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Front Porch: Who knows what might be lurking on those jampacked shelves?

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 27, 2023

3 Min Read
small, blue child's suitcase that says "Going to Grandma's"
PRACTICAL FIND: We uncovered our son’s suitcase just in time for his son to use it to come to our house. Tom J. Bechman

Some of you may remember the late Howard Doster, the iconic-if-somewhat-eccentric Purdue Ag economist. He could be mired down in the most tedious task ever, yet smile and say, “What fun!”

The activity I shall describe would have tested even Howard’s patience. I made the mistake of offering to help my wife start cleaning out closets one time too many.

Naturally, she wanted to start with the biggest closet — the one with bifold doors that spans the width of the back bedroom. Four sturdy, wooden shelves line every wall, and they were packed full. Four kids now grown and gone and 20 years between cleaning closets produces lots of stuff.

Fortunately, our oldest daughter, Allison, was helping. My idea was to pull it all out, reorganize and put it all back. Allison’s idea was pull it all out and leave it out — in a trash bag.

“If you aren’t sure why you kept it in the first place, and forgot it was there, and it’s been there for 20 years, why would you keep it now?” she asked.

Hmmm. Good point.

Great finds

Here are some treasures we found:

20-year-old microwave. Everyone needs one in their closet! And no, it wasn’t antique. “We probably stuck it there after moving a kid home from college,” Carla lamented.

“Not I,” assured Allison. I’m not so sure.

Allison plugged it in, and it worked! It’s headed to a donation shop — where it should have gone 20 years ago.

Anniversary cards. … from my maternal grandfather and grandmother’s 50th wedding anniversary. She died in 1963 and my grandfather in 1974. They were married more than 60 years; you do the math. I wasn’t going to be the one to throw them out. They’re back in the closet.

Toy tractor boxes. No self-respecting toy collector throws boxes away. Some boxes from the 1950s fetch $200 or more — just for the box. None of these were old … yet. Alison knew the ground rules. She could not throw them away, just reorganize them. She did great. Now I have room for more boxes, which means more toy tractors!

4-H ribbons and banners. You know those things that some people, not me, literally spend thousands of dollars chasing? We had a whole big box crammed full. Nice purple ones, dating back 25 years. You know what a purple banner is good for after the fair? Stuffing in a closet.

Kid’s suitcase. Carla uncovered the suitcase she sent with our son, Daniel, when he went to Grandma’s house as a little tike. It even says “Going to Grandma’s.” Nope, it didn’t go back in the closet. It’s going to Daniel’s house. His son, Nolan, 2, can use it to come to our house.

Old pictures. “Oh, look, Allison, here’s a gem,” Carla said. It was me — my high school graduation picture.

Two can play that game. “Allison, look here,” I said. It was a high school picture of Carla. Her hair was a slightly different shade.


We took out four big, big bags of trash, carted off several bags of clothes to donate and filled the spare bed with items going to each kid’s house, since it is their “stuff.” And at the end of two days … the closet was still full.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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