ON POINT


The field trip

For those of you who may be interested in whatever political topic was on my mind this week, it’s not going to happen. Today, it is one of those normally mundane issues of junior high field trips that has caught my attention.  

As most of you know, my wife and I are raising two of our grandchildren who we have adopted. The youngest is 12 and attends Decatur Christian School in Forsyth. He was scheduled for a typical school field trip and the teachers asked for parent chaperones to attend. I was one of three parent chaperones who went with the class. 

The permission sheets came out and I signed it for Micah to attend. I looked at the destination and saw we would be going to Funk Prairie Home and rock museum in Shirley. I got it. We would be looking at some old farmhouse and then see some rocks and then have a picnic lunch on the grounds. No big deal. The kids get a day away from classes and I will attend another field trip as I have done numerous times in the past. I don’t want to sound like I felt obligated to chaperone. There was no obligation. Mrs. Waltrip is an excellent teacher and Micah has responded well to her classes. I’ll go, but this is an old farmhouse with a rock collection. I grew up in an old farmhouse and there were rocks all around the creek. Yes, I might learn something about seed corn as this is a FUNK home, but my Dad’s cousin had a seed company in Gilman, with plenty of detasseling experience. This field trip was not going to be a big deal. I might see some things that might stir some childhood memories, but the bottom line for me was that an old farm boy was going to visit a farmhouse with some rocks. 

Let me clearly state my assumptions were oh so wrong. I had violated my own standards of making conclusions, before I had seen the evidence. The evidence at the Funk Prairie Home was outstanding. I was deeply impressed and fascinated by what I observed and heard during the tour of the grounds. I have over 300 credit hours of undergraduate and graduate education. During that 2-1/2 hour tour, those kids, and the adults with them truly received an educational experience that was simply a joy to attend. 

I will not even attempt to give a litany of what all we saw, but will provide a brief overview as you need to go see this true picture of central Illinois history for yourselves. 

We were greeted outside the house by Bill Case who modestly described himself as the tour guide. That description doesn’t do justice to the experience. Bill Case was a true historian extraordinaire with a deep appreciation of the sciences. Smart guys tend to talk over the heads of the listener, especially if that listener is a child. Not Mr. Case. He answered a multitude of questions from the kids and each child and the group heard a response that they easily understood. Mr. Case loved questions and he loved teaching even more. It was a great day.

The first thing that caught our eyes was the grass tennis court. A tennis court in Illinois in the late 1800s. Wow. We then toured the home. Let me stress that this is not a restored home. This is the working farm home of the Funk family that has been maintained. Original, catalogue Montgomery Ward furniture mixed with custom ordered headboards of 100 years ago furnished the home. The home has an electrical generating plant that was the first electricity to farms in McLean County. Original appliances and utensils used by the Funks are on display. 

We even got some comments about the seed company. More importantly, we were exposed to the history of what Funks did for agriculture throughout the world and their involvement in our nation’s political history.

The rocks were a collection from central Illinois and all over the world. Mr. Case explained the use of the minerals in the rocks and gave one of the best short talks on fossils and animal species I have ever heard. 

Lastly, we had our lunch in an enclosed screened area by the rock museum. What more can an old fat boy ask for. A great tour with immense learning, well behaved kids, and he got his tummy full. Yes, it was a big deal.

 I am not writing a report on a significant part of central Illinois history. I want you to go see this place. It costs nothing to take the tour. You must call ahead and make an appointment to take the tour. Your tour group can be from 1 to whatever number Mr. Case feels comfortable walking through the home. Our group had 17 people in it and it was a comfortable size. I urge you and a group of friends/family to call Bill Case at 309-827-6792. The Funk home is 20 minutes from Clinton, near Shirley. You will enjoy and appreciate this tour. 

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