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Memory of Trees

Memory of Trees: A Daughter’s Story of a Family Farm

Gayla Marty
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Memory of Trees
    Book Description:

    Memory of Trees is a multigenerational story of Gayla Marty’s family farm, cleared from woodlands by her great-grandfather Jacob in the 1880s, near Rush City, Minnesota. Movingly written, Memory of Trees will resonate for many with attachments to small towns or farms, whether they continue to work the land or, like so many, have left for a different life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7379-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PROLOGUE: As the Leaves Fell
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    The first of October is breezy, clouds scudding across the landscape southwest to northeast, broken by shafts of penetrating sun. The shadow of Gaylonʹs hat is deep in a stream of afternoon light as he drives a tractor in from the field, pulling two loaded box-wagons of chopped corn, the smell of wet greenness trailing behind. He sees the land now from the vantage point of Clydeʹs farmstead. Down the hill slightly to the east sits Jacob and Samʹs fading red barn—his own fading red barn—now full of Clydeʹs hay. The burning colors of hardwoods and deep evergreens...


    • 1 Light
      (pp. 3-17)

      North, east, south, west. North is the barn, east are the fields, south is our road, west is Grammaʹs house.

      The barn is red with a dark green roof and three cupolas on top.

      The fields are green, brown, and yellow, different shades and textures, beginning in the spring with earth, which is light brown where it is sandy, dark brown in the low flat places, almost black when it is wet.

      The road is brown and straight and flat, except at the east end where it rises up to the railroad tracks and highway.

      Grammaʹs house is white with...

    • 2 Things of the Spirit
      (pp. 18-39)

      The smell of smoke is carried on the warmest drafts of air through the dark shelves of the general store—shelves of flour, coffee, beans, ribbon, soap, brown paper, jugs of yellow cider, bolts of twine. The scales are still, the movement of air too subtle to detect. Currents of November cold pass through narrow spaces under the doors and around the windowpanes. It is a Christian store, no tobacco, no fermented beverages, and the dance hall upstairs has been converted into homes for the storekeeperʹs family—nine children from ten months to fifteen years—and three smaller families. All...

    • 3 Two Barns
      (pp. 40-56)

      The log barn is the oldest thing on our farm. Itʹs so much smaller than the big barn, right next to it, that it seems more like a shed. Its roof is like the snow-covered wings of a giant bird spreading over the sheds attached to its sides, machinery under the north wing, straw under the south. In the mow under the peak is hay. The heifers, whose names I donʹt know, stay in the log barn for the winter, snug inside all that hay.

      From the south door of the log barn, Uncle Gaylon pitches straw bales and I...

    • 4 The Word
      (pp. 57-81)

      As we drive to Sunday school at East Rock Creek, everything white is bright in the morning light on the brown fields: white patches on black and white cows, white bundles of the Hendricksonsʹ woolly sheep, white rectangle of our church. In the gardens, only asters and mums with their tough stems remain, leaves falling around them. Inside the church on the communion table, Grammaʹs sister Effie arranges a cornucopia, a wicker horn with corn and gourds spreading across a red and yellow cloth, a handful of oat stalks, two dark-orange pumpkins.

      Our church will close. Itʹs too small, not...

    • 5 Houses
      (pp. 82-116)

      Mama remembers the first time she saw the Marty farm. She and Auntie Lou were in grade school, riding the school bus down a road that was new on the route that September. Mama sat with her shoulder pressed to the window and watched for farms across the flat fields, as the bus slowed and stopped for children. Her green eyes surveyed the lines and color of each house, barn, and shed, the borders of the grassy yards and gravel driveways, the kinds of trees and the freshness of paint, the names on the mailboxes.

      Our farm took her breath...


    • 6 Husbands and Wives
      (pp. 119-154)

      Mama was at war with manure. Her continual dread was that one of us would carry the smell with us off the farm. Barn work, even walking into the barn, made us smell like manure and had to be followed by washing. Mama stopped going to the barn for fear that the smell would cling to her hair, which she had styled into a beehive once a week in town.

      Enemy number two was mud. Every spring, Mama swore she would get a sidewalk from the driveway to the door, and she lamented that our driveway was gravel instead of...

    • 7 Memory of Trees
      (pp. 155-179)

      The Mississippi River curls out of Minnesota north woods and bogs, heading southeast. The St. Croix River gathers off a Wisconsin watershed and heads southwest. One hundred fifty miles south they meet. In the triangle of farms and woods between the two rivers, the Marty farm lies near the eastern edge, a few miles from the St. Croix. The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul sit on the western edge, farther south. From the farm, heading down sixty miles and bearing west on the interstate highway, the lakey, glacier-scarred land comes to a jagged edge in towns called Columbia...

    • 8 The Way Out
      (pp. 180-209)

      Elm trees were dying everywhere. The first sign was a yellow patch like a flag in the canopy, then a browning of leaves by midsummer, the cascades of almond-shaped, jagged-edged leaves tarnished. The next spring, the leaves never came out. The tree seemed to remain in a state of prolonged spring, as if the buds had frozen, and then the tree dropped them to the earth. The tenderest branches became brittle. Swaying through the summer and the next turn of seasons, the graceful fingers of the tree fell away.

      In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the city councils were aggressive. Foresters...

    • 9 Wake
      (pp. 210-223)

      There was a hard freeze on September 19, and then Indian summer. Uncle Gaylon was working on Clydeʹs corn harvest when the box-wagon of corn crushed him against the tractor tire on October 1. In an earlier time, he wouldnʹt have lived for a day, but in 1991 his trauma stretched into days and then weeks.

      As the moon waxed and rose full at early nightfall, straight east from Uncle Gaylonʹs hospital room window, his lungs became infected and his heart began to fail. His kidneys and liver reached their limits and his skin turned yellow with jaundice. As his...

  6. EPILOGUE: What Remains
    (pp. 224-232)

    Our auction was held in the spring, a week after Uncle came home. The auction bill was printed in green ink on cream-colored legal-sized paper.

    Having sold our farm we are selling our farm equipment at a public auction located: 3 miles north of Rush City, Minnesota, on State Hwy. 361, then ¾ mile west on Chisago County Road 52 (540th Street). Watch for auction arrows.

    Note: Be on time because there is very little miscellaneous items to sell. Saturday, April 4, 1992, Sale starting at 11:00 A.M. Lunch sold by Rock Creek Ramblers 4H Club. Marty Brothers Farm, Owners....

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 233-234)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 235-236)
  9. Publication History
    (pp. 237-239)