82 / 365 – Then and Now

RALPH NYGARD

Things are different now. It’s a lot harder to grow up than it was when we did. I’ve got my first great-grandkid on the way. I tell my grandchildren, just wait till those kids are teenagers. It’s going to be a lot harder than it was for you.

When we came back from the war, well, a lot of guys who came back didn’t come back here. We had seen so much in England, working out of the airfields there in Norfolk. It was flat like here, but near the sea. When we went into the city it was crowded, people walking the streets, buses, all these old stone buildings and cathedrals, everything was old. I think some people thought it looked like out of a fairy tale. I was just eighteen when I went over there, and I had never seen big cities like that. I had only been to Fargo once before I left, and Grand Forks maybe three or four times. I knew some guys who volunteered to stay on longer, fly cargo missions into Germany. A lot of the guys I had known who were from the Dakotas wanted to get out, go to the city. You had the GI bill if you wanted it. I even tried that for a year, went to school at the University in Grand Forks. But I always knew I wanted to farm. I had already lost four years to the war, I wanted to come home.

We didn’t have much, starting out. That’s how you did it in those days. My dad mortgaged his property to get us started, to help us get land. We lived in a trailer for a lot of years. Even after we built a house, we used to joke that you could easily fit it into the barns and sheds. That’s how you had to do it, to raise four kids, be able to send them on to college, help them get started if they want to farm. We finally have a nice house now, now that we’ve retired. You look at this, it’s the nicest place we’ve owned — the big kitchen, the dining room. Lots of room for grandchildren to play.

A lot of people are buying houses in Arizona, houses that they go to every few months for a visit. We never took any trips, much. Took the kids to Disneyland once, in California, and went to the beach. Took a trip to Washington another time. You ought to see the capitol, know how Uncle Sam works. Sometimes we would go to a cabin over in Minnesota on a lake — a place my dad bought around the time he was retiring, where he could go duck hunting and fishing. We’ve kept it, his children, and later, when the kids were almost out of the house, we’d go over there once or twice a year, spend a long weekend or a week. It’s just a few hours to the east, but the woods are thicker there. It’s not a resort or anything like that. Just a nice change.

Maybe we could have afforded to do more, but we had seen too many cycles. There was the droughts when I was growing up, when so many families went broke and had to leave. We had drought again in the 1970s. We’ve had ten good, wet years, and some people are making money again. But you hear of people around who aren’t. There are still farm sales going on. I think it’s harder now. People, young kids, expect to have things. You have to keep up with the Joneses. My grandson works the farm next door. He and his wife have two new cars, plus a truck. It seems like every month they’re gone off somewhere on a trip. We never had to do that because nobody else around here had anything either. It’s hard to save your money when no one else is doing that. But I’m pretty sure they’re not saving like we did. Things may be different now, but you know hard times are coming again. You just hope they’ll all be ready when they do.

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