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James Borofka: “Things I remember about Pa”

By James Arnold Borofka

Editor’s Note: Many people in the Colfax area will remember Arnold Borofka or will know one or more of the 14 children in the Borofka family. Arnold Borofka died December 28, 2013, at the age of 83. 

Arnold purchased the first diesel Cockshutt tractor ever sold at the Ridgeland Farmers Union — and it may have been the first-ever in the country. 

Arnold and his Cockshutt were featured on buttons produced by the Classic Tractor and Machinery Enthusiasts’ Club to promote the 10th Annual Chippewa County Rural Heritage Days in 2011.

On the first anniversary of Arnold Borofka’s death, one of his sons, James Arnold — a graduate of Colfax High School  — kindly gave permission for the Colfax Messenger to publish the memories of his father that he spoke about at Arnold’s funeral December 31, 2013. 

One of Arnold’s daughters, Sue Burgess, the youngest child in the family, told the Messenger that Arnold was an enthusiastic participant in the Colfax Centennial’s Beard Contest and that his picture was published in the Messenger in 1964. 

Arnold Borofka farmed in the Town of Cooks Valley northeast of Colfax. He graduated from Colfax High School in 1948 and at one time hauled milk for the Colfax Cooperative Creamery.

COLFAX  — I am here to say a few things about Pa. Some memorable things, some humorous things, and some just plain notable things about Pa and his life.

I guess if I had to give this a title, I would call it, “Things I will remember about Pa.”

Well, to start, you know we called him Pa. We always have, don’t know why, we just did.

I thought real hard in my youth about calling him Dad. I almost did once or twice. That’s what most others call their Pa. I couldn’t muster it though. It didn’t sound right. I eventually came around to knowing it just didn’t fit Pa.

Pa was Pa, and that was that.

I will remember Pa’s hands. Boy those were big hands.

You know, even on his last day of life, when the rest of his body was looking quite ready to part ways with life on earth, his hands were big and strong-looking.

Whenever I took a real good look at them, an image of the paws of a big old bear came to mind. I believe they always were that way.

Somewhere there is a picture of one of us kids when we were little, dancing on one of those hands. Being held up in the air with just one of those hands, and plenty of room for dancing.

One time I was at an auction with Pa.

Pa, and I and an old Amish fella were leaning forward over a bin of oats, and as he and Pa were talking, Pa scooped up a handful of oats and dumped it out.

You know, that Amish fella looked at me with a certain, unmistakable look. Seeing how much oats Pa could scoop up with just one hand. Without saying a word to me, I knew he was awestruck by the size of Pa’s hands too.

As I boy, I sometimes feared those hands. Now as a man, I am envious of those hands.

I wish I had hands like that.

Boots

I am going to remember that Pa lived during different times than these here days today.

Times, for example, when you could know who was walking in the door by the sound of his boots on the floor.

There is a true story about Pa needing someone to drive a new tractor home from town one cold November day.

Well, he decided one of our relatives that was in school that day could do it.

That fella told me he knew he was getting out of school that day when he heard Pa walking down the hallway towards his classroom.

He even told his friends about it as Pa was approaching. He could tell it was Pa by the sound of his big, old work boots on the floor.

Some of us are trying to own this tradition ourselves but have experienced very limited success.

That fella drove that 570 Cockshutt home for Pa that cold November day quite a while back — and here is a little trivia. It was the day Kennedy died.

I am jealous of that fella. I wished I was the one driving the tractor home for Pa that day.

Some additional trivia is, if you didn’t already know it, Pa bought the first Cockshutt diesel tractor Ridgeland Farmers Union ever sold.

The salesperson told him he was pretty darn sure it was the first Cockshutt diesel sold in the country.

570

You can’t say a little something about Pa and not speak of tractors.

Yes, Cockshutt tractors to be exact.

I heard a story once that Pa, the first day he had that big shiny new 570 home on the farm, he put it on the silo filler.

Here’s a question for you. Can you imagine, when Buffy got home from school, and Buffy was just a boy then, can you imagine when Mum told him Pa has a brand new 570 on the silo filler, how fast did Buffy run toward the barn and around the corner to see that 570 Cockshutt purring away on the silo filler?

If you could have measured it, I bet an Olympic speed record was broken that day.

I was told once by a fella who grew up past our house from the church here [St. John’s Catholic Church in Cooks Valley] that his Ma and Pa had an easy time getting him and all his family to church every Sunday because he and the other boys came along to church just in case they might see Pa’s big 570 parked in the yard while they were on their way to church.

He said it was an extra treat if it was sitting there idling, just a little smoke coming out of the stack, ready for work.

By the way, I teased Pa one time a while back that he sure was a smart fella farming with Cockshutts like that. So, being that smart, I asked him why he would ever start buying those little red ones now that he’s done farming?

With Pa’s quick wit, he said, “Well, the red ones break down, and I got time to work on stuff now!”

Ball Header

The next part of my storyline is “things I like about Pa.”

Pa was a pretty matter-a-fact feller.

Now and again in some old story, he would speak of a fella he called “Ball Header.”

One time I finally asked him, “who is this ‘ballheader’ fellar you talk about now and again?”

You know what he said? “Oh, that was so and so.”

I don’t remember what name he said, but whenever he got frustrated or angry, he would say “Ball Header” and hit his head.

Pa said that fella never cursed, only hit his head and said “Ball Header” when things weren’t going his way.

I knew from there on who Ball Header was.

Pa liked and made friends with out-of-the-ordinary folks like that old Ball Header.

And we liked that about Pa.

Hello?

One time when I stopped home to visit with Pa, he himself had just got home from driving around.

He was calling one of his boys to tell him his beef cows were out and on the road.

When the answering machine came on at the other end, Pa said, “I know I reached the Borofkas. Where are the people?”

And then he hung up.

Names

A different time I asked Pa about naming all us children.

My name is James Arnold, and I am the last boy in the bunch.

I asked him how him and Mum knew. Did they know they were done with boys so they best use his name with me?

He put his hands up in the air and said, “Don’t know. That was Ma’s department!”

I laughed and said to him, “I guess when you have that many children, it’s best you have a department for naming them.”

Handy

I will remember about Pa how he was handy and kept his smarts right up until the end.

It wasn’t more than two weeks ago I was visiting Pa, and he was looking pretty frail, not getting around real good.

But as we were talking, he said, “Say, check my overalls there for me. Are my pliers on my belt there?”

I checked for him.

His pliers were there.

He didn’t need them just then. He was making sure he had them in case he did need them later.

Some of my brothers told me as he got older that he kept sharp by watching out for the tools.

If you were working on something with Pa around, he would help out quite a lot by knowing what tool you needed before you even did yourself. He didn’t necessarily have the strength to use the tool himself anymore, but he kept sharp knowing what tool was needed.

The stash

Some will remember about Pa that he drank.

I will choose to remember that he quite drinking.

One of my brothers and I know better than others when Pa stopped drinking for good.

Joe and I — we were just little then — we found some beer hidden in the woods behind the house.

We decided to throw the full beer cans at the trees in the woods until they all exploded.

If we missed a tree, we went and found the full can and threw it again until all of them were for sure blown up.

We had a lot of fun doing it.

We really felt like we helped the situation of Pa drinking again.

We were so proud of ourselves that we told an older brother of ours the first chance that we got.

Boy, was he mad!

It wasn’t Pa’s stash we destroyed — it was his.

Yep, Joe and I were never suspicious of Pa again.

In closing, I will remember that Pa lived a full, long, healthy life. He experienced a lot of adventure. He  made many friends. He married a wonderful woman, and they raised six beautiful daughters and eight go-getter sons.

Pa was a good man, and I am glad he was my Pa.