Recounting my days walking home from the Oak Grove Ridge one-room country school in the late 1940s and early 1950s outside Seneca in the middle of Crawford County, adistance of one mile to the Scheckel farm.
We trudge along on the gravel road, down the Ingham hill and soon up to the top of the next hill to another commanding view. You can see miles in every direction. A slight descent, around a slight bend and on the right was the Kozelka farm, a small 50-acre job. Not enough to raise and totally support the large Kozelka family, so Mr. Kozelka, or Rudy, as we called him, worked bridge construction. Rudy was a good man, terrific worker, devoted husband and father. The Kozelkas attended our St. Patrick’s Church.
Mr. Kozelka worked for Brandon Bros construction and built bridges around the Midwest. He lived until 1970, dying way too young at age 55, and leaving Florence a widow for close to 50 years. Rudy had a heart that was damaged by rheumatic fever when he was young. The Kozelkas had three young girls at home when he died.
Walking home from school was an adventure. The exchange of gossip, reliving lessons learned in the classroom, arguing about nothing, laughing, singing and throwing sticks. We boys would marvel at the hundreds of beer cans in the ditch where garbage was also dumped.
Cockleburs grew along the side of the road. Cockleburs bunch together and cling to your clothes. They would hook into the clothing and not let go. We would pull cockleburs off the plants and ball them together. Who could make the biggest ball? Then we would throw them at each other. Hopefully, someone would be wearing a wool sweater. Cockleburs just love wool clothing. Cockleburs were the forerunner, I’m told, of Velcro fasteners. I sure could have used Velcro on my shoes when I was a little tyke. I had trouble learning how to tie my shoelaces. I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up and I was afraid I couldn’t be a pilot if I never learned to tie my shoes.
My dog Browser would run through the cocklebur plants with me and his coat would pick up cockleburs. That was not much of a problem for Browser, because he was short-haired and cockleburs love long-haired dogs. Shep was a black and white long-haired dog that we had on the farm when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Shep got so many cockleburs in his fur that the only way we could rid him of the plant pest was to cut them out with a scissors.