Writing 101 Assignment 11: My Childhood Home on a Sandy Prairie



For assignment 11 in our Writing 101 class, we were directed to write about the home we lived in at age 12. We were also instructed to vary our sentence lengths in an effort to make the story interesting. So I will attempt this:

I grew up on a small farm on a sandy prairie in west central Wisconsin in rural Jackson County. I lived in the same house from about age four until I graduated from high school and left for college. I resided there with my parents, two sisters, and one brother. The house was a large, two story home built around 1910; a typical American foursquare with a pyramid shaped roof coming to a peak, a full basement, and a large corner porch extending along two sides of the home. Interestingly, about 1/4th of the basement is built of stone with a closet sized space attached. Perhaps, that was a food pantry in earlier days but I am not sure. The rest is built of cement and appears newer. When we moved in, the house was covered in old gray tiles but later, dad had the tiles replaced with white aluminum siding.

Continuing in the foursquare theme, each of the main rooms is nearly a perfect square or at least a rectangle, and each sits in a corner with an old chimney rising through the center of the house. Additionally, the stairwell arose through the center near the chimney. The main rooms on the first floor included the kitchen, dining room, and a family room. Perhaps this room was known as the family parlor in earlier times? The fourth room, when we moved in, was a laundry/utility room which mom and dad converted into an extra bedroom. The second level consisted of four bedrooms and small bathroom squeezed between two of the corner bedrooms. A hallway extended around the stairwell connects to all the rooms. No doubt, the house was renovated over time to accommodate electrical wiring and indoor plumbing. Old style heat registers still remain in each of the upstairs bedrooms but were no longer used. We used a wood stove for years as our main source of heat. According to an old story, this present house is not the original on our farm; a previous house was destroyed by fire.

I have no idea how old the red barn is but I can tell you it is huge. The first floor, of course is where the farm animals lived. Over the years while I lived there, it housed cows, pigs, horses, and even goats at one point. We’ve also had chickens and turkeys on the farm.  We had a number of dogs over the years but two of our favorite canine pets were Boots and Bambi. Boots was a small mixed breed dog who was terrified of thunderstorms. When a thunderstorm struck, he dived beneath the couch or a blanket with his small, brown body quivering from head to toe.

The second level of the barn was the hay mow where the cats liked to live and this space alone seemed to increase the structure by nearly 2/3. Every summer, hay was harvested and stored in the hay mow which served as food for the animals during the harsh winter months. When there aren’t stacks and stacks of hay up there, I and my siblings would play in the hay mow; we invented our own version of racquetball playing against the back barn wall.  A small feed room, an old stone silo, and a white brick milk house were all attached to the sidewalls of the barn. Other buildings on the farm included a granary, garage, and a corn crib. Over the years, dad added other buildings to the farms including a large pole shed which we  used for storage of farm equipment and for outdoor parties with the extended family.

We lived on roughly 65 acres of land which is actually a very small farm. My dad also worked as an electrician at the Jackson County Iron Mine which no longer exists. Since the soil was sandy and we sometimes had very hot and dry summers, the crops and the garden did not always produce well. We had our share of hard years. As children, we biked, rode horses, and roamed all over, trekking through patches of woods, along the field road, and circling the crop fields. Summertime was especially enjoyable as we could spend all day under the warm sun shining and brightening the marine blue sky. When the fields were empty of crops, my siblings and I sometimes played our own version of softball. There were only four of us so instead of a baseball diamond, we made a triangle. Therefore, One could pitch, one  could bat, and two were guarding the bases. Obviously we couldn’t play the full version of softball and I was never very good at it. All of my classmates in grade school could attest to that.

We had our share of chores to do which included caring for the animals and helping in the garden. Mom planted a very large vegetable garden which then led to harvesting and canning for the winter. We also helped to plant and harvest strawberries and cucumbers. We had very large strawberry and cucumber patches. Pints of strawberries were sold to customers stopping by and the cucumbers were sold to a local pickling/canning factory.

Life on the farm was usually very enjoyable. I don’t get to visit it as much as I would like. There is sadness there too, as both my parents have passed away. My mom and dad poured their hearts into our little farm. They both worked hard to make that old foursquare house on a sandy prairie a home of love and a place of many cherished memories.

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