They say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. It’s true. Thanks to modern technology, nostalgia is better than ever.
I dove deep into the past after new neighbors moved into nearby Warnes Farm. I spent a lot of my childhood racing with my buddy Steve on Al and Lorraine Warnes’ farm. Steve spent the summer with the couple and they became like a second set of parents.
Our new neighbors, Jen and Tim, were approached last week by a guy who was selling aerial photographs of farms. Jen and Tim weren’t interested. what they wanted was a picture of how their house looked like back then. Their barn is the only surviving original building.
I could pretty much remember which building was where. But I have no artistic ability, so reconstructing a visual version of their farm as it was in the past seemed impossible.
Then I googled “old photos of air farms” and came across Vintageaerial.com.
Treasure of photos
Vintage Aerial has a treasure trove of aerial farm photos taken in 1969. It is difficult to find a particular farm photo based on an address because our old rural road and box numbering system was replaced a few years ago by our current E911 digital addresses.
I clicked on the Vintage Aerial link for Brookings County and waded through a sea of old monochrome aerial farm photographs.
It was actually quite fun. I felt like Sherlock Holmes as I methodically sifted through the photos. “No, bad silo,” I said to myself, or “This barn is in the wrong place. »
Farms have started to look somewhat familiar. So – Bingo! There was Al and Lorraine’s farm as it was 53 years ago!
By studying the details of the photo, I was able to mentally piece together a life long gone. There sits Al’s Farmall “M”, hitched to the old New Holland “Super 77” baler and a flatbed hay trailer. In the foreground is a pile of alfalfa bales that I probably helped create. Al and Lorraine’s house looks exactly like I remember.
It occurred to me that since I was in the neighborhood, photographically speaking, I might be able to find my parents’ farm. A few clicks later, I did.
Oh. My. My God. This is our farm in all its 1969 glory!
The photo allowed me to remember forgotten subtleties of my childhood. In the foreground are three antique plows, a field drag, our four-row corn drill and our grain drill. Our 1947 John Deere “A” – which I still have – is about to be mated to his mounted corn header. Near the chicken coop, a trio of Leghorns earn their living.
The stately old barn on the farm, which was built by my farming ancestors, takes center stage in the photo. At 60′ by 60′ it was thought to be huge when new.
A fire destroyed the barn in 1988. But here it looks exactly as I remember it, crowned by its Gothic wooden cupolas, their lightning rods shining in the afternoon sun.
My parents’ farm – it’s hard to believe that about ten people lived there – still has its porch on the east side. As children, we played on the lawn on summer evenings while our parents watched from the porch. I can almost hear the moo of a Holstein cow in the barn and the growl of a sow greeting her new litter of piglets in the barn.
A few more clicks took me through the section to Grandpa and Grandma Nelson’s farm, where my wife and I have lived for almost four decades.
Our barn and silo combo looks a lot alike. We tore down our rickety old corncrib many years ago, but the attic is still there, although it is now used as a garden shed.
Something in the middle of our lawn caught my eye. It was Grandpa Nelson, wearing his summer straw hat!
Grandpa passed away in 1978, but here he is, walking around our farm with his dog, Tippy, by his side. Seeing Grandpa again after all these years suffocated me a bit.
Then I realized why those old photos appealed to me so much. In the photographs, everyone I knew and loved – my parents, my sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents, dear neighbors – were still with us.
This thought is tempered by the knowledge that my wife, our two sons, our grandson, and many new friends were still gone into a future unimaginable by my childhood.
Nostalgia is a great place to visit. And now it’s just a few mouse clicks away.
About the Author: Jerry Nelson and his wife, Julie, live in Volga, South Dakota, on the farm that Jerry’s great-grandfather owned in the 1880s. Daily life on this farm provided fodder for a long time weekly newspaper column, “Dear County Officer Guy,” which became a book of the same name. JThe book is available at Workman.com and in bookstores across the country.