Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Questions Than Answers

"... think about stories that you tell and the stories that others tell about you. It may help to think in terms of general categories ... Weather ... Object ... What kind of car did your family have?"
—Dan Allender, To Be Told Workbook pg 11

Dad drove Fords. For decades, I refer to the first family car held in my childhood memories as a 'Ford' Tempest. Today, my discovery? Our Tempest was a Pontiac.

Nestled within the stories of my family of origin, is Dad's career change from lineman for Midway Telephone Company to technician for Midwest Breeders Cooperative. Dad's new job came in the mid-1960s. I was in kindergarten when we relocated. In my softly faded childhood memories, I am comforted as Mom reads to me a book about the adventure of moving. I am excited when Dad takes me to pick out a black lab puppy. We name her Lady.

I didn't realize it at the time, but Dad was a young man on the forefront of a new industry. Dairy farmers across the upper Midwest were no longer keeping bulls on the farm, but diversifying the genetics of their herds using frozen semen.
Midwest is the world's largest member-owned artificial insemination cooperative. It was formed January 1, 1967, with the consolidation of Consolidated Breeders Cooperative of Anoka, Minnesota, and Badger Breeders Cooperative of Shawano, Wisconsin. Ken Peissig, director of operations for the cooperative, reported that in 1967, the cooperative provided service for 44,176 members in six states, including Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Sales volume for the year was $3,975,984. First service cows bred for members totaled 679,576. The cooperative has 401 employees including 320 direct employee technicians.
Thursday, March 21 ,1968

Pipettes of semen were held in a stainless steel tank, kept cold by liquid nitrogen. The tank weighed more than my sister and I combined - and didn't quite fit in the trunk of the car. The trunk lid was modified, probably by a body shop, so that our Tempest had something else no other car possessed - a 'hump' much like a large hatbox protruding from the center of her trunk lid.

a tank from ABS - Midwest's tremulous competition

remembering our family car - a brown Pontiac Tempest

Nestled within the stories of my family of origin, is a story of Mom, a woman coming of age in the Kennedy Camelot Years, now a young wife and mother. She and Dad share the brown Tempest, which she takes to the supermarket to purchase groceries. We laugh when she tells the story:

... the carryout from the supermarket was a young man. He followed me out to the car with my groceries, politely putting the paper bags in the back seat. Just before turning to walk away, he asked about the hump in the trunk lid. Without blinking an eye, I replied, "Oh, that's where my husband keeps his semen" then got into the driver's seat and pulled away. It was a minute or two later that I blushed, realizing what I'd said, picturing that young man laughing as he told his buddies all about it.

As I examine the objects of my childhood - cars, bikes, books, toys, clothes - I uncover more questions than answers, yet in these memories I am discovering more to love about my parents, unearthing their humanity.


Stick with what you learned and believed,
sure of the integrity of your teachers

Pontiac Tempest
ABS Tank

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