WINSTED TOWNSHIP, MN Over the course of 90 years, Alphonse Fiecke has made a lot of great memories.
A lifelong Winsted Township resident, Fiecke was born Jan. 9, 1926, and has lived on the same farm on County Road 9 for the past 63 years.
“I was born three miles east of Winsted,” he said. “And I started farming on my own here in 1953 dairy, grain, and corn.”
With five older brothers and sisters, and five younger ones, Fiecke was raised in a large family on a dairy farm.
He attended Holy Trinity Catholic School in Winsted as a child.
“The first years, we went to school with a horse and buggy in the summertime; and in the wintertime, we’d take a team of horses.”
As every Minnesota native knows, there are, on occasion, unusually extreme winters.
“In 1936, it never got above 0 degrees for six weeks,” Fiecke remembered. “And one day, it was so cold, we got to school and they called the school off. It got so cold the janitor couldn’t keep the buildings warm enough.”
After the eighth grade, he left school to concentrate on learning the life skills that he would rely upon for his entire career.
He helped work the family farm, and when he was old enough, travelled out of state to thresh fields.
In his late teens, for several seasons, Fiecke went to work the fall harvest at W.R. Mullenberg’s farm in New Rockford, ND.
One year, after the work was done, Fiecke travelled even farther he went out to Washington state to pick apples. Another time, for fun, he and his two friends, Ray Kohler and Paul Newman, hopped aboard a freight train to make it home from New Rockford.
It was in 1953 when Fiecke bought the property he lives on now. On May 9 of that same year, he married Rose Heigl, whom he had known since childhood.
“We were classmates. She was nine months older,” Fiecke said.
One of their first purchases was a John Deere Model A tractor.
Their property was 120 acres in size, and he rented 40 acres across the road for a number of years, as well. Even today, though he is down to 80 acres, Fiecke manages the property and continues renting out his fields and buildings.
Creating a life together, Rose and Alphonse started a family. They raised five children over the years: Marie, Paul, John, Mark, and Jane.
“We lived off, and on, the farm,” recalled Marie Cummings, Fiecke’s oldest daughter. “We used butter and lard and raised beef cattle, that we butchered. We had chickens, dairy cows, and cats. We made our own sausage, The kids, we all helped with the barn chores when we were young.”
Even today, though it is no longer in use, Fiecke has a walk-in cooler in the basement that he constructed himself, a butcher table with a cast iron meat grinder resting on the corner, plus a roll of white wrapping paper on a spool.
The first two years on his new property, Fiecke milked his dairy herd by hand. After that, he purchased a milk machine with two units. Eventually, he put in a pipeline and got two more units, so he could milk four cows at a time.
Fiecke had a harrowing experience in 1959, when he was building the dairy barn.
“I was shingling the roof and the scaffold broke. Paul Newman and I both went down,” Fiecke said. “I had my [tractor’s] loader bucket up. He was directly above and he fell down into the bucket. I was over a little further, and I went all the way down to the ground.”
Newman told him to lie still until the ambulance arrived, in case he had broken his neck. It was good advice.
“He took a 28-foot fall head first,” Marie Cummings explained. “He had a broken neck, and had to wear a body cast that was made of plaster.”
Fiecke has led a very full, busy life. Not only did he manage a 120-acre farm and a herd of 39 milk cows, he was also the Winsted Township clerk for 16 years, an election judge for 40 years, and spent more than 18 years as the vice president at the Farmers Coop Creamery.