Forty years and counting

Susan Manzke
Robby and Becky playing with Daddy Bob in our living room.

Oh my goodness. It’s January 2018! So why am I excited? It’s that I realized that Bob and I hit a milestone. It is 40 years since we moved from Mokena, Illinois to Seymour, Wisconsin. Now that’s an anniversary worth remembering.

When I married Bob I knew we’d be moving but not where or when. For a time it looked like we’d end up near Austin, Minnesota on a dairy farm with two houses, which would have been perfect. While my in-laws were waiting to make a bid on that farm there was a tragic death in that seller’s family. The farm was sold at the funeral and not to the Manzke family. 

Time passed. A Wisconsin native was working in Illinois with Bob’s uncle. He told of a family farm for sale by Seymour. No one in our family ever heard of Seymour, Wisconsin. Maps were brought out. Seymour was found to be 250 miles north of our home. Ugh, so far away.

One day, when my in-laws needed a day off, they drove up to Seymour. They drove onto the farm and fell in love.

Since Bob and his dad had a farm partnership there was never a question that we wouldn’t come along. Trouble was we had to find a home, which was tricky. In 1977, there were very few homes on the market. Still, we had faith that eventually we’d find something that would suit us and our two children so we all prepared to move.

Bob bought a truck and a gooseneck trailer. He planned to move the farm machinery bit by bit. When spring work was completed on the Mokena farm, Bob loaded up the planter and some other spring stuff and headed north. He left home at 4:30 a.m. to beat the morning rush-hour, arrived in Seymour around ten, unloaded, and headed home - we never kept track of how many trips he made. My writing didn’t include notes on our lives back then. I was too busy with our two children, a new baby, and a toddler.

One day, Bob and I left Robby and Becky in the capable hands of Bob’s family, and I joined Bob for a day-trip north. Just as we were crossing into Wisconsin, one of the springs broke on the trailer. Bob kept his cool. We were near enough to the home of friends to stop at their place for repairs. Good thing, too, as they drove Bob to town for parts.

Fixing the leaf springs put our schedule behind by hours. We didn’t arrive at the farm until late in the day. After unloading we headed home again, arriving in Mokena after midnight. Funny thing was that we never thought to call and tell Bob’s family that we would be late - no cell phone back then. They were extremely worried about us, and happy to see us return. They were also happy to hand our two children back to us.

Becky, Robby, and their cousin Sherri on the front steps of our Seymour home in 1978.

By the time our Illinois crops were harvested and sold, everything was moved to the new farm. We found a home to buy on Pearl Street in Seymour. Christmas 1977 was to be spent in our new home. Too bad Bob and both kids got the flu. Plans were changed. I played nurse to everyone in our mobile home in Mokena and made a makeshift Christmas for the kids. 

Finally the first week of January everyone was healthy. Bob, the kids, and I said a teary ‘goodbye’ to my family and drove north.

I had never lived so far from my family. Seymour was a blank slate. Friends had to be made. The library was my salvation: books and storytime. Vi Kollath, the library director, took me under her wing and introduced me to my first friends. Though I missed my family, I was on my way to making Seymour my home. 

Today I think how lucky we were to find this farm and community. We are indeed blessed. Home is Sunnybook Farm, Seymour, Wisconsin. It’s the best place (for us) on earth.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com.