An Afternoon Guest

A week ago today, I was sitting behind my computer screen at the office when a visitor walked into the newsroom and headed straight for my desk.

I didn’t know him – at least I didn’t think I did – but he knew me. A regular reader of my Farm Bleat blog, he introduced himself as Tom Nelson, and I knew then that he and I had a lot in common.

You see, Tom grew up on the same farm I did. He found my blog online and connected the name with the couple who purchased the Bigelow Township land from his mother oh-so-many years ago.

Tom, who now resides in southern California (I’m pretty sure the most ideal spot one can find – a short drive from the ocean, the mountains and the desert – that is, second only to our southwest Minnesota farm.)

In town for his Worthington High School 60th anniversary class reunion, Tom said he was spending several days in the community and wondered if he might, for old time’s sake, get a little tour of his old family farm.

I didn’t hesitate to invite him out for a Sunday afternoon adventure. I mentioned a four-wheeler ride, he chuckled, and we decided a ride in the farm truck would perhaps be best.

As it turned out, my parents and two of my three brothers were at the farm on Sunday, so Tom had a chance to meet three generations of the Buntjer family who have either called the farm home or consider it to be the greatest “Grandma and Grandpa play space” ever created.

We walked across the farm yard and Tom took note of the old cistern, which once sat right next to the large, two-story farmhouse where he grew up and where I lived until about the age of nine. The house was torn down after my parents built a new house, but several other original buildings remain.

I pointed out the wash house and the old garage as Tom headed straight toward the barn.

“It seems a lot smaller than I remember,” he said.

We walked through the barn, where I pointed out the initials D.N. carved into the side wall that made up my dairy goat pen. Those initials belong to Tom’s brother.

I knew there were more initials and signatures in the barn, but those have since been covered up with insulation board and pressed wood board.

That’s when Dad remembered the names on the interior of the old garage.

Tom and I walked across the yard again, lifted up the garage door and moved a few things hanging on the walls to find the names of Tom’s father and grandfather, hand painted on the walls years and years ago. It was a Kodak Moment.

The tour didn’t end with a visit to the buildings.

Tom and I soon climbed into the truck and I drove him all the way back toward Peterson Slough via our field driveway. Over gopher mounds we bounced as we talked about the old grove, the “new” grove and the wildlife we both appreciate. I wanted Tom to take in the sights I enjoy every time I visit the farm.

After reading past blog posts, Tom had sent me emails wondering just where the “turtle pond” was, and where the virgin prairie (aka cattle pasture) remained. We both learned something new that day – the turtle pond I write about wasn’t there 70 years ago.

As we drove back to the farmstead, Tom said something that made me smile.

“It’s the same, but yet it isn’t.”

The land is the same, some of the buildings are the same – even some of the trees are the same. And yet, it’s different.

One farm. Two families who loved it. We share a common bond.

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