Mosaic / May 25, 2011

Ode to a farmhouse

President Roger Taylor grew up on a farm south of Galesburg. This farmhouse, which he lived in till he was ten, was almost sold out of the family in the ‘80s.

The house, which was in the family for over 100 years, was in major disrepair after not being inhabited for 20 years. As Taylor was trying to renovate the house in the ‘90s he had to convince his wife, Anne Taylor, first.

“As I was pestering Anne to fix up the house she had just read a book by a Jungian architect slash counselor that had his clients talk to their home as a part of therapy,” Taylor said. “She asked me to talk to the house and I thought that was kind of goofy, so I wrote a letter to the house and gave a copy to Anne.”

This letter, which features interesting moments of Taylor’s childhood and gives the reader a feeling for why the house is important, was given to Anne and the architect renovating the house in 1996.

Here are some excerpts from that letter:

“I have many memories of growing up on that farm:”

“‘Em’ Knott, a recluse bachelor who lived on the farm north of us and was deaf (‘hearing impaired’ we say now) and used a hearing trumpet and rode a buggy pulled by two mules and asked my uncle to farm his land for him after he had a falling out with his nephew who had farmed it, but insisted that my uncle find the dead furrow before he started to plow.”

“On Saturdays, my grandmother would kill a chicken on the south side of you, east of the well, by putting her foot on its head and cutting its head off with a butcher knife. Then she would scald it in boiling water. And when I was old enough, I helped her pull off the feathers. She would take out the innards, cut it up and put it in the refrigerator where it would stay until fried for Sunday dinner the next day.”

“It was driving the tractor and driving the pick-up truck that I would really like to do. I worked without a shirt and would get real tan from the blazing summer sun — so tan that I would strut (with my shirt on) in front of the girls on Saturday night in the town, though I was too bashful to ask them out.”

“With memories of the farm that tumble out as I write to you, how could we not buy the farm and how could we not fix you up?”

“Gramp said to my stepfather, ‘I’d like to see one of you own the farm after we’re gone.’

“That stuck with me, and I recalled it when my uncle decided to leave farming. So Anne and I bought the farm.”

“My mother and my aunt and also my stepfather will be really happy to see you, the house, fixed up. The renovation will give them something to focus on and gossip about. It will make them a center of some conversations about the “rich lawyer from Chicago” fixing up the house. I wonder if they’ll let on to people who don’t make the connection who the “rich lawyer” is.”

“I’d like to live there at least part of the time when I retire. It is quiet. It is so quiet you can hear the silence–something I rarely hear in the life I lead now.”

“I usually end my business letters by saying, “if you have any questions, please let me know.” That won’t work. You’ll have to trust us, I suppose, but at least you have some idea of what is going to happen and why.”

TKS Staff

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