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Last surviving sibling clings to family, friends

Staff writer

When Jim Hett was growing up in rural Marion, he lived in a crowded household that included six brothers and two sisters. His last surviving siblings, sister Ellen Darrow and brother John Hett, both died in the same week about five years ago.

Now that he is 90 and the last remaining sibling, he looks back with gratitude for the family he had.

“It’s hard to say how I feel,” he said. “I kind of wonder why I am still alive, but I spend a lot of time remembering when we were all together.”

He has memories of the of many large gatherings with his 30 nieces and nephews and their families at the farm. They mean more than ever to him now, and he cherishes their friendships.

“As you get older, you lose friends, but you have to keep making more of them or you’ll run out,” he said.

Hett was the second to the youngest and remembers sleeping in one big upstairs bedroom along with four brothers.

“If we got too noisy, Dad would come up and straighten us out,” he said.

The brothers grew up working with horses. The home place south of Aulne had a horse barn and a cow barn, with 12 horses and 16 milk cows.

Everyone worked hard.

“We didn’t know what an allowance was,” Hett said. “Our allowance was getting to eat at the table.”

Hett’s father, John Sr., owned a threshing machine. Five families would come together to thresh their wheat, each having its own hay wagon. Hett’s job was to haul stalks of wheat from the field to the threshing machine. The hay wagon was pulled by horses.

“That is one of the more fun times I remember,” he said.

Another memory is of good times on nearby Catlin Creek, where they swam and fished in summer and trapped and went ice skating in winter. Young people came from all around to swim on Sunday afternoons.

The brothers also enjoyed playing in the haymow.

Several times, they put tires on the frozen creek bed and set them on fire for light, so they could play ice hockey.

At age 18, Hett and his brother John learned to shear sheep. Almost every farm had sheep, and the two brothers would go from farm to farm and earn 25 cents a head.

After he met his sweetheart, Carol Oblander of Marion, he sheared 1,200 head of sheep to earn the money he needed to buy a set of rings. They were married at Marion Presbyterian Church on May 25, 1952.

Jim and John had a Caterpillar and built conservation terraces and ponds.

Hett owned a sawmill and arranged with KG&E to make lumber out of a bunch of 18-inch-thick highline poles. With his share of the boards, he built a new house, a Quonset machine shed, a hay shed, and a garage. He also made shingles for the garage roof.

The Hetts moved into their new home in 1979 and still reside there.

They have three adopted children: Tim of Emporia, Kim of Oregon, and Rob of Marion. They have four grandchildren.

He is a lifelong member of Aulne United Methodist Church.

“Because my mother carried me into church, I had a head start,” he said.

The Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, taught to him by his mother, is his guiding principle. His favorite verse says, “Act in the living present, heart within, and God o’erhead.”

Last modified Jan. 18, 2018

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