All posts by Megan

Udderly Syllabub

Cow being milked in front of a crows
“Doris Dougan, ” set and ready–able and willing– and the expert milker on the job
I’ve been cruising through an old cookbook and found this recipe for you dairy and brewery fans. This cookbook is too recent for Eunice to have used, not that she would have served anything with alcohol anyway! But I bet it would’ve amused Ron to bring Vera’s elegant houseguests out to the barn for this “treat.”

Beer Syllabub
from The Gold Cookbook, by Master Chef Louis P. DeGuy,
Galahad Books, 1947
“This is a great drink to prepare for summer country house guests. Making it is great fun for the crowd.
Get ready a handful of dried currants which have been washed and allowed to swell up nice and plump in boiling water, then seed them. Into a large punch bowl, put 1 pint bottle of beer and the same quantity of hard cider—using light beer and good bottled cider. Sweeten to taste and add a dash or so of nutmeg. Now have your cow set and ready—able and willing—and the expert milker on the job. Hold the bowl a safe and convenient distance from the cow and milk directly into the bowl about three pints of milk. Milk infused in this way is creamy and frothy and the syllabub is a picturesque drink.”

p.s. …but what are we supposed to do with that handful of currants?

Letter to Grampa

Dear Grampa,

Remember back in 1943, when I was fifteen, I told you about my big inspiration? I wrote it down: I was going to write a book especially for you, and call it “The Round Barn.” You studied my note, laughed and nodded, and agreed that, “yes, the round barn would have a lot to say.” But then you died, just five years later, and amidst my grief was regret that I hadn’t written your book. I was glad that I had brought you my painting when you were in the hospital, even though my professor hadn’t liked the brown sky. You sat in your bed, admired the mother cow and her nursing calf, and didn’t criticize any of my color choices. Somehow that picture didn’t survive the hospital visit either, though I still have the preliminary sketch.

I’m older now than you were when you died, and well –I’m just now finishing your book. I know what you meant about life getting in the way! As it turns out, it’s got more stories than it ever could have had while you were alive –four fat volumes, from the path that led to your becoming a farmer, to daddy selling the dairy in 1972, and beyond. How I wish I’d asked you for your stories when I first thought of it! I’m missing so much, like the stories of our best herdsman, Bernard Kassilke; and I want to know what it was that the employee who lived out on Shopiere road refused to tell me –although your side of it would undoubtedly be different from his!

I suppose there are chapters that perhaps it’s just as well you never got the chance to read. You’d not like the intrusion into your personal life –and of course you wouldn’t have known of those conversations between Grama and Mrs. Smith, overheard by her little pitcher, Eloise Smith. You’d want to set me straight on some other details as well, agree or disagree on my interpretations of your private papers –which changed depending on where you were in life! –although you’d sternly tell me they were intended for God’s eyes alone.

I think you’d recognize, in the pages of “The Round Barn,” the legacy you left, and be pleased.

But then you’d urge me not to write any more, and advise me to get back to living my life; that now it was the book getting in the way –you were always good at giving thoughtful advice. And you’d like to know how everything turned out after you were gone. Of course, perhaps you already do, up there in heaven. Or perhaps you’re too busy planting seeds in the clouds. For even Heaven needs plants, and water, and surely some lime in the soil. And a cow and nursing calf. Otherwise it’s not Heaven, isn’t that right?

Love, Jackie

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Aunt Lillian
Happy New Year from Aunt Lillian

Aunt Lillian, Wesson’s oldest sister, lived in Beloit and helped out on the farm as needed; much the the relief (and annoyance) of her sister-in-law, Eunice.

In this picture, taken in (perhaps?) the late 1950’s, she wished everyone
–including herself, every time she looked into the mirror– a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Into the FIFTH(!) generation later, we’re sharing her best wishes with you…

HAPPY NEW YEAR from Aunt Lillian and all of us at The Round Barn!

Recreated Family Christmas Card: 16; and then again, 66 years later

1930 Dougan Christmas Card

The Dougan Children posed in the “little house” for this Christmas postcard in 1930. Jo, going on 6, offers Craig, not yet 1, a stocking. The card reads, “Brother Dougan, we unanimously attest to the efficacy of this practice” Patsy, right, is just 4, and Jackie is 2 & 1/2.
Jackie reports that the fire prompted her to hold her arms over head that way; and that she insisted that her parents to build her roaring fires out of newspapers for months afterwards.


The 1946 card modernized the 1930 photo by printing in black and white. Then, at 21, 19, 17, and 15, the family put on their robes and carefully took up the same poses by the fireplace of their new home, Chez Nous.


The final photo wasn’t taken until 1996, 50 years later, at Ron’s funeral. In this photo, Jo is 71; Pat, 69; Jack, 68, and Craig was 66. Really, they should have put on their pyjamas and built a fire (Jackie would’ve liked that), but this was on impulse, so I guess that floral arrangement is a pretty good stand-in for the fire. This photo was never meant for the Christmas card circuit, but now, here it is.

Merry Christmas!


p.s. Not sure whose sock that was…

…breadcrumb trail leads to gold

For Volume 4 of “THE ROUND BARN,” due out early next year, I’ve been scanning photos from (and also reading) newspaper coverage of Farm Progress Days, held on my Grandpa Dougan’s farm in 1961. Here and there, I ran across a mention of Alice in Dairyland. Well, as everyone who’s ever visited Jackie’s downstairs bathroom knows, who could be more perfectly
fitting in a story told by Jackie, than Alice?

Curiosity well piqued, I turned to google, and found this intriguing (sub)header in the June 25th, 1961 edition of The Milwaukee Journal:

Click the picture to read the full article
Click here to read the full article
From the article: “Poised and stunning in a blue gown, Miss Anderson broke precedent a bit when she stayed dry-eyed as the announcement of her victory was made.”

Really– being dry-eyed broke a precedent? Apparently so: it turns out that the role of Alice is Wisconsin’s Agricultural Ambassador, not bad for a “starter” job at age 19. No wonder it was worth mentioning that she kept it together! And look where it’s taken her: I found Miss Anderson’s current name on the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture website, and from there, learned that Carol Anderson Koby has a radio show out of Madison: ALL ABOUT LIVING.

Carol says, “These programs are built on the philosophy that age is not a
deterrent to being an active participant in a complex world. In fact, leading a full, productive, and happy life is an “ageless” concept.”

Yes indeed. What could be a better description of Jackie, at age 86, than
leading a full, productive, and happy life?

Naturally, I started listening immediately, and that’s how I found this audio program, which might be of particular interest to Jackie’s followers: TRANSFORM YOUR TRAVEL INTO A COMPELLING MEMOIR,
with guest Sarah White, who offers services and help for writers of personal stories at her website, First Person Productions. Sarah also has a blog:
True Stories Well Told, –definitely worth checking out.

For all of you who have been in any of Jackie’s classes (Family Stories writers, especially! give this show a listen!) over the past 40 years, I ask you– who could possibly be more perfectly fitting for the Alice in her story?

And to Carol and Sarah– thanks for all you do! Now, carry on.

Found picture: “the sidewalk”

This picture (circa 1930) of “the sidewalk” was intended to be in Volume 3, but didn’t surface until after the book went to press

“…Jackie, perhaps six, experiences a kind of spiritual moment on that sidewalk. She’s coming back from Grama’s in the dark, there’s a moon overhead. Shadows are sharp. All the fields are so clear, so bright, so quiet, that something inside her demands response. She creates a ritual, turning first east, then north, then west, then south. She counts slowly to ten and lifts her face so that it is bathed in moonlight. With eyes closed she stands quite still till she is soaked through with radiance. She then gives a little skip and continues on to the lighted Little House.”

…from The Round Barn, Vol 3

“–fixed that for ya, Grandma!”

In 1933, if you weren’t happy with the expression on your daughter’s face in the annual Christmas card shoot, your only option was to try a manual solution. Grandma wanted to use a certain photo in the annual card to be sent to friends, family, employees and customers of the farm, but she just couldn’t accept Jackie’s mouth. So, she got out a fountain pen and tried to fix it, with, as you can see, predictable results:

Yikes! She gave it up and used this shot instead:

Nowadays, it’s easy to switch out features from a similar photos. So, Gramdma, here ya go! “I fixed that for ya.”
My fix:

Now, after 82 years, she can finally share her great joke: that framed photo on the table? –that’s Doc Thayer, the doctor who delivered all four choristers!


See the *new card* on etsy!