Dad's garden marker stirs memories

Jerry Apps
Jerry Apps' father used this garden marker to create rows in his garden until he was 93.

My dad and mother held an auction and sold the home farm in 1973. They moved to Wild Rose, where they bought a little house with a big yard. Big enough for a garden. For farmers of dad’s generation, moving to town was a symbol of success.

One of the first things my dad did at his new place was to find some scrap lumber and build the garden marker pictured above. He was moving to town, but he was not giving up gardening. He was 73 years old at the time. Soon the area behind the house was a vegetable garden. But the area wasn’t large enough. Dad wanted to grow pumpkins and squash and melons besides all the other vegetables. So I said he could have a fourth of our big garden that we had at my farm, which was only four and half miles from Wild Rose.

So, year after year, that little wooden marker scratched two grooves thirty-inches apart in the soft garden soil in Wild Rose, and my equally soft sandy-loom at my farm. As the years passed and dad moved into his 80s, I could tell how he was feeling by the amount of space he wanted in the garden at my farm.

By the time he reached 90, he was content to only work in his town garden as he called it. But work it he did, until six weeks before he died at age 93. All the while, he marked the rows with this little wooden marker. I use the marker to this day in my garden. It brings back a lot of memories.

THE OLD-TIMER SAYS: Memories come in many packages.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to