Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Duane D. Stanley ©2009 I often refer to my roots in Kimball. They include genealogical roots of considerable depth. But my Kimball roots also impact my way of thinking and the values that I hold, including my tie to my hometown. Without the specific experiences of '58-'59, I would no doubt be another of many long-gone and detached individuals who simply moved away. For me that year created, what I would-a decade later in graduate school-call "a paradigm shift." A paradigm is a framework for looking at life around us, identifying the importance of specific elements and how those elements interrelate. A paradigm provides the explanation for how life works. In a farmer's life, for instance, weather is a key element that interrelates with other elements like soil quality, time of year, technologies (hybrids, fertilizers), and such. In contrast, my life in the city does not consider weather a key element and it only really interacts with my personal calendar; I pay attention when rain or snow may interfere with my commute or recreation plans. For those I haven't scared off with that last paragraph, let's get back to my year in Kimball. Remember, my life in South Africa (under that country's apartheid policies) was experienced in a highly segmented society that forced a separation of our personal lives from much of my father's church work among other races. Also, we had no other family to share life's celebrations and highlights with. Home life centered on the immediate family, with little experience of "community." In contrast, my year at Kimball was all about community and belonging-without barriers. I belonged on the farm; Grandma cared (and made me wash dishes). I belonged at church where the community made sure I could go to youth camp to grow in faith. I belonged when school friends waved to me around town. In the words of the Cheers TV show, it was a place where "everyone knows your name." I felt loved and accepted, but I was also expected to play my role and fulfill actual responsibilities. No experience so defined this for me as did working on the threshing crew. First of all, the nature of a threshing crew itself was an exercise in community. Three or four farmers, including Merton Eaton and Alton Greeley owned an old grey threshing machine driven through a tractor's power take-off pulley and long-drive belt. Amid a deafening rattle and roar, that pulley drove a variety of other belts, gears, and chain drives. Bundles of oats coming from the field were unloaded onto the feeder belt. Then, in its fury, the grey beast churned, spewing forth a straw pile at the far end and, at its mid-point, poured golden grain into a high-sided wagon box. Everyone on the crew fought dust in their eyes and throats, and began to itch as pieces of straw worked their way determinedly to each crevice in the body. When harvest was completed on the first farm, the crew, with their parade of tractors of every make and model, and wagons in every state of repair, headed for the next farm. No individual farmer was an "island unto himself." In '59 it took a community to build a straw pile. In this setting, I too had a job, suitable to my 10-year-old capabilities, and was expected to work long, dirty hours. My role, utilizing my newly acquired skill of tractor-driving, was to speed the work of those who pulled the shocks apart and-with those long-tined pitchforks-tossed each bundle onto the wagon. I, and other youngsters on the crew, pulled a tractor and wagon up close to each successive shock. When the wagon was full, we gave up the driver's seat to the owner and walked over to whichever farmer didn't have a driver. In that day of traditional roles, most womenfolk spent much of the threshing day in their kitchens, preparing for fabulous feasts that would cap the end of each long hot day. Etched in my memory is suppertime at the Greeley home. With two or three runs at it, we washed off the worst of the dust, sweat, and straw out in the yard with a bucket of water drawn from the red yard pump below the windmill. Then someone yelled that supper was ready, and we made our way to the row of tables reaching from the kitchen to the front windows. The table overflowed with chicken and meat loaf and potatoes and corn and ... And, of course, just when we were stuffed to the gills, out came a vast array of homemade pies and buckets of ice-cream. And I had a seat at the table. We pre-teens were not relegated to a children's table in another room. With each bulging serving bowl or new dessert delicacy, I was asked if I would like a helping. Yes, the food was fantastic, but more importantly, I belonged. I was valued, and I was contributing. And when I fell asleep that night, it was with a sense of satisfaction and secure belonging. That experience of community was for me a paradigm shift. Although I could never have described its significance at the time, it made me see my world in a whole new way. It defined for me what "community" could be. And as I began my college studies in theology, the images and feelings of belonging and community from '59 gave me a real-life framework for understanding God's love and His community-the church. While I know that rural culture is not what it was fifty years ago, I like to believe that small-town life still provides that sense of community, and that all ten-year-olds grow into responsibility and security being valued by everyone who knows their name. * * * * * Seeking a meaningful local organization to be a part of? Kimball AreaHistorical Society membership is affordable, offers friendships galore, a legacy like no other with stimulating, entertaining programs and speakers. Tuesday, April 28, in Kimball's Historic City Hall, come join us at 7 p.m. for Minnesota's Greatest Generation-World War II, featuring a University of Minnesota, retired professor of history. Lloyd Petersen has a master's degree in 20th Century American History, with an emphasis on World War II, a doctorate in 19th Century History, including the Civil War era, taught the 1920s, 1930s, the "nifty fifties," and the colonies, and traveled extensively "out east" to Civil War battlefields. Sponsored by Southwest Minnesota State University, you won't want to miss "The Greatest Generation" with Lloyd Petersen. Bring a friend to this informal free evening you won't soon forget. Refreshments are included. The City Hall Restoration Project continues. You can now see the fantastic progress your donations and grants have already accomplished, as we shall enjoy the above find program within those very walls. For more information, contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at Box 100, Kimball MN 55353, or call (320) 398-5743 or 398-5250. * * * * * "Every waking moment of our lives creates a picture"