As the cold settled in this past week, I was reminded of the Great Armistice Day Storm of 1940. Ken MacFarlane, Uncle to Bill MacFarlane, died in this infamous storm. He had gone duck hunting with friends on the Upper Mississippi on November 11,1940 and never returned.
A beautiful warm day turned bitterly cold as a blizzard surprised hunters. Temperatures fell to -55 degrees and Ken and his friends hunkered down to survive the night. More than 50 hunters were found frozen the next morning and Ken MacFarlane was among them. History changed that night! The full story of Ken MacFarlane’s life was covered in our blog last December.
His memory is cherished by the MacFarlane family, not only because he was a young man with a new family, whose life was cut short, but because Ken was the first in the family to begin raising pheasants in Janesville, Wisconsin and selling them for profit. He started the business on his dad’s farm and then bought 15 acres to begin growing the business. That was 89 years ago!
His brother, Don MacFarlane, whose interesting life is chronicled in a blog post called “The History of MacFarlane Pheasants, Part 2” continued to grow the pheasant business until his retirement in 1979. Bill MacFarlane, his son, took over the business in 1979.
Bill takes great pride in the family business. He recognizes the sacrifices that were made to build this business and is quite sentimental about carrying on the tradition. Bill was 24 years old when he returned from college to take over the business and committed himself to working hard and making his dad proud.
MacFarlane Pheasants has continued to grow during the last 37 years and I’m sure Bill’s dad and uncle would be proud. Who would have dreamed that millions of pheasant chicks would travel from Janesville, Wisconsin to the entire United States, Europe and Canada, in one year? Over 600,000 mature game birds will be delivered in North America, this year!
Who knows if MacFarlane Pheasants would be the business it is today, if Ken and Don MacFarlane hadn’t started a pheasant business in Janesville! After knowing the story of Ken’s pheasant business and his devastating hunting trip, I doubt that a winter will pass that I don’t remember the Great Armistice Day Storm of 1940 and be reminded of MacFarlane Pheasants’ beginning.