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Leaving the Farm, Then Breaking New Ground

Lyle Link left his father's farm after deciding that picking corn and shoveling manure wasn't for him. He met his future wife, Marion, at church and never looked back. Now 90, Link describes the life they lived together and his heartache now that she's gone.

Link grew up on his family's dairy farm in Wisconsin. But, as he told his granddaughter, he never quite fit in.

"My father believed that any man that needed a vacation should get a different job, because for him, those 110 acres was the whole world and he needed nothing else," he says. "But farming wasn't for me."

"I wasn't happy picking corn or shoveling manure, although milking cows was good because I could sing opera ... and that was great."

"It sounds like you were the black sheep," his granddaughter, Carly Dreher, says.

"Yeah, I drove my poor father nuts. He couldn't understand me. I remember his saying one day, 'Son, you cannot think the thoughts you think.' My brother was totally a farmer. He never made another footstep that my father hadn't made before, and I couldn't walk in my father's footsteps to save my soul. So, the day came I left."

When Link met his future wife, he said to her, "Someday I'm going to ask you to marry me," he says. "And I took her hand and it went from there."

The Links lived a life full of adventure, he says. It started with a drive across the country on their honeymoon.

"I had a '36 Chevy and I was able to lay a mattress in the back seat," Link says. "We spent our first night in that car on a bluff over the Mississippi River. My father, by the way, did not approve of that kind of outrageous living.

"But I was willing to break new ground," Link tells Dreher. "And your grandma really was ready to break new ground."

Marion Link died Nov. 4, 2007, at the age of 87.

Link says he doesn't know why he loved her so much. "It was something I couldn't help. We have been in love for almost 70 years. And she now died.... And all I can say is that life was so beautiful.... "

"Is," his granddaughter interjects.

"It is so beautiful," he continues. "I'm terribly, terribly lonesome."

Asked if he has any regrets, Link says, "No, lived a wonderful life.

"I think when we got married, we made all new tracks and we never stepped in any old tracks. I want you to do the same thing," he tells Dreher. "Live with courage."

Produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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