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Building a friendship

About 20 years ago or so, I was working for Gary Jones at Mayesville Mercantile in downtown Peabody on Memorial Day. It was fairly early in the morning of a major holiday and there were no shoppers in our downtown district. Most people were at the cemetery for the annual tribute to our veterans. I was seated on a bench outside the store, enjoying the weather.

Off in the distance, from the south, came a couple of visitors to the community. They appeared to be hiking into town from the Jones’ Bed and Breakfast in the Mayesville community. I had work to do in the store that would be better accomplished without customers, so despite the “open” sign already in front, I skipped the chance to be friendly and went inside to be productive.

Within minutes, the bell on the front door jingled and in they came. I puttered around doing the sorting and pricing on my list of chores for the day as they prowled and picked through the treasures that Jones had for sale. At some point the man asked if we had any old tractor photos and I said I thought we might. I pointed out the piles of catalogs, magazines, newspapers, and implement instruction booklets, sharing the many tractor items we carried. At some point, he picked up a roll of several poster-sized color photos that I think might have been called “color separations” and spread them out in front of him.

He looked at me and said, “I took these pictures.” I thought, “Yeah, and I am Santa Claus.” It turns out that he really did, and I really wasn’t. He was a professional photographer, and the photos were for a John Deere advertisement he shot. The subject of the pictures was his uncle, Emil Heyland of Peabody, on his John Deere tractor. Jones had purchased the posters at Heyland’s estate auction and had tossed them into the farm implement memorabilia section of his antique shop. Is it a small world? Indeed it is.

Fast forward to this past weekend when that couple and I got together again, this time for supper at the Coneburg Inn, where we lingered and visited long enough that the wait staff was anxious for us to leave and give up our table. However, we had much to share, just as we do every time John and Jan show up in Peabody again.

For several years, the three of us shared the bench in front of Mayesville Mercantile on Memorial Day morning. Later, as they showed up for extended stays in the community, we formed our own relationship with them and eventually the Married Daughter and What’s His Name bought the farm north of Peabody that was originally homesteaded by John’s family back in the 1880s. John’s mother, Esther Heyland Colwell, grew up here. She contributed memories for several alumni editions of the Peabody Gazette-Bulletin. Her father took advantage of the labor of the German prisoners of war, and she shared memories of those days as well with authors of Kansas and Peabody history.

Saturday night at the Coneburg Inn we did not much delve into Peabody history or our shared past. We laughed a lot about being in our 60s and about our parents and our own kids. I think that by now they have visited all the family they have in Kansas and have gone back to Minnesota. It is always a joy to see them and pick up where we left off after the previous visit. They are easy to enjoy.

Thanks, John and Jan, for sharing another visit and for being so much a part of our lives all these years. Thanks also for continuing to return to the community that your forefathers helped establish and that your family served for decades.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

Last modified Sept. 25, 2014

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