas before all the good feeding places are taken up, they’re telling each other!

And the smells. Fall has a scent all its own. The cornfields emit a certain scent, as do the dried leaves. The winds carry an aroma of a large dairy farm. It’s not exactly a perfume or fragrance, but it does evoke memories of decades past on the Scheckel farm on Oak Grove Ridge near Seneca.

The days are getting shorter. It was dark at a little past 7 PM last night. The big maple across from our house is turning color. The leaves on the left have turned to yellows and oranges. The right-hand side remains green. It different each year.

Next week is a busy one. We’re heading down to Sugar Creek Bible camp north of Ferryville on Monday, October 1, for a presentation to a group called “Yesterday’s Youth”.  The title is Farm Life and the One-Room Country School in the 1940s and 1950s. Tuesday we give a 2-hour science presentation to virtual school students. Catch you down the road.

Genesis 2:1 – Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, all in their vast array.

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Fall is Coming On

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Fall is coming on. You can feel it in the cooler nights, despite having some mid-80 degree temps for the past few days. You sense in the shorter days with dark coming on by 7 or 7:30 PM and it’s 6:30 AM before the sky lights up in the east. We see squirrels gathering acorns and it seems we have more squirrels this year compared to past years. When we pulled in the driveway after 4 PM Mass on Saturday, four squirrels, two of them black, were feverishly gathering acorns under the big oak tree in the front yard. Walnuts are falling from the trees along my jogging path in the marsh area. Sumac in the hinterlands are turning red. Some soybean fields are losing their dark green color and the yellows are moving in. The corn silk on the ends of the ears have turned from whitish-yellow to a dark brown. We see several flocks of geese overhead in their familiar V shape pattern. Spotted some butterflies and a wooly bear caterpillar.

All these signs of Fall makes me harken back to my days on the farm in the late 1040s and 1950s on Oak Grove Ridge in Crawford County outside of Seneca. Phillip, a year older than me, and Bob, a year younger than me would be looking forward to squirrel hunting. Dad had his own timetable. Something about the squirrel meat not being any good until we’ve had a good hard frost.

We only had one rifle for the three of us, a single-shot Stevens, I believe, so we had to take turns hunting. Sometimes two of us would go together. Dad taught us how to skin a squirrel. Squirrel meat was very good, very tender, a true delicacy.

In early October Dad would take us coon hunting down in the depths of Kettle Hollow. My dog Browser would go along. Raccoons came around the farm buildings at night. They were after anything we had, that tasted good to a raccoon, like young chickens, lambs, and piglets. These farm critters were all good meals for the “masked bandits”, as we called them. More about coon hunting in the next blog.

 

 

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