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LARVALBUG LENS, February, 2009

If this photo looks a bit reminiscent of "American Gothic" it is with good reason. The couple in the background owned a farm near Val's parents' house in Manhattan, IL. Their daughters are in the foreground (two taller girls), with Vicky and Valerie at ages 3 and 5. The photo was taken in 1963. The younger daughter's name is no longer remembered, but the older one, in high school at the time, is Kathy. The farm had a very distinctive feature: an enormous round barn, now an historical landmark, museum and park.

Ev, Val's mother, adds this commentary: "The covered porch in the background was quite large, big enough to drive a tractor under it for repair in rainy weather. It was at the rear of the huge two story main farm house.

The farm was used only for beef cattle. Kathy said it was too much of a hassle to tend to dairy cows on a set schedule. She told us about the time lightning struck the wire fencing and killed several of their steers. Also about the plans to construct a lake on the property and possible development of a resort. I believe the lake was constructed. This was a beautiful setting, with Jackson Creek flowing through the pastures and the subdivision of Ranch Oaks across US highway 52.

The father, Frank, actually was not a born farmer. He worked his way up the hard way as a farm hand. He had several brothers in the Joliet area. One brother was a butcher who also made sausage and another ran an automobile agency. Frank died in 2004.

The hired hand's house east of the round barn was a smaller two story house with a little concrete stoop at the front entrance. This is where a little girl fell, suffered a brain concussion, and died. I had given her a reversible machine knitted doll and was told how much the girl loved the doll before she died. The doll was blond on one end and reversed to an American Indian doll with long dark braids.

The watering tank in front of the round barn was a favorite place for people to get some enriched mud for their gardens and/or favorite plants. It was funny to see ladies all dressed up come there and fill their buckets with the smelly stuff.

Kathy had a couple of horses - one was a beautiful buckskin. I did a little bit of bareback riding with Kathy until I fell off once. It was in the pasture and I landed in the soft grass, so I didn't get hurt.

I taught Kathy how to knit on the knitting machines and she made her dad a pair of socks for Fathers' Day one year. He was quite impressed. Kathy was somewhat of a tomboy, since there were only two daughters in the family. We once attended a cattle auction near Manhattan where Frank was bidding on some livestock. Kathy gave us a tour of the facility and explained what was going on and what they were looking for in the cattle. Kathy later married a lawyer in Joliet."