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Aug 2, 201310:51 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Paying Homage to a Farm Family

(page 1 of 2)

From the pages of In Business magazine.

We buried my Aunt Burdette the day after Independence Day in Sun Prairie, with full military honors. She joined the U.S. Navy as a nurse 10 months before Pearl Harbor and rose to the rank of captain. She was the fourth-born and last survivor, at age 94, of the nine children of Rose and John M. Blaska — five of whom served in uniform during World War II. 

Newly disrupted parents and siblings wrote each other many letters in those days, the only means of communication for those overseas. This is one of them, from my grandmother to my father, stationed in the North Pacific. Begun on May 19, 1944, but not sent until three days before D-Day in Europe, the letter speaks to the stresses of the wartime farm economy and the strain on the young soldiers.

Dear Son Jerome,

It has been a long time since I wrote to you ... we are all well. We haven’t sold the old homestead yet, although when the boys [younger brothers John Jr. and Gregory] don’t get up in the morning, the old man is always [threatening to get] ... the auction bills printed. Ha! Ha! 

By the way, Dad John wants to buy [his late father’s farm next door] very badly. He wanted to buy it last fall but we don’t want to see him do anything like that; [not] if we would have as hard times after the war is over as the last war. It would be hard sledding, unless you or [older brother] Cy would want to live on the place. It would be handy, two brothers, neighbors, handy with the machinery, forth and back. The [other] heirs would like to see it sold.

Well, this is a very backward spring, cold and wet. We have 35 acres of peas, 35 of hemp, 30 so far of corn — in all, 100 of corn when it is all in. The barley and oats look very nice; we haven’t the potatoes in yet [but] have it plowed, all ready to plant Monday. ... 

Oh was I ever happy! I went to the mail box, got a draft card for Greg and guess what, he is in Class 2-C! If he would have stayed in 1-A he would be going Monday with Earl Franks’ son; they had a party [for] him last night. By the way, Cy has finished his boot training at Great Lakes, got 10 days leave. Left two weeks ago this Sunday ... he’s probably on the blue waters by now. ... After he finished his six weeks’ training and came home on leave he felt so badly. I was very much worried. ... There were two big fellows from Madison went some time ago; one was sent back, had a nervous breakdown. His folks took him out on the farm south of Madison but he isn’t much better yet. ...

Well, this is June 3. I haven’t sent you this letter yet. The boys [John Jr. and Greg] just got up, 9:30 o’clock. They were to a charivari on the Starker [farm]. He married a girl from Iowa, lives on the Andrew Scheurell place, got it rented, was in the draft, invested $9,000 in machinery, cows, pigs and all that goes with it, got a wife and is settling down. 

Well, we have 97 acres of corn in and is it ever getting weedy. John put the cultivator on for Leonard [John Sr.’s childless younger brother, farming the old home place next door]. ... Everything looks good except for the weeds in the corn. It’s been raining aplenty. We had one of those hot ones Tuesday. [Lightning] ... struck a tree in Uncle Joe’s woods ...  Over at Krebs’ there was so much lightning the cows all bellered; they had to let them out of the barn. ...

Yelks are setting [planting] tobacco this afternoon, June 3. Rather early. ...  I worked two days and evenings on my strawberry bed getting the weeds out ... I will give you a nice big piece of shortcake when you come.

Much love, Mother.

(Continued)

Old to new | New to old
Aug 3, 2013 01:15 pm
 Posted by  Meade

Beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes.

Aug 5, 2013 08:29 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

After I submitted this article to the magazine younger brother Bill returned to me something I had given him many years ago: a bag containing -- among other memorabilia -- dad's Army dog tags. Attached to the chain was a beer bottle opener (aka: a church key). Now THAT brought tears to my eyes!

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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