Now that I have told the true tales about the Junk Drawers and the Fibber Closets…..I might as well go the whole way and discuss …….tah-dah!……….THE HILTON. It is long gone now but it served us well for many years at both places we have lived since 1969.
"The Hilton" was our name for a building that we bought shortly after we bought our farm in 1968. The farmsite was beautiful—-the house was set on a small rise—the highest part of the property, and though it was very old and very small—-we loved it as our very first home that we owned. The house had been built by one of the first settlers in this area of eastern Clay County; the first name on the title deed was "Sibley"…a distinctively English name and there was a good reason for it…the first settlers of this town and its outer borders came from a village in England named "Yeovil" and that was the first name given to the town also. The farm to the west of ours was first owned by a family named "Lewis" …which was one of the original settler names also. The English…at least most of them—did not stay on for a long length of time like the Norwegians, Swedes, Germans and Danes who came later. The English gradually moved to bigger places—-cities and bigger towns. The original settlers had been farmers but certainly not sod-breaking farmers so it was a bit of shock to land in eastern Clay County and find no cultivated land at all….they had been sold "a bill of goods" by the English Curate who was acting as a land agent for the NP railroad who wanted to have towns and settlements along their newly laid railroads.
But I am off the track—–the Sibleys and the people who followed them on what became our farm, had some outbuildings but they were getting pretty ramshackle by the time we occupied the farm in the late 1960s and we needed a place to store things…..so we bought what came to be known as "the Hilton" from NDSU when they sold off their oldest student housing, barrack-type of apartments. We recognized this sort of double apartment, single story building—we had lived in one just like it at Pullman, Washington where they were referred to as "Cardboard Castles". The ones at NDSU had been named "Silver City" because they all had sheet metal, silver- colored siding on them. We had friends who had lived in "Silver City" and they told of getting "iced in" in cold weather. Since most of the families that occupied these barracks had small children, (and no clothes dryers) the diapers and other clothes were dried on clothes-racks…a familiar piece of collapsible laundry equipment that many of my generation knew all too well. We did not have a clothes dryer either during our cloth diaper days (no Pampers back then) so we had dried thousands of diapers on a clothes-rack. But the steam given off by the drying clothes on clothes-racks often created the phemomenon of getting "iced in" when the moisture froze in the door spaces and made it impossible to go in or out of the apartment. According to our friends, they would call each other for help and say "We’re iced in…can you come over here?" and the neighbors would come with high- powered hair dryers or a bucket of hot water an get them "un-iced".
We never lived in either of the Hilton apartments, but we fixed one side up a few years after we got it for my father- in- law when we were calving out a number of my brother- in- law’s registered cattle one spring. My father- in- law had a comfy apartment with a nice bedroom to sleep in– and go from, when he took his shifts at night- checking on the most pregnant cows who were ready to deliver their calves. The other half of the Hilton was devoted to storage and the usual strange accumulation of "stuff" built up over several years—–old tires, a chainsaw, kerodene heater, oil stove, tools like hammers, saws, screwdrivers, planes, nails, screws, nuts and bolts, pliers….all were put in the drawers of the kitchen of of the half-Hilton. Then one winter, early in its career, the Hilton got its name because we turned it into a heated lambing place for a few ewes we had acquired…they were purebred Ramboulliet (ram-boo-lay) ewes bred to a pure bred Ramboulliet ram who was the most eager male I have ever seen—ready to do his job when any ewe came into "heat". We did not have a name for him but I can think of quite a few appropriate names that would have fit him….none of them that could be discussed on this blog. On Christmas Eve, in about 1973, a very large ram lamb became the first lamb born in the Ramboulliet Hilton…we thought that name had a ring to it…like the Chicago Hilton or the Avignon Hilton if there is one there in Avignon, France!
The Hilton became the repository for stuff my father- in- law got when he went to farm auctions. He abolutely loved the "truck bed" things that consisted of large tubs or containers of all sorts of farm flotsam and jetsam and if he saw ONE thing in one of those tubs that he wanted he would bid on and buy the whole tub. We had a large collection of tubs full of junk stuff in the Hilton for many years from those trips he made to farm auctions around here.
When we moved to our newly- built home on another part of our farm in the fall and winter of 1975-76, all we had was the house…..no outbuildings. So the only logical thing to do was to move The Hilton over to our new place too—which we did at considerable expense because we did not unload one stick or bolt or tub from the Hilton before it came over on a large moving truck. It settled into its new place just east of our house and we planted a row of fast growing poplar trees which soon masked the gleaming silver sided Hilton. My Dad always said when he came out here to do some job that required some materials or tools…."if you need it, you can find it in the Hilton." And he was right. By that time, both sides of the Hilton were filled with flotsam and jetsam collected from various and sundry places—-junk yards, farm auctions, Tractor Supply, Fleet Farm,—-you name a farm supply place and we had hit them all.
Finallly about 7 years ago, or thereabouts, a decision was made. The Hilton would be torn down and the lumber and other useable materials would make a couple of swell garden sheds. My husband and his good friend, G.H. began the work of dismantling the Hilton. It took one entire fall season to get it done and then they put together two awfully good garden buildings…one for us, and one for them. My husband had saved some big navy blue steel sheets from a silo supply store that no longer did business in the area so the two buildings are sided with Harvestore blue panels. The two garden sheds have done yeoman’s duties for a few years now.
The last of the Hilton, that could not be used in any way, went up in the biggest bonfire I have ever seen. Our grandkids from Fargo had told Grampa to let them know the day of the Big Burn because they did not want to miss out on it.
I still think of our faithful old "Hilton" when I look at the empty place where it once stood. Rabbits lived under it during the winter and I worry about those bunnies and where they live now. By the tracks I see in the snow, a lot of their descendants are now spending a cozy winter under the garden shed that is built from the leavings of the old Hilton. These are the same wild bunnies that I put food out for during the winter, the ones my friends tell me will show their gratitude in the summer by eating up my tulips and other tasty morsels from spring and summer gardens. It hasn’t happened; we have too much alfalfa growing close by so the summer bunnies are well fed from those fields and my crops are never damaged!!!
The HIlton will always be part of our family vocabulary and our grown up boys will start a conversation by saying, "Remember when we had "The Hilton……"
And do we have any outdoor storage space now—-besides the garden shed??? Well, along the way a very large "pole barn" has been built and thereby lies a tale of a super-sized storage place for more "stuff" than the Hilton could ever dream of!!!! The Pole Barn could be a real sore spot between my husband and my one brother in law who came one time and totally organized all the storage space in the big pole building. He told his brother not to put ANYTHING in the large aisle in the middle—but—-if my brother in law were to announce that he was coming from Alaska to visit us—-there would be one mad scramble to clean up the Pole Barn!!!!!