Keeping Bob in my sight...and heart

Susan Manzke
Bob cleaning out field culvert after a June 6, 2019 oncologist doctor appointment. You couldn’t keep him down.

I’m trying to write another column today. I’m not sure where this one is going. It seems that I’ve lost my sense of direction. Bob was my North Star and my anchor.

Our children encouraged me to write. They reminded me that through writing I manage to cope through other difficult times.

Last winter, we were weeks into Bob’s returning cancer before I wrote my column about his struggles. Prior to that post, I included some of his memories in this column. That was my way of sharing him and documenting memories of his past.

For the worst months, I didn’t want to leave his side. Every minute together was priceless. Even when cancer made him miserable, at least we were together.

Eventually, Bob improved. We took a photo of him getting out onto the porch and then having a first cart ride as a passenger. The doctors were impressed with his progress, especially the first time he walked into the office with just a cane—Bob hated having to use a wheelchair. Because of his bad hip, most wheelchairs were hard for him to get out of.

Bob having fun on his mower.

Summer came and by that time Bob was able to cut grass, his favorite pastime. Getting up on his zero-turn mower was like getting on a toy. He was so proud Russ came up with the perfect design for him to get on and off that machine.

It was difficult for me to see him take off. Much of the time he was out of my sight and then I couldn’t watch over him. Good thing we had cell phones to keep in touch with each other, not because of Bob’s health, but because of Bob having a tendency to get stuck.

Too often, Bob slid a wheel of the mower into a muddy patch—easy to do last year with all the rain we had. He’d then call me to come with a chain and the cart to pull him out. Usually, it wasn’t much of a problem, except for one time. That day Bob was wedged so deep into the ditch that we needed the help of our neighbors to get him out—everyone who saw the commotion in the ditch stopped to lend a hand. It was also a good time to share a hearty laugh with friends.

Besides getting stuck, Bob often ran out of gas/fuel. This was a common occurrence throughout our life on the farm. About 90% of the time he was at the farthest corner of the farm when the diesel ran dry.

When things weren’t going well, I was there to bring Bob parts and tools. 
Bob’s final year of farming was 2018. Being on the land was work he loved, even with breakdowns.

Before cell phones, I had to keep an eye out for my man walking across a field, coming for me, a tractor, and a container of fuel. He’d put the five gallons I’d bring him into the tank and say he’d just finish the round before heading back to the farmyard for a fill-up. Too often, Bob would forget he only had a small amount of fuel and end up running out of diesel again—it sure helped things out when we each had a cell phone. At least then he could call me for help again, even if sheepishly.

We made a good team. I learned a lot about farming from Bob as I knew nothing about crops when we first got together.

The 1980s were a struggle for us, as they are for many farmers today. Somehow, we hung on by the skin of our teeth. We even went for those food giveaways from the government, getting blocks of cheddar cheese and other handouts. Even with all the scratching to keep going, we didn’t consider ourselves poor. It was what it was and we kept going.

So, it looks like I’ve gotten to the end of my second column without Bob. Good memories are flowing through me. With thoughts like these, he will always be close in my heart.

Family and friends (that includes column friends) are invited to celebrate Bob’s life on Saturday, January 25th from 1:30 to 4:00 pm at the Cicero Town Hall, N9195 County Road X, Black Creek, WI 54106. Remarks and memories will be at 3.

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