It was a sure sign of spring on the Scheckel farm out on Oak Grove Ridge near Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County, Wisconsin in the 1940s and 1950s. Dad took my brothers, Phillip and Bob, down into Kettle Hollow to secure some watercress. We called it “greens”. It was our lettuce for a couple of spring months when the watercress young, fresh, and succulent.
We piled in the old Chevy truck, motored back one mile on the Ridge until we reached our one-room Oak Grove school, then dipped down into the valley of Kettle Hollow.
Kettle Hollow started about a mile north of our 238-acre farm. It was near the 40-acre Reed farm on County Trunk E. All the buildings were white, including the barn. Odd we thought, because aren’t barns supposed to be red? Stella Reed, a lady who never married, took over the farm when her father died, and she and her mother Cora, operated that farm. On our way to Seneca, we would often see her around the farmstead or out in the field operating her orange Allis-Chalmers tractor.
Kettle Creek cut through the valley and cut across a part of our farm. The spring ran year-‘round and we pastured about 30 one and two year old calves in the wooded 30 to 40 acre plot. All we had to do was set out a salt block and count them periodically.
Dad stopped the pick-up truck on Kettle Hollow Road. We crossed the fence and walked along the stream, looking for the patches of water cress that tended to grow alongside the natural forming pools, where the water did not run very fast. Kettle Creek was not a big stream. Most places a good leap would get you to the opposite side, dry shoes and clothing intact.
Dad brought a milk pail and one of Mom’s scissors. While Dad held watercress leaves in one hand, he cut the bottom of the stalks with the scissors in the opposite hand. He dipped the pail in the water stream and filled it with three or four inches of water. This would keep the watercress from drying off in the three-mile ride home.
While Dad harvested the water cress, Phillip, Bob, and I would find small branches or twigs to use as boats. We put the “boats” in the stream at an agreed upon place, and arbitrarily selected a spot 50 or 60 feet downstream as a finish line. Simple toys and simple pleasures.