Thursday, February 24, 2011

Over my grandfather's farm

In the years after World War II, a handful of former U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps reconnaissance photographers formed The Zekan-Robbins Company in Harlan, Iowa. They flew all over the country taking aerial snaps of farms, estates and villages, selling their images to small-town newspapers and proud property owners.

I can't say exactly when Zekan-Robbins took this photo of my paternal grandfather's farm, but if I had to guess I'd say it was 1950 or so.

My grandfather's death and the sale of the property would follow several years later, not quite two years before I was born. I grew up not far away, and yet I visited the farm only twice -- once when
my father and I went plinking at the adjacent quarry and again in the late 1970s the morning after the farmhouse, which was abandoned by then, burned to the ground.

In the foreground of the aerial photo are the big frame house in which my father and his siblings were born, the spring house, vegetable gardens and the chicken coop. Beyond the farmhouse are stables where the draft horses were kept. Those are fruit trees to the right.

The outbuildings include the barn, a bow-roof implement shed and a corn crib. An empty wagon rests just off the driveway, a hay rake sits idle in the corner of a newly baled field, and that looks like a late-1940s Ford pickup truck parked inside the haymow.

It's all gone now, of course.