The New Bradley Homestead

A galvanized steel shed
was Dad's ticket out.

Dad paid for the shed himself because the Snyders didn't have the cash. The Snyders did have 80 acres of virgin land and it became ours by default as a way to cancel the debt.

The new Bradley acquisition had never been settled and farmed for good reason. It consisted of a swamp that had oak covered sand dunes running crossways Southeast to Northwest. No farmer had ever been able to make a living on that particular piece of land because there has never been a market for cattail reeds, snapping turtles, mud hens and squirrels. There were tiger mosquitoes with half inch long hypodermic needle snouts capable of draining one dry guarding that property as well.

But that low-land was fertile. The prairie grass was so high it hid a man on a tractor and the swamp was capable of swallowing both. The sod was too thick to plow with an ordinary plow -- Dad bought a special "brush plow" that turned a furrow eighteen inches wide and more than a foot thick. Trees the size of my wrist would disappear under the furrow when that plow passed their way.

Building in the woods was an adventure as well. The Kankakee River Valley is referred to as "Tornado Alley" for good reason. The killer tornado of 1968, that murdered many people as it roared Northeast across Illinois and Indiana, first touched the earth by our farm.

Dad built a house that is supposed to be"tornado proof." We still don't know if is. Its never been tested but its going to take a lot of huffing and puffing to blow that house down. It's framed with creosote soaked poles that are set deep in the ground in concrete, the roof is bolted on and the roof beams are 2" X 10s" on 16" centers -- twice as strong a roof as most people build. In fact we built the roof first and got real strange stares from people who had never seen a house built from the top down.

Pioneers we were. We made a clearing on one of the oak covered sand dunes and built a house. We chopped down and burned quaking aspens and willows and dug ditches and little lakes to make fields out of swamp and planted corn around stumps that were too big to easily remove. One big boulder had to be blown to bits with dynamite. Today the new Bradley Homestead is a paradise of shaded lawns, fishing lakes and fertile cropland.

We pioneered virgin land
a century after almost all Illinois was tamed.