School ended in mid May, and the way the school year should end, with a picnic. The school picnic was the last of the Big Three of social life at Oak Grove School; the Basket Social in October, the Christmas Program, and the May End-of-Year Picnic.
Cars pulled in about eleven o’clock in the morning. Late enough for everyone to have gone to church and early enough that the pot luck lunch (we called it dinner) would be ready by noon. Cars parked out on the side of the road. Cars couldn’t park on school ground as much of the school grounds taken up by softball field that was sure to be used.
The women did all the work, as they usually do. They set up some long tables inside the school. Hot food dishes, some in electric cookers, potato salad, beans, hot dogs, homemade bread, crackers, and pickles.
There was a grand assortment of desserts, pies, cakes, tarts, brownies. The call was made, “dinner is ready” and the men start through the line, both sides of the table, then the kids, then the women. Women hang back, helping, making last minute adjustments, providing items forgotten.
A short program that honors the eighth grade graduates. They will be going on to Seneca High School. Most will complete high school, a few will drop out at age 16. Compulsory education in Wisconsin was age 16 at the time. Some are needed on the farm.
The games begin. Boys and men will play softball. No choosing of sides, like we kids going to school. Somebody says, “Me, Junior, Phillip, Bill, will be on one team, and Lawrence, Virgil, Bob, Donald you be on the other team. Some of the younger men, single or married, some in high school, some drop-outs go with one team of the other, glancing around, silently counting to see which team doesn’t have enough players or too many players. They would try to keep the teams somewhat even in numbers.
Players move to whatever position on the field is not covered. This is very informal softball, no hard rivalry here. Don’t even keep score. A long fly ball home run over into Mickelson cow pasture is oohed and aahed and cheered by both sides. Some of those young farmers have built up powerful muscles over the years.
The older men sit and talk farming, perhaps a smattering of national or international politics. “I hear the Mezera farm on Dixon Ridge is for sale, how much they’re asking?” Two or three opinions or prices via gossip.
“Andy Petersen raised his gas price to 19 cents a gallon, can you believe that, pretty soon a man can’t make a living on the farm, I’m keeping my horses.” There are nods of agreement. Andy Petersen delivered tractor gas to farmers all over Crawford County.
“Those damn Russians aren’t getting out of Europe like they said they would. There’s trouble ahead with those Commies.” A few amens follow.
The talk continues; a new tractor, fences need fixing, how do the crops look, anyone put up hay yet, a neighbor turned 95 last week a result of a couple shots of whiskey every night, it is generally agreed, the Lutheran Church is getting a new pastor and the hope is that his sermons will tighten up a bit, less than the 20 minutes they have been having.