Uncle Bob’s Combine

Uncle Bob was a nice man. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with heart disease in 1980.

He had rosy cheeks but not from drinking. He laughed often but not loudly. He seemed to have a permanent smile but that probably isn’t true. Nobody has a permanent smile.

Uncle Bob worked in a car plant near Detroit, but the farm was in Avoca, Michigan, halfway between other places no one has ever heard of.

He had dairy cows but I think the milk was just used by the family of four, Uncle Bob, Aunt Ilene, their daughter, and Nana. Five cows don’t produce enough to be trucked to a dairy. Aunt Ilene was allergic to cows but she and Nana milked them by hand anyway.

I remember cranking the cream separator in the laundry room. The antique machine was still there the last time I was on the farm in 2004.

We three kids stayed on the farm a few times. On one occasion my dad dropped us off but didn’t tell my aunt, his sister, we were coming. She was angry about that long after he died.

One summer we were there during wheat harvest. I loved being around farm equipment, and this was my first and only chance to ride a combine.

I ran along behind the huge machine to catch up to the ladder and jumped on. I was covered with chaff and dust but I didn’t care. I stood next to the driver.

When the combine was full we rode back to the grainery to unload it. I had to crawl around in the wheat to be sure it was level. I think it was Uncle Bob’s tactic to keep me out of the way.

We saw the Smothers Brothers on The Ed Sullivan Show while we were at Uncle Bob’s farm.

We had Cocoa Puffs the first time at Uncle Bob’s.

Nana made real butter in a churn. She made donuts and potato chips on the stove.

I took a bath in the kitchen in a big gray washtub.

I shot cone shaped holes in the windows of the tool shed with my BB gun.

Thirty-five years later I tore down the tool shed and took the windows with the cone shaped holes home.

Uncle Bob didn’t allow us to go in the hay mow. He said there were holes in the floor we would fall through.

I swung on the rope in the hay mow after taking down the tool shed. I didn’t fall through any holes.