This all started with a garden that grew out of a high school friendship – happily, they both flourished. As newlyweds, Bill and I lived in an apartment on the farm that his parents owned, and a few years after we moved to nearby Oconomowoc, we planted a garden there with our old friends, Jim and Mary Lou Newgard. While weeding one day, the four of us decided it would be fun to share our bumper crop on the 4th of July with ALL of our good friends – and thus began a tradition that grew way beyond the garden…
Thereafter, each year on the 4th we had 50+ parents and kids spread out on the big sloping lawn under the oak tree – kids atop the the pony in the corral, riding Betsy’s Misty in the fields, competing in gunny sack races, distance seed spitting and other challenging activities organized by our pied piper, Nan Brewer. Late afternoon, the best food from every family was on the hay wagon – until dusk when Bill hooked up the tractor to roam the farm. There were just two anxious times I’ll never forget. One, when Dolly, the irascible pony, knocked young Cam Brewer off her back causing a severe elbow fracture. (He is now a fine Dr. himself, with, I trust, a strong arm.) The other happened when our youngest son, Gunnar, was nowhere to be found until someone spied him sitting on the highest peak of the big barn.
Years of 4ths have passed since the picture was taken. Five of us became widows, including my dear sister Judy whose husband Pat, sat next to Bill. The boy standing at the back of the wagon is our oldest son, Bill, who spent many hours on that same wagon baling hay with his Dad. He and his wife, Sheila now have Molly, Emily and a young son, Brian – born on the 4th of July!
I still pass the farm often. It is now a lovely subdivision; the restored homestead stands at the entrance and the big oak tree still shades the rolling lawn. Our friends are now proud grandparents and the children on the wagon are raising their own. I cherish the memories of each and every one of them – especially on the Fourth of July.