Azark FarmIn his early thirties with a wife and young daughter, Great Uncle Art purchased his only home in 1952 for $7500: a 52-acre farm on the edge of town.
My father and I sat with Art at his kitchen table, discussing the past and present. He spoke of the chores he did for $1.50 a week in the 1920s, courting his wife during WWII, and working this very farm for the previous owners. One day after completing his chores Art said, "If you ever want to sell, I'll buy it." Before long he was offered to purchase the farm. Without a dollar to his name he needed to find a way to get the $7500. Art immediately thought of the GI Bill. He knew he could borrow against it. But, before he pulled the trigger my Great Grandfather Willis offered to loan him the money. Art said, "I believe there was even a piece of paper." After signing the loan contract from his father in-law, Art and family moved in. Within a year the barn had burned down and been rebuilt, their family was continuing to grow, and they worked the land tirelessly.
Sixty-one years later with his wife recently deceased, Art, now 92, continues to work the land. He had recently received the parts to fix his brush hog. My father immediately jumped at the opportunity to help Art get back out into the fields. I would have been right beside them if I didn't need to head west the following morning. We pushed back from the kitchen table, walked to the barn and accessed the situation. After some discussion, they agreed on the drill bits and bolts needed, and had set a time for the morning. I spoke with my father the following evening and he said that the job was done and Art was back atop his tractor in the same fields he used to plow with a team of Belgian horses.
I crested the hill on Moon Rd. and my memories of sitting with my father at Uncle Art's kitchen table came rushing back. Last year he was telling stories of buying the farm, tending the land, and raising his family. Today, the house still stands, but is nothing more than a charred shell.
Uncle Art died of smoked inhalation on April 17, 2014 at the age of 93. An electrical fire started in the kitchen and spread throughout the house. All that remains is the Azark Farm barn, which burnt to the ground in 1953. Art rebuilt and tended the land for the next 60 years. With his wife Elsie dying in 2012, Art rarely left the farm, always saying “I’m gonna stay here with Mom.” Elsie’s ashes lived on the shelf. They were inseparable in life and now in death.
With bobcats littering the yard, demolition is inevitable. The property will sell, but Uncle Art's stories and legacy will live on.
RIP Arthur Carlson 1920-2014
Azark Farm 1952-2014