Although I don’t watch much TV there is one show on the History Channel that I like called “American Pickers.” It’s about two guys who go all over the country, searching for individuals who collect anything that they can buy to resell in their business. They like to find sheds and woods where the owner stores things that they collect. If the “Pickers” ever get to Dorchester County, there is a retired farmer who lives down the road from me they should visit.
Fred Windsor is a collector of anything farm related, and I do mean anything. Fred is now 83-years-old and told me the other day at his kitchen table that he has slowed up a lot. He talked about the years past, and I could feel that the recall of the Windsor family was on his mind. The home farm of his mom and dad, Mr. Jim and Miss Irene, is located close by on the fertile fields next to Higgins Mill Pond. Mom and Pop had four sons — Jimmy, Sheldon, William and Fred— all farmers, all collectors. The daughter Marjorie never collected farm equipment that I know of, but loved antiques and loved to play the piano at Friendship Church. The entire family lived and raised their crops and kids (lots of kids), on farms within probably a two mile radius.
Fred and his wife Ann were married in 1954 and had six children, five boys and one girl. Two of the boys, John and George, till their father’s farms as well as their own land.
A lot has happened since Fred was carried across the Mill Pond dam in a basket, 1932, the middle of the Great Depression. When the hurricane of 1933 came the Mill Pond filled with water runoff and the dam broke.
As the water came up on some of the fields Fred’s older brothers put him in a wash tub and gave him a ride around the farm. Jimmy, the oldest brother, was a lifelong bachelor and lived his entire life on the home farm. When the winter came and the pond froze Jimmy showed why he was considered one of the best skaters around. Just about every night after the cows were milked, Jimmy and Myers Hurley were on the pond. One time when the ice was thick, Jimmy took his motorcycle on the pond and Fred followed with his DC Case tractor. At Jimmy’s estate sale his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead sold for $14,000.
Fred said one event that he would never forget was after the farm got electric in the ‘40s and Jimmy decided that he was going to stop the bull from tearing up the barbwire fence. He put an electric cord on the fence and when he saw the bull put his head through the wire he plugged the cord in and the bull dropped dead. I asked Fred if the family had roast beef for supper but he said that his father sold the cooked Holstein to Ham Travers.
One very personal event in my life happened on Jan. 1, 1971. We had just sat to the dinner table and the telephone rang. I picked up the phone and Barbara Windsor, William’s wife was crying and said that she thought he was dead. It had been a fairly heavy snow the night before and I knew that the lanes would be bad. Dad and I jumped into the 1948 KB-5 International farm truck we had because it had about 150 bushels of cob corn on it, and the weight might get us through. I gave that old truck all she could take in low gear and when we made it to William’s farm (also located on the Mill Pond), we both ran into the kitchen as Barbara met us. We tried everything we could but William had a massive heart attack and was dead when he hit the floor. As I pounded on his chest all I could see was his three little children standing next to their father, scared to death. William was 43-years-old.
I believe that Fred liked working on old farm equipment as much as he did turning the soil. Restoring old tractors was his passion and he could turn a wrench with the best of them. The trouble was he never got rid of anything and the collection grew and grew.
Only Sheldon and Fred are left, but the extended family of Mr. Jim and Miss Irene will never forget the home farm and life’s events at Higgins Mill Pond.