By Jennie Zeitler
Earl Luedtke was born on the farm where he now lives, acreage purchased by his parents in 1913. His parents, Robert and Anna Daumke Luedtke, arrived on Oct. 8 of that year with their first child, two-month-old Edwin.
Earl was born in 1932, the youngest of seven. He grew up on the dairy farm and only lived away during the two years he was in the Army. He joined in 1953, during the Korean conflict.
“Our outfit trained South Koreans in Tageu,” he said. “I was a baker.”
The farm had been railroad land owned by James J. Hill. It was originally 80 acres. Robert added 40 acres in about 1920, and another 80 acres in 1937.
“Those 80 acres were for my oldest brother, but he went to farm with his father-in-law,” Earl said.
Earl recalls hearing how his parents came up from Hutchinson by railroad and were sidetracked in Little Sauk.
“My mother worried about milk for the baby,” he said.
Another story the family handed down involved Earl’s stepgrandfather.
“My dad’s father died when he was 8. When dad and mom were already living up here, in about 1918-1920, my dad’s stepfather, John Klapotz, learned of a new variety of spring wheat. He carried a sack of wheat up here, hitching rides all the way to Clarissa,” Earl said. “Dad always spoke well of him.”
The farm was mortgaged during the depression, but the Luedtkes did not lose it.
“I appreciate more now than when I was younger, that the folks were able to raise a family during the Depression,” Earl said. “It was hard during World War I, too, and with the flu epidemic.”
Earl and his brother, Wilbur, farmed together after Earl returned from Korea.
“We were both single,” Earl said. “Mom died in 1956. Dad was determined to stay on the farm, and he died here in 1982, when he was 95 years old.”
The farm had begun to change by the mid 1950s, when Wilbur and Earl took over.
“We still had horses on the farm, but dad had bought an F20 in the 1940s,” said Earl. “Wilbur and I bought tractors and milking machines and started chopping corn in the field. Within a few years, we changed over to combines and could farm a little more land.”
Wilbur was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1979, but remained on the farm until his death in 1994.
Although Earl quit milking in 1996, he continued to raise heifers and steers until about 2003.
During that time, providence brought some unexpected developments into his life.
Earl is a lifetime member of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Clarissa. In the early 2000s, he met Shirley Bristle, a former elementary schoolteacher and widow from Maynard, who was playing organ for the dual parishes of Immanuel in Eagle Bend and St. Matthew.
A spark was created and they married in April of 2001. After some discussion, they decided to stay on the farm.
“We talked about moving off the farm, but moved this house in instead,” Earl said.
The old farm house was torn down and a Showcase Home was moved onto the property.
Earl continued crop farming until just last year, something he really enjoyed.
“It was being out in the crops, tilling the crops,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing the harvest in the fall.”
One of the biggest challenges of farming was having to be there for the dairying.
“It was the time element — I had to be there for the cows, but would still like to get the hay made,” he said.
Shirley’s grandson has designed a century farm sign, which will be put up near the road.
“It’s hard to take the farm out of the farmer,” said Shirley.