Losing a long-time friend

jerry Apps
It's hard to lose a long-time, childhood friend who shares a sense of history with you.

I lost a long-time friend a few weeks ago—David Kolka. He was 85. One of those “salt of the earth” persons as we used to call them when I was growing up on the farm.

The Kolka farm was about a mile west of our farm, across the road from my Grandfather Bill Witt’s place. Dave was a couple years younger than me. He along with his brother Jim, six months younger than me, were the first kids my younger brothers and I got to know. I’ve known the Kolka boys for more than 80 years, since we all were little guys and figuring out what having a friend was all about.

The Kolka boys, my brothers and I attended the Chain O’ Lake one-room country school. We played softball together; we performed in Christmas programs together. We helped each other with our school work.

When we got old enough, we hunted squirrels together on cool fall, Sunday afternoons.  We hunted deer together and went ice fishing together. Dave and Jim were our best friends.

Dave was quiet, never said a lot, but when he said something, you’d best listen, because he usually had something to say. Society was – still is – filled with talkers. But many of them have little to say.

In fall 1955, when I was waiting to go into the army, and my brother Donald was waiting to go to barber school, Dave, Jim, Don and I raked cranberries by hand in a cranberry marsh near Wisconsin Rapids. It was a cold, wet, miserable, back-breaking job. Did Dave Kolka complain—nope. The rest of us did. But not Dave. He was one of the best cranberry rakers in the bog.

My two brothers and I, along with Dave’s brother, Jim, all left the farm. Dave stayed on the farm where he had grown up, and farmed until he retired. He was a supervisor for the Town of Rose, and for many years served on the Waushara County Board. Dave is survived by Lois, his wife of 57 years, two daughters and a son, his brother Jim plus several grandchildren.

I will miss him. He was a great guy.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: It’s hard to lose an old friend.

Jerry Apps

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 or contact him at