S.D. Farmers Union celebrates three generations of moms this Mother’s Day
The Grasshopper Dilemma
Opal R Grubl
What is there, Lord, please tell me,
That a hopper will not eat?
They’ve devoured our alfalfa,
And they’ve helped themselves to wheat.
Our oats will stand - beheaded,
After hoppers have their fill.
Our garden’s devastated;
Lord, they’ve even nipped our will.
Plastic flowers now are eaten,
Trees won’t drop their leaves this fall;
No grass is left for cattle,
There’s just grasshoppers, that’s all.
So we close the door behind us;
Do they dare to come on through?
What next to be their liking?
Hopefully not me or you!
As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother’s Day, S.D. Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state’s number one industry – Farm and Ranch Moms!
Read on to learn the story of three mothers.
Each of these Farmers Union members represent a different generation of women born and raised on South Dakota farms and ranches, who married a farmer or rancher.
These women share their story and reflect on raising children on their South Dakota farm or ranch.
Corrie “Vedvei” Holt, 35, mother of three: Hadlee, 8; Bentlee, 5; and Cambree, 1
Each year around Easter, cow/calf pairs are turned into the pastures which surround the home Corrie “Vedvei” Holt shares with her husband, DJ, and their daughters: Hadlee, 8; Bentlee, 5; and Cambree, 1. The family had been traveling when Papa Al moved the pairs. As they approached the house, Hadlee exclaimed, “Mom look! We have cows in our pasture. Now that’s something worth coming home to!”
Corrie says the comment warms her heart. “I love looking out the window and seeing cattle,” explains Corrie, of the reason she and DJ purchased a small piece of land from her parents to build their family home just half a mile from the Lake Preston farm where she grew up. “When I look back and think about all the life lessons I learned growing up on the farm, helping my mom and dad and working alongside my sisters – I want those same experiences for my daughters.”
Growing up, Corrie and her sisters were actively involved with day-to-day operations of their parents’ farm and purebred Charolais operation. Actively involved in 4-H, FFA and the American Charolais Association, the girls especially enjoyed traveling to cattle shows.
“I just love being outside and working with cattle. It definitely taught me responsibility, accountability, the definition of hard work and the value of working together.”
In fact, it was during a Texas cattle show that Corrie met her husband, DJ, in June 2000.
“He happened to be showing a bull out of our genetics; then we both served on the American International Junior Charolais Association board together.”
Raised in Arkansas, DJ traveled to South Dakota to meet Corrie’s family and decided to stay on to work for Alan. The couple married in 2001. Today, DJ continues to work with Alan, while at the same time the couple is building up their own herd. Corrie works fulltime for Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) as a Soil Technician.
“I enjoy being able to work with local farmers. I can relate to them, and because I grew up in the area, I have known many of the producers my entire life.”
Her workdays begin early so she can be home by the time her oldest gets off the school bus. “It gives me an opportunity to help with chores. If the weather is nice, the girls and I walk up to the farm. The girls LOVE spending time on the farm.”
During the work week, her two youngest split their time between daycare and Grandma Deb’s house. “I always tell my mom that if I can’t raise my kids fulltime, she is the next best thing.”
Juggling a fulltime job and motherhood isn’t easy, but Corrie says it’s all about priorities. “I try to stay organized and very efficient with my time when I’m not at work. If my house only gets cleaned once a month, that’s OK because if it’s nice outside, the girls and I are out helping with chores.”
The life she has today is one she envisioned before becoming a mom. “I always dreamed of being outside on the farm with my kids right alongside me helping out.”
However, the journey to becoming parents was not an easy one for Corrie and DJ. “We fought infertility. When there was a chance this couldn’t happen, I told DJ, ‘we have to try.’”
Working fulltime and making weekly, nearly 200-mile trips to doctors in Sioux Falls was a lot to handle. And, Corrie says it was stressful – but completely worth it when in 2008, with the help of IVF, the couple welcomed Hadlee into the world. In 2011, their second daughter, Bentlee, arrived thanks to intrauterine insemination, and with no medical assistance at all, Cambree arrived a little more than a year ago.
“I am very blessed to be a mom. It was a long road to get to where I am, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” says Corrie, explaining that she and DJ have been very open about their struggle because they hope their story will encourage other couples. “When we went through this process, we wanted to be open because if it inspires one couple to go down this route, and they are able to have a family, then it’s totally worth it.”
Audrey Keierleber, 64, mother of two: Brecky Cwach and Christine Wood. Grandmother of four
Instilling curiosity for nature and the world around them are reasons Audrey “Jaton” Keierleber is glad she was able to raise her now grown daughters, Brecky Cwach and Christine Wood, on the family’s Colome farm.
“On the farm there are so many more opportunities for them to do and try – like working with plants and livestock and seeing firsthand how nature works,” explains Audrey, a retired High School Family & Consumer Sciences and Middle School Computer and Science teacher.
Today, both her daughters work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) careers. Brecky works in electronic commerce as a bond underwriter for Philadelphia Insurance Company and Christine works as the SDSU Extension 4-H Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Field Specialist.
Joel’s sister introduced Audrey to her husband, Joel, a Colome farmer. “His sister and I took college courses together and my first teaching job happened to be in the Colome area.”
Their first two years of marriage Audrey commuted to White River, more than 68 miles to work, until she was finally able to get a teaching position in Burke, 28 miles from their place, and later in Winner, 8 miles from home. “It was nice to live close enough to town that our girls could be involved in 4-H, FCCLA, FFA and church activities,” Audrey says.
As a teacher, Audrey didn’t exactly have her summers free – but her work schedule did allow her to help Joel out more on the farm. “I sold baler parts, delivered baler parts, helped Joel with feed sales and when the girls were older, we’d help with the haying.”
With Audrey working off the farm, she says Joel stepped in to help with the girls. “We didn’t have maternity leave in those days, so after Christine was born, I only had 10 days of sick leave, then back to work. If she got up in the night, Joel would get up with her. It was a team effort,” she says, adding, “Joel was excellent backup daycare. If there was a day that I couldn’t take the girls to daycare, they would stay home with him.”
As a grandma to four, Audrey says she enjoys being backup daycare for her daughters – whenever it works out she makes the 3-hour drive to watch her grandkids. “The kids are so much fun! I think as a grandparent you can enjoy the kids even more because you’re not under the stress of having to make a living or having to have papers corrected by Monday morning.”
In retirement, Audrey started her own quilting business, Audrey K’s Long Arm Quilting. She constructs traditional quilts, finishes quilts and makes t-shirt quilts.
Opal Grubl, 85, mother of five: Vicky Leitaker, Donna Whitehead, Jacque Lamphere, Vonda Andersen and Connie Johns grandmother to 13 and great-grandma of four.
Born in 1931, the youngest of eight children to two South Dakota homesteaders, Joe E. and Ida May Price, Opal Grubl recalls her childhood with fondness.
“I never knew I was poor. We always had plenty to eat, and I know nobody had anything,” says Opal of growing up on the ranch her parents carved out of their two homesteads. “We just existed with milk cows, chickens and mom had a few sheep.”
Her father helped support the family working as a school teacher. “He taught at country schools all around, even teaching high school in Stoneville.”
Following her father’s footsteps, after Opal graduated from Faith High School, she received her teaching certificate after passing a five-week course at Black Hills State. “Back then there were not a lot of options for girls. You were either a teacher, a nurse or you got married.”
Opal taught in rural schools for several years before meeting her husband, Donald, during a country dance at Alkali Hall. “Those were wonderful, wonderful years. The kids were just great.”
She continued to teach until she and Donald welcomed their first daughter two years after they were married. “I helped him on the ranch until I got the girls. I could no longer go out because I always had one little baby,” she explains.
When they married, Donald ranched with his dad and brothers. Later, they split off and ranched on their own east of Sturgis. That’s where they raised their five daughters. “I loved being a mother. That’s the best years of my life – when those kids were little. We had puppies, kittens, ponies, calves and lambs. The girls weren’t deprived of pets!”
Like their mother, all but her youngest daughter attended a country school – even rode horseback. “It closed before our last daughter got to be school age.”
Opal and her girls raised bum lambs and calves. She saved the money they earned to help pay for her girls’ college. “Education is absolutely necessary. I always knew they would go to college; that’s why we raised so many bum calves and lambs. One year we had over 100 bum lambs.”
As her daughters became more independent, they all helped Donald with ranch work. “You would have thought that I had a lot of help around the house, but the truth is they were all outside helping their dad. Our girls were good drivers because they were driving grain truck when they were 9.”
Today, the grandma of 13 and great-grandma of four is proud of what her daughters have accomplished. “The girls are all very successful with wonderful jobs. It was gratifying to watch my daughters be mothers. It is enjoyable to see how they raised their children.”
In 2012 Opal and Donald handed the ranch over to their grandson, Lane Lamphere, and moved into a home in Boulder Canyon. The couple will celebrate 60 years of marriage this June.
After her children left home to start lives and families of their own, Opal began writing poetry which reflects her family and ranch experiences. She continues to write poetry and enjoys reading.
–South Dakota Farmers Union