A lifetime of hard workMyrtle Kelly knows what it’s like to work hard. She grew up on a farm near Elko with three brothers and a sister. There were cows and pigs and chickens to care for, and everybody had a job to do. There were 30 to 35 cows that needed milking, and there were no milking machines to help do the work.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Myrtle Kelly knows what it’s like to work hard. She grew up on a farm near Elko with three brothers and a sister. There were cows and pigs and chickens to care for, and everybody had a job to do.
There were 30 to 35 cows that needed milking, and there were no milking machines to help do the work.
“I didn’t enjoy it, but it had to be done,” said Kelly, who has lived the past three years at the Trinity Terrace senior apartments in Farmington. “I milked six or seven cows, morning and night.”
When she wasn’t working on the farm, Kelly attended school. She walked three miles each way to a one-room school house. She attended classes through eighth grade, when she left school to spend more time helping on the farm.
Kelly was a teenager when the worst of the depression hit.
“My dad said, ‘Well, we need to work harder and expand,’ so we split the family and rented another 160 acres,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s sister and her oldest brother stayed at the family farm with the hired men. Kelly went with her parents and her other siblings to the new farm, 20 miles from home in Lakeville. Kelly traveled back and forth because she was studying for confirmation.
It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it had to be done. And Kelly said the hard work protected the family from the worst effects of the depression.
When she was 15, Kelly started attending dances around the area. She loved dancing. She was 16 when she met Vern Kelly at one of those dances. She thinks it was at Union Lake. That’s where many of the dances were. He was a friend of one of her brothers, and he was 3 1/2 years older than her.
“He was a good dancer,” Kelly said. “He was a nice guy.”
They dated for five years before they married in 1940. That was the year of a big Halloween blizzard. Kelly remembers spending the night digging chickens out of the snow and getting them to shelter.
“Boy, that was a horrible night,” she said.
After their wedding the couple moved into Vern’s parents home.
“We lived upstairs in two rooms and two closets,” she said. “We had to carry our water up and down the stairs.”
After two years of that they got to move downstairs. They spent seven years in all in the home.
The couple raised two daughters. About a year after their second daughter was born they bought Myrtle’s family farm. A few years later, they bought her husband’s family farm.
“You better believe we were busy,” she said. “That was kind of a tough time to make the payments.”
To help with the bills Kelly went to work at Smead in Hastings.
When they finally sold the farms, Vern and Myrtle started traveling. They’ve been to every state in the country except three. They would have gotten down to one if the weather hadn’t gotten in the way. The couple was on the way to the Carolinas in their motor home at one point when someone at gas station warned them to turn around because there was a hurricane coming. They headed home and never made it to their destination. Their motor home shook in the wind as they drove.
Myrtle and Vern celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2000. Vern died of cancer the following year. Myrtle still tears up when she thinks about him.