Back in the 'ol days...
Carl Trager and Phil Skolte have many good years behind them as members of the England Prairie Pioneer Club. Trager is a past president, Skolte is a past king.
For the two old friends and the rest of the EPPC, the past is what it is all about.
As they sat on orange chairs Friday afternoon along the parade avenue, other club members were setting up for the 38th annual England Prairie Day show. The two men were in a beehive of activity. Club members passed to and fro, occasionally asking questions and sometimes just visiting.
"They are good people," Skolte said.
England Prairie Days celebrates the rural life in many ways - food, tractor pulls, lawn mower pulls, antique tractors, gas engines and machinery and a petting zoo.
When guests step onto the England Prairie grounds they walk into a past that includes a museum, barber shop, blacksmith shop, print shop, general store, grist mill, a telephone and telegraph depot, a saw mill and the old Deep Rock gasoline station which was moved up from Hewitt.
One of the prize exhibits is the Christmas House, a former chicken coop that now has wall-to-wall carpeting and each year is filled with dishes, cups and other holiday mementos of years long past.
Jokes and laughter were Friday's offerings from Trager and Skolte. Having seen so much of life they shared a realization that a man has to have fun when he is young.
Trager told an Ole and Lena joke and Skolte tried to steal a dessert from a fellow club member who was trying to sit next to him. They both recalled the advantages of farm living along with some of the pitfalls. Trager could remember having afternoon lunch before having to go out to do evening chores. Skolte, who was born on a farm south of Rose Creek, a little town on the Minnesota-Iowa border, mentioned the times when he walked to and from school and often returned home in the winter months with frozen hands and frozen feet.
"What you really enjoyed was when company came and you got to see something besides the back end of a cow," Trager laughed.
While Trager only lived on a farm near Staples for five years, Skolte got ahold of his own farm and did not retire until 1978.
He recalled that in 1959 after a poor crop year he had to find work in a factory in the Twin Cities to get back on his feet. The Minnesota farmer found himself making potato chips for a company called Old Dutch while running his farm at the same time.
"I must not have got back on my feet because I was there for 30 years," he laughed.
Trager found a place for himself in the Twin Cities working in the printing ink business. He kicked around with four different companies before returning to the Staples area. Joining the club was right down his alley.
"I like to tinker on things," he smiled.
Trager has put 76 summers behind him and Skolte has logged 87. They know that most of their 100 members are older folks like themselves. They take heart in the fact that new several new members come along each year.
"We are much better off than some of the clubs, we don't have any debt," Trager said. "I don't know how much more we're going to grow. I think we've pretty much leveled off."
The three-day show, which is held each year three miles west of Verndale on County Road 1, has been drawing 200-300 guests each year.