That was just our Floyd

When I was a little girl, I remember my siblings and me waiting with great anticipation for Floyd and Marlene Henn to put up their Christmas decorations.

They were our neighbors just down the road.

They had been there forever . . . so long, it seemed they would be the one constant in the neighborhood for all eternity.

When we started to see Christmas-related activity on their place, as our older neighbor walked about with tools . . . and hear Floyd argue about how it was going to be done . . . we knew the magic was near.

And the night that the Henns flipped the switch was phenomenal – we could see the glow from our farm and begged the folks to take us closer.

As we sat in the pickup, we voiced our amazement at the skill the neighbors possessed with their dazzling work of art.

And Dad would simply say, “Well, that’s just our Floyd.”

We lost our father a few years later. It was a tough transition, to say the least. My mother was left with seven kids, a dairy farm and not much hope for the future.

But I remember, many a day, seeing Floyd’s pickup parked in front of milk barn next to my mother’s van. If that was the case, we just left them alone. Floyd was like a father figure to my mother, as he would often just show up to solicit good advice, words of encouragement and a swig of Peachtree schnapps when warranted.

That was just our Floyd.

When we drove too fast past his place, he made sure to tattle on us so we could get the reprimands we deserved.

If we did something good at school which was then chronicled in the local newspaper . . . he always made sure to say congratulations.

And give us a command to “keep studying so you get someplace in life.”

That was just our Floyd.

When my 15-year-old sister, Nancy, was in a car accident, the family prepared to go to Omaha, where she had been taken by helicopter. There was one problem . . . someone had to stay behind and milk the cows. Of course, Floyd stepped up and said he’d drive my brothers to Omaha just as soon as the last cow was milked.

And that’s just what Floyd and Marlene did . . . they dropped everything and drove to the city that day. They arrived just in time for the boys to say good-bye . . . and to hold our hands.

That was just our Floyd.

A year later, after we lost our mother, Floyd and Marlene were always there. I remember tons of times that I’d come home and find food they left in the kitchen for us. Floyd was so close to my brothers . . . and very motivated to encourage them to keep going on that family farm. He knew what that place had meant to our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents . . . and he wanted to see it continue as much as we did.

Oh, and for whatever reason, he was always worried about our air conditioning unit in the main house.

That was just our Floyd.

As time went on, we girls left the farm . . . but the boys stayed, each got married and had kids.

Floyd had a special place in his heart for all the Mueller kids . . . which translated down to the next generation.

My nephew, Logan, participated in the Nebraska State 4-H Horse Show last summer. And even though Floyd was well into his 80s, he insisted on going along. My brother, Steve, loaded him into the pickup and off they went.

Logan scored high enough in the junior reining preliminaries to make it to the finals. It was almost more than Floyd could take.

When Logan and his horse, Captain, made their run in the finals, Floyd stood up in the stands and continually yelled, “Logan, ride him! Logan, ride him!”

Logan finished fourth and Floyd’s already hoarse voice was filled with excitement. So much excitement, he decided to eat numerous hot dogs . . . which was a celebration in itself, seeing how he said he hadn’t had a hot dog in many years.

But he wasn’t done there . . . my brother said he also celebrated with beer, ice cream and fast food, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

He was just too happy, the elderly neighbor said.

That was just our Floyd.

Somewhere along the line, Floyd won a Gator at Husker Harvest Days and he would drive it over to the farm almost weekly to complain to Steve about the feedlot smell, flies, noise and ruination of the roads . . . as the farm evolved over the years.

“Oh, he’d just chew me out,” Steve says. “Just rip me a new one. And then when he was done, I’d always ask him if he forgot anything. And he would always respond with ‘Oh, the hell with you,’ laugh, and drive away.”

That was just our Floyd.

A few years ago, I ventured back to do a presentation and a book signing event at the Catholic church in Neligh. I had assumed it was something only women would be interested in . . . so I was surprised to see three men also in attendance. Who were they? The priest, my father-in-law . . . and Floyd. He was sitting right in the front row, beaming from ear to ear, and staring into my soul. During that hour of speaking, sometimes I felt like Floyd and I were the only people in the room . . . because of the way he was so earnest about what I had to say. It meant a lot . . . and it surprised me. I don’t know why, because . . . well, that was just our Floyd.

My brother had many fishing trips with Floyd to Wetstone, S.D. I don’t know how many fish they caught, but I can only imagine those days were filled with tons of laughter because the old guy loved a good joke.

That was just our Floyd.

Mr. Henn was always there to run for parts and anything else that was needed. My sister-in-law, Motanna, said the guys would just have to call Floyd and simply ask when he could leave. He always responded with, “Well, right now.” And off he went . . . sometimes to far destinations.

“He even drove to McIntosh Jewelry in O’Neill to get my mother’s ring,” Motanna remembered. “It was a Christmas present from Steve, but someone had to pick it up. He, of course, volunteered.”

That was just our Floyd.

Years ago, when Steve was in his 20s and Floyd was in his 60s, they challenged each other to an arm wrestling match during a gathering on the farm. Steve thought it would be a walk in the park . . . but it quickly became evident that was not to be the case. The match went on for several minutes . . . to Steve, it seemed like eternity. But he could not outlast the elder and had to accept defeat.

That was just our Floyd.

A few weeks ago, my nephew, Logan, got a new trimmer for his show cattle. His little brother, Coop, of course, wanted a trimmer all his own. So they gave him the old one, on which the motor had long died.

So Coop would pretend to trim things. It was plugged in . . . but it didn’t work.

Floyd was at the farm and Coop was showing him his own personal trimmer . . . and expressing his need to have something to trim.

Of course, Floyd volunteered, offering up the back of his own head as the canvass for Coop’s expertise.

Coop carefully ran the trimmer along Floyd’s hair, pretending that he was doing a fantastic job.

And then the unthinkable happened . . . the motor miraculously kicked in and Coop proceeded to shave off huge chunks of Floyd’s remaining hair. Rather than worry about what he looked like, he encouraged Coop’s trimming ability . . . and Marlene took him to the barber to fix what was left.

That was just our Floyd.

Shortly later, Floyd took ill. Steve, Motanna and the boys went to Floyd’s hospital bed . . . to chat about the old days and maybe say good-bye, just in case he was going to Heaven rather than back to the farm.

Amazingly, Floyd remembered beating Steve in arm wrestling. He still didn’t care about the horrific hair cut from Coop The Barber.

Better yet, he knew exactly who they were.

Of course he did. He’s been with us our whole lives . . . and there’s no way Floyd would have left this world without having the last word.

That was just our Floyd.

Tomorrow, everyone is going to gather at St. John’s, just down the road from Floyd’s house and our farm . . . to say good-bye to this remarkable man. And hopefully have some laughs as his 86 years of life are celebrated.

He was more than just the neighbor . . . he was family.

That was just our Floyd.

 

 

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