This article by Rev. G. Birkmann and translated by Ray Martens first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, Giddings, Texas, on February 2, 1933.
Quiet and somewhat removed from commerce, I cannot deny, but that suited me just fine, and I longed for nothing else. Now and then a visitor would say to me, “How can you even endure it here so far from town? If someone wants to come to you, he has to travel for miles on sandy roads through woods and brush, with hardly a house in sight along the way. Constantly on your mind is, ‘When will we arrive?”‘ Such speeches rubbed me wrong because I lived happily here among my congregation in Fedor, and I had grown accustomed to many things which were tiresome for others – the monotony and the quiet – and the familiar roads were seldom too long for me.
During the first years – no fewer than ten – I had no wagon (or buggy, as it is called), instead made all my trips in a saddle. I had three horses, one after the other, with hooves hard as steel, never needing to be shod. To some extent, they had Indian blood. But these animals were already tamed and broken [for riding] when I acquired them, and they never tried to throw me. But they had the habit of inhaling while they were being saddled, allowing them later to relax and so to prevent the girth from fitting snugly. But one soon caught on to this trick by the horse and tried to outwit it by taking one’s time and pulling hard on the girth to get it tight enough.
When I purchased a buggy some years later, someone offered me a pair of stately horses, and, since the price seemed moderate, not more than eighty dollars for the pair, we struck a deal. I drove with these horses for seven years, almost always at a fast trot to the extent that the roads, often bad, would allow. I made my many trips to Lexington and to Thorndale with this team. Because new farms were being established at many places back then on the way to Thorndale, the road often was altered or obstructed, and almost every time I had to use new roads in stretches, often difficult to find the right way. But it did not matter much if l had plenty of time, for I got a look at new areas through which I had not traveled before and knew that finally I would arrive in Thorndale and find a happy welcome and hospitable reception with Mother Michalk (Mrs. Karl Michalk).
I did encounter affliction in my Fedor home, as did the other families in my congregation, especially through the early death of my first wife, who was called away by the dear Lord after only six and a half years, leaving behind three children for me.
In the following year, I was presented a true helpmate a second time, one who cared for my children and, on her part, brought me three children from her first marriage. God accomplished much good for me through this second wife of mine. She was a housewife and mother like the Bible describes in Proverbs 3 I, “Her husband’s heart can depend on her; he will not want for nourishment.”
We always had a good garden, which produced vegetables in abundance for our table, unless continuous drought made that impossible. We also kept several milk cows. We had a pasture for them which at times provided ample grazing. We also some acres in field, planted with corn or other cattle food. My congregation naturally also gave me the promised salary and would not allow me or mine to suffer any want, even though we [as a family] grew significantly in number. A number of families thought of us whenever they butchered or when the potato crop turned out to be good. This is entirely in accord with the word of Holy Scripture, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” [Galatians 6:6]
But as nice and as necessary as all the things which contribute to earthly achievement are, what is most important is to be happy in one’s calling and able to serve others. And that was the case with me in Fedor. I lived with contentment amid my dear congregation, for whom I provided by preaching the Word of God, the same Word on which I found plentiful opportunity to rely also otherwise in my ministry. When one is busy in his calling, then that calling lays full claim on him and he finds no cause to complain about boredom or loneliness. One must invest much study and preparation in preaching and speaking of all kinds on occasions which present themselves. Even if the pastor does not have to conduct school, his time is claimed in a congregation of some size by confirmation instruction, sick calls and other home visits, burials, and more.
Surely occasional days would come along when the pastor had no sermons to prepare nor other work [demanding his attention]. On such days he took a walk in God’s free nature or went on a drive with wife and family (as many as could find room in the wagon) to visit people in the congregation or, for a change, to drive to a little town like Lexington or a city like Giddings. Such travel made for a holiday for the passengers, because on the way to Lexington one goes through extensive woods and nature in its original condition, and, if one goes to Giddings, that takes you over the beautiful San Antonio Prairie, and, once you get to town, there is so much to see, so much to experience. That is the life, like going to the fair. (That is the way it used to be.)
Also if I went alone on the roads around Fedor, perhaps to visit a sick person, such a drive was always interesting and instructive to me. That was especially true in the spring, when the post oaks displayed their first tender green, and then a week later the entire woods decorated like a temple of the dear Lord, flowers along the way competing with each other in the display of color, birds whistling and twittering, and the soft wind playing round your cheeks. Next, I come to a place with fields on the right and left, on the right a man hoeing his potatoes, on the left another plowing his corn, already a good stand. Both greet me if they are close enough, and I ask them how they are doing. Yes, one must work by the sweat of his brow, but one does that happily, hoping for a good crop to make the hard work a joy.
Now that every head of family and every pastor has a car, one cannot even speak anymore about the remoteness of the place. Even now one can live in this pretty, quiet area, not bothered by tramps and beggars and the like, not having to pay the high city taxes, all the advantages of living in the country. And, if you wish to enjoy the advantages of a city, a car will take you there in less than an hour, and you stay until you have finished what you intended to do, and then you drive home again on the highway in time for supper.