Okay, so the theme isn’t really “Older Than Dirt”. It’s Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Older Than 50 Years.
Technically, I could include photos of myself, as I am over 50, but I haven’t quite reached “dirt” status and hope not to for a while yet. I thought about adding my parents but that could cause me to fall in ranking from “Favorite” to “Disowned”.
Last June we had a mini family reunion on my dad’s side. Some of my cousins flew in and we went to visit my grandparent’s home, their cottage, the cemetery in Champion where our ancestors are buried, etc. It was a lot of fun to catch up and see everyone. Some of us haven’t seen each other in 30 years or more!
I have a lot of photos and stories to go with them, and had been wondering how to tell it without boring everyone to tears. I mean, it’s interesting to me, but how to make it interesting to you?
Then Cee announced that this particular challenge would last until August 6th, and I realized it was the perfect venue to share my favorite photos and stories, and hopefully not make anyone want to poke a sharp stick in their eye.
My first photo is of the barn built by my ancestors, who came over in 1856, or thereabouts, from Grand Leez, Namur Province, Belgium. This is the Walloon Belgian ancestory, and for some reason the vast majority of these immigrants chose NE Wisconsin. My dad claims they all got the same set of bad directions.
This is actually almost true. From what I have read, most were under the impression they were coming to rich farmland, only to arrive and find the entire area covered in a vast, dense forest. I’m pretty sure they were not jumping up and down for joy upon their arrival in the New World, but they had just traveled 10 billion miles by crappy boat and crappy roads, so their choices were travel back 10 billion miles or clear the land. They cleared the land.
So, we have this caravan of 5 cars or so, driving down Conard Road (my maiden name and yes, named after our family. We are obviously kind of a big deal). I’m in the lead with my parents and my Uncle Jim – all well into their 80’s but the only ones who have any inkling where on this road the original homestead would be. I was beginning to wonder if we were on a wild goose chase when my dad and my uncle both said “This is it right here. This is Harold’s old farm.”
In case you are interested, Harold was my grandfather’s cousin. Harold’s father, John, and my great grandfather Julian, were brothers. You can read more about Julian here: Walking With Grandpas.
The house was newer – probably about 30-ish years old, but the barn was obviously old – possibly original. Anywho, we all piled out of the cars and milled about on the road talking excitedly, pointing at the barn, wondering what the little doors were for (all of our guesses were wildly incorrect), and snapping pictures. This went on for about 15 minutes when a man cautiously came out of the house and slowly walked toward us. Being of non-confrontational Belgian descent, I’m sure he was wondering if he should come over and interrupt us to find out what was going on or meander aimlessly around outside until we all regained our senses and left.
We made it easy for him, and walked over and introduced ourselves. Turns out, he was Harold’s grandson, our third cousin! We bombarded the poor guy with a million questions: “How old is the barn?” “What are the little doors for?” “Are you still farming?” “Boxers or briefs?”
We found out he had no idea how old the barn was – just that it was “really old”. The little doors were for pigs (who knew?) which he did not keep but apparently our ancestors did – he only kept a few steers, but his uncles had a larger farm on the adjacent road (also our relatives – I told you we were a big deal!). We held him captive for another 15 minutes or so, and closed the deal by making him take photos with us out in the road, times about 20 smartphones. We were all happier than pigs going thru little doors. He, on the other hand, was probably scarred for life.
Actually, Randy (his name, btw. I somehow managed to forget that detail in my narration) was a very good sport and actually seemed to enjoy himself once he realized we weren’t serial killers or zombies.
Below is a color picture of us minus my parents and Uncle Jim – who were in the car waiting for us because 80+ year old bones aren’t very cooperative when it comes to standing around in the middle of the road for ages.
And that’s how we met our 3rd cousin, Randy, and got to see the old Conard homestead.
PS: Part of the reason for this mini reunion was for my cousins to see Uncle Jim. He is a Catholic priest with the Maryknoll Fathers and has lived as a missionary in Africa for almost 60 years. He comes home to visit about every three years. That’s another story all by itself! Interestingly enough, he had visited Harold back in the sixties to learn artificial insemination, so he could improve the stock of cattle in Africa. Neither he or my father had been to the farm in over 50 years, but they both remembered once they got there. Thank goodness for that or we would still be driving around.