The places where generations of a family meet for bonding become almost magical, like the author’s farm near Rippey

By DALE HANAMAN

RIPPEY, Iowa, April 8, 2019 — It was nearly 53 years ago that I first ventured onto the farm where my wife Nancy and I live today. We moved here nearly 12 years ago.

What I want to share with you is my early impressions of this farm, the land and Nancy’s parents Clark and Esther Bardole, who lived here west of Rippey.

In order to do this, I will share a bit about my neighborhood in Beloit, Wisconsin, a city then of about 35,000 people. I lived with my parents, Bob and Mary Hanaman, and my sister, Marianne. The street we lived on was often busy in the daytime due to a small chemical plant at the end of our block-long street. The tall elm trees, with their branches meeting near the center of the street, made it appear to be a large cathedral. Birds rested in the tree tops.

Neighbors looked after one another in our Beloit neighborhood. Houses were only feet apart with small front yards, narrow grass strips and driveways between them. Nancy Dickson lived to the west, Tom Plunkett lived to the east, and Bill Bronzi lived south across the street. We did many things together after school as well as throughout our summers: biking, fishing, playing softball in a neighboring ball field, and games under the street lights at night. I did not often ponder the close proximity of the houses on our block.

After high school graduation in 1963, I enrolled as a freshman at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, graduating in 1967. How I got there is another story for another time.

Nancy entered as a freshman at Simpson in 1964. Because of our birth dates, though we are only six months apart in age, Nancy was a year behind me in school. We were introduced to one another through classes and the Methodist Student Christian Movement. Due to the way my roommate and I treated a friend, it was clear Nancy did not like me.

In spite of all things, we found ourselves in more classes. We began to notice each other. And one night at a school dance, though we did not attend the dance together, we decided to dance. Since neither of us were very good dancers, we decided to go play tennis. You see, the tennis courts at Simpson were lit by overhead lighting. (Today, those tennis courts have been removed.)

So, during my college junior year, we began to seriously date one another. Since Nancy’s home was much closer to school than mine, we frequently went to the farm.

The nearest neighbors, Nancy’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul Bardole, were ¼-mile away. Other neighbors were farther away. A yard light illumined the driveway and part of the approach to the house. And the yard light could manually be turned off (and it still can today). Cattle were often in the west 77 acres, hogs were in the barn, a dog roamed the farm along with tame and wild cats with their litters.

It was a magical place, I thought.

Wide open, few vehicles going by, slow farm machinery easing by, and Nancy’s parents were welcoming, gentle and loving. It seemed like a great place to visit and spend time with Nancy. We often talked, hugged, walked, and talked about ourselves, sharing our thoughts for the future.

In June, 1968, we were married at the Rippey United Methodist Church. I had finished my first year of seminary while Nancy had just graduated from Simpson. Our lives together were just beginning. Each succeeding summer we would find ourselves coming back to the farm for a visit of a week or two. I continued to be intrigued with the gentle life, being able to see the sun rise in the morning and set at night,

After our daughter, Sarah, was born and later our son, Matthew, I was involved in United Methodist Camping ministry for senior high students. My leadership led me to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) operating out of Ely, Minnesota, for week-long camping ventures. Nancy often assisted me as the other counselor.

What would we do with our own kids for that week?

It was not long and we focused on bringing them to the farm. They loved coming to the farm, grandparents Esther and Clark were open and glad for their visits, and Sarah and Matthew would spend a week or two without us.

So a tradition began.

A generation later, our children began to have their own children. Matthew was the first with his two daughters, Adrianna and Adyara. Then it was Sarah and her husband Benji with their three children, Steven, Elizabeth and Andrea.

Arrangements were made with us where we lived during the summers to have grandchildren come to visit us. Our home – and it moved about during my ministry – became the magical place, with welcoming grandparents, opportunities to grow deeper together, laughter and joy abounding.

And since the summer of 2007, when we retired and moved to the farm, our grandchildren continued to come here.

But now they have grown older. Adrianna and Adyara, both college students and with boyfriends, jobs and other commitments don’t come to visit as often. Steven, soon to graduate from high school, is already engaging in sports and close friendships, finding it more difficult to visit more than a few days. Elizabeth and Andrea did spend two weeks at the farm this year. Swimming, talking, cooking, reading, engaging on their electronics and interacting with Nancy and me. It was a precious and enjoyable time for all.

It might be a decade or so from now, but Sarah and Benji as well as Matthew and Heather, will be grandparents, hopefully providing the magical locations for their grandchildren to come visit, to be the center of their attention, and to enjoy spending deep and creative time together.

The author, Dale Hanaman, is a member of the board of directors of the Greene County Historical Society. You can write him by email at dale.hanaman@gmail.com.

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