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COUNTRY ECHOES

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In January and February the warmth and security of one's own house is such an immeasurable comfort. But about now, I am wondering how Mr. and Mrs. Frank Schwanke are doing in their old three-story stone house.

In September we took a flying trip to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. It was a very wet trip. The grounds were so soggy, the crowd so large, we stayed only a few hours on Saturday. The weather was just not cooperative. To watch a parade in the rain is a dampening experience.

On Sunday afternoon as we got back to the area around Sauk City, Wisconsin, I was driving along moderately when my Mr. B exclaimed, 'Stop, Mother! Stop! I saw a steam engine!'

Now you Ladies all know that when a husband speaks in that way WE STOP! But, as I complied to his orders, I had no idea how interesting our stop was going to be.

In a matter of moments we met Mr. Schwanke. He was admiring his newly acquired 16 Horse Advance Engine. He had learned of it being for sale through an ad in the Iron Men Album. He was a happy man, and soon two happy men were examining the engine together.

In the meantime I was admiring the outside of an old, old stone house built in 1875. I couldn't resist asking questions. Yes, they still lived in a part of it. It has stone walls 2 feet thick. The abutment becomes five feet wide after-it enters the ground. Talk about a foundation!

'Mr. Schwanke,' I inquired, 'how about in the winter time, can you and your wife keep warm?' He grinned amiably.

'Well,' he said dryly, 'you wouldn't believe it, but the frost comes clear through those 2 foot walls in extremely cold weather.' So you see I'll be thinking of them during January and February. Wouldn't you?

I walked as far as I could get around that interesting old house. Three stories high! The windows were of such unusual construction, I can't forget them. Again the questions came. 'Do you ever have people trying to buy it?' I asked.

'Oh yes,' he answered. 'I have one lady who can't seem to forget it. One Sunday I was watching TV when I spied this lady walking around our house. She was taking pictures of it. A couple of days later a real estate man came and made an offer. I was pretty sure who had sent him. I declined the offer but a week or so later he was back and offered me several thousand dollars more. He came again and the price jumped some more.' By now my eyes were wide at the amount he named.

'And you aren't selling it?' I queried.

'No, I don't think so,' he replied. The way he said it I knew he really likes this charming old house, and he won't be tempted too easily. I keep wondering how far the lady will go in her efforts to acquire her 'piece of the past.' I hope, some day, to learn what happens in this intriguing situation.

Mr. Schwanke has a sizeable stack of Iron Men Albums he says he wouldn't sell for $500.00. So, you see, he likes this paper too. And he said his wife likes steam engines as well as he. We had a lot in common that afternoon.

Mr. Sehwanke and Mr. B continued lamenting over all the boilers and parts of old machinery they have sold at junk prices or given away in the past. 'Oh, I should have hung onto that,' they agreed. Haven't you heard that one before, Ladies? I have.

But it was time we were on our way. On our way home we had acquired muskmelon, watermelon, and some ripe, aged cheese. The car had quite an aroma, I admit.

How we chatted as we made our last 50 or 60 miles. That is the fun part of trips. Suddenly we have so much to talk about. This day we had even more.

So Mr. and Mrs. Schwanke, we hope you are keeping warm in your beautiful old house. Maybe the frost has filled up all the cracks by now, and winter is shut out. We hope you especially enjoy this copy of the album.

As for us we will be spending our first Christmas and the entire winter in our new home. In October we were asked to open our house for The Parade of Homes, a benefit for a local hospital. I didn't quite reckon the work involved and ended up very tired. Four hundred and ninety-one people inspected our house. I had to mark all the tickets as they came through and I don't even know who was here. The day is rather hazy in my mind, and my feet haven't recovered yet. So I think I am going to need this winter to recuperate. Isn't it a blessing to have a time of year when things slow down? Surely God, in His wisdom, planned it that way. But, between the five houses on display, about a thousand dollars was earned for our hospital. Maybe some new machine will save someone's life. So, we can rejoice again in our toil and labor. Have a happy wintertime. God bless you.