Tuesday marked the 1-year anniversary of Dad’s death. That morning we drove west to Paullina, IA, home to friends Mom has known since high school in Omaha. The Innises’ farm outside of Paullina was a favorite oasis for the Snyders and their traveling companions, the Fentons, a stopover for a few days on our way West for summer holidays.
We checked in at the White House Inn, schlepping our bags through a maze of hallways to the “Presidential Suite.” The sprawling inn, a 19th-century Queen Anne-style house in a previous incarnation, is now joined at the hip with another house moved from across the 10-block town.
We called our friends to let them know we had arrived, and while waiting for them to meet us, decided to stroll a few blocks to the town. On the way we passed the grain elevator, the town’s lifeblood, where trucks kicked up dust at the scales, coming and going with their loads. A block down the street, our friends Kath and Belle had stopped by the liquor store for some wine, recognizing the four women who had stopped to take pictures of themselves in front of the grain elevator—yes, we must be tourists from the Big City.
After wine on the front porch of the White House, we headed to Kath and Ron’s farm for pork burgers, corn on the cob, and homegrown green beans. And more wine.
Wednesday morning we headed a few miles out of town to the old farm, now occupied by the Innises’ grandson and his family, a new generation of farmers. It was smaller than I remembered, but the twin blue silos still stand watch over the fields. The old hog barn now shelters a small band of ewes, and young Holsteins take up residence here, too. Gone are the corral and the horses. Trees now shade the banks of the swimming hole (cow watering pond); tall grass grows where once we played on the little sandy beach. Somewhere there is a picture of my three-year-old self in a faded yellow swim suit, standing in the water by the beach, squinting in the sun and carrying a plastic bucketful of mud.
We carried Dad’s tin of ashes to the apple tree where Big Joe’s ashes were buried 11 or so years ago. Dad loved this farm and always joked about helping Joe with chores: “We can’t leave until we’ve painted the barn,” he would say. Mom, Beth, Hope, me, Kath, Belle, and Christine formed a semicircle near the tree. Beth read from an old book of Dad’s, which he used when officiating at funerals.
Mom took a small scoop of ashes and scattered them around the rock that marks Joe’s resting place. Next, Hope took a scoop and scattered a bit of Dad. Beth and I did likewise. We said a closing prayer and recalled through tears how much Dad loved this farm; how dear these friends, the Innises, are; how much Dad would love to know that a part of him will forever remain in Iowa under the apple tree with Joe.