I think most of us wish there was a portal that we could travel through into the past to relive a special moment in time or just feel the warmth of those who loved us and who we loved that are no longer with us.
My search of the homestead was not about locating the land my ancestors farmed, because I knew where that was. It was a research trip to locate family documents, to touch them, see them and imagine the excitement that must have filled the moment for my family members. It was an opportunity to meet and spend time with people who share my blood, to get to know them and learn from them. But, most of all it was about reconnecting with memories that I hold close to my heart.
I knew returning to Hildreth would stir up memories and emotions from a time long past. I parked my car at the end of the main street and closed my eyes and I could envision the town the way it was when I was a child. I remember the town busy with people doing business at the I.G.A. store, and how the farmers would meet for coffee before they started their day. I could hear the church bell ringing calling everyone to Sunday service. I remember walking to Clint’s Tavern to see my Grandpa Bebensee and how he would let me pick out any candy bar that I wanted.
As I passed by the old creamery building I could feel my Grandpa Evers’ hand holding mine as we walked the half block from his back yard together. He would reach into a little change jar on the buffet and give me a nickel to carry and we would get an ice cream cone from the creamery and then stop at the post office to get his mail. I recall days spent fishing at the Republican Dam – eating a picnic lunch of fried chicken and potato salad and falling asleep in the sun.
I recall spending the afternoon with my Grandma where she ran the town library and how the ladies would come in just to visit with her. At the cemetery I could hear the roar of the Phantom Jets flying over head at the memorial service for my Uncle in 1989. And I recalled how my Mom took my hand and we walked together to her Mother’s grave and how she trembled standing there as I put my arm around her. These moments in time are irreplaceable and unforgettable and what inspires me to write them down.
I had a wonderful lunch with a woman I became acquainted with last year by the name of Barb Casper in Hildreth. She invited Mrs. Jurgens who bought my great grandfather’s farm in 1948 and still owns the farm. It was a joy to give her a photograph of the Habben home as it looked in 1908 and listen to her tell of how as a young bride she removed all the gingerbread off of the house because she thought it was too old-fashioned, something she tells me she later regretted. Her husband Harold was a classmate of my father’s back in the 1930’s. Barb shared a memory with me of my Grandfather and how she found him asleep on her couch one day. When she confronted him he just said he wanted to see what it looked like and was tired and decided to take a nap. Yep, I think to myself that was Grandpa – if he got tired he didn’t care where he was. Hildreth was one of those towns where people left their doors unlocked and everyone was like one big family. They all kept an eye on each others children and when someone had a problem everyone showed up to ease the pain.
After I left Barb’s I traveled out to the old one room school-house that my Mom and her siblings attended in the 20’s and 30’s. As the breeze rustled the trees I think I could actually hear the giggles of children at play. I could imagined my Mom and her brothers as they traveled down the dirt road in their pony cart pulled by their beloved horse, Prince. The building is falling apart and the weeds are so high around it I didn’t dare get to close. I had been warned about snakes and ticks in the grass and to be very careful walking around. Next time I’ll bring my weed whacker – LOL.
I found it difficult to leave the area because there was this strong feeling of being home and safe that was hard to leave behind. I drove down road 4 to road 10 and headed south to Franklin to my next stop along my journey.
To be continued…