When you are a child, places and spaces seem bigger, gigantic, enormous. The world beckons you to new discoveries, adventures, curiosities. Children know the world through a tiny window of experiences that grow each day. When I was a child during the 1950s, I vacationed every other summer with my grandparents Andrew and Isabella (Boultinghouse) Storer on their farm in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. I explored their world and was in awe. Fields of wheat and corn populated the plains. I vividly remember my grandmother setting up a makeshift dining room with tables made with sawhorses and plywood. Here she would feed the farmhands who came to harvest the wheat. Most farmers could not afford the cost of owning combines. A neighbor owned one; with a handshake to seal the deal, that farmer would come on an appointed schedule to help his fellow neighbors harvest their fields. My grandparents and their daughters were a team in raising food for “America’s breadbasket”. A culmination of the harvest was taking the grains to the elevators where the farmers met on Saturdays to gab and grab a pop bottle from the cooler. Conversations at the elevator included gossip, local goings on, and farm prices. Also, big in my memory was my Gramps letting me ride on his John Deere with him to do cultivating…we had to keep the rows straight, according to his instructions. All those details form pictures in my recollections of time spent on the farm.
In 1940, ten years before those memories began to form, the State of Kansas conducted a county census. Part of the census focused on farmers: acreage rented or owned; acres of winter wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, spring wheat, Irish potatoes, and sweet potatoes. When I found the entry for my grandparents’ farm, I discovered the facts about his farm which he rented from an uncle who lived in Mississippi. He had 630 acres with 82 acres in winter wheat, 20 acres in corn, and 40 acres in oats and barley. That left about 500 acres some of which was used for pasture land for Black Angus and goats. Those were the facts and figures about the farm. This information gives me an idea of the real size of that childhood sense of bigness.
In my memories, the sweetness of the vacation visits overshadows those pure facts. To me, finding the facts is the role of the genealogist while collecting memories is the job of the storyteller.