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Barry Schrader
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I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Farmers key in on Halloween humor

By Barry Schrader.................................October 25, 2011

It wasn’t just kids who got involved in Halloween pranks back in the 1960s and ’70s. A story I heard recently shows farmers do have a sense of humor – if you don’t try to steal their outhouses.
This prank began innocently back in the fall of 1963 when a young farm couple living on Lloyd Road between Genoa and Sycamore decided to buy a used piano for their 9-year-old son Norman so he could learn to play. They found an old upright in Sycamore for $50 and enlisted the help of three other farmers – Elmer Troutman, John Pigott and Lenny Watson – to haul it home in their pickup. Watson got the job of riding in the truckbed with the piano.
Taking a corner too sharp caused the piano to flip end over end onto the road, narrowly missing Watson. They managed to pick it up in pieces and proceeded to their house, quickly reassembling the broken parts before the farm wife got home.
But when she tried playing it, the keys were frozen and no sound came out. They confessed what happened and the piano was relegated to the barn.
Their collective minds began working on what to do with it.

An old piano keyboard found new life at Halloween (Photo ny Barry Schrader)

After a Cattlemen’s Association board meeting on Halloween that year several men were enlisted to help remove the keyboard from the barn and drive it to the home of John and Joy Pigott, quietly laying it on their front porch, covered with a sheet. Joy was home alone and, when looking out the window, spotted the sheet draped over something, panicked and called her father-in-law George to report what she thought might be a body on her porch.
This was just the beginning.
The next Halloween it was deposited by some of the same pranksters into a round hog feeder at the Walter Sanderson farm. His landlord Joe Greek happened to see it sticking out of the feeder first when visiting the farm the next day and inquired of Sanderson, with tongue in cheek, if his pigs were musically inclined. It is not clear what happened to the keyboard after that.
Then in 1965, a committee at the Sycamore United Methodist Church was deciding how to dispose of another old upright and these same pranksters got involved. Troutman and Tom Fenstermaker volunteered to haul it away. On Halloween Ray and Carol Larson came home to their farm on County Line Road and saw a Blue Van & Storage truck waiting in their driveway.
The driver said he had a delivery and the charge was $20. They opened the truck door and there was the discarded church piano inside.
They decided to accept the old clunker and stored it in their barn where it stayed for 12 years, collecting dust and pigeon droppings.
Then in 1977 came the 40th birthday for Carol’s brother, David Wirsing. While his family was gone for the day the instrument was carted over to his farm on Darnell Road north of Sycamore and deposited in the front yard. The mystery remains as to what happened to that old piano. Wirsing never admitted that a piano was dumped on him, and he passed away in 2003. His widow Nancy doesn’t recall where it ended up.
Now this year speculation has it that a new farmhouse built on Lindgren Road has a nice big front porch, and who knows what might happen this Halloween. So now you know that farmers do share a mischievous sense of humor.
Full disclosure: The young farm couple who bought the first piano in 1963 are Ray and Carol Larson, my in-laws.
By the way, the 50th annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival parade on Oct. 30 will not only have former Sycamore City Manager Bill Nicklas leading it as Grand Marshal and festival founder Wally Thurow not far behind, but entry No. 37 will contain royalty. Yours truly and wife Kay are serving as king and queen at Oak Crest this year and will be waving to the crowd from the back seat of a classic 1966 Rambler convertible – if it isn’t raining or freezing cold, that is.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115