This collage has so many of my favorite photos from the book of Louis Rust's journey. People born near the turn of the 20th century saw a lot of pain caused by the circumstances of the times...war, disease, death and economic collapse. But on the small farm, things were much more bearable.
Food was not as scarce and a family had more control over their lives. It was their land to manage, their own animals to birth and take care of, their own trees and produce to supplement their commercial harvests, and their choice to help their neighbors in times of need. A noble life!
Above: This is how the old Rust farm in Sibley, Illinois looks now. We visit every year, even though it belongs to a nice young man now. It was originally owned by the Hiram Sibley Estate. Sibley also started the Western Union Telegraph Company in the 1800's. He required all the houses painted yellow and the barns red. The renters paid their rent in corn from their harvests.
Louis managed all the hybrid seed corn for the 22,000 acres of the estate. Each farmer rented their land, a house, a barn, and some other essential buildings. They would share a lot of equipment and labor, and even shared bulls!
The farmers on the Sibley Estate had a wide variety of animals compared to now. They would have had a team of horses, chickens, cows, some sheep and pigs. Their crops were a bit more diversified than now. They would throw things in like oats and clover, fruit trees and made sure they did contour farming.
Above: This is one of my favorite photos of Louis. He is flying off to Germany to interview displaced persons in 1951. The State Department asked him to interview families to see if they could do well on farms in America. The immigrants would be sponsored by a family until they could get on their own feet. He earned more in 3 months doing this, than a farmer earned in a year.
Above: I love this photo of Ruth and Loretta Rust in front of the Rust farm truck. Dan's father, Mervyn, married Myra in 1950, and she is sitting in the truck. Mervyn and Louis were in business together on the new farm in Paxton. 1950-1951 was a busy time for them... Mervyn got married, went to serve in Korea, and Louis served the state department in the spring of 1951.
Above: Pitching hay in Sibley, Illinois...Louis is on the right, circa 1912.
Julius, his foster parent, is in the window of the barn. This is a messy job. Dan's least favorite job on the farm.
He was visiting the Julius Wisthuff farm in Sibley with a crew and two Jackson cars, around 1912. They look like they are about to race. Where they were going and why---I could never figure out.
Below: This is a picture I took before I was married in 1986. It is a picture of Louis's son, Mervyn. Pigs were in open pens around the farm running around in the sunshine. I never felt sorry for those pigs, until they were sent away.
Somehow back then, a couple-hundred acres of corn and soybeans, and some pigs were enough to have a good life. Maybe with this pandemic, we can see the value of the family farm, and the community it builds. That is a hope I had while making this book.
I published 300 copies in November of 2019. They are still available for $30.
I am proud to have his book in the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and various museums, libraries and universities throughout Illinois. His hometown of Lehrte in Germany has 10 copies as well.
But most importantly, Louis's daughter, Ruth Rust Brown, has books, including one in the library of her senior home in New Jersey!