Part III: 'Farming and Traditions'

Note to readers from Kristina Gray, Comp. I instructor: I want to showcase the writings of UMC freshmen from as far away as Hawaii and California. I also have a student from the East Coast, specifically Massachusetts. Besides Minnesota towns, some hail from as close as Wisconsin or North Dakota.

I simply asked my 31 students for a first assignment to write about their grandparents in 500 words. That certainly limited what they wrote and what I had to read. Some of these grandchildren have many stories to tell while others not so much. Of course, my historical interest is anything from the early days such as one hundred years ago to the 1930s.

I realize now I should have asked for "great-grandparent" stories if I wanted to learn about earlier stories from this millennial generation. I asked for a show of hands and some of these young people would not have been able to fulfill that assignment on writing about their ancestors. However, what came through loud and clear was the love and respect these grandchildren have for their grandparents. From 31 entries, I am only highlighting 19 students' grandparents; I wish I could include them all.

Their stories fell into five categories. The first was about the Great Depression. Next was "Hard Work." Today, it's "Farming and Traditions" and the fourth week will be "Discipline – Military and Sports." Finally, I will end this grandparents' stories series with "Good Addictions and Bad Addictions."

"Old Farm Harbored Behind the Trees" by McKayla Bennington

My grandparents have all been avid story tellers. Unfortunately, the only grandparent I have left is my grandpa, who is my dad's father. My family has always relied on farming to make our money. I was taught at a very early age that we would've never been able to succeed without my great grandpa (my grandpa's dad). My grandpa tells stories about his dad all the time, which consist mostly of farming stories, of course! My great grandpa's name was Albert. He decided that, instead of working for someone else, he was going to operate his own farm. This was a very smart decision, being that the farming industry was getting to be such a successful occupation. He bought acres and acres of territory. He then hired farm hands to help farm the land with him. Years later, he had about 1,500 acres of land, all in his name, by the time he was 50 years old.

By this time he had a son named Lee (my grandpa). His son would soon take over the farm. The farming operation consisted of corn, sugar beets, wheat, beans, sunflowers, dairy cows, well-built horses, and chickens. My grandpa met my grandma Pearl when he was twenty years old. She blessed him with two more mouths to feed, which would also mean another generation of farmers as well. My dad and my aunt Ruthann were born.

My dad is now the boss at the farm and is in charge of just about everything. From sorting through tons of paperwork to going out and buying expensive farm machinery, he does it all. My dad met my mom when they were just seventeen years old. Three years later, they got married and had their first child, Jamie. A year later, my brother Josh was born. Jamie and Josh both currently play a big role in the family farming business as well. About a decade later, I was born. Although this was exciting news to my mom and dad, Jamie and Josh didn't really appreciate the idea of a girl being brought into the household! My dad's sister also had two boys. They work on the farm as well. Now there are currently just over 20 of my family members farming about 3,000 acres of land all over north eastern North Dakota!

I am so thankful to have been brought up in this family full of hardworking, dedicated workers. I am also grateful for my great-grandpa. Without him, there would be no farm. I greatly appreciate him for going out and finding a way to start a new life for his future generations. He has really made a name for himself. Just about everybody around northern North Dakota knows who the Bennington family is! Now nestled just outside of the town of Park River, there is still that old farm harbored just behind the trees a quarter-mile off the highway. Although it may be old and worn looking, there is still a hardworking, god-fearing group of farmers within it. And for this, I thank the Lord every day!

"Grandpa Ed" by Melissa Mehlhoff

Most Americans are not originally from the United States of America. Many come from across the globe. Families leave behind their home countries to seek freedom and new opportunities. Although the American dream brings hope and future to the foreign families, the struggles do not end once they see the Statue of Liberty as they enter the United States. New American families have to learn to adapt to a totally new life and face the difficulties of living in a new country with limited financial resources.

My Grandpa Ed was born in the small town of Max, North Dakota. However, his parents, Jack and Lena, were not originally from the United States of America. My Great-grandfather Jack came to the United States because he did not want to be enlisted into the Russian army and wanted to create his own homestead in the United States. My Great-grandmother Lena came to America through Canada with her family to begin a new life. My great-grandparents met in Max, North Dakota where they began the Fannik ranch. Besides my grandfather, my great grandparents had two additional sons and two daughters.

Although my Grandpa was born here in America, his parents did not speak English as their primary language. When my Grandpa was old enough to attend school, he was not as fluent in speaking English as others in his class. He had to learn to speak and write English just as well as the other children who had spoken English their whole life. Even though my Grandpa Ed did not even graduate from high school, he spoke and wrote English very well. My Grandpa only made it to the eighth grade because World War II was occurring, and he needed to help with the ranch since one of his brothers had to go off to the Navy. My Grandpa was in the Army Reserve; however, he stayed in North Dakota and took care of the ranch that his father built from scratch. When his brother, John, returned from war, they worked together to maintain the ranch that their parents worked so hard to build. The ranch was later named the Fannik Brothers Ranch because the brothers worked together to raise Hereford cattle and American Quarter Horses and grew crops as well.

Even though, my Grandfather was born here in the United States, he still had to adapt to the American lifestyle because his parents were originally from the Ukraine. My Grandpa had to learn to speak and write a language that was not very familiar to him, and he had to adapt to living in an area with different cultures. Even though he was a part of the first generation to be born in the United States, he learned to speak English very well, and he was able to adjust to the community surrounding him and build an effective business. My Grandpa also had to give up on his school career, unlike the rest of his family, to take care of the family ranch when his one brother went off to war.

Even though my Grandpa had difficulties in his life, he did not let them faze him but instead persevered and made his parent's homestead into a prosperous ranch. I greatly admire my Grandpa Ed because he was a very well respected man who cared for others and worked very hard to make his family's ranch a success.

"Important Family Traditions" by Matthew Patrick

Tradition has been very important to my family. For generations several things have not changed and many of which I have experienced firsthand. One of these traditions is the Bible that my maternal grandfather has in his possession currently. This Bible has been in my maternal grandfather's side for about 6 or 7 generations. This Bible has been such a precious treasure that is has been given the utmost care and attention. The condition of this Bible surprises me and the method of passing it down is equally amazing. Being the favorite of my maternal grandfather he was did not make me to a lot to try to earn the Bible. I did earn the Bible yet but next time I am over I am going to finish proving my worth and showing the amount of care for this priceless bible. I plan on being the one to pass this tradition onto my kids and their kids. This is the kind of tradition than can last for many generations and remind the generations to come who were and how we lived and were just like them even though it may seem to have changed so much. Because of the care and dedication put towards I know just how special it is to my grandfather.

Another tradition that my family has is that of plants. It seems like a weird tradition but for 3 generations, plants have been a lifestyle of the Allens and have been passed on to me. I too have found a connection with plants and have decided to make my life revolve around plants. So to most it does seem to be a tradition but it sure has been constant which allows it to be called a tradition. But this tradition is not just that anymore, it has become part of who we are and how we define ourselves. It has even driven my grandfather to reserve the title "Plant Doctor". And in all due respect, he is the Plant Doctor. His thumb is so green you can almost see it on the outside of his thumb and if you cannot see that then just look inside his greenhouse and it will be very clear that he is truly who he calls himself to be.

"Musical Family Traditions" by Ashle Luke

The only real grandparents that I met were my fraternal grandparents, Elizabeth (Jambor) Boyd, and David Lukes. My grandparents left such a big impact on my life even though I only knew my grandpa for eight years of my life and my grandma for slightly longer; they left a huge impact on my life. One saying that comes to mind when I think about my grandparents is; Don't do onto others what you wouldn't want them to do to you, or in other words another way to say the Golden Rule.

Knowing my grandparents for as long as what I did, I can see them living their life like this. To both of my grandparents though there was something that they passed down from generation to generation, and that is the talent and love for music. My grandma chorded keyboard for my grandpa and his band, David Lukes' Concertina Band. My grandpa on the other hand could play the Concertina, as well as the violin. Although he claims he could not play the violin that good, and the fact that I never had the opportunity to hear him play makes it hard for me to judge that opinion. He also claimed that he was not very good on the Concertina either but bot my parents, himself, and myself all knew that it was not true.

As far as the history of my grandparents I am not sure. I do know though that they were two truly amazing people, and I do wish that they were still around for me to talk with, and learn from.