Friday, May 6, 2011

Busy Hands/Stalwart Hearts

I received email from Jim with the real pictures of the barn after the cyclone. As a mother, then a grandmother, and a great grandmother I have a perspective I hadn’t connected with until today. You see I want to mark the heroism of my parents. Might be there were many. Perhaps we could take time to recount a few. Living through the big depression was not singular.  This is a part of our lives together which I don’t choose to neglect. And it is not just that we, together, completed the difficult job I’ll describe below. A cyclone came along and crushed a masterpiece. I am thinking of emotions that go along with this. Perhaps for Elayne, Billy, Jimmy, and me it was mainly the scare, the big sounds, the viewing of a collapsed farm building. My parents. What was such destruction like for them? We are told if you  get bucked off the horse you are to get right back on and conquer the fear. How did mother and dad do this? This setback occurred when their Tullybrackey project had just begun. We discover when we do cope, learn, conquer we become better human beings. When we cease to grow, quit learning, we die. They grew a piece, didn’t they? This was but a beginning.

My dad engaged in cement construct adjacent to silo and barn

Building our white Milk House was a large and prolonged  family project in the early days, ['40-'41?] of ‘the club’. Our dad, of course, was the man in charge. Mother was constantly so proud of her graduate engineer. Jim shares:“ The old milk-house was understandably located adjacent to our well and windmill as cold water was essential for cooling milk to at least 42F within 20 minutes after taking it warm from the cow.  However, it was a 30 yd. trek from cow barn to that milk-house. So, milking-hands were pleased not to have that extra time and labor. The milk house would be just a few yards and a few steps up. Plus twice the cooling tank capacity. The tenants must have thought Dad was something else to be bettering their lives in so many ways”. We are referring to the days the tenants were renting the farm. Number one effort would be for Dad to formulate a plan. He’d make his precise design from his sketch. This was to be a 2-story. That lower level related completely to the cow barn area it was to service. The construction was partially below ground level and included steps to connect this building to the  barn entry. It consisted almost 100% of cement: the steps, the entryway, the walls, the floor, the tanks. There were to be 2 tanks, like huge rectangular bathtubs. These would be filled with water or drained day after day after day. This figured into the design.The new milk house would provide a supply tank underground, at the rear of building, which was where the warmed water from cooling tanks went, and that supply tank fed the drinking cups within the cow-barn for cows to be able to drink anytime they desired, rather than having to wait until their keepers  let them run outside on nice cold days to drink at a tank of ice cold water where the keeper had to break thru the iced up surface to reach unfrozen water for them.”  First thing we’d need to dig out the building’s area, level, measure it, shape it all to specifications. Dads plans. The guide lines were added, the site was prepped, forms built. We would need rebar for strengthening and bolts in proper places to connect the wood frame building. Dad would build the ‘forms’ for the walls of the house below ground and for the tank walls within which concrete was to be poured. This would involve the right lumber, measuring sizes [ah that tape measure], sawing, nailing together. 

We made our own cement, a mixture of gravels, sand, and cement. The gravel would be ordered, delivered by truck and dumped quite near to the project. We’d need heavy bags of powdered cement.  Sand was used, also. Additionally, we would need hose, pails, to mix all ingredients with water. We’d have our gravel shovels, our wheelbarrow, and our small, electric,  hand cement mixer. Plug the mixer in an electric line and we were ready to begin with the familiar circling rumble. There was  a recipe. The mix here would differ from the sidewalks.   Might be 7 gravel shovels of course gravel + 2 of cement from the bags and all shovel-thrown into the mixer. We’d learn to recognize just how much water was enough water. The mixer would be positioned nearby to funnel the flow of cement, batch by batch, where it was needed to build up a level floor.  Like putting bread in an oven the cement mix once poured would need to cure just a right amount of time, green but not too green. The floor  was troweled to the correct appearance. If working on walls at a designated time the wood forms would be removed, not too soon nor too late. Lots of troweling on hands and knees. There was no big cement truck arriving in our yard and dumping its load, oh no. Rather the difference between a bought cake and a ‘mix from scratch’ cake. Dad didn’t do this alone. He would need helpers. Helpers were all of us or at times fewer and always gophers. 
Well now, this was all completed with much cooperative effort. However, there remained the construction of the frame building, walls, windows, doorway. sewer for a toilet, electric outlets, flooring, roofing, sealing the wood, painting. Get the picture? So much heart, soul, love, went into this family building project. 
The cyclone came in 1941 and crushed his masterpiece
“Tackling this history, made me realize what a wonder (superman) our Dad was!  How on earth did he find the time to work 40+ hrs. a week after a 2 and 1/2 roundtrip commute to Chicago, and then get all these complex engineering and construction projects done?  Also, don't forget the purchase and moving of the railroad tower to our property and the ensuing cement foundations for it and the coal shed.
I also never thought of our place being one of the truly most expensive farmsteads around - it had the largest house, with all the decorative gingerbread trim, 2 front doors, with bay window, 4 bedrooms.  It had the largest cow barn, AND horse barn, hog house, granary, hen house, brooder house, impressive windmill.  We thought it, at the time to be so rundown, which it had become; but no more than most all the surrounding farmstead, save Townsends, and Pat Barrett's only because he had his income from his acting career. Morrisons' Warner Farm and Fenner Andrew's places were the other exceptions nearby.”
This celebrity neighbor, Patrick Barrett, was an actor on the, National Barn Dance, every Sat. evening on WLS radio, from,Chicago, with such others as Minnie Pearl and George Gobel who got their start there.. His stage name was Uncle Ezra,depicting a distinguished country gentleman”. 

Jim asks the question above-- like how did Dad do it? I believe he had a healthy routine each day. Early rising, a good breakfast, time to relax and avidly read on the commute , keep up with current events, put in an 8 hour day serving in his chosen field, again the return trip with time to relax and read arriving home to the 'club' project and all his loves. He'd check off today's list, put in some work time, prepare a plan for the morrow or coming weekend. And so it goes. Rest, food, exercise, contentment, youth. Might this not have been an extremely healthy way to spend ones working years before retirement? Comparable to a person keeping fit today before entering the triathlon. I envision my dad as a man who was very happy doing what he wanted to do.
Old Horse barn, original landscape, a happy dad at work on his project

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your comments on my blog. Comments are moderated and I reserve the right to delete or edit comments as necessary.