Homestead: The home and adjoining land occupied by a family; the ancestral home. – Merriam Webster Dictionary
Side by side for 100 years, they weathered whatever South Dakota dished out.
Because of their advanced age and for hitting the century mark together, it seemed only appropriate to celebrate the occasion and accomplishment.
As birthday parties go, it was fairly subdued – but how lively can you be at age 100?
And yet, both buildings are standing upright and are in fairly good repair – even after living through the Dirty 30s, hailstorms, gale-force winds, blizzards and prairie fires.
Both the farmhouse and the barn, built by my granddad in 1917 as a wedding present for his bride, have been part of our family’s memory through the generations. They have been, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the constant, ever fixed mark, never shaken by tempests.
At least, not yet.
The barn, traditional red with white trim and “Sunny Slope Stock Farm” emblazoned across the front, no longer is home to horses or even cattle in winter. But the barn swallows love it, along with a raccoon or two, and some bats near the cupola. Portions of the foundation, shored up and rebuilt by my dad, helped maintain its structural integrity, but the metal roof he added likely was just as important. Over the years, my daughters and their families have wielded a paint brush or other tools in the interest of preservation.
The farmhouse has undergone many changes but in my memory it always had indoor plumbing and its inhabitants benefited greatly in the early 1950s when REA replaced the windcharger in the backyard.
When Granddad Lindley arrived in South Dakota from Iowa in 1909, he had hopes of finding some land open for homesteading, but he was a bit late. What he did find was some Lyman County prairie that was far less expensive than where he grew up in Iowa. So, he returned home to arrange some financing and came back to establish a diversified farm and ranch operation that somehow survived some of the toughest years for agriculture in state history.
When my dad and mom took over the operation in the 1940s, they faced some different challenges, but the big two remained constant: a fair price for crops and livestock and, of course, the weather.
Through it all, the house and barn provided shelter and countless happy memories.
I recall as a boy looking up at the “1917” painted on the hay mound door and thinking how ancient that old barn was. Now, with my allotted threescore and 10 just months away, 100 doesn’t seem nearly as old.
July 5, 2017