When I was seven, “Gag Ga” (Grandma) Howe passed away, and we moved up to the farm north of Ionia Michigan so it would not have to be sold.
It was 1942. Pearl Harbor was attacked the previous December, and the United States was at war. To a boy of seven, a move from “Big City Detroit” to my grandparent’s farm in the country in central Michigan, was like moving almost to heaven.
“One hundred sixty acres,” Mom said. The house, barn and buildings were on forty acres west of Michigan Highway 66 that ran north and south dividing the property. East of the highway was 120 acres of fields divided by a lane that stretched to distant trees.
For Daddy, moving back near Ionia was moving back to his “roots”. His parents, John and Gazella Hicks, lived on a farm south of Ionia, another quarter section of 160 acres on a dirt road past Tuttle cemetery. There was a stand of maple trees at the back.
Unlike our place which was no longer a working farm, Grampa John was still a subsistence farmer with cows and horses, geese and chickens roaming the yard, and huge hogs in a mud hole close to the house.
Our house was a big old, two-story farmhouse my grandfather Zala built at the turn of the twentieth century, finishing about 1903. Mom said that Grandpa had somehow used work horses to combine three houses to make the house. There were six bedrooms and a basement. Grampa and Grampa Hicks’ house was one bedroom upstairs, and a “great room”, parlor and bedroom downstairs. This is where Daddy grew up in his childhood.
Behind our house was a large shop building with a garage attached to one side. A tiny brick chicken coop housing a few chickens sat in the shade of a tall mulberry tree behind the garage. Daddy later built a big chicken coop connecting the back of the garage to the brick coop.
My other grandparents’ house was set way back from the road. There were several small sheds for storage and where the chickens retreated at night. A small barn housed the cattle and horses. I do not know why I never went to Grandpa John’s barn.
Daddy drove 4 miles to Ionia for his job at AC Spark Plug. Gasoline was rationed, but spark plugs were a critical wartime product, so Daddy had lots of gas coupons.
We did do some farm crops; wheat, oats, and hay put in the barn. But, the crops did not make much money. Daddy bought a tractor with a plow and a mowing attachment to cut hay. I was proud that Daddy let me drive the tractor, and actually plow the field west of the barn for a crop one year.