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User Latitudes Feature

The User Latitudes Feature will showcase Latitudes from YOU the participants of the What's Your Latitude? Movement.  Please see the guidelines for submission on the Submit page and let the world hear about your Latitude!

Entries in G. Hedstrom (1)

Sunday
Feb272011

Caledonia Farm, IL

Fifty years ago I perched on a 12 foot, freshly cut hay wagon in the dusty yard at my uncle’s Caledonia farm with my three cousins and my brother.   I didn’t want to be up there, since I never much liked smiling when told to do so, but the moment is still etched in my mind, and I return to that summer day and those memories on the farm often.

Earlier that afternoon, I had baled the hay with Granddaddy and then parked the wagon in the yard where Mom and Dad, Aunt Ada, and Uncle Jack wanted that picture of us kids which has since turned into my personal Latitude. Sadly, it would turn out that that would be the last picture I had with my cousin Bruce who was torn from our lives in the Belvidere tornado of 1967.

Lucky for me, most of my summers were spent on this farm in Caledonia just east of Rockford, Illinois. 

This magical place was the antithesis of my childhood home of Wilmette, Illinois.  The suburban lifestyle left behind gave me a tractor to drive and the trust of my Granddaddy who really wasn’t my blood grandfather but a strong Swedish farmer who showed me the magic of being a man. 

He was a teacher who taught me to listen to someone of authority and know the goodness from the listening and the learning.  As we were grinding corn, I learned about the power take off of a belt that sent the corn to be ground, and all I could think about was that I needed to remain sitting on this mighty, vibrating tractor to feel its power and the magical undulations of its motor. 

We were combining in the field as he came up to the wagon. I was steering the product to the left and right of the wagon bed standing thigh high in fresh cut oats, grasshoppers galore jumping all over me. 

At days end there were two of us, one at the combine and one with the wagon.  He surprised me by telling me to drive the wagon of oats to the farm yard, my first time being the driver of a Alice Chalmers, yellow, cranking tractor on my own and all alone.

“Drive behind me,” he said. “Stay right behind me,” he repeated over his shoulder as he drove the combine out of the field and up the hill to the gravel road.  Sticking with those “Follow me” directions to the tee, suddenly he stopped on the hill and I, right behind him, stalled and lost power.  Rolling back, I hit the fence post and since I was stalled, I knew I need to quickly jump off of the tractor to crank it back to life before he saw the mishap because a mistake at this point I thought would mean I might never drive again.

That late afternoon my aunt was gazing out the kitchen window as she saw me coming up out of the field, amazed that Georgy was driving the tractor, alone.  She made me feel special by telling me about her vision of my accomplishment, and my reward the next morning was goldenrod toast for breakfast.

This magical place of simplicity and down to earth love is a Latitude that I have recently visited with my wife, and the joy I felt in sharing it with her made the memories of the hay wagon picture come to life once again. 

This picture of my Latitude rests on my desk at work and is a daily reminder of the simplicity of life’s joys and the treasures of my childhood.

(check out George, upper left in the cowboy hat)