My name is Wayne Wienand William Brabender, born at 6:32 p.m., Saturday, July 13, 1946, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. My birth certificate confirms that I was a male, born alive. My parents were Rosalia M. Friedl, 33, homemaker, and Hubert P. Brabender, 34, farmer. I was their fourth child; their three earlier children were still living. E. F. Schneiders, M.D., was the attending physician. Inky footprints atop my birth certificate proved that I had inherited my mother’s flat feet.
Dad was not with mom that evening. Husbands could not be in birthing rooms then, but it wouldn’t have mattered. He was too busy at home, milking cows. Dad said he learned of my birth from my oldest brother, who shared the good news with him. I can imagine dad’s reply, “A boy. Great! Another helping hand.”
I weighed 8 lbs. and stretched out to 22 inches at birth. By three months I had sprouted to almost 15 lbs. and nearly 25 inches, and ready to start feasting on Dr. Oosterhous’s recommended diet of Gerber’s and Heinz baby foods, Cream of Wheat cereal, and mashed veggies to be served “after 2 p.m.” At my four-month visit he added mashed fruit. By six months I was 17 ½ lbs. and 27 inches, and my head 18 ¾ inches, almost two inches bigger than my chest. I’m not sure when my chest caught up with and eventually exceeded my head size, but I know it did and still does. At 18 months I had reached 24 lbs. and almost a yardstick tall. My diet by then included evaporated milk, cottage cheese, baked potatoes, whole cow’s milk, and when fussy, ½ aspirin tablet and three teaspoons of cod liver oil. No wonder I hate seafood.
I’m now past 70 and living again on our family farm, the object of the love expressed in my memoir, Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story. It is a blend of geology, geography, genealogy, and history, photos, captions, interviews, conversations, newspaper clippings, letters, essays, poems, and short stories about this piece of land our family calls home, its people, its animals, and anything that emerged here and coalesced over time to fill up the “whole” in “Whole Hearted.” Its history ranges from the silly to the serious, from the sad to the sublime, but it is “love” that binds it all together into “A Farm Love Story.”
I continue to do historical research for my memoir, but so far I've discovered little recorded history of our family or our farm. So I have to fill in historical gaps sometimes with what I think was missing. For example, I knew through research that my great grandparents Christian Brabender and Cecelia Klein married in Cross Plains in 1858, the year they started Brabender farm in Ashton, raised seven kids, and were active until Christian died of a heart attack in 1904 and Cecelia of old age and dementia in 1916. These are historical facts documented in public and private records. Unfortunately, the couple left no journals or diaries and only one brief business letter home to Germany, which left little to tell me what they were thinking or believed, nothing from which to quote. But during meetings years ago with relatives whose parents had known Christian and Cecelia, I got a pretty good idea of their disparate personalities: Christian could be silly and fun loving, while Cecelia was usually serious and no-nonsense. A look at the few surviving photos of Cecelia suggests she was all business. I have yet to find a photo of Christian, but if I do, I imagine I'll find a playful glint in his eye.
So, knowing this much about their personalities and after researching the lives and culture of German Catholic Wisconsin farmers in the 1800s, I could confidently create the following conversation that Christian and Cecelia might have had while eating breakfast in our kitchen one cold morning in 1877, after she realized she was pregnant with her seventh and final child:
Christian: “I see we got fried potatoes again this morning, Ma.”
Cecelia: “Ach, Pa, we have fried potatoes every morning. You know that. We’ve got a basement bin full of potatoes to eat, unless the mice get them first. What would we do without potatoes? They fill us up. If you want me to make something else for breakfast, you’ll have to grow something else. But it’s got to be something that keeps through the winter.”
Christian: “I know, Ma. I know. Don’t you think it’s kind of dark in here this morning?”
Cecelia: “Pa, I’ve been after you for days to buy more kerosene. I only have enough now to keep two lamps burning. I can barely see to make breakfast. I swear sometimes I’m going blind.”
Christian: “Sorry, Ma. I’ll take the horses to town today to buy some. I don’t want you to have to swear any more. Is that why you look so tired this morning?”
Cecelia: “Yeah, I am tired, Pa, but I think it’s because I’m going to have another baby.”
Christian: “How’d that happen?”
Cecelia: “You old goat! You know how it happened. You didn’t stay on your side of the bed again.”
Christian: “Well, Ma. It gets cold on my side of the bed sometimes.”
Cecelia: “Yeah, well, now we’ll have another mouth to feed and seven kids in two bedrooms. How are they all going to fit in there?
Christian: “Oh well, Ma. Don’t worry. It’ll work out. It gets cold upstairs, too. One more child will just make it warmer for all of them.”
Cecelia: “I suppose, Pa. We’ll make do like we always do. We always have room for one more.”
Christian: “I just hope the little one likes fried potatoes.”
Author’s note: I upload posts as I complete them, so one written about a recent event may precede posts about earlier events. The introduction to each post shows where it fits into the history. For an introduction to my memoir, visit Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story.
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.