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cattle waterer

One of the oldest structures on Mark Rock's farm is this concrete waterer in the cattle yard. Affixed to the corner at right is a metal ring that was used to secure a horse's reins.

"This," Mark Rock said, "is what the farm is all about."

Rock, 56, of rural Dixon, gestures to a wall of rusted metal tools and photos that record the history of his 210-acre Century Farm. There is a picture from March 1, 1917, when Rock's grandfather moved to the place in a horse and buggy to the present when Rock makes his living raising corn, soybeans, hay and mixed breed cattle.

Rock built the wall out of weathered wood that he salvaged from a smokehouse that stood on the property. The wall is one side of a bathroom he installed in a corner of his big new machine shed, and he uses the wall as a canvas to showcase the farm's history.

"Everything old, I appreciate it," he said.

Affixed to the side with square peg nails are horseshoes, planter plates, a hog nose ringer and the bayonet from the end of the gun his grandfather was issued when he was drafted into World War I.

There also are photos: A portrait of his great-grandfather's family, the  family's first tractor that replaced a team of horses and Rock posing with a 785-pound pumpkin he raised for competition 10 years ago. On a ledge, there are four arrow heads found on the farm, vestiges of a people long gone.

The signature building on the place is a big, 32-foot by 96-foot barn built in 1936 that Rock still uses in his cattle operation. The horse stalls come in handy at calving time, he said. He also uses a smaller, 1920s barn.

An aging corn crib, though, is less useful. Corn cribs were used to store corn that was still on the cob, and they had slatted sides for ventilation. Nowadays, corn is harvested in a way that separates the ear from the kernels and the kernels are stored in bins.

"Grandpa and Dad would cringe if I ever tore it down," Rock said of the crib. "Back in the day, it was state of the art. A Cadillac."

Nowadays he uses it to store firewood that he uses to burn in a heater that keeps his cattle's water tank from freezing in winter.

As for the future of the farm, that's known. "I have three nieces," Rock said. "The chance of me being the end of the line is very real. That's a hard one to swallow."


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