A History of the Burns Family
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PART SIX: The Farm  

Inspiration and Sources


 

Three years after the crash, the Burns family moved to the farm they had purchased in Green Township, about 15 miles south of Cuyahoga Falls. There they hoped to put the considerable industry of the clan to good use in carving out a self-sufficient life for themselves -- a way to ride out the uncertain economic times plaguing the nation. Bob Burns remembers his grandparents moving with them, but Don's memoir does not mention them.

Very few letters remain from this period. Ebba wrote the family occasionally, mostly worrying. There are almost no letters from Guy or Ada to anyone else. Bob's recollections, later letters, a bit of farm memorabilia, a few contemporaneous letters, and the family memoirs are about all we have.

Story #1 is told from Bobby's point of view, a decision I made because of a comment made by Ebba in one of her letters from that time period -- that they must not tell him about their dire circumstances for fear of worrying him. I wondered what the collapse of the family's prospects might have looked like to him through the rose-colored glasses he was given to wear.

"Twa Lochs" -- Scots for Two Lakes-- was the nickname given to the farm property by Ebba. Story #2 details the family's adjustment to its new circumstances and the many ways their rural life was different from their town life. I have assumed for this chapter that the Burns grandparents did live with Ada and Guy at the farm, at least for a time, as Bob recalled. We do know that Lorenzo died in early 1935, in Cuyahoga Falls, so neither grandparent was at the farm when the family decided to move West.

Story #3 tells the story Bob Burns recounted of his long ride on horseback to a neighboring village with a quarter with which to buy bread, and a review of his thoughts gives us a chance to see how various members of the family are doing during these difficult times. Ebba's eccentric boyfriend Gerry Burke is introduced.

I was inspired to write Story #4 by a poem written by Guy and recorded in a letter to Ebba -- When Gramp Gets a Pension and Davy Gets a Job -- which demonstrates their resolve and humor in facing the financial hardships besetting them. Helen enters the family circle here.

Story #5 tells the tale of young Bobby Burns and the frightening afternoon he spent waiting for his father to return after he left in a funk. More than any other story I heard, it underscores the sense of desperation that sometimes descended on the family as they coped with farming and other financial disasters.

In Story #6, we follow the Burns as they make the fateful decision to head West. Bobby Burns recalls that the destination was chosen after the boys admired the Pacific Northwest scenery and fishing opportunities presented in a National Geographic magazine received as part of a subscription Ebba purchased for them.