Look Back at Life on the Farm on July 4, 1976 - NBC TV News Report on Minnesota Farm Family

Amazing what you can find on Youtube.

Last night (July 3, 2020) I was poking around and ran across a Youtube video of the NBC TV Sunday Night News program from July 4, 1976.

America’s 200th birthday.

Half way through the 30 minute news program…wow, an in depth report on a 4th generation western Minnesota farm family, the Thompsons from rural Louisburg, MN near Madison, MN. Their family farm was homesteaded in 1871. Madison is only 45 miles from the small farming town of Benson, MN where I grew up.

Here’s link to watch the 4:59 long report on the Thompson family from that 7/4/76 NBC Sunday Night News show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuTDU1HL64g&feature=youtu.be

Watching it kinda blew me away.

I was a 10 year old boy on July 4, 1976, 44 years ago today. We had 4 kids in our family, just as the Thompson family did. Many scenes from the video were very familiar memories of our collective past, I’m sure to you as well as me…the whole family sitting down together for dinner…church every Sunday…mom and grandma in the kitchen. Memories that bring a smile, along with pangs of a dull ache, of loss.

Of course watching this 44 year old video report from the farm also brought to mind the myriad amazing changes both agriculture and our society and culture have gone through and continue to go through at warp speed.

The Thompsons 4th generation farm had some cattle and 800 acres of crops. Today we see consolidation all around. Bigger, bigger, bigger still. And the equipment the Thompsons used to farm those 800 acres. Not the massive giant machines on the farms today, like the 2018 JD 9620RX with 623 hours sold for $407,000 just weeks ago, on a 6/19/20 farm estate auction in northeast Illinois. Nope, the Thompson farm got by with much smaller equipment.

Changes…back in 1976 we had only 5 channels on our TV’s. The remote control was most likely the youngest kid in the room…"Hey Johnny, why don’t you get up and change the channel over to 4. Clunk, clunk. There you go, channel 4 it is. News shows actually reported the news back then minus the blustery opinionated garbage we are bombarded with today from both the right and left.

Changes…no cell phones then. Our phones came out of the walls. Had long twisty cords. Rotary dials. . The internet…what the heck is that? Computers…ah, you mean those monstrously huge IBM machines that fill up rooms, right?

Changes…mom and grandma in the kitchen. Such a different reality and mind set then vs now. As husband to a successful career woman and father to 2 daughters, now 29 and 26, we raised to view the world with no walls, no ceilings, be who you want to dream and work to be. Change is always difficult, wrenching. But change often is wonderful. I look around ag social media today at all the amazing women representing and working hard in agriculture. Awesome x Infinity. No walls, no ceilings. You Go Girl.

Changes…the whole family sitting down to dinner together. Felt like that was quaint and out the window long ago as our lives all sped up, kid practices and activities to continually shuttle to and from. But I think oddly one of the ++ effects of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic has been a collective re-discovering of what’s most important in our lives…family…time together. Please pass the potatoes.

So as I was watching this NBC TV News report of life on the farm from July 4, 1976, 44 years ago today, the nostalgic remembrances were bumping against the jarring changes over the years.

…And then the ending focus of the NBC TV News report…on the youngest of the Thompson clan, 8 year old in 1976 - son David.

He is the one who is being brought up to run the farm.

David’s 8th birthday, another day closer until he will take over the farm…everyone agrees he’ll run it someday, like his dad did, like his granddad did, like his great grandfather did.

At one point in the video young 8 year old David Thompson is wearing a Minnesota Vikings number 10 Fran Tarkenton football jersey. Then 10 year old young Machinery Pete had the same Fran Tarkenton jersey 45 miles down the road in Benson, MN.

A thought floated through my head as the Youtube video ended last night…I should find and contact David Thompson. He’d be only couple years younger than me now. Did he wind up running the farm? What is he doing now? Still farming?

I turned to Google to attempt to track down David Thompson.

Sadly I found David’s obituary.

He passed just over 2 months ago, on April 20, 2020, at the age of 51. He would have turned 52 last week. His obit: https://www.washburn-mcreavy.com/obituaries/David-Thompson-63/#!/Obituary


I have been reading obits in our Minnesota daily newspaper for years. A habit. I wondered what story David’s obit would tell on the path of life. Didn’t appear that David took over the farm. He’d been a police officer. He’d owned a Comic Book store in the twin cities. He was currently working for a twin cities suburb (Anoka, MN) school district as a child care aide. His love was for his 2 sons, Devian and Bryce.

So no mention of taking over the family farm. Of course we know that NBC TV News report from America’s Bicentennial was only a few short years from…the 1980’s. We know what the 1980’s did to American agriculture. I do not know what became of the Thompson family farm in rural Louisburg, MN. Perhaps it is still in the family. Perhaps not.

Sister Janet passed away in 2012 at the age of 49. David and Janet’s father Bud Thompson, 46 years old in the 1976 NBC TV News report, passed on October 28, 2011 at the age of 81. They are buried in the cemetery of the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Church in rural Louisburg, MN…the church mentioned and shown in the 1976 TV news report, adjacent to the Thompson family farm.

The old Minnesota Valley Lutheran Church is still going…I found a current Go Fund Me page helping the church raise $$ for needed re-shingling project: https://www.gofundme.com/f/62xrb-minnesota-valley-lutheran-buy-a-shingle-fundraiser

Then (1976)

Now (2020)

While we’re talking Changes…the 1980’s did not see multiple Billion $$ government payments to struggling farmers to help smooth out the rough ride due to market conditions beyond their control. What if they had? How would things be different today? Would they be different, or would the on-going force toward consolidation, toward fewer but massively larger farms, dealerships, everything, be the same?

We can not know.

But what we do know today, July 4, 2020, on America’s 244th birthday is that both on the personal level with our families and on the national level with our country…things will continue to change. And we know these changes most likely won’t be easy, or fun. Change never is. Probably be very hard. But I would humbly submit…that Change is What We Do Best. We can always work, on our own individually and together collectively, to make things better.

For those who will come…2, 3, 4 generations after us.

All our families have stories we continue to write daily. We don’t know what the next chapters hold. None of us is promised tomorrow. But on this Independence Day '20 let’s remember to be…Thankful For Our Past and Thankful For Today.

Here is link to watch the full 30 min. NBC TV Sunday Night News show from July 4, 1976: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRDnBJglMGI

Machinery Pete

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