Just plain cool

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Farm Forum

I took a neat little trip recently to a cool farm, met a cool farm lady who creates cool things, and had an absolutely cool time visiting with her about her cool abilities. I returned home to have my hubby ask me how my day had gone and I replied, “It was just plain cool.” And the story goes like this…

Whatever happened to cool?

The word cool is a slang term from my growing up years. Whenever anything was good or great or positive, the term was used to express those positive vibes. Over time, the word cool lost its popularity and was not used very often. And then last week I heard a popular radio personality use it as he gave his daily commentary on American culture. He ended his talk with the question, “Whatever happened to cool?” Hm?

I found it!

Well, I so wish that news commentator was handy, because I would like to not only tell him that I found “cool” but also show him where it’s located. Yep, I found it. Right here in our beloved state of South Dakota. I found “cool” alive and kicking at the Diane and Leon Gaikowski Family farm near Webster, S.D.

If you readers recall, earlier this summer I wrote an article entitled: “Squeezing the most out of life.” In this article, I referred to farmwife Diane’s unusual artistic abilities with her homemade western artwork — particularly, her barbwire hat decor. I briefly wrote about this unique western hat creation with the intention of returning to her home and doing a follow-up story about all of Diane’s handiwork. Well, little did I realize the enormity of this task.

Inside the house

I returned to the Gaikowski spread on the first cool day of September and was immediately greeted by Diane and welcomed into her farm home. Our talk began with my last visit where Diane had given me her barbwire cowboy hat creation right off the wall. And lo and behold, Diane had again come up with another even bigger and better barbwire hat creation for me to admire in her earth-toned kitchen/dining room area. Wow! And then my attention was attracted to the old branding irons attached right beside the new hat. Where did they come from?

Sitting at her kitchen table, I learned that the old branding irons had been rescued from Leon’s dad’s farm. They had been made by his maternal great uncle. In fact, there were six different branding irons throughout the house. They were definitely an unusual piece of décor but also served as a reminder of a past time in the family’s history. The branding irons also served as an example of what Diane loves to do; that is, to make something out of nothing. She likes to take old things and create something useful. You see, Diane is an accomplished welder in her own right, having garnered the skill while attending high school.

Leon and Diane’s home is embellished with a multitude of useful items all made with Diane’s handy dandy wire-feed welder—a gift from her beloved Leon. Give this woman some rebar and a few horseshoes and she will create neat boot racks, an all-purpose saddle rack, useful equipment racks, beautiful book shelves, and even a sturdy toilet paper holder. Let me tell you, these items are indestructible and yet very attractive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the beautiful ornate Christian crosses Diane fashions from smaller horseshoes using her welding skills. She even showed me a photo of the special horseshoe cross that graces her sister’s burial plot. It is indeed a work of art.

Besides all the welding projects within the home, Diane has inherited the gift of needlework, quilt making, sewing, cake decorating, and furniture refurbishing. She was blessed to come from a family background rich in the homemaking skills tradition. I could spend much more time relating Diane’s inside the house skills, but I need to move on to what was happening outside her home.

Outside the house

Actually, the first time that I came to the Gaikowski place, my attention had been drawn to the large rock, iron, and flowerbed landscaping areas found throughout the farmstead. These areas were proof-positive that Diane and Leon and their family members had spent countless hours laying plastic, hauling in pea rock, and then dragging home countless antique iron pieces of equipment for decorating purposes. I especially noted that there were several old road graders in the mix.

This caused me to wonder for just a moment and then I learned that Leon still is and has been a road grader man for some twenty-five years. Diane further related that both she and Leon love old antique iron and keep bringing the disheveled equipment pieces to their farm home. It is at this point that the fun begins for her.

For, this is where Diane really shines and uses her very special welding and decorating abilities. She has been blessed with the talent to make beautiful jewels out of junk; even old road graders.

I took no less than twenty photos of the rock/iron/flowerbed areas at the Gaikowski’s. Each one had special plants and flowers adorning some piece of antique road or farm equipment. Throw in a large unusual rock or some other discarded artifact and, voilà, Diane’s beauty spot is complete.

But of special note to me and popping up in every one of her flowerbeds were Diane’s incredible iron flowers. I loved these flowers because they required no care. They were made from old horseshoes and rebar and looked so absolutely charming, rusting right amongst the real flowers. Unlike the real flowers, however, the iron flowers were devoid of hailstone damage or wind damage. Just the type of flowers we all need on the windy prairies of South Dakota.

Scenic view

One last thought about the Gaikowski farmstead is its scenic view of Waubay Lake. One would have to travel for miles to top it. It is a breathtaking and unforgettable experience.

Oops! That reminds me of another unforgettable experience at the Gaikowski’s. His name is George, and he is the ever-present rock hound greeter at the farmstead. Lovable George is a black colored mixed breed of dog who loves rocks. Most dogs carry sticks; not George. He carries and plays with and even fetches rocks. What a character!

Living the dream

As you readers can tell, I spent a most enjoyable afternoon visiting a busy creative farm lady. But, this article sounds like all Diane does is decorate. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, she is the mother of three grown children and the grandmother of one little darling.

She also daily makes fence, fixes fence, calves out cows, feeds cows, and handles cows. In other words, she is Leon’s right hand cattle person, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

For at one point during our conversation, Diane confessed to me that her life’s dream was to be a farm girl marrying a farm boy and living on a farm. She’s living her dream and I call that “Just Plain Cool.”