COLUMNISTS

The long road to Seymour, Wisconsin

Susan Manzke
The Manzke Mokena farm of many years ago. Today, the house is the only building left standing.

Forty-five years ago, Bob and I followed his parents to Seymour Wisconsin where they had purchased a farm. It was quite an undertaking as the Manzke & Manzke partnership packed up their operation for this monumental move.

Baby Rebecca was born in December 1976. We were asked to travel to Seymour to see the new farm as soon as possible, so with a nursing baby and a two-year-old in tow, we drove the 250 miles north. Bob’s parents wanted to know our opinion of the farm, and since we liked it, we were hoping to find a place of our own at this time.

For the whole of 1977, Bob and his dad continued to farm the Mokena, Illinois farm. After fields were worked up, the equipment was moved to the Seymour farm. Bob bought a truck and goose-neck trailer for this job.

One day, he would load the machinery on the trailer, fastening it down for the four-and-a-half-hour trek north. The following morning, at about four, he would start out hoping to miss the Chicago and Milwaukee rush hours. Bob’s father stayed home to milk their 35-head of Holsteins.

A tractor and loader waited for Bob at the farm. If things went well, the equipment was unloaded by eleven and he was heading back home. This way he’d miss the evening traffic, too.

Sometimes, Bob had company for the long drive. Since I had a baby and a toddler to tend to, I wasn’t able to go too often. Once, mid-summer, I did take the trip, leaving Rebecca and Robby in the hands of their grandmother and aunt. That was one of the longest moving days we had.

Susan with toddler Robby and newborn Rebecca on New Year's Eve 1976.

As we neared the Illinois/Wisconsin border, one of the flat springs broke on the trailer. We had three hours of travel ahead of us. Luckily, we were not too far from friends of my parents.

Bob managed to get to their home on Lake Shangrila where he asked for help. Somehow, Bob managed to jack up the full trailer and get the broken spring off. Our friends helped him find a replacement spring and after hours of work, we were off on our drive north again.

This all took place before cell phones were available. We should have called back to Mokena sometime during the day, but we didn’t think of it. Bob and I were so concerned about getting to Seymour and back home to our children that we just kept working and driving.

It was late in the afternoon when we got to the farm and unloaded. Our only other stop that day was at a cheese factory in Black Creek. There we bought an assortment of pound bricks of cheese and then we turned south toward home.

At the rest area north of Fond du Lac, we stopped. We were hungry and grabbed one of the cheese blocks for our supper. It was dark. Neither of us cared which cheese we chose. It turned out we had the one that was garlic-flavored.

The pocketknife Bob always carried with him was our only utensil. So, after wiping it on his shirt, Bob sliced pieces of garlic cheese for both of us. I can’t tell you how wonderful that cheese tasted. Any time I’ve eaten it since brings back memories of that day.

I’m not sure exactly when we arrived back in Mokena, maybe after 11p.m., we were met by anxious babysitters.

Bob’s family was extremely worried about us. We were hours past our usual return time and as I said, we hadn’t thought to call. They thought we were in an accident.

All year long, Bob made trips north. We had found a house in Seymour and were ready to celebrate our first Christmas in our new home. Too bad for us, Bob, baby Rebecca and Robby all caught the flu. Most of our things were already in Wisconsin so we had an impromptu Christmas for the children.

Finally, in January 1978 we left our Illinois farm forever and planted ourselves in Seymour.

I wasn’t taking photos or writing a column at that time. I’m relying on 45-year-old memories. But to the best of my knowledge, this is a brief account of our move to Seymour, Wisconsin.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 65165; sunnybook@aol.com; susanmanzke@gmail.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.