I wonder if Winfield and Pearl Reed knew this place would mean so much to us when they bought the first eighty-acre section in 1916. I don’t know much about them, except that they lived on the hill where Jan and Denny do now. They raised seven kids, the youngest, my great-grandfather, Ralphie. Winfield’s funeral was held at the church owned by the Old Order Mennonites and the pair is buried in a cemetery previously unknown to Dad or me.
Ralphie left home as a teenager and went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific until the end of the war in 1945. After his service, Ralphie returned and began farming the family land, which his parents sold to him in 1947 for “love and affection and $1.”
Ralphie’s shrewd nature and eye toward the future helped him grow the farm. When other farmers were too small to keep up with increased demand created by large agribusiness, Ralphie bought them out and grew his own operation. Success in farming became dependent on scale, and he was able to keep up.
During this time, Ralphie married Wilma Bond and had three kids: Ron, Denny and Rusty. They grew up working on the farm. Each left, but ultimately returned to their home. Ron served in the Air Force and never farmed on his own but now lives on his dad’s land. Denny attended to University of Missouri and met his wife, Jan. The pair sharecropped and worked on a cattle ranch before returning to farm the family land. Denny eventually traded a section of land for the original on top of the hill, where he and Jan have lived ever since. Rusty was a trucker until he realized it wasn’t the life he wanted.
All the land acquired by Ralphie and the brothers now totals around 1,600 acres.
Eventually, other kids arrived. Dad, Nee and Justin; Derek and Dane; Cody and Dillon. And then the next generation. Most have left, but the land is still there to visit.
Dad said, “you’re nothing without your roots,” and he’s right. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know I always have a place to return to where I’ll always be welcomed, where my family has history and where I can connect with our past.