Memories from 1932 to 1946 by Chuck & Yvonne

CHARLES WALTER BUNTJER was born on the farm near Brookville, Ogle, Illinois, USA.  He has lived in San Francisco since 1963!

Click this link to read about Charles Buntjer's early remembrances of life on the farm!

YVONNE CAROL BUNTJER was born in Cherry Grove Township, Carroll, Illinois, USA.  She married Kenneth Burt on 29 Nov 1952.   She currently lives in Tucson Arizona. 

Click this link to read about Yvonne Buntjer's early remembrances of life on the farm!

CHARLES WALTER BUNTJER was fortunate to see the Spring Flowers and Other Spectacular Happenings in His Early Childhood!

Click this link to read about Chuck Buntjer's early remembrances of Flowers and so on - 1945 to 1949


Memories by Charles Buntjer and the Early Years in Illinois ~ 1942 to 1949!

This is the only photo I have of myself and sister and mother.  It was probably taken with a box camera in 1940 when we lived on a farm in Polo Illinois.  We eventually bought the farm and also rented and worked a large 500 acre farm near Pecatonica Illinois.  In the late 1940s we built a new barn and completely renovated the house on the farm near Polo and moved back there.  My sister said I weighted 10 and one half pounds!  

I remember our farm near Pecatonica.  When I was four years old I had a burst appendix.  I was chasing my sister around the yard and suddenly felt sick to my stomach.  I lay on the couch for several days and finally went to the doctor in Pecatonica.  He said I had a stomach ache and should go home and stay still.  Well I was in horrible pain and they took me to Freeport and there found out I had peritonitis from the burst appendix.   

They operated and I was unconscious for two weeks.  They thought I would die but in the mean time, penicillin had been brought in from Chicago and I was one of the first to receive this type of treatment and it saved my life.   I remember having to be in a wheelchair as I was so weak.  

Mother and father took me home and put me in their big bed downstairs and told me to behave, as they had to go work outside in the fields.  Yvonne was at our one room school and I, of course, after a few hours, wanted something so tried to get out of bed and fell on the floor.  I couldn't get up and lay there for a long time.  Mother came in and did I get it.  "Why are you on the floor and not in bed?"  Well of course I didn't mind!

But soon I was up and about.  I remember us going to the oats field near the house and we had a combine drawn by horses.  It  cut the oats and put it in sheaves.  We followed it and place the sheaves in bunch with one laid flat on top of each bunch in case of rain.  There was a hollow post by the gate and every spring there was a blue bird family that used the post for a nest.   I checked that nest for years and then one time, the post fell apart and always worried about where the blue birds went.  Funny!  

I was lucky as my mother Edna, and sister Yvonne, always stayed up late on Easter eve and boiled eggs and dipped them in dye to make me a surprise.  When I was around four I got up and was excited, "Did anyone see the Easter Rabbit?"  I think one time my father said he was seen in the haymow!  So up I went into the barn and found a big nest of straw with eggs and chocolate bunnies and yellow chicken treats.  I was impressed.  What a bunny!  When I was five I was told someone had seen the rabbit somewhere in the front yard.  Hmmmm, I said, maybe under the lilac trees.  Yes, there was a fantastic nest under the lilac bushes heavy with spring leaves.  The next year on Easter eve I heard a noise in the kitchen late at night.  I got up, half asleep, and opened the kitchen door.  Mother and sister had a most surprised look on their faces and told me to go back to bed.  I began to wonder why there were hard-boiled eggs all over.  Oh, oh, something is wrong.   So later I was walking to the one room school I went to with my two first grade classmates, Carol Neuberger and Marilyn Ball.   I made some comment about the Easter Bunny and seeing the eggs actually came from my family.   Carol looked at Marilyn and then announced, "Yes, isn't it interesting, the Easter Bunny is a lie and so is Santa Clause!"   Well excuse me, I was devastated, first the Easter Bunny and now Santa Clause.  Marilyn said, "Yes, I found out a long time ago!"  Well I didn't want to appear too dumb so I said, "Yes, who would believe in either one of them."  And that was the end of my child hood fantasies as far as the holidays were concerned!

I remember going to school when I was six years old, walking the mile or so.  In the spring there was a hill covered with stones, an outcropping that was created by glaciers half way to the school.  In the early spring when the snow was just about to melt, the hillside would be covered with little green leaves and beautiful purple flowers blooming in the cold snow, like Alpine flowers.  I always broke off a bunch and took them to school to Ms. Erna Myers.  I always wondered how many pupils did that for her.  One time I was walking home and a horrible blizzard hit.  I was about half way home and I could barely see the road, the snow was coming down so fast.  A car stopped and a man rolled down the window, "Get in and I will give you a ride home!"  I said no way and ran off the road into a snow bank.  He finally gave up and I finally got home, frozen to death.  And guess what happened, my parents were mad and asked why I didn't take the offer!  Excuse me.  I told them they had told me never to get into a car of a stranger.  They explained it was the corn man who came in the early spring sell corn seed to use in seeded the fields for the corn crop.  He did come once a year so I should have known him.  Yes, I was six and should have known the seed salesman!  I don't think so!

I also had the 'hots' for Carol Neuberger and every afternoon after school Carol, Marilyn, and I would walk home together to a split  in the road.  They continued on one direction and I in the other.   Well Carol's father worked in town and they had a cute little white house.  Marilyn was on the farm like I was so she obviously was not my type.  When we would get to the corner, I would push Marilyn away and give Carol a kiss and then rush off home.  The woman in the house on the corner would see us and call my mother to say, "You son is at it again!"  I'm not sure what my mother said!  Here I am holding the flag for morning Pledge of Allegiance and Carol is in front row on the right - so cute!

One day at school, Ms. Myers saw me doing something I should have been doing.  Hard to believe!  She came over with the ruler and smacked my hand very hard and it hurt!  I was pissed!  I thought I was going to fix her!   I stomped home and went into the house and announced to my parents what had happened.  I assumed, wrongly, Ms. Myers was going to get it.  My parents just stood there and then my father said I should go out in the front yard and cut off a nice fresh green branch off the lilac tree.  I thought that was strange.  Then thought, I am in trouble!   They snapped that green branch around my ankles and backside and it stung like hell.   They sat me down and told me I minded them at home and Ms. Myers at school or.... Else!   I learned my lesson and after that I kept my mouth shut if I got in trouble at school!

The boys on the next farm, Le Roy and Donald were friends of mine and Le Roy was in the seventh grade and Don in the fourth grade or so I believe and I was in second grade.  Le Roy was big for his age and tough.  One day he told Ms. Myers off!  She was about 110 pounds if that.  He stood by his desk acting smart and she came along and took him by his ear and yanked it very hard and then proceeded to put him in the closet and locked the door and told him to shape up or else.  Well the rest of us were in shock.  He was big and butch.  Suddenly we heard a muffled noise.  Then we heard crying like a baby!   After about 15 minutes or longer, she opened the door and there was Le Roy, crying his eyes out and all bent over.  Ms. Myers took him by his ear again and walked him to his desk, sat him down and told him to shape up and that was that.  We all were impressed and didn't give her much trouble after that!

My mother was so busy working on the farm and keeping up the house but we always went to the PTA meetings at the little one room school with about 12 students!   For one meeting she made an Angel Food cake, my favorite.  She drizzled a sugared frosting all over it.  I loved that cake.  She told me to behave as it was going to the PTA meeting.  Well I decided to see if it met the standards of a cake and pinched off a piece inside the hole.  Yum!  Then took some more off, and more off inside.   So off we went to the meeting after the chores were done.  The women put all the goodies on the table and my mother was proud of the cake.  Everyone was standing around as she cut the cake.  She got the strangest look on her face and everyone had a good laugh.  The first piece cut out had a big part of it picked out on the inside half and one could see the cake had a big hole in it.  She was not amused.  I fortunately, don't remember what was said afterwards!  

My sister Yvonne said she remembered men coming to hunt from Chicago and it frightened her when she was little.  My experiences were very different.  On autumn morning in the late 1940s there was a knock on the kitchen door.   Two African American men were standing there and asked my father if it would be all right to go hunting on our farm if they were careful.  Walter laughed and said most people parked their cars in the brush by the road and sneaked over the fence to hunt, sometimes shooting a cow or steer or what ever moved!  The men laughed and said they knew a cow from a pheasant!  Daddy said he was pleased they asked and said it was fine but.... they hadn't better shoot a milk cow!  Later that day they came back with about 14 pheasants.  They gave us several even though our father said no.   They came back the next year and had a big bottle of wine for us.   They said they fermented it in their basement!   The third year they came with two of their boys my age, around seven or eight.   They went hunting and I played with the two boys, showing them the animals and then having a great time playing in the haymow.   Our parents never said anything about them being 'black' so I wasn't even aware of the fact.   I don't believe they ever came back and we were sorry and hoped they were all right.  Talk about being taught a good lesson about being liberal and not being racist! 

One winter evening after our chores were finished and the full moon had come out over the snow covered fields, my father asked if I wanted to go with him in the truck to check on our steers I believe.  We drove to the middle of the farm and onto a high hill where there was an Indian (Native American) Mound.   He saw something and high in a branch of a tree was a huge snow owl.  The owl was fantastic with the full moon shining on it.  What a sight!  

The owners of the farm we were renting near Pecatonica were two sisters and a brother from Germany - they came around 1880 and may have gotten a land grant for the farms.  They had a huge house built around 1906 and I loved visiting there.  They were Annie, Gusty, and Bill Brinkman.    Annie was the 'boss' and Gusty was sweet and kind.  Bill was always working doing something and I think he just liked to keep away from the house!   The house had a beautiful dining room with cherry furniture, a great table, chairs and buffet - furniture from Marshall Field's in Chicago my sister says.  They also had a den/library and in it were bookcases with glass doors and inside were encyclopedias, I think from the turn of the 19th century.  Fantastic etchings of long gone animals and so on.   One Christmas Eve Bill asked us to get ready and wear lots of warm cloths.  We thought this was strange.  He had gone into his barn and there were harnesses for his two big workhorses.   The harnesses were covered with large brass bells and he hitched up the horses to a large sleigh that I didn't even know he had.  We all got into the sleigh and Bill drove us all around the meadow between the two houses.   It was clear and cold with a full moon and the snow sparkled.  What a sight, the horses breath in the cold air, the sparkling snow and the bells chiming as we road along.   What a memory.

One summer I was playing with matches (My sister told me she also loved to 'set' fires in 'safe' locations!), behind the house in the old orchard where the trees had fallen down and were rotting.  Plus there was a lot of dry grass all over the area.  For some reason that I certainly don't remember why, I started a 'little' fire by the rotting tree stump.  Suddenly the grass caught on fire and there were flames all over.  I ran around but couldn't stop the fire.  I screamed and luckily someone heard me.  All I remember was my father running over to put out the fire.  In the mean time I ran to the house.  Next thing, my father made a beeline to the house with sparks coming out of his eyes!  Yuck!   I ran.... Fast.....  Faster...... Across the road and through the meadow to the Brinkman's house.  Fast as a bullet, but my father was just as fast.  He got in the truck and flew down the road, turned the corner and up the Brinkman drive way.  In the mean time I had flown up to the house and on the back porch were Annie and Gusty.  They saw I had terror written all over my face.  I screamed and crawled under the porch.  My father ran over to them and yelled out, "Where is that ......?"   They just sat there rocking away and tired not to say anything.   My beady little eyes were peaking out of the dark under the porch and father saw me and I flew out from under the porch and back across the meadow and to our house but, my father was in the truck and we met at the same time, in front of our house.  For some strange reason, I just cannot remember what happened to me then.  Probably better to forget!    I, of course, was mad about it and waited for a few weeks and then guess what?   I got my farmer's matches and walked a mile into a plowed cornfield, looked around and dug a hole and put some grass in it and lit it and danced around it!  Such a bad boy!  I said to my self, "So there, I'll show you all!"  But I did learn one thing, I never lit a fire again that I couldn't control.  So I did learn a valuable lesson and the farm buildings were saved!  

I also remember one Saturday night after chores we went to a neighbor's house across the river from the Brinkman's house.  It was around nine P.M. which was late and I wondered what was up.  It was a shivery for the daughter, something I had never heard of and it was the only one that happened in the area for a long time.  Perhaps it was the last one ever in the area, as those things all seemed to vanish after World War II.  Some young couple from two farms had gotten married and the bride's family had the shivery for them - the Winch family I believe.  Everyone in the surrounding countryside was invited and there was lots of dancing and singing and drinking.  This went on to very late in the night but I didn't last too long and that was my only memory.  I wonder today how many people actually experienced this sort of celebration!

When I was around five or so, we would all get in the car on Saturday evening after chores and drive to a little town named Ridott!   I think it had 50 or so people living there.  There was a General Store with the pickle barrels and so on and they would block off the main street and put up a small screen and show a movie.   Right in the middle of the street!   We then found there was a bigger screen in German Valley!  This town was a little bigger than Ridott and the main grocery store was in a two-story building.   Beside the store was a big grassy lot and the wall of the store was two stories high.  The movies on Saturday night here were actually very large due to the large blank wall.    This was a great way to spend a summer Saturday evening, shopping and then relaxing on the grass with snacks watching a movie!   This all disappeared soon after the war and we then went to the movie theatre in Pecatonica!

When I was six years old I went to my first grade class with Carol and Marilyn in 1946.  Little did I know within the year I would be famous worldwide!  Life Magazine had hired photographers and writers to canvas the United States and find the perfect one room school house to represent the country and what the military had been fighting for - Mother and Apple Pie!   Life Magazine picked the one room school I went to.  We children didn't realize what was going on and eventually we didn't notice the photographer taking photos of our daily routine.  Eventually in the fall of 1946, Life Magazine appeared with my photo on the front cover.  There were about six pages of photos and I was in most of them.  In one picture I was holding the flag for morning the Pledge of Allegiance and in another I was calculating the size of the Easter Bunnies tail along with Carol and Marilyn!  I received over 5,000 letters and presents from around the world and today after over 60 years, I am still in contact with one man, Frans, in the Netherlands!  

The farm buildings were built on a high hill due to the spring flooding every year.  About half a mile from us was another large hill with an Indian Mound on the top.  It was very big, about 40 feet or more tall and in the front, or south side was a platform or a ceremonial area.   It was about 15 feet by 30 feet but probably was larger years ago.   I always went up there and wondered what was done on this ledge.   Archeologists came along one time and asked our father is they could dig up the mound to study the history of the native Indians and he said no.   Leave the bodies alone as they probably died from chicken pox or measles given to them by the settlers.  At the bottom of the hill were a swamp and a small pond. The Johnson boys, who lived on the next farm and I, went swimming there in the summer.   They were Le Roy and Donald and Leroy was about 12 years old and Don was maybe nine and I was around seven.   We were told the Indians had dug the dirt from the swamp to build the mound and it filled with water.  The swamp was very strange; every spring there would be thousands of wild tiger lilies blooming.   There were very strange humps of land there, about a foot or so high and about a foot across.  They were very tough and covered with grass and in-between was murky water!   We used to dance around on the tops of the mounds to get across the swamp!

The railroad that ran through our farm was built on a man made ridge about ten feet high in some areas.  The train could run even when the area was flooded.  I remember one spring the entire low lands were covered with water.   One night when it was dark, we heard a horn, very strange sound.  We rushed out and there in the night was a huge train all lit up with a dome car!  Our father rode his horse down to the tracks and found out the train was the City of San Francisco!  The City of Los Angeles also ran on the tracks due to the main line being down from the flooding!  Little did I know within 20 years I would be living in San Francisco and visiting Los Angeles.

In the meantime our aunt and uncle, Bennie and Francis Buntjer, were running our farm near Polo.  They lived there until 1949 or so and then Bennie move to Rock Falls to work and we moved back to Polo from Pecatonica and built a huge new barn with war bonds.   It probably was the last big barn build out of wood in the area as the next generation of barns was made of metal.  We also remodeled the house and the cost for each was around $20,000.00.  Not too bad for two people without much of an education!

I transferred to a school in Brookville, a very small village next to our farm near Polo after we moved back to our farm.  Can you imagine, it also was a one room school!  So all of my grade school education was in a one room school!

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Memories by Yvonne Burt/Buntjer of our Early Years in Illinois ~ October 2007

Walter had a goiter operation before Yvonne was born, just after he and Edna were married.   Walter turned 21 the day after they were married so he was 21 when he had the goiter operation.  The doctors treated him for heart problems for a year before diagnosing the problem!  A Doctor Carter worked part time in Freeport and our Grandfather Buntjer watched through the window, said the doctor slit the throat n one motion!   The doctor also flew his own plane, this in the 1930s.  He also worked part time in the Mayo Clinic!  Walter couldn't work for over six months and were living in the Gast House when Yvonne was born.   There was a second farm and house down by the creek and they walked down for dinner and Edna went into labor.  Our mother said her mother, our grandmother was very mean to her.  

They then rented the farm near Polo and moved there when Yvonne was about a year old.  They bought their cows on credit through the milk company.  Our mother said they had made a mistake and had a set amount taken from the milk check instead of a percentage so they ended up with 80 cents to buy groceries for the next two weeks!

They put wrapped Yvonne in blankets and put her in a wash tub so she wouldn't get under foot of the cows while they milked the cows!  Yvonne said one time when she was three or so, mother was so mad she went to town and spent an entire mild check on a dress and coat.  She came back from shopping, then had a 22 inch waist until I was born, the proverbial son Charles!  They also had to pick corn by hand so put Yvonne in the corner of the wagon and one day our father hit Yvonne in the nose with an ear of corn.  Our mother had a good yell about that!

Yvonne used to sleep on an old couch called a Fainting Couch in the dining room.  Then the house was full of smoke and Yvonne put a blanket over her head and found the door and ran to the barn.  Our father had lit his pipe and threw the match into the wood box next to the stove.  The box burned but not much else happened, fortunately! 

When Yvonne was 18 months old a German Sheppard attacked her.  Edna said the dog went mad.  Later her uncle Johnny told her that her mother as in the yard giving her a spanking and the dog came over and grabbed my head to get me away - trying to save me.  I ended up with a scar on my head and that was one time her mother lied to her.  Edna walked up the road to the highway where a neighbor had a phone.  The doctor said the hot sun clotted the blood or she would have bled to death.  They took her in to have the stitches taken out and she screamed all the way up the steps to see the doctor!

Yvonne remembered when she was still in a high chair, men came in to warm up in the winter time, they were hunters.   One was the son of the woman that originally owned the farm.  Walter wasn't sure what to do and, they didn't even leave some birds with the family.  

Yvonne also remembered the time our mother and father were doing all the work with horses, and Walter was planting corn.  A piece was missing from the corn planter and he thought Yvonne had messed with the corn planter and gave her the worst spanking.  Edna had to stop him and of course, later, he found the missing piece.  (As I grew up I found out our father had a terrible temper and would blow up and throw a fit and curse and sometimes if one was too close, one would get a good kick or what ever!   I would then get mad for two or three days, very pissed off.  I finally figured out it was a waste of time as Walter, our father, screamed and cursed and an hour later, had basically forgot about it!)  Yvonne said she can still remember what that piece of the corn planter looks like.  

In 1939 there wasn't any snow for Christmas and on Christmas Eve our mother went down to the barn.  Walter was milking and said Santa had come by car because there wasn't any snow.  While Yvonne was in the barn, father said, "Hear the car!"   Yvonne was sure she had heard a car and ran to the house.  Of course Santa had been there!  That night Edna went into labor with Charles but nothing happened.  There was a space heater in the dining room and Yvonne paced the floor.   Well it was another month so I was really a 10 month baby!  And weighted 10 1/2 pounds!  Yvonne was eight pounds at birth.    Yvonne thinks a mid-wife came to stay and was a bitch, made her get on the kitchen floor and scrub it and the kitchen was large.  So guess what, Yvonne hated her!  But she was never so excited in her life when I, Charles, was born.   Yvonne held me when I was just half an hour old.  And our dog Scrappy was so excited, would come in had stand on his hind legs to check that I was all right!

There was a farm down the road and a woman in Chicago owned it and lost it.  Walter and Edna rented both farms but bought the farm in late 1939.  We moved there in February 1940, just after Charles was born!   The house Charles was born in only had a couple of rooms and the outside was covered with green shingles.  They paid off the farm in 1944,  in just four years!  Hard to imagine.  We all drove to Rockford to sign the papers in the Nelson Hotel.   A rep from John Hancock Insurance was there representing the sale.   (Interesting, not many years later Yvonne Buntjer would be working at Western Union after High School, a block from the same hotel, Nelson Hotel!)

The last time Yvonne and her husband Ken and their son Bill saw our grandparents on our father's side was in July, 1962.  

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06.2015 ~ Chuck's Childhood Memories On A Farm in Illinois ~ Flower Power ~ 1945 to 1950

For some reason I woke up around four a.m. and started to think about growing up on the farm in Illinois. Our farm was 500 acres, half was tillable, half was pasture and forests. Plus a river ran along side of the farm and railroad tracks ran through the middle. There was a swamp, a pond and an Indian Mound on top of a high hill. Lots to see and do. After I started to compose the following scenario I talked to my sister Yvonne, in Tucson about my thoughts. She said she had many of the same experiences as I did so it is nice to remember such good times in the country side by both of us!

Alpine Flowers in the Snow

In 1946 when I started going to the one room school at six years old, I usually walked about a mile to school each way. Our farm was on a hill and the next neighbors, the Johnsons, lived on a very high hill. The one room school was past that hill and on a much more level piece of land. As I would walk to school in late March or early April, I would pass a field of ours that seemed to be never used. It looked like a glacier had cut out the side of a hill leaving only a steep slant to it and covered with rocks. At that time of year there might still be five or six inches of snow on the ground.

I always was excited to go and explore because I could see depressions in the snow. They would be about 12 inches across and at the bottom of the bowl shaped depression, a small piece of soil and there, in the snow, would be an Alpine flower, velvety green leaves to keep safe from the cold air and a small beautiful flower of lavender and a bright yellow center! The first bees of spring would be out looking for nectar. I would pick four or five flowers and carry them off to school to give to my teacher. I wonder if she appreciated the gift.

Blue Bells

Even when I was six or seven I was interested in science, art, architecture and astronomy. I used to think my father wasn't interested in anything having to do with art but I later changed my mind. He used to have me get in the truck in the spring and drive to the end of the farm, the Back 40s as farmers used to call these locations. This area was left to nature and there were hundreds of oak trees fillig the area. Under the oak trees were up to three acres of foot tall plants with blue flowers all over them. Acres of blue under the trees where the sunshine dappled the flowers.

The slightest breeze would cause the acres of blue to sway like the currents in the ocean. It was a fantastic sight. We would take the flowers and pull them off the stems and suck out a sweet nectar from them. The bumble bees and honey bees would have a great time trying to hit every flower. So I finally figured my father really did have some artist bents as he wanted me to see something so beautiful. My sister, who is eight years older told me our father did the same thing with her, made sure she got to see the fantastic display of spring flowers!

Tiger Lilies

In the middle of our farm was the highest hill around and on the top was an Indian Mound. It was shaped like a small pyramid and on the south side about half way up, a ceremonial platform where they may have performed rituals. About half a mile south of the Indian Mound was a small pond and I was told since the land there was mostly sand, the natives dug out the sand to build a stronger ceremonial mound rather than just use soil.

I use to go there in the spring as the pond was rather full and my neighbors and I would kind of swim in it as it was only a foot or so deep. Next to it was a swamp. There were humps in the swamp and one could step from one to another without getting wet or muddy. My sister and I think it was peat moss. Suddenly every spring there were stalks growing up to three feet or more, and on the top of each plant were many flowers, all orange with black spots all over them. They were fantastic looking Tiger Lilies. We always wondered where did they come from, why did they only bloom in this location on our farm? Lots of questions and few if any answers.

Bloody Noses - Trillium Recurvatum

A mile or more down the road from us were two German sisters and a brother and they were the people we rented our farm from. They had two farms and had a fantastic house and inside was furniture brought from Germany, a formal dining room, a library with leather bound encyclopedias, to me it was heaven.

A half mile or more down the road from the Brinkman farm and over the rail road tracks and a bridge, was a large forest. There was a small cottage that was only used part of the summer that a man used to go fishing.

When we walked through the woods in the spring we would see under the trees, stalks about ten inches tall and at the end were three large green leaves. In the middle was the flower, again three dark red petals but about one fourth the size of the leaves. We called them Bleeding Noses and as I wondered what they actually were, I did some research and found the name was Trillium. I have to admit, I like our name for them, Bleeding Noses, better than the scientific name!

I have to include one funny situation that happened by the summer cottage. My father took us down to the cottage area so we could see how high the flood stage was from the Pecatonica River. There was a small wooden boat, my father suggested 'we' should get in the boat for a ride. My sister was along and I thought this was strange as none of the three of us could swim at that point and the poor boat looked like it had been out all winter and rotted through. But father said get in and who could argue with that? He pushed us off and we were about ten feet away from so called dry land and suddenly the bottom of the boat was covered with water, what a leaky ship! Father sat there and let my sister and I yell our heads off. Well the water was only two feet or so deep but you would have thought we were on the Titanic! Our father had a rather strange idea of doing something for a good laugh! I eventually took up scuba diving and I love the water! Who could have figured that would happen?

Lilacs - Purple and White

Our house was two stories and made of stone. We think it was built around 1890 or so. It was a huge house, kitchen, smaller room, a big dining room, big living room, a big master bedroom and a spare bedroom. Upstairs were three bedrooms and a large spare room we used as a play room in the winter or rainy weather.

At the back of the house was a very old tree, wonder if it was planted when the house was built? In the spring it suddenly came to life and was covered with the most wonderful lilacs, all purple and the best perfume. We would cut them and put in the house, such an aroma!

I always wondered why there were other lilac trees on the other side of the house, tall and scrawny, with cascades of white lilacs. They also had a nice perfumed odor but why such a different growth? Purple and white lilacs, wonder where they came from and who planted them? They must have been planted by the original owners as they were the only lilac trees around the area that I knew about. Another mystery!

Mulberry Tree

From the main road running in front of our farm, gravel of course, was a side road running past our house and into an area connecting the barn, corncribs, oats storage building, pig pen and chicken pen. Across the side road from our house was a very large tree. It was a mulberry tree! It was the only one for miles around as far as I knew. The tree was very tall and must have been old. Around June it would be covered with berries that were shaped like raspberries. The berries were a dark color and I read that these were the sweetest ones of many varieties.

I used to eat as many mulberries as I could, they were so good. Only problem was one's hands became covered with purple stains and this ended up on ones clothes. Plus the birds loved this fruit and after a few days, any place a bird pooped, was a big splash of icky purple poop! You did not want to be under a bird when they flew around during the mulberry season!


It is native to Europe, northwestern Africa, west, south and southeast Asia. Gooseberry bushes produce an edible fruit and are grown on both a commercial and domestic basis.

I remember we would walk around the side roads where the farmers left the areas near the roads to run riot so the plants and animals had places to live. When I was back to Illionis I noticed most of the fields only had a fence to divide the areas, the trees and grasses/shrubs were all gone. I was told that gave the farmer several more feet to cultivate but still, the plants and wild life is disappearing from our lives.

The Gooseberries were strange looking for a berry, they were green but as time went by and they became ripe, they still were green but nice and juicy! They were small so maybe they were a wild variety, I did find some were first found in the Himalayas and India. Interesting how plants were introduced from all over the world!

Great Horned Owl

One evening in the middle of the winter my father decided to take a ride in our truck up to the Indian Mound. That was about a mile from our house and I still don't know if he knew what we might see along the way. It was later in the evening, the moon was full and the hill was covered with snow. We stopped and he said to look up in the large oak tree that had naked branches as the leaves had fallen off in the fall.

It was very mysterious and as I looked higher into the tree, on a branch, sitting near the end was a huge Great Horned Owl. This was the only time I had seen a horned owl and since it was winter, the feathers were all white! The owl sat there silhouetted against the dark sky and was bright as day as the full moon shone the white feathers, making it feel almost like a dream! How many children growing up today have this kind of experience?

Diamondback Rattlesnake!

We had a large building where we kept the farming machinery such as a combine or a hay baler and the tractors. Behind this building was a huge pile of wood and other items I guess we just threw back there. My father 'suggested' we both should go through the pile and pick out what could be used and stack that up and get rid of the other items. Those of you who have changed a tire, may remember or know there is a special tool to take off the nuts from the bolts (lugs), holding the tires onto the car, truck, tractor or whatever has wheels. Leaning on the building for some reason, was the same type of tool but for tractors, it is about four or more feet long with the end shaped to fit the very large lugs.

We had taken some of the boards off the pile and suddenly we heard a very loud hiss and a five foot long snake came out of the pile of wood and rushed towards us! I just stood there and my father grabbed the lug tool and since it was so long, pinned down the snake as it tried to bite him. It was unfortunate but he had to kill the snake. I believe it was a Diamondback Rattlesnake. One never knew what one might find under any type of a pile of items as animals are always looking for a safe place to hide.

Spring Floods - Carp and Bullheads!

There always was the spring flood that covered the lower part of the farm. Our house and farm buildings were on a hill and when the flood hit, the entire lower part of the farm was covered with water, like a huge lake. It covered the land each year with a fantastic layer of rich black soil. When we planted corn and it was a few feet tall and the weather turned hot, the leaves whispered in the breeze and we were sure we could hear the corn growing!

I remember some of our relatives would come over and we all would go down to the bottom land after the flooding had receded. There would be ponds all over, some up to four feet deep and maybe 100 feet across. We would wade in and look for fish trying to escape and we would catch them by hand and fill gunny sacks to the top. I actually donít recall my family actually eating too much fish and wonder if it was because most of the fish were Carp or Bullheads that were bottom feeders! Well, we had a great time catching the fish, regardless of what happened to them.

I remember reading that the Native Americans used to use fish as a fertilizer. They would dig a hole, put a fish in it and then some seeds and cover with soil. So I believe as part of the rich soil our crops grew on, some of it was due to the enormous amounts of fish that were left stranded on the shallow muddy ponds. Eventually everything in nature is composted and returned to be reused again and again, this is space ship planet earth!

Return to the Top

Growing up on the farm entailed a lot of hard work, starting as soon as one was five or six years old. I remember a lot of complaining and wondered why me! Even though I am glad I was able to move to San Francisco and be a part of the computer age, I do cherish the wonderful things I was able to do as a child. I doubt many children today have the same actual interaction with nature like my sister and I had on the farm near Pecatonica Illinois!

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  Charles Walter Buntjer

San Francisco California
Created on: 2015.06.18  

Published on: 2015.06.23