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My Unforgetable Uncle Bill

My Uncle Bill Hofer lived on Faye Hollow Rd. in East Peoria.  He had a fruit and vegetable farm.  It wasn’t a large farm but it produced enough to make a living for he and my Aunt Cora.  I loved our trips to buy apples and other fruit with my mother and father on the weekend, mostly Sundays.

A couple of summers while visiting my sister in Peoria I worked on his farm picking green beans, apples, strawberries and other berries.  He hired many teen-agers and they worked by amount they picked not by time.  Beside me the others lived in nearby farms and were much faster than I was.  However, to me the five or six dollars I earned in a week was a fortune to me.

He had built a sunken garden with stones he had dug up from the ground.  It had stone seats and benches and decorated with beautiful flowers.  His house was also brick from rocks he had gotten from his land.  Across from his entrance road and house there was a large gully.  He had built a hanging bridge over it.

He had one horse and one cow called Bessie.  My mother’s name was Bess and she was not happy about it, because she was sure that Uncle Bill named it after her.  I really don’t think that was the case as I have found most cows seem to be called Bessie.  They were very tame and friendly and would come up to the gate when people were around to get a little scratch behind the ear, a little pat or maybe an apple or ear of corn.  Uncle Bill also had chickens in the back of his house.  They were in a fenced area but he would let them out quite often to scavenge for food.  He also raised rabbits which he sold to customers.   I don’t ever remember whether we ate any rabbit but I do remember the chickens which my mother cooked with noodles and dumplings.  Eating the chickens didn’t bother me but eating those cute little fluffy rabbits would have been difficult.  Uncle Bill would talk to his animals.  However, he didn’t always address them in a pleasant manner, especially the cow.  In fact he carried on conversations with all his animals.

Uncle Bill worked hard, rose early in the morning and also retired very early.  Sometimes when we visited and it got toward evening, he would let us know it was time to go home by bringing out the alarm clock and proceed to wind it.  That was the signal for all visitors to go home as he was going to bed.

Uncle Bill also made wine with apples, pears, peaches that were starting to rot on the ground along with any other fruit he couldn’t sell.  He made it in his cellar and all the men were invited down to enjoy a sample.  Women and children were not included in the invitation.  I never saw his cellar but my dad said I didn’t miss anything.  It wasn’t like a typical cellar. Dad said you couldn’t stand upright because it was not very high.

When I was a child it was a magic place with many things to do and enjoy and a wonderful place to visit on a Sunday afternoon or for that manner, anytime.