Walking on our family land feels like walking through history. I can feel myself move through layers of memories and stories, typically told by my dad. Here is where we had our Easter picnics... My great-grandparents lived here... I remember walking back through this field every day...
I wonder if Winfield and Pearl Reed knew this place would mean so much to us when they bought the first eighty-acre section in 1916. I don’t know much about them, except that they lived on the hill where Jan and Denny do now. They raised seven kids, the youngest, my great-grandfather, Ralphie. Winfield’s funeral was held at the church owned by the Old Order Mennonites and the pair is buried in a cemetery previously unknown to Dad or me.
Ralphie left home as a teenager and went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific until the end of the war in 1945. After his service, Ralphie returned and began farming the family land, which his parents sold to him in 1947 for “love and affection and $1.”
Ralphie’s shrewd nature and eye toward the future helped him grow the farm. When other farmers were too small to keep up with increased demand created by large agribusiness, Ralphie bought them out and grew his own operation. Success in farming became dependent on scale, and he was able to keep up.
During this time, Ralphie married Wilma Bond and had three kids: Ron, Denny and Rusty. They grew up working on the farm. Each left, but ultimately returned to their home. Ron served in the Air Force and never farmed on his own but now lives on his dad’s land. Denny attended to University of Missouri and met his wife, Jan. The pair sharecropped and worked on a cattle ranch before returning to farm the family land. Denny eventually traded a section of land for the original on top of the hill, where he and Jan have lived ever since. Rusty was a trucker until he realized it wasn’t the life he wanted.
All the land acquired by Ralphie and the brothers now totals around 1,600 acres.
Eventually, other kids arrived. Dad, Nee and Justin; Derek and Dane; Cody and Dillon. And then the next generation. Most have left, but the land is still there to visit. Dad said, “you’re nothing without your roots,” and he’s right. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I know I always have a place to return to where I’ll always be welcomed, where my family has history and where I can connect with our past.
Dusk falls on my grandfather's land Dec. 5 in Rich Hill, Mo.
The sun illuminates a list of family members included in a photo album Dec. 5. Pearl Welch Reed, listed first, is my great-great-grandmother. A photograph of my great-grandpa, Ralph Reed, is in the bottom right.
From left, Denny and Jan Reed check the health of a cow Nov. 14. My great-uncle and aunt, the couple raises cattle and farms field corn and soybeans on their land.
A tree lines the road leading to Ralph and Wilma Reed’s house Nov. 24. They were my great-grandparents, and my siblings and I used to visit and pick up sticks that had fallen from a tree in front of their home when we were kids.
Wilma Reed, stands near her flower bed outside her home in an undated photo, pictured Dec. 5. My dad said she was very proud of her flowers.
An owl statuette sits outside of Ralph and Wilma Reed’s house Nov. 24. Wilma had a penchant for statuettes and was known to stop at any roadside stand that sold them.
“I practically lived here,” my dad, Marty Reed, said of his grandparents’ house. Pictured here Nov. 25, he was Ralph and Wilma’s first grandkid and lived right across the street for the first few years of his life. The house has since been torn down and replaced with grain bins.
Ralph Reed’s bedroom is pictured Nov. 24. A pair of jeans sit on the bed and a shotgun shell lies in the nightstand.
Mail for Ralph Reed sits on his kitchen table Nov. 24. He kept most of his correspondence, including every sympathy card sent to him after Wilma’s death in 1992.
A church belonging to a community of Old Order Mennonites stands Nov. 24. The funeral for my great-great-grandfather, Winfield Reed, was held here in 1970.
My grandfather, Ron Reed, gestures to a headstone Nov. 25 at Fairview Rider Cemetery. His grandparents are buried in the cemetery alongside other unknown Reeds.
A 1968 photograph showing my great-uncle, Rusty Reed, with a “Blue Ribbon” calf is photographed Dec. 5. Rusty is the youngest of his three brothers.
From left, Rusty Reed and his nephew Marty Reed walk into a machine shed Dec. 4. Rusty lives in town but keeps his equipment near his land. He said his favorite feeling is getting off the combine and looking over an empty field, the result of a day's hard work.
Ron Reed’s new house sits on a hill Dec. 5. After inheriting the land from his father, Ron built the new house for his family to congregate.
Truck tracks are etched into the mud Nov. 24. The path leads to areas his sons have newly designated for shooting and bonfires.
Ron Reed, and his dog, Jake, stand near a creek on his land Dec. 5. The creek is meaningful to him because it was his mother’s favorite place to sit.
Flowers are blown down by the wind Nov. 25. Ron Reed set out the flowers for his mother because she held Easter picnics in the glade near the creek.
The sun sets behind an old tree Dec. 5 on Ron Reed’s land. Since the new house was completed, the land has been a place for younger family members to reconnect with their home.