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The Farm

The Farm

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Published by John Brandt
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Published by: John Brandt on Apr 16, 2013
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04/16/2013

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This is from the “My Life in Vignettes” series No.

2A

The Farm 1955 Sometime in the late 1930’s my grandpa Pervus Brandt bought a 40 acre farm in Monee, Illinois. He had established his farm stand business with his brother Cornelius on 110th and Halsted Chicago. The farmhouse was a classic, white, with a big porch and red barns. It sits back from the highway so you take this big winding two track driveway. For my first recollections were: it seemed to be a thousand miles from our apartment in Chicago. In my mind it was a wild place. Chickens, ducks, sheep, horses, goats, geese and rabbits. You could shoot guns. I grew up with guns, guns were everywhere. WINTER: Snowed in, 1952. That was the best. The snow would be up to the windows. Grandpa and me at the dining room table playing Gin Rummy for hours. Watching the sunset across the table. No heat upstairs. By morning you could see your breath. The smell of coffee and cigarettes in the morning. Then bacon. This was for me a magical place to be. Grandma was dying from lung cancer. She was marooned on the couch. I would sit by her and play the record “Little Toot was Just a Tug,” and we would read the picture book. I wasn’t really aware of the gravity of the situation. She seemed normal except she had no strength and couldn’t eat. SPRING: 1952. A woman who wrote books had been writing to grandpa about coming and spending some time at the farm. She had met him at the stand and wanted to base one of the characters around him and the farm. Her name was Edna Ferber. The book she was writing is titled “So Big.” She would win a Pulitzer Prize for it and a film by the same would be made, based on the book. “So Big” would come out in 1953 starring Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden. Pervus was one of the characters. The story about a Dutch farmer, and the people who came and went in his life. SUMMER: 1955, Fourth of July. This was special. A picnic and fireworks at the farm. In 1955 you could order fireworks displays advertised in comic books. They would actually get mailed to your house. Those fireworks in 1955 were potent packages. We would spread them out and plan the show.

Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. All sitting on the lawn to watch the awesome display. My uncle Bob who is for years older than me was my pyro team mate. My grandmother’s sister and her husband were there. Irene and Joe. They look like Lucy and Ricky Arnez. Joe has that pencil line the mustache. There were always family rumors he was a spy, FBI agent, undercover detective, submarine captain retired, fighter pilot, and all around Beau Brummel. He had the Rudolph Valentino personality around women. He never spoke to me until this Fourth of July, 1955. “Where did these fireworks come from? Oh! Really. You got this stuff from a comic book? You two know how lethal these things can be? What are you going to do if the farm catches fire? How you gonna’ light this stuff? Do you have any idea how long it would take a fire truck to find this farm?” (I had experience with fire trucks before) Well, he was right, of course. Then after the Highballs started flowing it was: “Get this show rolling. We wanna’ see the rockets’ red glare. Bombs bursting in air.” There is a firework called a “Roman Candle.” It’s about three feet long, one inch diameter and shoots 25 flaming colored balls one at a time. The directions said: Do not hold in hand. Light fuse and get back. Well seldom did we read directions. This night out there on the farm there were just stars. It was black. So for the Roman Candles we decide to use a coffee can as a launch pad. That way we can be lightin’ other stuff. We don’t want anyone falling asleep. Blankets are spread out on the grass. “We want FIREWORKS.” Grandpa had several dogs on the farm. They were all playful and friendly. They watched us setting everything up. Smelling everything. Well we lit the first Roman Candle. Beautiful colored meteors shooting into the night sky. “OOOH AHHHH. More, more. Where’s my drink?” Just then, one of the dogs runs over and grabs the Roman Candle out of the coffee can and starts to run with it in his mouth. The first ball goes off about a foot over the FBI agents head and bounces off the side of the farm house and goes into the sheep pasture, setting a small grass fire. Then MAYHEM. Literally. The dog is then having fun chasing people while firing off flaming balls. Well as you can tell, it didn’t go well. But thankfully no one was injured or burned. Highballs do funny things to people. After it was over and there was a headcount, everybody started laughing. It was like the Grim Reaper showed up temporarily, then left.

The show resumed without incident. Even the sheep watched. John Brandt Copyright © 2011 John Brandt

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