Fun On the Farm
by Jerry Forthun - December, 1977
While the Forthun kids were growing up in Spring Valley we had a lot of contact with a farm couple, Phil and Lina Gasteyer. I think that Doc had met Phil and Lina through his chiropractic office, as Phil had various physical ailments through the years, including severe arthritis, and Doc provided treatments to both Phil and Lina for many years.
The Gasteyers were about a 2nd generation German-American family who had a small farm a few miles Northeast of Spring Valley, in Spring Lake Township. They had a dairy herd and a few work horses, some pigs and chickens, and of course their two dogs “Jiggs” and “Toodles”. Naturally, since it was a dairy farm, there were lots of cats around the barn as well as a few other animals, some of which we won’t talk about. Phil grew some corn and oats and hay, and had old tractors and other equipment all around the farm. Between all the animals and the farm equipment it was a very fun place for young kids - especially boys - to spend a few days enjoying so many different things than we saw living in town. The Gasteyers had no children and they were therefore glad to have us visit them and spend a few days living with them from time to time. Over the years they kind of unofficially adopted us as their own.
For as many years as I can remember, we always had Phil and Lina (who we called “Tire”) with us for Christmas Eve, New Years, and frequently for our birthdays. They always gave us gifts on Christmas and on birthdays, and it was as if they were part of our family. Lina so much believed that we were “family” that she remembered the Forthun kids in her will many years later.
I remember with fondness the times I stayed out on the farm with the Gasteyers. They didn’t have electricity so when it started getting dark the oil lamps came out and were lit. Actually, the Gasteyers didn’t stay up much past dark anyway. They went to bed early and were up by 5 AM or so to milk the cows. They also didn’t have indoor plumbing, so I was introduced to the fun task of emptying those neat things called “chamber pots”. Another thing which I witnessed a couple of times which was not thrilling, either to me or to the pig who was involved, was the castration or the butchering of said pig. It was incredibly loud!
Lina was a pretty good cook when it came to basic meat and potato type meals, and she also baked some pretty good pies and cakes in her old cast-iron wood-burning stove. I remember when the threshing crews came around to their farm during harvest time with perhaps 10 to 15 working men. They had those big threshing machines which were powered by a long belt attached to a tractor. The farm wives all got together and cooked enormous meals for the men to eat. The men worked hard and ate a lot. Obviously the women also worked very hard, and talked a lot while doing so.
When Phil and Lina (who Phil called “Leinie”, which, interestingly was what he called Leinenkugels beer, which he liked) would come to our house for a party they would bring a case of Leinenkugels and a quart of Mogan David wine. Needless to say, we always had a very good time! Phil did a lot of odd jobs for Doc around our place after they sold their farm and moved into Spring Valley, probably about 1953. I always knew when Phil was in the area because he was always lighting his pipe with those old kitchen matches. Was that tobacco called “Model” or something like that? That’s a faint memory that hasn’t been approached for about 50 years! Lina used to take one of us kids with her when she made her shopping trips to Menomonie, and we always managed to get an ice-cream cone along the way. Phil helped build the cages that we made for our pet monkey, Jack. There were many funny stories about Phil and Jack, as can be seen in my story “Monkey Business.”
The Gasteyers were very good people, kind of “the salt of the earth” sort of farm family who worked hard most of their lives and were kind to the people around them. They attended church at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Spring Lake. Phil died in 1963 and Lina passed away in October, 1973, at the age of 76. As I noted earlier, Phil and Lina were very close to our family, and it was as if they were part of our family. They helped provide a lot of fun and fond memories as we were growing up, and we are very grateful for the beautiful things they did for us throughout the years.