I’ll have to admit, I have been having a hard time putting my experience in Taylor, Wisconsin in words. When I mentioned to my mother that I wanted to visit her mother’s (my grandma Ellen’s) birthplace, it brought tears to her eyes. Growing up, I remember that my grandma would return home almost every summer for the Waller family reunion. Ellen was born the oldest of 11 in a small town in Wisconsin. Taylor is a bit depressed, and definitely small (I think the town sign said 476 people). In my mother’s enthusiasm and support for my trip, she asked my dad if he was done using the phone and got on the email (yeah, that’s not incorrect grammar, just what she calls it) and messaged a few cousins (most she’s never met) to see if they wanted to host or meet me. One respondent was her cousin Nancy. She would be out at her dad’s farm, and said I was welcome to come out.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of imposing or staying with strangers. I realized on this trip, it’s been awhile since I’ve stayed with someone who wasn’t family or a close friend. But, I thought what the heck, it’s not like there were hotels in Taylor. Driving out in the country, I weaved in and out of cell service, and getting to Taylor, found that the main street was closed for construction – guess no cute nostalgic pictures that way! I found the farm, and turned up the grass driveway, praying to God that this was the right place.
I saw Nancy come out of the garden and knew instantly she was part of my grandma’s family, she reminded me of my grandma’s sister Mamie. She was very welcoming, as was her husband Al – and their sweet dog Parker – whom Jasper was very happy to follow around like a pack dog.
The house was built in 1931, and the beautiful red barn within the last few years. The farm land has since been turned into preserve lands – hosting many animals, and butterflies (sadly, they were not there!). I can only imagine how beautiful it turns. What a wonderful space to give back to nature, amongst the more manicured/managed farmlands surrounding?!
Inside, the decorations are those of a collection to be envied. Eclectic and yet all fitting together, Tiki bar included. Both Nancy and Al are very creative people, and I enjoyed both what they had done to the farm and their stories of creations past. Before I leave off praising them, I must say how well I ate the whole time I was there. From the first meal (mu-shu pork) to the last (gourmet hot-dogs), I had to restrain myself from inhaling all the food – even the rhubarb tea ;-). I will just say, I was spoiled.
On Wednesday, Nancy took me to the Taylor Museum of History – and I got a private tour of the old grade school turned museum. And I loved every minute of it. What a great way to preserve and display small town history! The museum is laid out thematically, and has preserved all the classes and yearbooks of those who have gone before. It was a special experience to see and hear the stories of how my great grandparents (remember, of 11 kids) took in and fostered kids from far out farms so they could attend school. That welcoming and open spirit was passed down through the generations, and I saw evidence of that in my grandma Ellen, my mom, and in Nancy as well (who has put on parties for local kids to keep them engaged, and single-handedly runs the museum).
My last night at the farm, we watched a movie in the barn (Pray for the Wildcats) and I will never see Andy Griffith the same again – haha. I know that Jasper wanted to stay longer, and so did I, but the road was calling. I will never forget that spot – it was truly magic and I’m grateful for the experience. I’m learning quickly that one stop to the next is not comparable, but this one will always stand out as extra special.