Sunday, July 30, 2017


After rapeseed harvest
Once again, Mike and I were up early in order to pack the old Silverado and get on the road while it was still cool(ish). Arriving at the farmhouse, we discovered that rapeseed harvest has indeed concluded. The fields are shorn of their long pod-locks. It’s over, and I missed it. We may see harvesters again this season, but they won't be close to the house.

Post-rapeseed harvest, 2017
Today being July 30, I couldn’t help but think of the birthday parties we used to have here for my Grandfather Portfors (Papa). His birthday was July 31, so the last Sunday in July, we invited friends and family to the Gilbert farm for a mid-summer celebration in his honor. The time frame: the years around 1960.

“Why did you have the party at the farmhouse,” you might ask because, after all, Papa was Mother’s father and this is my dad's place. Well, I don’t know how it evolved, so I’ll have to guess. It was a good time for a summer picnic, and folks still liked to get out of town to enjoy the breezes of the upper country. This was a group that had been friends for years, including Vernon and Lolita Kalbfleisch, Hez and Una Evetts, Wayne and Psyche Johnson, and Chuck Johnson. My sisters and brother came with their children, if possible, and sometimes others brought grandchildren as well.

The mid-day meal was a potluck with fried chicken and plenty of salads and finger foods. The cake was simple, baked in my mother’s kitchen. And we had homemade ice cream courtesy of my dad. I don't recall that they made extra to accommodate the crowd. You got a sliver of cake and if there was any leftover, you might ask for another piece. We didn’t worry about planning games and activities or what people would do. Attendees just visited, enjoyed the fresh air, and went home before it got late. Was it boring? I probably thought so even though I looked forward to it.

Mother, Daddy, and I would clean the farmhouse a week or two in advance of the party. Remember -- we had no electricity or indoor plumbing, so we worked the old-fashioned way. My dad had installed a propane “hotplate” unit so that we could heat water without starting a fire in the old cook stove -- and that was a boon! He dipped water out of the cistern, heated it, helped wash windows, and mopped the floors. Mother took down all the curtains (sheers) and took them to town to launder them. Eventually, at Mother's insistence, they bought a small generator so that she could run a vacuum. And she thought that was a boon!

Well, my dad was still farming in those days, and during harvest, Mother and I (and other family) would stay here at the farmhouse to provide support. The house had to be made ready, so I think the party gave us extra incentive.


But – I’m glad we’re not having such a party today because I don't think we'd find as much relief from the heat as we did in those days. I hate to say this, but we're talking almost 60 years ago. I always marveled when my parents talked about the old days and wondered if the time would come when I would think back to the "old days." Hmmm -- seems like yesterday.  KW


Chuck said...

This blog brings back fond memories. I loved being there for Papa's birthday. I think it was held there because that location was better than in town, and we had a lot of things going on at the farm. Everyone liked it up there, even when someone would fall into the cistern now and again. One time, I think Christi had an encounter with a rattlesnake. She said "He stood up and looked to me in the eye." That was a close call, but didn't dampen that event or future ones at the farm.

Kathy said...

That's right. We've always taken the downside in stride and moved on.

Our elders in that era had been acquainted with rural living without modern amenities, and I think they enjoyed that step back in time for an afternoon.

And I tell you what -- the ghosts are here visiting me this afternoon. It just feels like "Papa's Birthday." Wish you were here.

Becky said...

I have vague memories of those gatherings as I was quite young. The things that do stand out in my memories was when Mary fell in the cistern and her plastic pants are what kept her afloat if I remember correctly and the ICE CREAM!! :)

Kathy said...

I was thinking as I wrote this post that Joni, Chuck, and I are probably the only ones with "clear" memories of these picnics. I do think we gathered several years in a row, but then we didn't. Papa's health was probably the first consideration. Other factors might have been growing family obligations on the part of younger players while older people also had health problems. Things just changed -- and it doesn't matter.