A week ago, we drove to western Minnesota for the funeral of my cousin, Dick.
His mother was my dad’s oldest sister who got a job teaching school in western Minnesota, married a local businessman, and they became the parents of a son and daughter.
Dick was the oldest grandchild, about 16 years older than me.
With the age difference and living 250 miles away, I knew him, but not all that well.
He was a very large man; probably weighing around 300 pounds most of his life and he was known by his friends and close family as “Dickie.”
He also never married, making him one of Garrison Keillor’s Norwegian bachelor farmers, one of several in our family.
He was a very gentle man and always seemed to be in good humor with an easy laugh and friendly manner.
His home town had a population of about 400 people and as a home town boy, he was likely an institution in the town he never left.
More than anything else, Dick was a farm kid and remained one his entire life. His father owned farm land in the area, and Dick became the farmer he was meant to be.
His sister moved to the Los Angeles area and married a Californian. They had three sons who were raised as most kids in that area of a life of sun and surfing.
His sister and two of her sons made the trip from California to attend their brother and uncle’s funeral.
It was during the funeral service when one of Dick’s nephews spoke about his “Uncle Dickie” that I learned much more.
During the 1970s, the three California boys would spend summers with their Minnesota uncle.
They saw farming with their Uncle Dickie – the farmer as their instructor and good-natured guide.
They learned about tractors, combines, livestock, with one of the boys even working as part of a corn detasseling crew.
There were farm buildings to explore and pickup truck rides to many places.
John, Dick’s nephew, spoke at the funeral and related that during the day or day’s end, there would usually be a trip to the pop shop where their uncle would treat them to soft drinks.
What impressed me while listening to John, who is now around the age of 50, was how much he enjoyed and valued those Minnesota summers.
I believe all three boys, while being native Californians with everything that represents, as adults still have one foot planted in western Minnesota
For a few weeks each summer, three boys from the hubbub life of southern California, went to small town Minnesota and learned about a completely different way of life.
The memories from the people and place would remain strong throughout their adulthood.
It was a great testament to Uncle Dickie, the man who never married and, while he had no children of his own, helped raise three boys into good men.
I am sure as far as those now grown California boys are concerned, while they have not been to Lake Woebegone, they have a good idea where it is.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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