This Christmas, like every other, I traveled to northern Wisconsin to stay with my parents on the dairy farm I grew up on.
As usual I took the opportunity to help my dad and younger brother with barn chores and milk cows. The cows need to be milked twice a day, every day, roughly around 4AM and 4PM. I didn’t help out every shift but I worked more than enough to once again be humbled about the life I left behind and recalibrate my nostalgia.
Speaking of which, I never had the work ethic to be a farmer. Ever since I was little and playing video games on our NES, I was enamored by electronics. By the time our family got a personal computer and dial-up internet for Christmas in 1997,1 when I was 11, I was completely and hopelessly sucked in. There followed many evenings where my dad would come flying in to the house to yell at me for being late for chores when I lost track of time on “that damn computer.”2 😅
Thankfully for all involved, my younger brother Noah inherited my dad’s insane work ethic and love of farming and took up the farm’s reins (he also picked up my slack when we were younger - thanks Brother). He loves the work and excels at it.
I instead went to college and became a computer programmer, and haven’t lived in my hometown since.
I also have two older brothers; neither of them got the farming gene either. My eldest brother Jerry3 lives near Madison and also works in the software field. My second-eldest brother John lives near my folks and helps out quite often, but he also does other work and has other obligations, so most of the daily farming work falls on my youngest brother Noah and my dad, who is now into his seventies.
Sadly this year I found out that it will have been my final Christmas coming home and milking cows, because they’ll be selling off the cows over the coming spring and fall.
The computer was a Gateway 2000 with a Pentium II 233MHz CPU and 32MB RAM. My parents splurged on a gaming add-on that added a Microsoft SideWinder joystick and a few games (including Interstate ‘76, which may even be what pulled me toward computer programming, which introduced me to hex editing vehicle definition files in order to “hack” the game).
I have to give props to my parents for going out of their way to make Christmas special every year. I’d share a sentimental pic but most of our home pictures and videos were destroyed in a house fire when I was in college. ↩
I got good at spotting my dad walking the path between the barn and our house, and waiting until he was just kicking open the back door before I’d sprint out the front door. 😗 ↩
Not to leave brother Jerry out of the pics, 🤭 here he is with his nieces and nephews