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The Last Windrow: Old farmsteads are now few and far between

The old farmhouse sat out in the middle of nowhere. Weeds and high grass surrounded the old building that was now devoid of paint and missing most of its windows. The doors were missing and a rusted, long-handled water pump sat just outside the porch door.

I was hunting pheasants along the weed-filled creek bottom when I spied the building sitting alone on the small rise. I decided to sashay on up and perhaps kick up a rooster or two along the way.

These old places are fast disappearing from farm landscapes everywhere. Traveling through farm country now will show you modern houses and very few of the old farmsteads that once stood in their place.

Instead of assorted barns and sheds, now we see giant metal buildings with not much character, I'm afraid. Houses are more ornate now, some sporting fancy lawns and gardens.

On my trek up to the old, now empty house I imagined the life that it housed early in its career. I could imagine the sounds of kids playing in the front yard, a shepherd dog barking at a hog that had escaped from its pen and a rooster crowing in the background.

The old barn that still stood near the old house had a roof that was about to cave in. I thought of all of the livestock that had passed through that barn over the years when small farms were king of the hill. It was only a matter of time before the barn fell in a heap as would the old house.

I sat my Winchester shotgun against a rusted yard fence and headed inside to see what was left of the house. I had to step gently on the wood plank floor as it creaked and felt as though it could cave in anytime under my weight.

Inside the kitchen there was a hand water pump next to a cast iron sink. I would imagine that "in the day" this was considered a modern convenience. Someone had removed every door in the house, but I could still see where the dining room was located and a small parlor or sitting room. The rest of the house was dedicated to bedrooms; there were four of them. No doubt all were used at some point.

The steps to the upstairs were warped and worn smooth from the thousands of footsteps that had no doubt once hurried up and down. I peered out through one of the broken windows and could see the entire farmyard. I imagined that this might have been the parents' bedroom where the owners could keep track of what was happening in the cattle pen if the cattle were restless during the dark of the night.

The other rooms were small and one of them still had a broken mirror attached to the wall. Could a country girl have combed her hair while staring at her reflected image long ago?

A windmill sat below the old house. The control chain had been detached from the pump rod and the chain clanged in the westerly wind that was blowing that day. Above the house there was a mounded cistern that would hold water the windmill pumped and then the cistern would dispense the water via gravity to the water tanks located below.

The cattle had running water; the house did not. I thought of the work that had to be done to dig that trench from the windmill up to that hill about an eighth of a mile up the hill. The trench had to be dug by hand and pipes laid both to and from the cistern.

Water was at the heart of this old farmstead as it was on most farms.

I leaned against the doorway of the old house and tried to visualize all of the work and dedication it took to build such a place. Barns, corrals, chicken houses, garages and houses were erected on all of the small farms in this area long before I was born.

I thought of the tough and rugged work it took to establish and maintain these farm places. I decided then and there that I had it pretty easy.

As I left the old house in the middle of nowhere a rooster pheasant rose from the tumbleweeds that surrounded the barn and I took a rooster home for supper. There aren't many of these places left in farm country.

See you next time. Okay?

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