The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.



12-7-2009 Column

When we were married, friends from St. James gave us kitchen jars with the phrase ĒHome is Where the Heart IsĒ. It fit the motif of my country kitchen perfectly. I lined them up on my countertop as storage space for knick-knacks, junk and sugars, but I never really gave much thought to the words, until this past weekend.

I have had a nagging little voice in the back of my head screaming at me to go home to Illinois, but as I look around our farm at the all the standing corn and fields to be worked, how can I leave? There is too much to do and the calendar says we are running out of time and weather. But that voice keeps gnawing at my brain like a dog working on a bone. I havenít been home for two years and I need to check in with my family and friends.

I woke up early Friday morning and knew it was a great day for a road trip! Katie grabbed a bag and we jumped in the van heading south for the weekend. We left the boys behind with a couple of chickens to throw in the oven for lunch. A couple of pizzas were also in the freezer. I knew they would find enough food for the weekend, I just didnít know how much of a mess I would have when I got back.

As the boys geared up to bale stocks, combine corn and clean calf pens, Katie and I settled in for a long haul home. No one knew we were coming, but Mom always has a couple of beds made up for company to spend the night. I couldnít drive fast enough to get home. I felt like a homing pigeon. I didnít need a map, just a compass pointing southeast and a bridge to cross the Mississippi River from Iowa into Illinois.

By the time I get to the river, I am ready to swim across tugging the van if I must to get home. The magnetic pull grows stronger with each passing mile. I know I am home the minute I cross the bridge. I scout the tree-lined ridge for our feedlot silos standing sentry on the bluffs of the Mississippi. It feels good to be home, but Iím already starting to miss Mark and the boys back in Minnesota.

I feel like Dr. Doolittleís push-me/pull-me. They share the same heart and body, but are pulled apart by different destinations. I have lived in Minnesota as long as I lived in Illinois, but I still call Illinois home because my family is there. When Iím in Illinois, Iím always calling Minnesota home because my family is there too. I guess Iím lucky. Iím always home where ever my heart takes me.

Things have changed since I was last home. My grandfather has moved off of the farm and into town. No one lives in his family home anymore. It breaks my heart to see the yard and buildings starting to deteriorate. I still see it through child-like eyes when Grandma and Grandpa lived there. This is where families would congregate for the holidays.

After dinner the cousins scouring the creek looking for minnows or catching giant gold fish in the heated stock tanks. If there was snow, it was an all out snowball fight because we knew Grandma would have hot chocolate waiting to thaw us out when we finished. The adults would sit around the table playing cut-throat Monopoly or bridge. Grandpa would hide out on the south porch to escape the noise and commotion.

The holiday dinners have moved to my auntís and my momís homes now. The destination has changed, but the family and memories travel with us where ever we gather. There is no porch for Grandpa to escape to, but he still finds a quiet corner to slip away from all of the commotion.

It feels good to be home near the holidays, but that little voice in the back of my head was still gnawing at me.

We all get that little voice that whispers just loud enough to creep into our consciousness. It is a feeling we should take the time to something else, despite our long list of reasons of why we canít. Iím glad I listened to my gnawing little voice. I really did need to get home.

My Uncle John has Parkinsonís disease. It has taken away the strength of his voice and left him with tremors.

We have always had a special connection, but he couldnít talk on the phone to me anymore. I am deaf in one ear and I needed to see his face to ďhearĒ him talk. There were so many stories and hugs we needed to share. But he called me home loud and clear with a little voice in the back of my head.

During this holiday season when we are remembering family and friends, take a moment to listen to the little voice in the back of your head so you can follow your heart home too.

What markers will the kids spot to know they are finally home? The curve in the road away from Highway 10? The silos popping out from behind the pine row? Or the painted cow on the end of the barn that greets everyone who turns into our yard?

Regardless, it is good to be home.


As their four children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota. (Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.)