Person talk:Herbert Greenley (1)

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Research Log [13 March 2011]

Herbert Thomas Greenley, my grandfather, was farming outside of Kiester, Minnesota, when his wife, Ann Wilkinson gave birth to their third child, Ann in 1919. His wife died shortly thereafter of complications from the birth and Herb, as he was commonly known, placed his three daughters in the care of his mother-in-law, Phylena Varker Wilkinson in Epworth, Iowa while he moved from the farmstead. He then lived on his brother's farm near Epworth, Iowa, living in an outbuilding and working as a laborer for his brother. He later moved to Independence and took a job at the local Hospital working as a janitor and maintenace man. He worked there a number of years, taking his eldest daughter, Zelda to live with him when she was about 15 years old. Ann, his youngest child, died within a year of her birth in 1920. Ivyl, his second daughter, remained living wtih her grandparents as Herb could not afford to care for both of his daughters. Zelda's role was to keep house for her father, help prepare meals and do the laundry chores.

In 1938, Herb married Nettie Simpson Rathbun, a widow who had several adult daughters from a former marriage. The couple moved to an 80 acre farm about two miles north of Fredricka, Iowa and lived there several years. Herb worked the farm using a team of 3 mules, raising cattle, chickens, pigs, and geese. The county road divided the farmstead into two parcels, each of 40 acres. One parcel on the west side of the road was bordered by the river that ran thru Fredricka and was used for pasture for the livestock and cropland for corn and oats. Some memorable times were spent watching the threshing crew of neighbors gathering the shocks of oats with mule and horse-drawn wagons and fork the shocks into a belt driven thresher and the big meals Nettie, with mother's help, would make for the crew.

His wife, Nettie enjoyed fishing along the banks of the river that abutted the property. As children visiting the farm, we enjoyed bringing in the cows for evening milking when they were pastured across the road. One of the cows could be ridden bareback and we grandchildren would ride it from time to time, often falling off learning that cows are not as easy to ride bareback as a horse as cows walk with their heads down and have no mane. Herb enjoyed working the land with his trio of mules hooked to the plow, planter, cultivator, hay mower and rake, claiming mules were better than horses. Later on, as his vigor deteriorated, he obtained a tractor and kept the mules for sentimental reasons. They were not reliable animals to be around inquisitive young children.

While living there, they took in and cared for the youngest of Zelda's children after Zelda died suddenly in 1947. Much later, Herb and Nettie adopted the child changing his surname to Greenley when his biological father could not care for him. When he became of age, he changed his name back to his original surname.

After failing health forced Herb to retire from active farming, they moved into the second story of a duplex in Fredricka and lived there a couple of years. While there, Herb took a job as a salesman for Watkins Products, going about the countryside selling the products to farmers in the area. About 1954, he moved his family into a two story house behind the main street of Independence, Iowa, to be closer to Nettie's family where they resided until his death in 1963. Herb took a part-time job as an usher in the downtown movie theater, his major task being to keep the kids quiet during the movie.

Herb owned a well-kept 2-door Chrylser Roadster Coupe and kept it garaged while farming outside of Fredrika and rarely drove it even when they moved to Independence. As a child, I recall a few rides in it when my father, who had a passion for cars, could persuade Herb to take it out for a drive. It had a rumble seat behind the cab that folded out to seat two people. I rode in the rumble seat once when it began to rain and got pretty wet by the time we got back to his garage at the farm in Fredrika. The auto was subsequently sold afer they moved to Independence.

Herb was a quiet and gentle man, a hard and willing worker who enjoyed farming. His temper flared occasionally, but quickly susided. He enjoyed sharing humorous stories about family and friends, gently laughing long before the punch line while telling them. He enjoyed drinking a cup of hot water when relaxing. He seemed not to invest much time in his grandchildren, but allowed us to 'explore' his farmstead at will, telling us to be careful of his mules and not spook the cattle. We often spent time swinging on ropes in the barn haymow or bothering a goose sitting on eggs and learned early on that geese can be quite aggressive in defending its or it's mate's nest. Our family was at the farm on the occasion of the dehorning of the cattle. We took home several still warm cattle horns of several inches in length, thinking to make decorative cowhorns from them. On another occasion, we kids watched the butchering of a steer in the farmyard. It was quite an education for young city kids as it was stunned, hung gambrel style from a tree, skinned and gutted, then quartered. The offal was diposed of in a neaby pasture for fox and coyotes. The farm was my first experience with a swarm of bees. They had swarmed in a lilac bush beside the windmill that supplied the house and farm water. Being about 7 years of age, I investigated and was stung about my head such that my face swelled up so that my eyes were nearly shut. A neighboring beekeeper removed the swarm later that day.

submitted by Ken Quass, grandson.