None of the facts were clear until Uncle Cal died. His obituary stated he was born in Wisconsin but later moved with his family to Idaho where his father, William Miller, had taken a job with Kraft Cheese. Esther and William had two boys, Willis and Calvin, when they packed up and moved west. My mother was born after the family had settled in a verdant valley named Rockland where they raised cows, as did the Millers and the Rosins they’d left behind. Watercress grew on the banks of the Snake River nearby. William had been a valued member of the team establishing the first dairy facility in southeastern Idaho for the Kraft Corporation in the 1930’s.
Growing up I heard the name Colby only as it referenced Aunts Emma, Anna and Hortense or cousin Minnie Mae. My mother’s jaw would tighten when she mentioned the Millers back in Wisconsin. William had disgraced them and ruthlessly altered the history of his wife and children by walking off the Rockland farm one day during the Depression. Decades later word trickled down that he had another family in California.
Even more decades have passed leaving only the famous orange cheese, made in Wisconsin since 1882, as a reminder of what might have been. I’ve kept an image of my grandfather wrapped in the cooler drawer of my heart. He’s in the field behind the plow pulled by his faithful mule when he stops to watch a flock of geese pass overhead. Then he drops the reins and follows them.
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