This blog supports the 'American Barn Stories and Other Tales From the Heartlands' TV series which is seen on PBS stations across the country. Watch for it in your area and if you don't see it on your local PBS station schedule, CALL THEM AND ASK FOR IT -- they'll know what to do!
Thursday, December 26, 2013
A Wisconsin Country Church Christmas
Art the Farmer has told me about the Heart Prairie Lutheran Church in the past and on Christmas Eve this year we made it to the 3pm service -- and it was very special and good, and also very cold.
This country church was built overlooking Whitewater Lake in southeastern Wisconsin in the 1840's by Norwegian immigrants and to this day it still has no electricity and no heat of any kind (hardy people, them Norwegians).
And yet there we were, close to one hundred people, gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus as the Sun was getting low and the oil lamps burned and we're all standing in this structure built one hundred and seventy years ago by people buried in the graveyards outside, surrounding the church.
Wow -- one of those rare moments that connect you to many things and thoughts in your heart, mind and soul.
It has been very cold and snowy in the area lately and it was really something to see everyone's breath as we spoke the verses and sang the songs. Upon exiting after the service Art noted how cold the Church was and said he was surprised because he always thought Norwegians ran a little bit hotter, and the people around him got a chuckle out of it.
Yes, the organ works and was being played throughout the service
Arthur rotates his churches in the warm months between the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Baptist churches in his area. But once the cows are in the barn it's much harder for him to get away so his Sunday church visits are put on hold for the Winter.
He didn't figure on being able to make it to Christmas church this year and was feeling pretty down about it, but then the idea of picking him up and taking him to the Heart Prairie Church came up. We were able to make the trip happen and it made for a very special Christmas celebration on many levels, and it is especially fun to bring a glimpse of this old time country church to all of you through the blog.
With full-on Winter here now Art's workload shifts and things get harder as the cows are in the barn for the Winter and need tending. Added to the mix is running the barn cleaner every week to move all the manure from behind the cows to the manure spreader waiting outside, which is hooked up to the spreader tractor, the 1951 Farmall M. Then Art has to mount up, start the tractor and haul the manure out onto one of the fields and spread it. Pics on those moments sometime later, it's quite a dance, and I will keep everyone posted overall on him as the Winter progresses -- fingers crossed for him as another cold, hard season plays out.
All for now -- hope everyone's Christmas and New Year's celebrations are the absolute best!
(And people are still having trouble Subscribing by email so that's being looked into -- stay tuned)
Check out this one-minute look at some modern tractors working it click here->Tandem Tractors
And then find a look at some old time steam machines working it further down -- wow -- how far we've come! The Story
As a kid growing up on the south side of Chicago back in the 1960's I remember being predisposed, for whatever reason, to making fun of farmers as being dopey and slow.
I don't know where it ever came from because I didn't know any farmers then, probably because I was only ten years old, but I do remember the mind set existing with me. And all I can say about it is that I was a dopey kid from the city that didn't know nuthin' about nuthin' from nuthin', and I'm trying to do better now as a grown up.
Although there is some hazy memory of being at a farm southwest of the Chicago city limits where we would occasionally visit as a family for some reason and one thing I do remember is that, on one visit, a couple of farm kids told me that I absolutely had to pee in a particular spot and I did, up to the point that the electric fence taught me to be more careful about all of that in the future, and to this day, I am.
Maybe that's where my young, uninformed predisposition against farmers came from, but no matter.
Fast forward to now and boy, how things have changed for farming and all of us.
Farmers have become some of the most technologically advanced professionals in our society. Witness the tractors in the clip above, a couple of John Deere 9220's working a field in Wisconsin getting it ready for Spring planting.
Then here's some footage from the Rock River Thresheree held every Labor Day weekend in Edgerton, Wisconsin, where steam powered machinery makes it happen and gives us a glimpse into the ways of how land was worked in the 1800's and early 1900's prior to gas and diesel engines.
But luckily, Tom E. Laughlin, (ME) is still very much alive and happening!
While knocking around online this week I saw notice that Tom Laughlin, the Hollywood Actor, Producer, Writer and star of the'Billy Jack' series of films back in the 1970's, died a few days ago at the age of 82 in Thousand Oaks, California.
You may have seen the blog post from October 30th where I'm talking about the challenge of using my own name on the PBS air in the old barns shows, in the blog etc.when a Hollywood entity, Tom Laughlin, already owns it.
So now what to do? Well, it's pretty easy, actually.
While the man himself is dead and gone, the legacy, legality and ownership of his intellectual property rights will go on, and they will be owned and protected by the owners of the 'Tom Laughlin' brand, which is probably/mainly his wife of over 60 years, Delores Taylor, who starred alongside him in the 'Billy Jack' films. Plus he has a few children.
Luckily, not a big deal for me as the 'Tom E. Laughlin' brand is OK with me. Won't re-hash all of that since it's in the original post, but it is a bit of a passage for me as I remember being in high school in the early 70's on the south side of Chicago and having a newspaper clipping of a 'Billy Jack' movie ad in my wallet.
And now the 'Billy Jack' Tom Laughlin is gone forever and itis an era passing and fading with time for me and others from those days.
Hey, whatcha' gonna do? We move on and keep going, with those memories and any learning points from them riding along with us as we continue.
Rest in peace, Billy Jack and Tom Laughlin. You came in and kicked ass for what was right and didn't even bother taking names for later. You fought the good fight and made a difference forever.
Here's some copy on it from an article in, 'The Wrap'
The iconoclastic actor’s 1971 vigilante film “Billy Jack,” over which he sued Warner Bros., became a cultural lightning rod.
Filmmaker Tom Laughlin, who shot to fame as the rugged
half-breed action hero “Billy Jack,” died Thursday in Thousand Oaks,
Calif., surrounded by his family. He was 82 years old.
While involved at one point with just about every facet of the film
business, Laughlin may be best known for his series of “Billy Jack”
films. He has been married to Delores Taylor since 1954, and she
co-produced and acted in all four of the “Billy Jack” movies.
In addition to acting, he was a producer, director and screenwriter,
and drew attention for a groundbreaking promotion and release campaign
on 1974′s “The Trial of Billy Jack” that included TV trailers during
national news and an “opening day” nationwide release that helped shape
the future of film distribution. In 1967, Laughlin wrote, directed (as T. C. Frank) and starred in the
motorcycle-gang exploitation movie “The Born Losers,” the first film in
which the character of Billy Jack appeared.
In 1971, he followed that up with a sequel, “Billy Jack,” which he
made independently and with his own money. The numerous political
references — and frontal nudity — caused several studios to shy away,
but Warner Bros. finally agreed to distribute it. Laughlin, upset with
the studio’s marketing of the film, sued to get it back, won and
re-released it himself.
That re-release brought attention, box-office success and
controversy. In it, Laughlin played the title character, a vigilante
former Vietnam War hero who defends the hippie-themed Freedom School and
its counterculture and Native American students. “‘Billy Jack’ seems to be saying that a gun is better than a
constitution in the enforcement of justice. Is democracy totally
obsolete, then? Is our only hope that the good fascists defeat the bad
fascists?’” said Roger Ebert in his review. ”Billy Jack” was also one of
the first films to introduce martial arts to mainstream movie audiences
in the U.S. “The youth of this country have only two heroes Ralph Nader and Billy
Jack,” Laughlin said after the movie became a hit, particularly with
Laughlin’s first directing gig was “The Proper Time” in 1957,
followed by “The Young Sinner” in 1960, which marked the first time that
he wrote, directed and starred in a film.
Laughlin was in many ways a maverick. In the early 1960s, he
temporarily left his film career behind to start a Montessori preschool
in Santa Monica that became the largest school of its kind in the United
In recent years, Laughlin became involved in psychology and domestic
abuse counseling, writing several books on Jungian psychology and
developing theories on the causes of cancer.
He ran for President of the
United States in 1992, 2004, and 2008.
His early career as an actor found him parts in feature films
including “Tea and Sympathy” and “South Pacific” along with the original
“Gidget.” His first starring role was in Robert Altman’s 1957 film,
Laughlin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Delores, his children
Frank, Teresa and Christina, his five grandchildren, and his sister
Joan. Plans for a memorial service are in the works.
A service to celebrate his life is being planned and will be held sometime in early January.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations go to
Alzheimer’s Research: www.alz.org or to the Pine Ridge Indian
The push to get the newest old barns programout there continues and the list below has a few updates to it from what appeared in an earlier post.
It takes lots of time to make it happen as I'm contacting the PBS markets individually, as the Producer, and have all of the resulting phone call/email contact and follow-up challenges that go along with that -- getting people on the phone, pitching, calling them back, leaving voice mails,getting the Master to them if they want it etc.
Along the way someone said, " Hey, isn't there an easier, more centralized way to do that -- like with a distributor or something like that?". The answer is yes, of course there is. But the distributor who carried the first two programs back in '06/'07 took a pass on this latest program, deeming it to be more regional than national in scope.
I respectfully disagree so,as the Producer, that leaves me an option of offering the program to individual PBS markets myself, one at a time; they call it 'bicycling' the Master for the show around the country to those PBS markets wanting it, and it's not hard to imagine the kind of time it takes to make that happen.
I've been at it for months now and am happy to be approaching the threshold of twenty markets gained, which is a good number in PBS land. With more follow ups this week that magic number could quite likely be attained, and maybe passed.
And an added bonus along the way is the fact that I am getting to know the Programmers through the phone conversations we're having, and that is a very good thing for related future purposes. I've had some really nice conversations with some really nice PBS Programmers across the country so far, with many more to come and I really enjoy that part of the process.
Here's the list
PBS Markets penetrated so far
Nineteen national PBS markets gained with another eleven markets viewing screeners for consideration of air.
HDCam Closed-Captioned Master recorded for air:
Chicago WYCC Channel 20
Milwaukee WMVS/WMVT Channels 10 & 36
Minneapolis Twin Cities Public Television/TPT
WILL-TV Illinois Public Broadcasting Urbana, Illinois
WTVP-TV Public Media for Central Illinois Peoria, Illinois
PBS Stations Viewing Screeners for Consideration of Air:
WETA Washington DC
New Orleans PBS WLAE/WYES
KLRU Austin, Texas
New Hampshire PBS
Through the production of the series, as mentioned in an earlier post, I've become very acquainted with the fight by many people to gain food freedom rights on many levels, most notably raw milk.
Here's a pic of me and Art the Farmer at the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin USA back in July as we attended a Senate Hearing on SB236, which would provide for and allow the sale of some raw milk from family farms. We are in the office of Senator Glenn Grothman, who sponsored the Bill.
The Bill is currently working its way through process and stands a good chance of passing, but it's not perfect and there are still critics of it.
If it happens, smaller farmers like Arthur would have a revenue stream open up to them that could be the difference between surviving or not.
In Art's case it would take more than just the passage of the Bill for it to work for him as he would then have to start milking again and, in itself, that is a huge challenge for him to take on and at the moment really not possible.
So in the meantime he continues to participate in the fight for raw milk because he considers it such an important issue for smaller farms and farmers.
As updates become available on it they'll be passed along here -- stay tuned -- and read below for more on the current raw milk case from out East.
Arthur at the registration area
Arthur in front of the East Wing entrance of the Capitol
We're waiting for an update on the story from Foxborough, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots, where the local town government is trying hard to crush and eliminate an established family dairy farm. Details can be found at this link Raw Milk Foxborough fightand once you're at the site there ismuch more good, related information on it all that many of you might find interesting.
It seems absurd that we can't just eat what we want without having to worry about government intervention.
Someone noted that in Russia they can eat what they want but they can't say what they want. And in America we can say what we want, but we can't eat what we want.
What a World.
Art the Farmer
With the cows in the barn Arthur now faces the daily tasks and burdens of tending to them.
Daily feedings, keeping their drinking cups working in the freezing weather, running the barn cleaner to move the manure out the end of the barn up into the manure spreader and then climbing up onto and firing up the 1951 Farmall M tractor to haul and throw the manure out on a pasture every few days in all weather conditions etc. etc.
Wow -- what a load.
He does have a pretty good handle on it overall, with a full enough hay mow up above and the ethanol plant nearby where he can buy dried distillers grain to help add protein to the cows' diet, but as things have to get done he's the man and it's wearing on him in his mid-70's.
Some people say he should just sell the farm, hang it up and be done with it, but he has a dream of the place becoming a producing dairy again.
And it could -- he just needs some help and inputs in terms of dollars and people power.
Plus, what else would he do?
He's not one to just sit and watch the days go by.
And boy, he sure does know his stuff. He's a very smart man with a degree in Ag Science from Penn State back in 1957 with years in the ag and farming industries since then -- and the ability to fix and repair just about anything, as any farmer needs to be able to do.
So I'll keep you in touch with him and his farm through this Winter season; please send your positive thoughts his way.
I've told him for a long time that I think people 'out there' will be interested to see his farm and learn a little bit about him and his situation through the internet towards whatever end.
So anticipate his story continuing to come to you over time -- energy out brings energy back, let's see what it might bring to him. One of the missions of this blog and outreach is to find some help and support for him somehow, somewhere.
Amongst the few, he's one of the traditional dairy farmers left standing and he symbolizes a lot of where we're all from, city or country, and I truly think his old-timer story is one that deserves and needs to be told.
And in the meantime, he's a TV show in himself. Let's see if I can get closer to making that happen -- stay tuned for that.