Bob recalls that bovines once frolicked on Lake Manzke beach

Susan Manzke
Bob Manzke recalls that even the cows on his family's farm in Illinois enjoyed a dip in Lake Manzke from time to time.

When Bob and I were dating in 1972, we went down to Lake Manzke with fishing poles. Together we sat on the dam and fished. I think I was afraid I’d get in trouble because I didn’t have a fishing license. Bob told me we were on private land so I didn’t need it.

“… and she believed me,” he laughs now.

I caught a nice bass but put it back in the lake.

This week I got Bob to talk more about the family lake in Mokena. Bob was about five years old when he and his family moved to the farm from Blue Island. There weren’t cows on the farm yet—the farm was actually owned by his grandfather.

To start, his dad got a couple bred sows and then they raised the little pigs up.

“We fed them whey from the Tinley dairy where dad worked,” said Bob. “The pigs really liked the whey and squealed if they didn’t get it. We also fed them corn. At that time we walked neighboring corn fields and gleaned missed cobs. In the summer the pigs were on pasture so it was almost zero cost to raise them. They went to the market at five months.

“Eventually, my dad got a few cows. That’s about the same time he started farming the land. All Dad had to work with was a small tractor, a small manure spreader, a wheelbarrow, a shovel, and a broom," he added.

After a few years, Bob said the family got a loader to put on the John Deere A tractor, which saved a lot of work. The tractor had no power steering, one-way hydraulic ‘up’ on the loader and gravity to bring it down, which made it bad if you got the narrow front end stuck. The bucket was manually tripped by pulling a lever—and those were all modern improvements for the Manzke's.

“We used to pasture the cows across La Porte Road. Back then it was gravel and not so busy. Traffic finally got too fast to safely cross the cows," Bob said. "After that, we chopped the pasture grass into a feed wagon and hauled it to the cows. From then on the cows lived in the pasture on the north side of the road where they had seven acres to roam.

Another reason for keeping the cows out of the south pasture was because they were messing up Lake Manzke. The bovines would wander down to the water’s edge, especially by the beach, and muddy the whole area, along with depositing manure.

“Our neighbor kept his cows crossing the road for many years after we quit. Eddie said he was there first with his cows and he wasn’t about to change because of traffic," Bob recalled.

While the Manzke family enjoyed fishing and swimming in their private "lake" they didn't enjoy sharing it with their herd of cows that grazed on the nearby pasture.

Bob says his family sold a lot of raw milk.

"There weren’t any restrictions on that back then. Some people thought raw milk was very healthy—we drank it every day. People drove all the way out from Chicago to get it," he recalls.

Even a doctor once sent out a patient to the Manzke farm to get raw milk.

"When the guy came to the farm the first time he couldn’t even get out of the car. Every Sunday evening his wife drove them out of the city to get a week’s supply of milk," Bob said. “After 6 or 8 weeks, he walked into the milk house himself and got the milk, he was that much improved. I always wondered about him. We were more than glad to sell him the fresh milk."

Inside the barn the stanchions for milking the cows were made of wood. Bob says his dad took care of the milking with three DeLaval milkers.

"I just carried the milk back the milk house. I ran the milk through a strainer and eventually into the bulk tank," he said. “Even with all the work, as a kid, I always wanted to farm and that’s what I did. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

These days, Bob and I are spending our days at home on our Wisconsin farm. It’s a good opportunity to take this time to save these family stories. We encourage others to do the same when stuck inside on miserable winter days.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; .