Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on an old farmhouse

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.


  1. That was absolutely lovely... made me cry even.
    Thank you for sharing..

  2. What a beautiful house - and photos of your great-grandparents. It's always so sad to see how buildings -homes, especially!- become deserted and then fall apart. Thank goodness for the memories in our hearts!

  3. Clap clap clap, well done! AGAIN!! Thank you for sharing, and - - -

    Those lace curtains, are we allowed to have lace envy?? Beautiful.

  4. You have such a beautiful way of writing. I, too, teared up. I just LOVE old farmhouses. Thanks for sharing the pictures and your emotions at seeing the farmhouse falling apart. It makes me want to run back out to Iowa to the farms my ancestors lived on. I didn't appreciate them when I was younger but I miss them so much now.......

  5. What a wonderful post. You do have a great way of bringing me in and making me feel a part of your memory. Thanks for sharing.

  6. You guys are going to give me a big head with all your nice comments... but thank you so much for the encouragement. I've always loved to ramble through old farmhouses and imagine who used to live there, and think about all the things that happened there over the years, wonder what the families were like, and just in general have my head in the clouds.

    Carol, it's no coincidence that I have lace curtains in my house... lacy envy!! lol

  7. Karen, I really loved this story-this one was extra special. I have been in this same situation. Aren't we lucky to have stood in their footsteps and to at least had the privilege to see where our ancestors lived and loved. Many are not nearly so lucky!
    P.S. Yes it was the 1880 train near Hill City, S.D. Those too were the greatest memories...

  8. A little more than 10 years ago my then 75 year old mother and I went back to see her grandparent's old farm house. She insisted on going up an meeting the owners. I wasn't so sure. But we did, and the young couple could not have been happier. They were in the process of restoring it and took my mother all around, asking her questions. We ended up exchanging addresses and I sent them copies of the house from the 20s and 30s. I was glad we went that day. You tell a poignant story. Maybe someone will fall in love with that old farmhouse and restore it too.