BEHLING: Still more Round Barn stories

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THE ROUND BARN on Colley Road east of town still stands, but

barely. It’s a century old this year, and looks it. Hopes for its

resurrection as a Wisconsin dairying museum haven’t materialized,

which is sad.

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The barn was a centerpiece of the Dougan Dairy farm where Jackie

Dougan spent her adventurous childhood. And the rickety old barn is

the focal point of a seemingly unending string of memories that are

recounted in three books she’s written. The latest is ready for

reading.

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The first two, published in 1997 and 2002 and reviewed in this

column, were titled “Stories from the Round Barn” and “More Stories

from the Round Barn.” They contained a total of 93 essays of

remembrance written by Jackie as present-tense, third-person

narratives. Her accounts of long-ago events, people and experiences

were amusing, poignant and factual stories of farming and family,

of hard times and good times, of growing up and learning, of work

and play.

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NOW COMES Jackie’s next book. Just published, it’s titled simply

“The Round Barn — A Biography of an American Farm.” It contains an

impressive total of 125 short, pithy, fascinating, funny and varied

stories compiled by the author using her own, seemingly

inexhaustible powers of recall, plus the meticulous records of her

grandfather, her parents and others kept back during the

early-to-mid 1900s.

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Jackie Dougan Jackson, who was a classmate of this writer and who,

at age 83, seems determined to keep writing about Grandpa W.

Dougan’s then-innovative round barn, her hard-working family, her

highly accomplished parents, dairying, neighboring and living back

then.

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Jackie, whose career was spent as a teacher at the University of

Illinois in Springfield (where she still lives), will be at the

Hendricks performing arts center (formerly the library) at Pleasant

and East Grand Oct. 26 for a talk by Tom McBride followed by

signing and selling of her latest book at a discount price of $20

(regular price $25) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The beverage du jour will

be — guess what? — chocolate milk.

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THE NEW BOOK is a hefty 539-pager containing old photos, diagrams

of the Dougan properties on Colley Road, and other illustrations.

It’s Volume One and focuses on the silo surrounded by the iconic

round barn, the original milkhouse, and the routes plied by Dougan

delivery wagons and trucks in and around Beloit.

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The second volume, set for publication a year hence, will contain

stories about home-farm crops (Dougan was noted for its hybrid seed

corn), neighbors and a “town and country” roundup over the early

half of the 1900s.

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Volume Three (will there be even more?) is to come out in the fall

of 2013 and will contain a broader view of the state, the nation

and the world as seen through Jackie’s eyes.

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Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin read the Round Barn book and said

this:

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“JACKIE JACKSON throws open the Round Barn doors at the Dougan

family farm to tell us an American story. She gives us a rich

history of farm life at the mercy of the forces of science and the

market but grounded in rock-solid Wisconsin values. Jackie adds

depth and texture with the remembered word, the treasured memory,

and the wonderful characters she met on her life’s journey.”

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Those are the wise words of a United States senator, and in this

case, who can disagree?

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We who are ancient enough to recall the Dougan slogan: “The Babies’

Milkman,” the introduction of those amber milk bottles, the visits

of school children to the Dougan Dairy, and the Dougan ads in the

Daily News that featured pictures of youngsters growing up on

Dougan dairy products, will be especially captivated by Jackie’s

stories in the newest book. Some have been related, all or in part,

in the earlier books, but most are never-before told.

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NOT TO SUGGEST that only old-timers will find Jackie’s book of

memories interesting. Indeed, the younger generations will find

these reminiscences to be windows to bygone days, when growing up

on a farm (as did this writer) was fun, enlightening and helpful to

those who left the land to pursue careers unrelated to cowbarns,

manure spreaders and silo-filling.

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W.J. “Daddy” Dougan, a preacher-gone-deaf, bought the farm in 1906

with a goal of establishing a dairy. An innovative and practical

fellow, he figured stanchioning milk cows around a central silo

would make feeding them easier, not to mention a handier way to

handle what the cows deposited in the gutters.

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With the above in mind he raised more than a few builders’ eyebrows

when he hired them to put up a concrete silo and build a barn

around it — a barn with a dome-shaped roof over a huge haymow. It

was in 1911 — a century ago right now — that the round barn project

was finished and that the Rev. W.J. and his equally brilliant son,

Ron, ushered the herd of Guernseys into their circular feeding and

milking quarters.

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WITH JACKIE, her family comes first in her storytelling: Eunice and

Wesson Dougan, Ronald and Vera Dougan, Trevor and Bernice Dougan,

Jerry Dougan, Joan Dougan Schmidt, Karl and Jeremy Schmidt, Pat

Dougan Dalvit, Craig Dougan, and many more. Neighbors, friends,

hired hands and Beloit people, both plain and prominent, are

mentioned in this, or future, books.

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The many stories bear intriguing titles such as S.O.B., Bloat, Five

Tit Nellies, The Great Hayloft in the Sky, Cockroaches, The

Three-Legged Pig, Kazoozlehose, and Circumcision.

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Like the books before it, “The Round Barn ...” is a worthy

read.

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William D. Behling is Editor Emeritus of the Beloit Daily

News.

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