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Over the years I have written about some of my farming ancestors and their vintage tractors after they stopped farming with horses. The Quinns and the Grimms (my paternal grandmother's maiden name) farmed in our home area west of Omaha just a few miles apart.
Both of my great-grandfathers, James E. Quinn and Adolph Grimm, bought tractors as well as vehicles for the first time in the 1920s. Both men purchased Fordson Model F tractors for their farms, as the Fordson was really the first widely popular tractor.
I have an old photo of the Grimms loading loose hay into their barn using their Fordson and we also still have the owner's manual for the tractor owned by my great-grandpa Quinn. My grandpa, John B. Quinn, used to say the old Fordson ran so hot it would singe the hairs on his legs from under the cuff of his overalls as he drove it.
I thought of these stories recently as one of my dad's cousins gave him a copy of an autobiography written by one of his aunts more than 30 years ago. These five pages were extremely fascinating to me as someone who enjoys both family genealogy and agricultural history.
The focus of the aunt's story was growing up to getting married, a time running from the 19-teens to the mid-1930s.
My grandma, Goldie (Grimm) Quinn, and Aunt Gladys (Grimm) Zeis were born in 1910 and 1912 to their German immigrant father, Adolph Grimm, and a Bohemia immigrant mother, Antoinette (Malek) Grimm. There were to be seven Grimm children -- Alvin, Adolph II, Oswald, Goldie, Gladys, Vernon and Robert.
They lived on a farm along the banks of the Elkhorn River south of Waterloo, Neb., although the children attended school in nearby Elkhorn. Originally their farm was 40 acres, but another Grimm farm was added and the farm expanded to 240 acres.
Her story of growing up on the farm during this point in American history shines a light on how little farm families had then. But at the same time, to me it sounded like she did have an enjoyable childhood.
The Grimms had no electricity or indoor plumbing and she wrote about being so cold in the winters as a little girl. There were nine people living in the small farmhouse, so small the youngest two boys, Vernon and Robert, did not even have a bedroom, they slept on the couch in the living room.
She talked about walking to school two-and-half miles one way every day -- before the family got their first car. Their path to school was often too muddy for a car even when they did have one.
Speaking of vehicles, she also told of my great-grandfather Grimm buying their first car. As he drove the car home and into lane, he couldn't stop the car before hitting a cattle gate and scratching the paint of the car. She said he was bellowing "Whoa!" before hitting the gate as if he was still riding a horse.
She wrote about different aspects of childhood from helping her mother on the farm to playing in the grove of trees near the house with my grandma, specifically playing house by making piles of soil for their "houses." Regardless of time, I think most farm kids can relate to using your imagination to play on the farm.