The stories from his ancestors and the stories from his life seem to weave together like one continuous history. Charlie was able to travel to Europe a handful of times in his adult life and learn a bit about his ancestral roots. “See, you’d go from these countries and the dialect would change. You’d go across the border into Germany and all of the sudden, you’d get to this town and start talking to people and the dialect would be a little different. That was pretty much normal that they had so many different dialects.” There were a few places he remembers visiting in Europe where they would speak about 5 languages in the house. “There was a nice lady that was trying to help us out, who we met at this one place we were going to put in fuel and she told us to get it, but she meant forget it. She felt bad, but thats what would happen sometimes with the languages, they would get twisted up.”
There was a family in Waumandee, he told me, that came from Switzerland and they spoke the Baden dialect. The dad never learned english and in recent years, Charlie’s brother, who has a P.h.D. in German Literature, talked to this guy in the Baden dialect for a couple hours. There was only one word that they snarled up on after conversing for that time: organic vs. biological. “That was pretty good,” he reflected, implying that the language had preserved that well over the years.
During three summers, as a kid, he stayed with his grandma and he told me that “once in awhile, she’d get to talking on a certain thing they’d do you know and how they didn’t do. They’d have to go out and cut grass for the cows and things like that.” He clearly remembers her telling him about how she ate corn for the first time when she came here on the boat. As he was talking about the land that people bought and who moved onto what property, he mentioned how the government recognized the fact that they needed food at that time so anyone who was involved in producing it was not eligible for the draft. So he told me that the guys would buy a farm, or haul milk, or work in a food processing plant and that way, they could stay home.
His parents bought the farm he grew up on the year after he was born. Charlie told me that a few years before moving to that farm, his father sold four horses for $200 a piece and bought a tractor for $1000 so he had to put $200 to it, but they had a tractor and “OOO, that was something to behold.” When his dad bought his farm, the land was only 200 acres total, 120 tillable. At that time, that was a lot.”You see, 40 acres was okay with a two row planter and then I went along and got a 4 row planter and my dad thought I was crazy: ‘Why would you need such a big planter?’ Nowadays, 12 row planters are normal and they even have 24 and 36 row planters.”