Mitchell family's roots are deep in the soil
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 2:42 PM
The evening was a riot - an absolute scream. This week's guests dined us and it was one amazing supper with the homemade peach pie by far the best I've ever tasted. Indeed, the meal was awesome, but better yet was the bantering; oh, excuse me, I mean camaraderie!
Head of the household, Mike Mitchell's family has been farmers in the Parke/Montgomery county area since at least the early 1900s. Four generations have lived in the same spot. In fact, Mike and his darling wife, Rhonda (Dooley) lived 15 years in Mike's grandparents' (Robert and Wanetah Teague Mitchell) home, but built their own beautiful house 26 years ago. Rhonda used this old home as a restaurant that I'm sure many of you remember, for eight years, and being fed there was equally as amazing as the meal Rhonda fixed for us. That home was three houses put together, and was literally falling apart; thus Mike and Rhonda decided to build. Rhonda noted, "We've been on the same driveway all 42 years of our married life!"
Farming for the Mitchells is certainly ingrained into their souls. It's a generational way of life, their lives revolving around the farm and schedule it requires. Their youngest son, Matt, shares the responsibility of the farm, making more and more of the daily decisions, just as Mike did when working with his father, Bernard, and Bernard did with his father. Like Mike, they were funny, yet kind and generous men. Loved them and their wives, Mike's mom, Norma, being one of my all-time fav teachers! Rhonda says, "We are preparing for the next generation." Daughter-in-law, Michele (Simpson) is learning the bookwork and other responsibilities of a farmer's wife. That's natural for her since she grew-up on a farm, too. Rhonda summarized her and Mike's relationship: "We respect one another and have an understanding and appreciation for our strengths and differences. Not only do we support ideas of each other, but our family members as well." Besides Matt, the Mitchell's have older son, Clint, who with his wife, Kim and their two daughters live in Carmel. Clint is Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions for Main Street and travels all over. Matt and Michele have six children and are doing something every night with one or more of their kids.
One of the fun parts of the evening was listening to the two tell about how they met. Mike first saw Rhonda at a football game at Turkey Run from where she would graduate. Waveland, Mike's Alma Mater, didn't have enough boys to make a football team, so going to the big school was quite a treat for he and friend, Alex Milligan. Mike is such a jokester, I didn't believe him when he told me their first conversation consisted of him saying, "Hi!" Finally, I learned to look at Rhonda to get the nod for a yes, it's true or a roll of the eyes indicating, "He's at it again!" It was also true that the boys were looking for prom dates. Mike ended-up taking out the wrong girl on Friday night and Rhonda on Saturday night. Finally, Alex got Carol (Helderman), his intended and Mike and Rhonda became an item, too. Prom dates to wives! Love it!
I thought it so nifty that Mike began selling seeds when he was 16 years old (and is still today, being with Beck's Seeds). Rhonda laughed that many of their dates consisted of dinner and a seed corn meeting. Upon graduation, each went off to Purdue. Mike, a member of the Farm House Fraternity graduated in Ag Econ. Upon obtaining her degree, Rhonda taught 2nd grade at Walnut Elementary. They decided having Rhonda home was a bigger plus. "Farming was harder then." Having cattle, smaller equipment, and communication made it very hard. Along this line, Rhonda thought perhaps the cell phone was the biggest move forward, since it's now so easy to get Mike in a second vs. driving to try to find him. Mike also told us, "We can now haul more grain in one day than we used to in a whole season." Amazing!
The last year Rhonda (along with her mom, stepdad and Mike's mom) had the restaurant, she also worked at Heathcliff in Crawfordsville one day a week. Dream job! She purchased the business in 2000 and recently sold it to stay home with Mike in semi-retirement. Having great employees, plus Matt and Michele doing more and more work helps free-up time for this darling couple to be together more. Mike still loves farming, though, especially selling his seed. He also displays several family-oriented items in his office while still enjoying some of his dad's old equipment. Mike noted, "I'm a farmer. It's what I do!" Certainly, there could never be a better place to grow-up on the farm or in a farming community. Speaking of interests, community service is important to these two, and consists of Rotary, Kiwanis, Muffy, Community Foundation and the South Montgomery School Board. Rhonda noted that their television is rarely on, but if it is, it's Mike or Mike and the grandkids watching sports or ESPN.
Travelling and enjoying their grandkids are high on their entertainment list. Papa and Nana Mitchell love taking their Ranger out (often full of younguns), riding on their property and going to the little Amish food store which is almost an every evening occurrence. Sporting events, 4-H, baking and all kinds of fun keep Mike and Rhonda lovin' life. As Rhonda remarked, "We still look forward to seeing each other every evening!" Mike, with a crooked grin giggled a bit and said, "Ahhh, she still likes me!" Although there was lots of laughter the other evening, I'm equally as serious when I say, Mike and Rhonda are super people and I so appreciate them consenting to being this week's subjects in ATC!
Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories. Her column, "Around the County" is published Thursdays in The Paper.