A Minnesota Farm Alphabet

April 15, 2014

When we were cleaning out my parents’ farmhouse, I came across this farm alphabet book I made for them in 1994, twenty years ago.  I made the illustrations from colored tissue and paper cutouts.  Each page highlights fond images and memories of my 1950s and ’60s childhood on our Minnesota farm.  I’ve reproduced the book for you here:

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A is for angels in the snow, and
a pail full of apples to feed the pigs, and
the smell of just-cut alfalfa, and
the attic with its trunks of winter clothes, boxes of Dad’s Army things, and stacks of Easter baskets.

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B is for bats that occasionally swooped down from the attic, and
the brooms John and Ken used to bring down the bats, and
jumping from the heavy beams in the hayloft into piles of scratchy hay, and
boots lined up on newspapers by the front door, and
shaking cream into butter, and
the bullheads we caught with bamboo fishing poles.

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C is for chocolate-covered cherries on Father’s Day, and
playing circle tag in the snow, and
cinnamon cream pies, and
corn on the cob, and
wooden clothespins, and
barn cats.

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D is for the dish towel we waved to call Dad in from the fields for supper, and
the long gravel driveway we walked to catch the school bus, and
dusting the furniture at least twice a week.

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E is for the egg yolks that stood up in the frying pan, and
the jolt of the electric fence, and
playing eucher.

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F is for the floods that washed out the driveway, and
dressing in front of the furnace vents on cold winter mornings, and
Mom’s rich dark fudge with nuts, and
swatting flies with pastel-colored fly swatters, and
retrieving foul balls for ten cents.

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G is for the green grain box carrying oats to the grainery, and
pulling the tough, yellow skin off chicken gizzards, and
gopher traps and garter snakes.

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H is for hoeing thistles and hauling hay, and
the hard-boiled eggs Dad cracked on our heads, and
doing homework around the kitchen table, and
the holy water that hung in a bottle at the bottom of the stairs, and
hanging clothes to dry on the lines outside.

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I is for the ice storms that transformed our everyday farm into a winter wonderland, and
learning to iron by practicing on handkerchiefs, and
the white rocks surrounding the island, and
ice skating on the pond by the culvert.

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J is for junk pile treasures, and
Jack Frost’s feathery masterpieces on our window panes, and
jeans that froze stiff on the clothesline in winter.

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K is for the kitchen table, and
kneeling to say the rosary after supper, and
the knick knack shelf in the living room, and
pretending to make bread by kneading our pillows.

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L is for Lava soap in the washroom, and
the smell of blooming lilacs, and
the Little Team, and
taking turns mowing the lawn, and
pink lungs floating on top of the water from cleaning the chickens.

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M is for mittens drying on the furnace vents, and
picking from the Montgomery Ward catalog, and
Morrell mushrooms in scrambled eggs, and
mosquitoes.

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N is for St. Nicholas Day goodies in brown paper bags, and
the Nativity set.

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O is for the oilcloth covering the kitchen table, and
overshoes with lever-like buckles, and
the two-seater outhouse.

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P is for dancing the polka, and
dishpans full of buttered popcorn, and
priming the pump in the washroom, and
the ants in the peonies, and
shelling peas and planting potatoes.

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Q is for Dad’s collection of silver quarters, and
warm quilts on the beds.

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R is for rhubarb sauce and wild raspberries, and
the roller towel in the washroom, and
red-winged blackbirds, and
raking leaves, and
root beer floats served on the island in real glass glasses.

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S is for the stubble in the oat fields, and
Mom’s sauerkraut and homemade liver sausage, and
sprinkling the laundry before ironing, and
the stanchions in the barn, and
sledding on Walerius’ hill.

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T is for tinsel on the Christmas tree, and
the tire swing, and
Tom Thumb donuts from the Minnesota State Fair, and
waiting out tornadoes in the basement, and
feeding the threshing crew.

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U is for Union Hill, and
the unheated upstairs where we slept, and
sleeveless cotton undershirts.

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V is for treating chest colds with Vicks Vapo Rub, and
the VFW picnic, and
summer vacations at Hauer’s home in the Cities and at Grandma and Grandpa Meger’s house in Montgomery.

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W is for whipped cream on chocolate cake, and
roasting weiners on sticks over a bonfire, and
stacking wood, and
the wringer washing machine, and
shouting “Whoa” when it was time to drop bales of hay into the hayloft.

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X is for Aunt Mary’s x-stitch embroidery, and
the axe that beheaded the chickens.

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Y is for the smell of yeast from freshly baked bread, and
butter so yellow visitors would ask Mom if she put food coloring in it.

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Z is for below-zero weather, and
zillions of mosquitoes.

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Responses to “A Minnesota Farm Alphabet”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    This is so similar to an Iowa small town alphabet, it’s quite amazing. It’s touching, too. Mom and her siblings were quite poor as children. Her mother died when she was sixteen, and grandpa wasn’t exactly a go-getter, from what I hear. In any event, she used to talk about the days when there’d be nothing for their lunch but chocolate cake, whipped cream and glasses of milk. It sounds like luxurious dessert to us, but they had it because her grandparents had a cow. I wish she’d shared more, but she never would talk much about it.

    Let’s see – other things I noticed: the wringer washer, Vicks, cotton undershirts, tinsel, sprinkling ironing, root beer floats… Just too much to list!

  2. Adrienne Says:

    Your gift to your parents must have brought them joy because it told them you were happy growing up on the farm.

  3. Renee Says:

    I can understand why your alphabet was saved and it shows the creative talent you had even as a young girl

  4. Janet Foss Says:

    Beautiful!

  5. Elisa Says:

    Publish This!!!

    A pop or or with textures yay!!!

  6. kittybluhm Says:

    This takes my breath away— the memories resurrected here . . . a masterpiece!!!


  7. This is such a special book and has so many incredible memories for you and your family….

  8. Shirley Says:

    love it

  9. Carol Says:

    This is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. What a gift of memories for your parents.

  10. Janet McIntosh Says:

    Thank you for taking me on this journey. Honestly. Thank you!

    Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:00:50 +0000 To: yikesjem@hotmail.com


  11. […] A Minnesota Farm Alphabet, April 15, 2014 […]

  12. Elisa Says:

    I still would LOVE to see this as a children’s book! Did you ever publish it?? I would like a copy for my new grandson!

    • Rosemary Says:

      No, it has never been published. I considered it a private affair. Perhaps someday I will have to shop it around.


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