Pictured here are my great grandmother, Virta Knutz, with her boys, Willie, 7, and Howard, 5, about 1918. They lived on this place, east of Virgil, South Dakota, until sometime in the 1930s, when they lost it in the Great Depression.
My great grandfather, Will Knutz, with the boys, on the front “deck”. I love the old lace curtains in the window, and wonder what the room looked like on the inside. Looking at the photos makes me wish I could step back in time, and experience what it was like to live on the old farm, and how day-to-day life felt for them.
On a trip back to South Dakota, I wanted to find the old farm. I drove past it several times, before realizing the old house was probably behind a thick patch of overgrown trees set far back from the road. The driveway, mostly filled in with weeds, was gated off, but I parked my car and climbed over the fence, and began the walk through the hip-high grasses.
Little by little, the tangible reminders of our memories grow old and fall apart, and eventually cease to exist. Such was the fate of the old farmhouse. Broken windows, doors torn off, and graffiti sprayed across the walls were stark reminders that nothing lasts. I wondered if the kids with the spray paint had any idea that my great-grandmother had lovingly made that room into a warm place for her family, with beautiful old lace curtains where there now was broken glass. Or, where they stood destroying things, that a young family had once started building a legacy. Heading back to my car, I stopped at the edge of the grove and took one last look back, and for just a moment I could see Virta peeking through the lace curtains, smiling, waving goodbye. Holding onto the tangibles forever isn’t always possible, but thank goodness what exists in our hearts is safe.