Today it rained off and on. That usually means that the rain clouds are marching across the sky, bringing rain to limited areas of prairie unexpectedly. They are also known as sunshine showers as the rain can be surrounded by bright sunshine the whole time it is raining.
One advantage of living on the open prairie is the rain clouds can be seen coming from a long distance and the falling rain reminds one of a huge garden hose, watering the crops.
When I was very young and caught in a rain storm, while living in the city, I always assumed that it was raining all over the city at the same time. I was quite surprised when I was a little older to see it raining some distance down the street, but not where I was. Had I been raised on the open prairie I would have caught on more quickly.
I love exploring old abandoned farms in Kittson County. Farms that provided a home and an occupation during the forties and earlier. Many of them look as if they just packed up and left the buildings and never looked back. Some places get the grass mowed and some even get the lawns trimmed, but most age rapidly in the wind and rain and hot sun.
The buildings served a multitude of purposes, from storing equipment, sheltering animals to storing grain. These buildings at one time were part of the farm yard but now even that land is being cultivated.
The door has sagged to the point the latch no longer works so a chunk of iron secures it from the strong prairie winds. The blowing dirt slowly builds up around the shed and in turn the grass grows with it. Its now to the point the door can no longer open.
This corner of the building is fully exposed to the strongest sand laden winds which have slowly chewed away at the boards. The lower boards are protected by the grass while the highest boards sit above the worst of the sand. Mother nature is relentless.
This is another old building which appears to have had a multitude of uses. The upright boards in the sagging door show its present size, accompanied by another iron wind support. If you look carefully you will see the added boards on the right side of the door shows the previous door was larger. The short boards on the left side of the door indicate that originally the door opening was even larger. As the buildings use changed the doors were reduced in size.
Every farm yard had at least one well with a large hand pump. The well lid is warped and getting dangerous. A tight top on a well keeps small critters from falling in and tainting the morning coffee. While the pump was last in use two clamps were needed to hold the top pieces in place. The farm was obviously abandoned about this time and the pump never fixed permanently. The grass has not been cut since last year.
At the time the photo was taken the field had been cultivated and was awaiting seeding. The building should survives for at least another ten years as a reminder of the orginial tenants but soon even it will be gone. The present farmer no long lives on the property.
I have learned that George Johnson bought the house and the land from Glen Clair Beck some time in the late 1940’s.
Beck bought the land and a smaller old house from Pete Anderson in 1938. In about 1942 Beck bought the present house and moved into onto the property in order to house his growing family. Betty (Beck) Wileski has kindly provided me with this information. She lived in the house for about ten years before the family moved to farm south west of Lancaster.
At the present time we have not learned where the house originally came from, but we are still looking. To emphasize how small the original house was, Betty commented with a laugh, “After we moved out, it was turned into a chicken house.”
Betty’s information has confirmed the George Johnson purchased the house and the land and it was never owned by his parents who farmed in the Caribou area. If you know any additional information about George Johnson, his house, or family history please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People die, houses are abandoned and time marches on. Each year the local memory fades and soon no one remembers.
I took the photo of George’s house because the details are starting to fade faster than the house is. We can drive past these old houses and don’t even notices them. A family lived here but now all are gone as are most of the facts.
I met George Johnson a few times but only knew a few facts. He was an elderly bachelor who lived alone and raised cattle. He did not own a car so drove his tractor the five or six miles to town when he needed anything. He was considered eccentric.
Then, when some time had passed I learned he loved to read and owned a lot of books. He was considered smart and had gone to university. I now regret I did not get to know him.
Later, I found out that in his youth he had left home to get a university education. At some point of time his father took ill and George was forced to come home and look after the farm. Eventually his mother took sick and died and George never did get the chance to go back to university and complete his education, nor did he ever marry.
While George was not a hermit he was a bachelor that kept to himself and seemed to struggle through life. When his house deteriorated to the point it was no longer livable his friends and neighbors got together and moved a livable house on the site so he could spend the latter years of his life with better roof over his head.
George eventually died and the property has remained vacant. The replacement house was moved off and used for some other purpose. The original old house remains as the only indication that this property once had a family living there. Someone new owns the property and it continues as a cattle pasture..
It seems sad to sum up a man’s life in half a dozen paragraphs.
I cannot recall when I first heard these words but it was as a child and I never forgot them. Early one recent morning, after a heavy dew, I saw these cobwebs scattered over the back lawn and the term Fairies Hankies popped into my mind from some where deep in my memory.
The last of the snow was gone but the spiders were very quick to spin their webs between the old grass and dead leaves that lay scattered over the lawn. During the early morning hours the dew settled on the webs and they all stood out, glistening in the morning light.
As the sun comes out and the ground warms up the dew is burned off and the webs disappear. Conditions have to be just right to create the proper effect.
Someone long ago, with a vivid imagination, coined the term Fairies Hankies. It is a perfect name for a delicate object and I doubt it can be improved upon. Watch for them early on a dewy morning and be sure to pass the term along to young children who will be delighted in the words and hopefully will remember them for the rest of their life.