Tuesday, August 30, 2022

A Celebration

This collage shows a few of the photos that Susan compiled and printed off for table decorations.

It's impossible to encapsulate 51 years of farming in a few snapshots. But it was fun to wander the tables at our retirement party and see what photos our family had collected.

My foray into blogging back in January 2010 was an attempt to provide a snapshot of life on one Kansas farm. It was my quiet protest to counter the ads from restaurant chains, animal rescue groups and others who certainly have an opinion about how we carry out our livelihoods and are glad to express all we're "doing wrong." Most of them likely have never seen a farm beyond Green Acres. 

I've certainly taken thousands of photos since then, and I've shared a lot of them throughout the years on Kim's County Line. 

But the most important things I've "collected," I suppose, have been the relationships with family and the others who've been part of the team. 

Look for the helpers.
 You will always find people who are helping."
Fred Rogers

Freund's Crafts and Flowers in Stafford designed wildflower bouquets for the tables, fulfilling Jill's request. They were beautiful! The photo collage is one I did for Randy after we sold cattle last fall, and it shows all the locations where we had our cow-calf herd during our partnership.

Even though farming and ranching may seem a solitary job, there are many others who quietly help get the jobs done. Sometimes, they are the people on your payroll, though we haven't had that for a couple of years now. They may be neighbors who help out with cattle drives or finish a wheat field when your combine breaks down. There are veterinarians, co-op employees, seed dealers, parts departments, sale barn personnel, insurance carriers, farm service offices ... This list probably just scratches the surface. 

We wouldn't have been able to farm had some land owners not entrusted their property to us to be stewards. What a privilege! 

But the center of a family farm is in the definition: FAMILY.

Our kids honored us with a retirement reception following our farm sale August 13. 

We were privileged to have so many extended family members and friends there. 

I grew up on a family farm in Pratt County. At about age 6, I was driving the pickup in the field to help my dad pick up fence posts. In the early days of irrigation, my sister, Lisa, and I turned a lot of pivot wheels so the towers could be hauled from one center pivot to the next. And then we turned them all back again. When my mom drove the tractor, I helped out with duties in the house, cooking and cleaning. Later, I became one of the harvest truck drivers. I knew about trips to the parts counter before my maiden voyages for the Fritzemeier farms.

Darci, Dad, Mom, me and Randy, Lisa and Kent - my parents and siblings

So I had an idea of what my life would be like when Randy and I married. However, I will say that being a farm daughter is a lot different than being a farm partner. Maybe that has more to do with being an adult than anything. But, as a kid, I sure didn't spend any time worrying about weather or grain prices or input cost or any of the myriad of other things that suddenly come to the forefront when your name is one of those on the checks or on the loan agreement with the bank.

me, Randy & his sister, Kathy

We were all too busy living the experience while the party was going on to take photos. But what a wonderful afternoon it was, visiting with family and friends! Susan and Jill (with help from Kinley & Brooke) made all the cookies. They had ice cream and cookie "pairings" for guests' snacking pleasure. They - along with Brent and Eric - were the ones setting up and tearing down tables and making all the arrangements. 

And I left there feeling so thankful - thankful for Randy, most of all. Thankful for Jill and Brent and the wonderful families they've made for themselves. Appreciative of our extended families. Thankful for good friends and neighbors. 

It's been quite a ride. 

But I think Kinley has the right idea when she wishes us "the best loungy life ever!"

Can you believe Kinley sketched the tractor just looking at one of Grandpa's toy tractors?

Brooke also got in on the well wishes.

 Thanks to all who've sent a card or wished us well for this next chapter of life's journey.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Sale Day: Leaving a Lifetime of Farming


We hustled around on sale day, Saturday, August 13, for some family photos before the festivities began. Tye, who has taken over the farm ground we continue to own and who cares for our cow-calf herd in a partnership, was elected as photographer for 15 to 20 minutes worth of shots before the craziness of the day.

Originally, I had wanted some photos in the wheat field of our final harvest as active farm operators. I   had a professional photographer lined up. But it was just too hard to coordinate schedules and predict the weather. (I only knew that everyone was going to make it home a few hours before they arrived.) My second idea was having photos among the farm equipment before it started driving away or was hauled down the road.  But since school had started for the girls and for Susan the week before, it wasn't possible for them to all get here by the time golden hour rolled around the night before the sale. I knew that Randy would be addressing any issues with machinery on the day of the sale or answering last-minute phone calls about it before the bidding began. Other people were juggling plenty of other balls that day, too. Tye did a great job, and we'll save the pro shots for a time down the line. 

Jill snapped a few of Randy and me by various farm equipment. I definitely wanted one by the feed truck. I spent a lot of time in it during winters the last few years. Randy was always glad to tell any callers that his wife drove the old Army truck. One of my favorite times of the year was riding the buddy seat of the combine during harvest time. I'll miss that.

Anyway, I'll treasure these last glimpses of farm life as we've known it. We used the backdrops you'd expect - the 4-wheel-drive tractor and the combine. 

But I also wanted some photos gathered around the old 8N Ford Tractor. 

Jill also requested a photo by the relic.

I snapped a few of Grandpa with the girls.

The last time Kinley had been on that tractor was when she was a baby in her mom's arms 10 years ago.

April 2012

Randy grew up operating the Ford tractor. Our kids also got the "privilege" of putt-putt-putting down a road on the way to help build fence. While I never drove it, I certainly was part of the team that helped build miles of electric fence to contain our cattle in the fall. (Click HERE for a blog post about one fence building session.) But it, too, went on the auction block at the farm sale. 

Randy's Dad and Grandpa had purchased the Ford tractor in the 1960s. (And, yes, it started on sale day!)

Clarence (Randy's Grandpa, seated), his Dad Melvin and Randy holding Brent in 1988.

Maybe the winning bidder will restore it for parades. Or maybe they'll use it like we did, who knows?

It's amazing to think how far farm equipment has come in the time since our ancestors began farming in the late 1800s. My mom did an amazing job of photographing new machinery they've used during their 69 years of farming together.

(My dad as a toddler and his Dad)


She compiled them into history books she gave to grandchildren. (I may still have one in my dining room curio cabinet for "safe keeping.")

The evolution of technology has exploded since 1972, when Randy began farming as a high school sophomore.

This was a page from Randy's FFA project - 1972 - when as a high school sophomore, he began putting up hay on his great-uncle's ground for a percentage of the hay crop.

In the late 1990s, I compiled this collage to give to Melvin after his final harvest as an active farmer. It shows several pieces of farm equipment we used at that time.

Farm technology has evolved significantly since our marriage in 1981.
Melvin's final wheat harvest

And we certainly didn't have the ultimate examples of modern machinery, but it served our needs at a price we could afford.

Photo by Brent

The girls had to give the big tractor some equal posing time after their modeling on the 8N Ford tractor.

Randy had some restless nights in the week before sale day. He wasn't sure he'd gotten enough phone calls expressing interest in all the machinery. Would in-person bidders come? Would the people who told him on the phone that they'd be bidding online actually follow-through and do it? Would we get a reasonable value for the equipment? Would this part of our retirement plan pay out? I was not immune from the nighttime thoughts that made for some restless nights. 

But Randy was all smiles the day of the auction.

   (These moments were captured on my camera by Kinley, the budding 4-H photographer.)

Photo by Brent

Ultimately, we were thrilled with the large crowd who arrived on sale day.

Some arrived early enough for the small "stuff" on trailers.

Photo by Brent

There was an even larger crowd for the big equipment - both in-person and online.


Photo by Andrew Webb (my brother-in-law)

The day was awfully hot, but the auctioneer with Carr Auction kept the bidding moving along well.
Photo by Andrew Webb

Some of the items began leaving the field before the auction was even over. By Wednesday, August 17, we had only a few things left to be picked up by the new owners. The combine and the drill left that day. The last pickup left last Friday (August 19). We are down to a couple of tractors still awaiting pickup.

Ultimately, this list of farm equipment left our farm to do the job at another farm on down the road. 

We also closed on Randy's folks house on the Monday following the sale, and the young couple who purchased it has already started moving in and making it their own. (Click HERE for the blog post I wrote before that sale.)

It's been a year full of emotion - highs and lows, doubts and dreams. But we feel at peace with the decision. And we're ready for the next chapter. Bring on some K-State football and some trips to National Parks this fall. (We'll add plenty of trips to see the family for good measure.)

The girls were hoping that they could convince their parents they "needed" the 4-wheelers. They had ridden them for a fishing trip during a stay at The County Line last year. Alas, they'll have to settle for Grandpa's new (to us) Gator. The girls approve of Grandpa's new ride. (Uncle Brent may have given Kinley some unauthorized driving lessons on the Gator.)

Next time: Photos from the retirement party

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

End of an Era


Sometime in the late 1860s, Kentuckian James T. Moore spent a brief time in Kansas as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse.

Even after returning home, he couldn't forget that undeveloped frontier. In 1876, the family came to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December 1876 in Sodtown, later known as Stafford. A hotel proprietor mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County.

(This was my childhood home for the first 6 years of my life.)

A man whose business it was to locate claims helped J.T. and his family. The son, J.J. who was 9 at the time, later described the trip:

He told us of a place that we could homestead down in Pratt County where Kelly the buffalo hunter had put down a well. We started with an ox team to a wagon and the driver carried a compass as he drove. On the hind wheel of the wagon was tied a rag, and a man sitting in the back counted the revolutions of the wheel. So we came out 23 miles, so far south and so far west. We hit the place all right and found the government corners. We went to Larned and put in the (homestead) papers.

James T. Moore was my paternal great-great grandfather. (Though Sodtown (Stafford) isn't where the family settled, isn't it a coincidence that their first stop was in the area that has been my home for the past 41+ years?)

Last fall, I sat alone in a pickup cab at our Rattlesnake Creek pasture. Randy and three other guys were off on 4-wheelers, using those modern machines to move cattle toward my bait-hay-laden pickup. It was our annual fall round-up of cows and calves that had spent the summer grazing at what we call The Big Pasture.

The modern-day wranglers were pushing cattle toward a destination, much like the long-ago cattle drives ... but with Kawasaki horse power - not the four-legged version.

I knew it was likely the final time I would be involved gathering cattle off a pasture that's been in Randy's family since 1900 - 121 years at that time, and 122 now. A blue fall sky stretched endlessly from horizon to horizon, and prairie grasses rustled in a gentle breeze. That sky has towered over five generations of Kansans in both Randy's and my family's. 

All our forefathers saw the potential in the wide open prairies of Central Kansas.  And we are thankful.

It's hard to know what to write when you come to the end of a road, or, in our case, when you come to the end of a field. I think about our ancestors who settled this land. When they arrived from points east, it was a vast sea of prairie grasses. There may have been trees along creeks, but the tree-lined boulevards of their eastern towns and cities were left miles behind. 

They arrived with a wagon full of their earthly possessions, often strategically placed between the many children who also filled the wagon. Think about today's moving companies, driving semi-trailers of a family's belongings across the miles. Not so for these early arrivals to Kansas who packed everything on the rickety wheels of a wooden wagon.

They were the ones who planted the cottonwood trees and other trees we enjoy today to fulfill their Timber Claims to make this new land their home. 

My maternal great grandfather probably would shake his head to learn we present-day farmers have abandoned traditional horse power for 4-wheelers. Charley Neelly came to Kansas in 1898 from Hoberg, Mo., and went to work for a farmer who lived about five miles north of Naron in Pratt County. In 1900, Charley married Ethel Denton. They had 10 children - six boys and four girls. Shelby Merle Neelly (my Mom's Dad/my Grandpa) was their second child. 

Charley had a fondness for horses and made money by trading them. He also liked good driving horses and owned 11 race horses during his lifetime. During the 1910s and 1920s, Charley and the children farmed six or seven quarters of cropland. In 1919, they had more than 500 acres of corn. Shelby, his older brother Archie, and two hired hands shucked corn all winter. Corn at that time was worth 25 cents per bushel.

My brother continues to farm both the Moore and Neelly farm ground in Pratt County.

But our farm sale and retirement ended Randy's immediate family's involvement in active farming. We will still be involved in agriculture as land owners, and we have no plans to sell farm or pasture ground at this time.

That pasture where I was sitting last fall has been in Randy's family since 1900 and is owned today by Randy and his cousin, Don. The ground was purchased for $4 an acre by a great-great-uncle, August Brinkman. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, today 560 acres of it remain in the Fritzemeier family. 


From a Fritzemeier cattle working session - undated photo. 

L to R: Clarence Fritzemeier (Randy's Grandpa) Milton Giedinghagen, Ben Fritzemeyer, Melvin Fritzemeier (my father-in-law) & Harve Fritzemeier. Yes there are two different spellings on Fritzemeier - it's not a typo!

Was it an easy decision? It was not. But it was the right decision for us. Farming is for young bodies. Neither of us has those. It was increasingly difficult to find farm help . I've told Randy repeatedly that I'm amazed at what he was still able to accomplish. 

As you might remember, our neighbor, Mark, took some drone photos during our final harvest. (HERE is the link to my blog post about that.)

We asked if he had time to take some drone shots before the farm sale, and he graciously agreed. 

As I've said before, I find the drone images particularly powerful in some way. I take thousands of photos a year. But there's something about that bird's eye view of a scene that makes it feel bigger. And it makes it more real. 


I'll be honest. Mark sent the photos the morning before the sale. I decided not to look at them then, though Randy did. I was already a little emotional, and I thought it was ill-advised to add any fuel to all those already swirling feelings.

But, as I've written this series of blog posts on legacy and retirement, I've been thankful for this birds' eye overview of a way of life. 


Next time on the blog: The Farm Sale

To come: Retirement festivities


Want to read more about our family's history and see more historic photos?  I've written about it in the past. Here are the links:

Moore Family Century Farm - Click HERE

Neelly Family Century Farm - Click HERE

Fritzemeier Century Farm - Click HERE and HERE (and a whole lot more blog posts since 2010)