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The Last Windrow: The origin of 'The Last Windrow'

I have to apologize to readers of the Echo Journal since the change was made to incorporate the two papers! I have been writing this column since 1983 and am celebrating 30 of contributing, mostly to the Pine River Journal and several papers in South Dakota.

Hence, many of you may or may not know how this column came to be and why I started writing it.

Those who know me know that I was born to a farm family in northwest Iowa. I was born in October of 1946, the year the boys came home from World War II and began to raise families. My mother checked into Sacred Heart Hospital in LeMars, Iowa, that October day and took up residence on a bed in the hallway, since there were so many women having babies at that time the rooms were full.

For all I know, I was born in a hallway, but those details were never related to me.  

I grew up in the country, as did many of my peers. It was the time when the small, family farm still existed and those who farmed those acres were still able to make a living on those farms. Most farmers of that day raised their own produce, including meat. Whatever crop or livestock was left after the family secured its yearly ration was sold.  

The reason I began writing this column was to record those last years that the real small, family farm existed. I am of the last generation who actually experienced that lifestyle. I wanted to write down some of the experiences and happenings I remembered before they vanished with the breeze. 

There will never be another time like those years. Since my dad sold the farm in 1969 farms have only become larger and larger, and what worked back then doesn’t really exist today. I wanted to chronicle some of those experiences and, thus, “The Last Windrow” was created.

Some might ask why I call the column “The Last Windrow?” Those who lived the life I did know that a windrow is a row of crop, usually hay or oats or wheat that has been placed in a line across the field in anticipation of being harvested. Part of bringing in a hay or small grain crop required, at the time, that the grain or hay be put in a row waiting for a baler or a combine.  

I windrow-ed a lot of crop during my growing up years. I used a side-delivery rake for this task. Raking was a rather boring job. Just steer the tractor along the downed “swath” of hay or oats. It didn’t take much talent or brain power. 

It was during times like that when my mind would wander to other places. I would think of where my next catfishing trip might be or how I might save money to buy my first car or why my English teacher was putting pressure on me to write a better theme or why that one girl turned down my invitation to the junior prom? Thoughts flew through my head as I guided that Model B John Deere tractor across the hay field. 

Somehow, that urge to think of things has never left me and I find myself writing this column every week with no problem coming up with a subject.   

You won’t find my column being real controversial. Oh, there may be a time or two when I get ticked that I may blurt out, but I write this column for fun and to bring memories back to those who lived that life and fondly remember some of the good times. I’ve been fortunate enough to have garnered a writing award or two along the way, but my greatest pleasure is to hear someone tell me that they enjoyed something I wrote. Some have even disagreed with something I’ve written, but that’s OK, too. I don’t agree with everything I read either.  

So, now you know some my background. I’ve lived in Minnesota for more than 40 years now and have had a number of careers. But, those memories of those farm fields and thinking of the world as I rumbled home at the end of the day and after “The Last Windrow” was created have never left me. I hope you enjoy some of the columns to come.

See you next time. Okay?