Cecelia Brabender Bollenbeck was my aunt, one of my dad’s older sisters, who lived a tragic life, spending more than a half-century in mental institutions before she died at age 85. It was no secret that she was hospitalized, but it was seldom talked about in our family so I know little about her. If I could still write to her, this is what I would ask.
If you enter the haymow of our barn, the initials “J.K.” are carved neatly into the wooden post to your left, just above the electric light switches. You would have found his initials on a wooden stanchion in the basement, too. J.K. either had too much time on his hands or he did not want to be forgotten.
“Do you work on barns?” I shouted toward the three Amish men working on a roof in downtown Middleton. They were re-shingling a tall Victorian house on University Avenue, the main street. I needed a new barn roof. A friend had suggested I check out the Amish. Seeing them here, just three miles from our Ashton farm, felt like destiny.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once called bells the voice of the church. I wasn’t in such a poetic mood the day I craned my neck to study the flimsy stairs I was about to ascend to photograph the bell tower of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Ashton. “Hell’s bells” was all that I could muster.
This blog is a book in the making. If you're a new visitor, read Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story. You can also find a copy in Prologue.