Another Day in the Country
The bird nest connection
© Another Day in the Country
I woke up this morning thinking about some long-ago family friends with the last name of Hagelgantz.
Now that’s a name you don’t often hear and just can’t forget. A good German name, wonderful folks — I met them in the little Kansas town of Bazine almost 80 years ago. I was just a child, 7 years old at the time.
My father was a young minister, applying his zeal for life into being a pastor of a small church in that little Kansas town.
Dad had several congregations he was responsible for in the area, including one in Schaefer and one in Nekoma — both just wide spots in the road, as the saying goes.
Later, a church was built from scratch in Great Bend. They called him a district pastor, and this was his flock.
Those little towns, those congregations of believers, those people, became indelibly imprinted into the fabric of my childhood from the beginning of school until I became a teenager and we moved to Kansas City.
Every weekend, on Sabbath, I spent time with people in these little gatherings of believers. Three sermons in one day I had to sit through as my father tried to inspire his congregants at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m.
By the time I’d managed to sit through all these admonishments and a potluck (never my favorite occasion), I was exhausted. But, the day was still not over because Mom and Dad would have visitation of absent members yet to accomplish, and if I was a lucky preacher’s kid, I’d be allowed to stay in the car and read a book while they carried out these ministrations. That was a long last sentence. Believe me, it was an even longer day.
After my parents moved to Kansas City, they remained friends with the Hagelgantz family.
Most summers, Dad took vacation time during harvest. Early on, we’d come back to my grandparents’ place on the edge of Ramona and help them. Several summers, we went to the Hagelgantz farm near Bazine and visited Wes and Ruth.
It was a win-win vacation. Wes needed an extra hand; we always needed extra money.
Dad loved being involved in physical labor and he loved farming. It was a break for all of us from the rigors — from being the pastor’s family to just being with friends.
Wes and Ruth were fun to be around. They were always laughing.
Wes was a hard-working, innovative, kind man who could tell a story or a good clean joke with acumen.
Ruth was a wild woman in comparison to my proper mother, but when the two of them were together in the kitchen, they enjoyed each other’s company, and we enjoyed the food.
These were the times when my parents were real people and, for a brief week, I was free to play around with younger kids and not be the proper preacher’s daughter.
I loved these working vacations. Usually, they were around the Fourth of July. Wes was extravagant with buying fireworks.
It was my first introduction to firecrackers, complete with sparklers. My Dad was aghast at all the money going up in smoke. He could think of worthy church projects that could benefit from the funds, but he wouldn’t say a word.
We’d lie on blankets spread under the black Kansas sky with nary a yard light intruding and experience awe as Roman candles exploded over our heads. It was heaven.
At that time, Wes and Ruth had two little boys, Calvin and Bobby, and my job was to keep track of them while everyone else was busy in the kitchen or the field.
I always loved birds and was fascinated finding bird nests. Those little boys and I spent hours in the shelter belt. They loved climbing trees, and as long as they were in the branches, I could keep track of the two scalawags.
They loved finding bird nests for me, and back in the day there was no mind set, no regulations, no reason (to our way of reasoning) that these nests on their land, in their trees, were not fair game, and the boys would carefully bring them down to me, and I would ooh and ahhh at their prowess.
I collected nests. I still do. None of the ones I have now are from the Hagelgantz farm, but some of the nests in my collection are 30 or more years old.
Relax. Don’t call the Audubon Society. I no longer steal eggs from nests I put in my collection, but I still do have bird eggs.
For years, I had a Killdeer “nest” (really just a pile of rocks) that Uncle Hank showed to me.
The mother bird had built her nest right in the middle of the driveway to the Lutheran Cemetery east of Ramona, where Uncle Hank mowed.
Memorial Day weekend was coming up. That nest would have been trampled by traffic. I removed it carefully and told the bird to plan better next time. To my knowledge, she did.
Many years and a lifetime later, Bobby Hagelgantz, now gray-haired himself, came to Ramona to visit my dad, who was dying of heart failure.
Dad wasn’t sure he could stand having company. He wasn’t the preacher man any longer. Bob no longer was the rapscallion climbing trees. Wes and Ruth had died. Mom was still healing from a broken leg and in a wheelchair. I sat on the edge of a hospital bed in Jakie Brunner’s old house and held Dad’s hand as the stories were retold.
We laughed till we cried, on another day in the country.