The Seamstress and the Salesman with Margaret and Clayton Engel (2004)

Printer and Book Design: Virginia Woodruff, Editing: Jenifer Servais

In 2004, Karen Gorman of Oronoco asked me to write a book about her parents, Margaret and Clayton Engel. In May I met Mr. and Mrs. Engel at Karen's lakeside home. ("Please call us Clayt and Marge," they requested of me.) We talked about each of their parents and grandparents, their childhoods, holidays, school times, friends, and family times. We also talked about their meeting and marrying, the World War II years, and their children. We met three subsequent times, and from the four conversations, I obtained much of the material for this book.

Clayt and Marge were extremely respectful of one another as they took turns sharing their memories. When it came time for corrections, which is often the case when a couple recalls the past, they did so gently. Said Marge, "I think, Honey, it was in September - not October - when I came down to Texas for our wedding." Replied Clayt softly, "I think you're right."

What impressed me most about our time together was hearing how much their family and friends have meant to them throughout their lives, and observing how much they truly cared for one another.

Clayt and Marge are of the generation that survived the Great Depression and were "rewarded" for doing so by being sent overseas to war, leaving families (and in Clayt's case, an expectant spouse) behind. When the war ended, many came home strangers - to their loved ones and themselves, and families began the task of starting over. We owe much to Clayt and Marge and all others of their era. I hope that writing about their lives reminds future generations of the sacrifices they made.

As Karen wrote in the foreword to the book, "Mom and Dad felt that they were just average people, but they were much above average to their family and friends. This book captures their love story in their own words, through favorite photos, and with tributes from family members and friends."


Times on the Farm

I led a dual life. My parents lived in the town of Kenyon where I was born, so I spent time in town. But I spent an awful lot of time on my Grandpa and Grandma Overby's farm, three and a half miles south of Kenyon. Since I was their first grandchild, I could do no wrong, so I was welcomed to spend much time on the farm. I got to participate in most of the fieldwork. I even ran the two-horse corn cultivator when I was 12 years old. When I was about 10, my uncle and his wife had a little boy. When thrashing time came, I was all set to have the job of tending the grain box. But my aunt said to my uncle, "No, he has to take care of this baby." I felt that I really had been demoted. I'm not sure if I ever told my cousin that.

My uncle bought an F-30 Farm-all. They had a 10-20 before that. They were going to cut grain, and they pulled the binder with the tractor. They had to have a man sitting on the binder to run the bundle carrier. I couldn't run the tractor, so my uncle took the clutch petal off, took it to town, and had an extension welded onto it so that I could reach it.

One noon I rode along with my grandpa when he took lunch to my uncle, who was working in the field. Grandpa never really mastered the art of driving. After we delivered lunch, my uncle, who had heard us coming, asked, "Clayton, can you drive?" I was probably 12 at the time. I said, "Yeah." My uncle said, "OK, then you drive back." Grandpa had made the entire trip in first gear.