On the Farm: Last Week, Yesterday, and Next Year

The little girl squealed in glee as a kitten hopped toward her. Ducking behind a haybale, she pretended to be surprised when found by her little friend. Sally, age 5, loved playing with the baby kittens up in the hayloft on the farm. The mama cats would put their kittens up there to keep away from the farm dog who might disturb the cuties. A hayloft had holes in the floor so that the hay could be tossed up into the hayloft for storage, or tossed back down when needed. Full of bales of hay, the hayloft was perfect for playing and having all sorts of adventures. As she was playing that day, Sally suddenly tumbled down one of the holes! Eyes squeezed shut, Sally landed in a soft bed of hay. Opening her eyes, she looked into the eyes of a cow, whose slobber she watched slowly fall onto her forehead.

“You okay?” her dad asked softly.

“Yes,” Sally answered slowly, still watching the cow above her face.

“Don’t tell mom,” said her dad, as he again continued the chores he had been doing.

Sally Hibma grew up on a farm near Rushmore, MN. In the 1950s, each farm was an entity. That means that all the farms had crops, milk cows, and farrowing hogs. The oldest of four, Sally’s first job was to help “slop” the hogs. At age eight, she would drive a tractor to bring the food out to the hogs in the field. After pouring the yeasty-smelling “slop” for the pigs, she would go and come back with water. By the age of ten, she was rotary hoeing fields and raking hay when it was time to bale.

“I loved growing up on a farm,” she said. “There is a difference between kids that do and ones that don’t. Most have a certain discipline about them.”

Her father, J. Marion Lester, rented about 200 acres. His wife, Iris, had a huge garden, as did most farm wives. Nobody owned a thresher (or a combine) themselves. As a group, neighbors would go from field to field, harvesting as a team.

Sally never wanted to marry a farmer, although her sisters would have gladly. When Gary Hibma proposed, he asked her if she would be okay being a farm wife. She said she would, “but I don’t do chickens.” She also never liked gardening, so she did not include that in her job description as she and Gary raised a family and farmed. By the 1970s, there were fewer farmers, but they all had more land. Gary farmed about 1,000 acres and contract raised about 3,000 hogs. Sally stayed at home with her children Jim, Vicki, and David, until only one was not going to school yet. She would then take little David to ride in the tractor with her during the day. With his toys and a lunch packed, he would take turns playing and sleeping to the lull of the tractor.

When all the kids were in school, Gary once had Sally ride in the combine with him. He explained that he would get out, and she would drive to the end of the row. He would help her from there. All of a sudden, Sally realized she was already at the end of the row! Looking for her husband, she saw Gary outside the combine, waving at her! Even with the rocky start, she ran the combine from there on out. She never listened to the radio when she was in the combine. She listened to everything in the machine, knowing exactly what everything was supposed to sound like. One day, she was riding along, when suddenly, she heard a “CLUNK.” Not knowing what the sound was, she immediately stopped and shut everything down. Using the CBC radios that farmers used, she got ahold of Gary and waited to be rescued. When Gary came, he found that the sound his wife had heard was the last bolt coming out of the tire. The combine was balancing on the unattached tire!

“That’s Gary’s favorite story,” she shared. “Had anyone else been driving, listening to the radio, who knows what kind of damage would have been done! It was definitely a God thing.”

When their second child, Vicki, got older, she would ask mom what was for supper. Sally would tell her what to make and how to make it. Once a family friend laughed and told Sally that he now knew all of the family recipes and how to make them. If your CBC radio was on the same channel as a neighbor’s, you heard them, too.

As their kids grew up and went to live lives of their own, the Hibmas still farmed. It was David who wanted to farm of their three. He started farming with Gary, who had started farming with his own father. Most recently, David’s son, Lance, is the one who wants to take over the farm next. Gary and Sally now live on Cherrywood Lane in Worthington. It was Lance who bought the house when the couple moved. A few more years of Lance farming the land, and it will turn into a Century Farm.

What was once hogs is now calves. Gary still visits the farm abour once a week.

“You know, my earliest memory of the farm was my dad selling the work horses,” said Sally. “Nowadays, tractors don’t even have all the levers like they used to. They all have buttons and computers—autosteer,” she laughed. “If farming can change that much in 70 years, what will it be like in the next?”


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