Once Upon a Farm in Iowa

He’d asked me a couple of times during my foolish, younger days, if I thought he’d been born yesterday.  I was getting older and realizing maybe I had thought so, back then.

It was 2013.  After trying to write something for Father’s Day gift, I came up with a list of questions instead.  I wanted to know his stories.  Too fresh off the keys, I let them sit a while and gave him purple calla lilies instead.  I mentioned it would be nice to ask him one day about life on the farm. Two weeks later we were driving the back roads of Iowa, to the lane I remembered as Grandma and Grandpa’s.



“There used to be a school house there.” he said, as we were halfway down the gravel path.  He remembered a performance of “Pop Goes the Weasel” at a special open house night and the excitement of new school shirts ordered from the catalog.  He’d looked forward to going, but it closed just before he was old enough.  With only a few shrubs and corn left in its place, he painted for my mind the bridge crossing a spring into a tree-sheltered space. There were willow trees and the enchanted school yard he played in long after it was vacant.  I could hear children’s voices through the rustling weeds.



Further on toward the house, the two red barns built on each side of the lane, like a gateway to the farm yard, weren’t there like I remembered.  The cattails weren’t lining the creek.  I was hoping to pick some for my girls.

Just before that place of the missing barns was a corner of field where grandma had a garden.  He remembered how he would go with her and help like a 4 year-old can and loves to do.  He had a few years there with her to himself while the older ones were down the lane at school.  I don’t know that I had ever thought of him so small.

Weather Vane

Farm House


The house was hollow; locked to us, but open to critters through the missing upper window.  I remembered the smell inside, the cuckoo clock on the wall, the plastic flowers blooming year-round, and the scary, hairless cat which held the toilet brush.  I remembered my grandpa in his pinstriped pajamas; the mud room with the enormous freezer holding meat they had raised just past the yard.

We walked out back and imagined the rabbit hutches and more trees than now.  In the shade he’d played with his brothers.  The oldest made impressive, miniature farm equipment and buildings.  When the rain came through, they had a bridge for navigating the creek that would form in the middle of their toy farm.

We followed the terrace along the cornfield behind and I saw corners I never knew.  One bordering creek separated into two and joined again, leaving an island full of trees and wildlife.  It was there that my dad traveled afar.



We walked through corn that was once both pasture and baseball field when work was done.  Over the fence was the neighbor’s field where my dad would catch gophers.  Two front feet brought to the courthouse was 10 cents and the farmer would double it.

Baseball Field

Corn Leaves

Milking Room


There was a lot of empty space.  Lots of stories of “in this spot we did this” or “this used to be there.”  The hen house stood quiet with hay still in its boxes.  A hoop hung from the wall of the milking room, the makeshift basketball court.  There were no wild cats like I had found in bales of hay on visits as a child.

Stock Barn


We talked long, sitting and looking over our sandwiches and rolling fields from the top of the lane.  Singing birds and the swaying grass overgrown accompanied our conversation.


Iowa Horizon


“Farms aren’t like they used to be,” he said.  Livestock and fenced-in farmyards with families doing chores are a rarity and the fields are quiet.  Bigger operations handle the hogs and families don’t live on the land like before.  There’s a lot of space, a lot of empty.

As I reflected on that day in all that quiet left on the farm, in the spaces left wanting, there was something born that day.  My dad and his stories were born in me.



And I’m thankful for my God who sees voids and fills them, makes the unknown familiar.  He took chaos and deep, moved over it, and created.  And I’m thankful that His creation, which can happen by a word, in a moment, is still moving and filling and happened to us on a Once-Upon-A-Time farm in Iowa.

Once Upon a Time
Cute Dad
I love you, Dad.  


17 thoughts on “Once Upon a Farm in Iowa

  1. It is so fascinating what we learn from those before us when we stop to listen. Farm life is good hard work. I am learning a lot as we have 5 acres here in Kenya!

  2. This is beautiful Keri. I love listening to stories of the past. We all just need to slow down and take the time to listen..

  3. This story, combined with the pictures, really captures the essence of a great man. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, Linda. Thank you to you and Keith for praying with him at home Wednesday. We loves you, you have been such a strong influence in his life.

  4. This is very touching to me as I inhabited the neighboring farm. My mom and randy’s mom were friends….Alice and Evelyn. I know they quilted together which was once a week I think on Wednesdays…The Panama Sewing Circle. The farms in iowa have those rolling hills you do not see very often in other areas. I had to laugh with the “do you think I was born yesterday?” as I remember him saying that. Another story I remember is when Randy took the doors off the hinges of your bedrooms as you were not keeping your rooms as clean as he would like….so instead of a nagging and arguing, he just took the doors off, and then the kids started to yearn for their privacy and miraculously the rooms got cleaned up without a harsh word. Those corn fields too, are such a mass of green, I tell you when we lived in Arizona, I would yearn for anything green. But the breezes and the fresh air and the buzz of family activities were a hard thing to forget…even after many years. Thanks for jogging all these memories to the surface. A beautiful tribute to your dad….love marlene

  5. What a beautiful story…and a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Loved reading it and will read it over and over again. Thank you Keri for sharing!

  6. This is so perfect and so true of Randy. Such a peaceful guy, so full of God’s grace. I bet he would give the shirt off his back to go back to the country to experience the wonders of farm life again. I can see him sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch every night and watch the sunset or the snow fall, with a glass of wine or a cup of hot coffee, with Bonnie by his side. Nice tribute to your father, Keri.

  7. Well Keri, you are quite the story teller. It was a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I lived in the Panama area for 18 years and never remembered how beautiful and peaceful it was there in the country until I saw your photos. I think we took it for granted back then. I loved every word you wrote and I know your Dad’s chest must have puffed out with pride. You are a good one, Keri. Thank you.

    Linda (Ratigan) Baxter

  8. Thank you for sharing this sweet time of walking through the place with your beloved dad so that we can appreciate those moments. Your mother sent it for me to enjoy because I wanted to go share the joy of Randy being home to get rest.
    Randy is upheld by thousands of prayers and I expect our Lord is lavishing mercy on him and also on your whole family. I believe love heals also. You painted a lovely picture for us. Grace and mercy to you.
    My daddy grew up in Nebraska Sandhills and I recall he told me a little boy could get lost in tall prairie grass.
    Gayle Crawford

  9. Keri,
    I am totally crying right now. What a beautiful tribute and a memory that you will have forever! Love you all.

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