The Earl Butz Farm





Except for the interpretive center in the trailer of a North American moving van, the Earl Butz Farm, the boyhood home of Earl Butz, secretary of agriculture under Richard Nixon, is now part of a larger, privately owned farm. The land itself, four hundred acres in Sycamore Township, is currently owned by an Italian insurance company and is leased to the Big Mac Management Group, a subsidiary of Central Soya Industries of Decatur, Illinois. None of the buildings known to exist during the former secretary’s childhood (two houses, summer kitchen, root cellar, storm cellar, mow barn and silo, tool shed, tractor shed, corncrib, coops, pole barns, pumphouse, springhouse, horse barn, grain bins, garages, green houses, mill, machine shop, manure tanks, cannery, warehouse, fuel bunker, loafing shed, pigpens, nursery and farrowing houses, child’s play house, woodshed, and outhouse) survives. Before the land is planted, it is possible, with a bit of imagination, to reconstruct the bare outlines of the domestic structures’ footprint by using the small stands of rhubarb and horseradish that somehow germinate each year to outline the buildings’ lost foundations. One may easily discern the remains of the former dirt-floored basketball court bordered by foxtail and milkweed. There are the ruined and rusted struts of a windmill tower, the well beneath it being too deep to fill, that serve as a base station for the Citizen’s Band radio employed by the seasonal field hands. There is not a fence nor fence post in sight, though the interpretive center has a collection of barbed wire. The fertile family graveyard, however, still yields, after all these years, a rich assortment of artifacts and human remains, which are freshly turned up each spring by state-of-the-art mold board chisel plows. Agronomy experts from Purdue University believe that such material will continue to be produced for, perhaps, several years more as the topsoil is routinely eroded.

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