Digital Asset Information
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Don describes feed for the farm animals
Employees at the Creamer Farm
Predators on the Creamer Farm
Farm acreage throughout Fairbanks
Skiing through the Farmer's Loop fields
The Creamer family getting its start in Fairbanks
Life on the farm as a child
The fields in the Yankovich Road area
Don's mother, Anna, and her role on the farm
Chickens on the farm
Other animals on the Creamer Farm
Frostbite of animals
A typical day on the Creamer Farm
Don's experience in the military
Other products made on the Creamer Farm
Cows, and how they arrived in Fairbanks
Production and distribution of milk and other products
Home delivery, production and canned milk
The effect of the military and airplanes on business
Selling the farm
Heating the barns on the Creamer Farm
Praise for the Creamer Family
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AUDIENCE MEMBER: What kind of feed that you had for the animals, that grew for the animals? DON CREAMER: Ruffage was usually oat and pea silage.
We tried broam grass, hay and for a few years, and then right after we bought the farm, and then about three or four years after we got the farm, we wound up having rains for two years in a row.
Well, that made it seem kind of expensive. Hay, you'd have to buy hay, and from AC Company [Alaska Commercial Company] or Bob Bloom, who had a mercantile operation.
Had to be about $120.00 a ton, and that kind of put a crimp on that twenty-five cent quart of milk. So, we went to raising oats and peas for silage.
The peas were high in protein, and the oats were there to hold the peas up, because they still didn't have equipment to harvest peas.
And ah, otherwise they tend to fall over as soon as they separate, they get ready to get ripe and then they tend to fall over.
So we went to oats and peas, and then the best way to keep that, we couldn't get it dry enough to make hay out of, so we put it in silos.
And that was those buildings, those buildings you saw in the picture. The white building had two twelve foot silos inside it.
You had to cover it over, otherwise they'd freeze up on you, and you'd have too much work getting the feed out every morning. Does that answer your question?
Then we had the concentrate was usually shipped in from down the states. I think we used Triangular Milling, mostly, out of Portland, Oregon. That was the grain in the concentrate.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How many head of cows did you have, and how many people worked there?
ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: How many head of cattle, Don, and how many people worked on the farm? DON CREAMER: Well, the average was probably around 50 or 60 head, or towards the end we got up to about a 100 head, so usually about sixty percent were producing, and the rest were dry stock.
Employees were three, usually three in barn, one does, did the feeding, and ah, you had two men, two operators on milking machines. Or hand milk, either one.
We milked by hand for a long time, but then we couldn't get hand milkers anymore, so we had to go to machines.
And then on the farm in the wintertime, is usually one or two, we had one man there who just general farm work, and then when everything was slow then he'd be out cutting wood and clearing more land, would be getting the trees off.
And then in the summertime, it would vary, because of the crops, put the crops in you'd have an extra four or five people,
and then taking them out in the fall you'd have anywhere up to fifteen or twenty. Help got hard to get during the war years, so a lot of military boys were off the farm in the states,
and they were just dying to get out and work on the farm, and we let them do it. That’s about as best I can tell you on that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are there any stories about predators bothering the herds, wolves, bears, in the early years, or anything like that?
DON CREAMER: When we first came in here we had hyenas, or I guess that’s the way you say it, out in the flat there. Or, coyotes, coyotes it was.
We had coyotes and then foxes, and then once in a while the wolves would come through and thin them out, or the trappers would get them, one of the two.
And they'd die quiet again. I had a German Shepherd when I first came up here, a little kid, and him and those coyotes had a heck of time out there every night.
But no predators as far as um, getting... AUDIENCE MEMBER: Never lost a cow to a bear or a wolf?
DON CREAMER: Bears somewhat stayed away; too many people around. One morning I went out, we had an awful llot of stock out in the field way up in by the highway there, right about where the Fish and Game buildings are now.
And there were a bunch of, herd of caribou in there. We didn’t bring them in, we didn't figure they'd produce worth a darn, so...
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How large was the farm at its peak? How many acres?
DON CREAMER: Well, on the flat there where the buildings were, the main farm buildings, is 327. Of course, we had about 40 acres of that was ah, Section 33 that the University wanted pretty bad, but they never quite got to it.
Then up on Farmer's Loop we had, where the dog mushers are, we had 160 acres there below the road. 66, 998, 1040 acres, then ah,
there’s usually quite a few fields around here with hay in, there's dry lakes beds, meadows so to speak, so, if the weather was right, well, we made hay out of those.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How large was that compared to the other farms, you know the 1040 acres?
DON CREAMER: Well, we were also growing potatoes, and a few other things that we had been to cultivation. I think the most we had under cultivation probably would about 360 or 400 at any one time,
and the rest of it up there on the Farmers Loop, on the north side up there, we cleared up about 50 acres for raising potatoes, and then as I recall, the rest of it was all undeveloped. And since then it’s become a housing area. Bartlett Heights up there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s right above Dog Mushers [Hall] then? DON CREAMER: Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don, did you all ever, in the wintertime, did you go across from the farm house area in the fields, did you all get to access to the property at Farmer's Loop, did you always go around or did you ever go through?
DON CREAMER: We always went around, because there was too many low spots, and in the early days there had been some wood hauling through there. But ah, we never tried it, we usually went around. But once in a while when I'd get grounded, I would ski across over to Birch Hill.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have to admit that I don’t know very much about Creamer's Field at all, so um, when did it get started, and where did the family come from, and how did they end up here?
ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: She said, when did the farm get started, and how did your family end up here, Don?
DON CREAMER: Well, they started, got started...the farm got started here in 1928. Originally it had been started under Hickory's Dairy about 1904 or 1905, and Hickory was my dad's brother-in-law,
and my dad had worked for them off and on for a few years. They started up in Nome, and then came down to Fairbanks in 1904.
And my folks...dad was born I think in California, and my mother came out of Washington, around Clark County, just out of Vancouver, Battleground area, in the center.
And they had chickens down there, but my dad was not really susceptible to chickens, and so he wound up coming back up here when the health of the in-laws got poor and they wanted to sell.
So he originally came up here to see that they were starting work on the F.E. Company out there, which was I guess smelting and refining and mining and all the gold dredging.
They were getting started, and down in the states you were selling baby chicks throughout the state, and times were getting tough down there with the Depression, so he decided he was going back to Alaska, and he wound up doing that. And my mother, she wasn't too interested in leaving, because she had a family down there.
As I recall, he was going to take the kid, and come up here and marry a Native Alaskan, and get a fish wheel, and she could come if she wanted to. So we came to Alaska as a family.
Anyway, it stuck on the farm out there, and lets say he'd been working on it through the years, and he liked cows, and worked the farm, and business got to be a hobby, as well as a business running.
And in later years that didn't pan out too good, because you couldn't afford your hobby anymore. But we stayed in a little too long. So then we had to close down and went out about 1960, '65, I think we closed on the farm, and then 1970 we sold the property to separate land investment.
And was there anything else you want covered in there? That’s rough.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well what was it like Don, as a kid on the farm? Did you have chores and stuff? What did you have to do?
DON CREAMER: Well, as I recall, I had some chores to do!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No kidding!
DON CREAMER: You saw that separator there and I got a pretty good arm from that to start with, and then there’s the churn that had to be operated about the same way, it was a barrel type, and crank it and lower it for buttermilk and butter.
So I'd start my chores, and then come in to wash some bottles. They figured I was good enough being able to rinse them and didn't want to take a chance on me on the bottle brush.
You had a steam powered or air powered type ah, motor, driving three brushes. And you put two bottles on it a time. You could get cut up on it.
So they saved me for the rinsing job. I dipped the bottles in the rinse water, upside down them in the cases, and then wheel them into the steam room box to sterilize them.
Then as far as on the farm, I always wanted to drive the horses and one thing or another, but they didn't feel I was quite up to it. I was seven or eight years old, so usually ended up on the hay rake I mentioned once before.
That picture of that fellow with the hay rake there brings to mind a story - have you got time for that or not? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Absolutely.
DON CREAMER: Well, he stepped on the brush and scared my horse and it took me for quite a ride on the hay rake. Well that night, or a few days later, there's a grove of trees between the what's now known as the Goldstream, the one that goes over the hill from University over to College Road and then ties on to Goldstream over there.
Ballaine, Ballaine Road, and ah, so there’s several...one screen of trees, and always a good place for grouse and berries, so I stopped there one afternoon after I got through and then I waited. He came along with a load of hay and I stepped out and spooked his team.
The only problem with that was I had to help load the hay again, or [had have my dad coming for me].
But anyhow, we farmed quite a few areas around here through the years. You know that farm...the Yankovich Road area, was what they called the old Boardman place.
And it had been vacant for years, for sale, and so they wanted to keep the rows down, so we usually cut the hay off of that every year. We might have put grain in there one or two years, I don't recall for sure.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So those buildings you just mentioned, is that like at the T-Field at the University that he's talking about? Pardon? ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: Near Yankovich? You mentioned some fields near Yankovich?
DON CREAMER: No, this is on Yankovich Road, where the housing, it’s all developed now. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, north of Yankovich?
DON CREAMER: There's a... be south and north of it, as you get up to it past the country club there and that, there’s a grove of trees through there, and then, ah, the fields went clear up to where Nottingham practically, originally.
And then it went down to almost to the bottom there at the, on the road there where the, by the little hill there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Grandpa, I've always heard stories about how strong your mother was. What can you tell me about the role that Anna Creamer played on the farm? DON CREAMER: The what?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What did your mother do on the farm?
DON CREAMER: Just about everything. No, she was mainly the cook and housekeeper, and put up with me.
She would...also did the book keeping, kept the books. Get up in the morning and fix breakfast here, get up about five, and breakfast for the crew about six.
Then after the breakfast and the dishes, then she'd start dinner, usually frozen meat from the freezer, and so she'd put that on.
Then she'd make a dash for the bank, and doing get the banking done and check the mail. And then she'd come back and get dinner ready, or lunch ready to you people, and dinner to the farmer.
And then she'd go from there to... after doing the dishes she might get a chance for a bit of a nap in the afternoon in the winter time, but in the summer time she'd be working the garden, or someplace.
And if we were short-handed in the plant well, she'd help out over there like when I was a kid and washing bottles, well sometimes she'd be helping with the bottles, too.
I guess you'd say mainly her job was the house, the cooking, and bookkeeping and the garden. This was up 'til about 1950 or '48 or '50, then we started hiring a bookkeeper and took some of the load off.
And she usually had help in the kitchen too, in the summer months when you had the crew. Would be several college students, and they'd be looking for a job in the summer times, so you'd have college students,
and other times it'd be people come up here looking for work and their wives...they couldn't find work, but their wives happened to be a cook or some...so she'd...They'd take a job cooking. That about cover it?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There is also the chickens. DON CREAMER: Pardon?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: She also...
DON CREAMER: No, the chickens were grandpa's. He wound up with some baddies. Somebody brought, was leaving the country and they didn’t want to kill them, so they brought them out to see if we'd take them.
So we wound up with a few baddies, and every once in a while then they'd start having chicks and so, that’s why we got quite a few baddies around.
And it was out behind the, they'd get into the.. right behind the bunk house out there they put a what was going to be a greenhouse, but it wound up being a chicken house, just above the boiler rooms, so it was warm for them.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How many chickens did you have altogether, how many, how many chickens? DON CREAMER: Well, when we were on the chicken farm down in Washington, we had about 10,000.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: 10,000? DON CREAMER: Yea, most of them was raising baby chicks, so not the..
there wasn't too much of an egg laying proposition to get rid of by that time. I was just a little kid then.
I learned how to slide my feet, because we had one Airedale and he learned how to slide his so I had to learn how to slide mine.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What other crops, and/or animals did you have as part of the farm, whether the family?
DON CREAMER: Well, when we started out we usually had a few pigs. Bring a few pigs that my grand-dad over in Graehl, he was from someplace back east.
Ohio or down to Missouri, and he always had a few pigs around. And so when we first came up here, we brought a up some pigs for him and then we usually get a few every year from the experimental farm or someplace around here and so we had hogs to butcher in the fall.
And fresh pork of course, and lots of cabbage for sauerkraut, and that was about all. No sheep.
My daughter wound up being a horse lover, and so when she was about 12 or 13, or maybe a little bit younger, she had to have a horse, so we wound up with a horse. We'd had work horses before.
As I recall the ones I rode, my legs stuck out like this. We had big Percherons and Belgians and then had the riding horses, and one or a couple running horses. And then we had a couple riding horses.
Then came fall, and people were looking for a place for theirs, so usually boarded a couple through the winter. That cover it?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don, was there any problem with frostbite on the cattle?
DON CREAMER: No, that’s one of the reasons for keeping your milk in stock in the barns, and ah, I think it's, well it depends when the cold weather hits.
Usually figure a week into October through ah, April then the end of May if necessary. The dry stock they'd get to go out whenever it was below zero and above they'd get to go out for a while, then back in.
But no, no trouble with frostbite. Prior to the ah, this coming up here, there’d been a forest fire that went throughout behind the farm, then I think again around 1928 or '30, I’ve seen we'd had one that went through there and we cleaned up what we got left.
And so, the peat bog behind there it'd keep burning underneath, down, it would keep burning down, so once in while you'd have trouble with a cow getting their foot singed and stuck in the hole.
And once in a while, you'd step in one and you get out of there quick.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What was a typical schedule for a normal day in the barn, the milking of the cows, and making the products that went out to the community?
DON CREAMER: Well, the barn crew they went to work about three in the morning, and did the milking, feeding and milking, getting the cows in the summertime and bringing, getting them in, and in the wintertime, wiping them down and brushing them.
And then they'd get out of there about 5, 5:30, and they'd be off until the same time in the afternoon, and repeat the performance in the afternoon. The processing event that started at about 4 or 5, then they'd come in and the milk would be originally dumped in a number cooler, and it would come from the barn cooler to the cans.
And then when we went to pass.. and then, before pasteurization then it went in from there into the bottles, and they you'd have that work.
With pasteurization, we'd run the milk into cans then dump into the pasteurizer, then pasteurize, homogenize. Around the days, the shift in the plant was usually where the plant man doing the milk processing and ice cream mix manufacture.
As I recall there it was about six or seven in the morning 'til about two in the afternoon, then there’s the washing man washing bottles, helper in there, he was in there from seven or eight in the morning 'til five in the afternoon,
unless they happen to get there too early, some days lighter then others. Farm hands usually from 7-12 and 1-6.
That was back before they got unionized. The old ten hour days, seven days a week. You know, the best vacation I ever had was when I went in the Army!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Where'd they send you, where'd you go? DON CREAMER: Pardon?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Where were, where did you go in the Army?
DON CREAMER: Oh, I was in Alaska, and stayed in Alaska. First I got out to the end of the Chain [Aleutian]. Training at Fort Richardson and down here at Anchorage and then from there out to...
Went to McKinley Park recreation camp for a few months. And then they closed that down, and I wound up out in Shemya.
I was in for I and E, which in them days that was called the special service. And so I had some experience in stage and stuff like that in high school I so I ended up in that line out there.
So, and company clerk and a few items and wound up back here in ah...In charge of service club out there and got discharged.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No wonder you had a good time.
ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: What year was that Don, what year did you go in the Service? DON CREAMER: 1944 to1946. Two years to the day, June 10th to June 10th.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don, how many, describe the number of products that you all produced on the dairy.
DON CREAMER: From memory? Well, there was milk and cream, basically. And buttermilk, cottage cheese.
No acidophilus milk. And ice-cream. The usual run of chocolate strawberry, vanilla, and we'd usually run about 3 specials for the restaurants and those. That was about it, oh, potatoes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Didn't you make an orange drink, too, for a while? Wasn't there a Greenspot orange drink DON CREAMER: Oh, Orange drink, yea, we had an orange drink, and then chocolate. Greenspot Orange and I forget the name of the chocolate.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Maybe you said this already, but how did the cows get up here? ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: She asked, how did the cows get up here?
DON CREAMER: Well as you know, they probably didn't walk. But anyhow, originally they came like, from Nome they brought the cows down, they came by boat to Tanana and then up the Tanana to the Chena and the Chena into Fairbanks, and loaded downtown there.
Ah, about right across from that parking lot at the bank, that parking lot out there is the NC Company out through there. The docks are out in front of that.
Then, the later years they'd ah, bring the beef cow were brought in similar to the picture you saw in the sheep. They come in by...come up to Skagway area and then up over the rail to Whitehorse and then the Yukon to Circle, and then on down...drive them down into Fairbanks.
That’s the way the sheep you saw in there, that’s the way the meat was obtained here for Fairbanks. They would bring them in over the trail so to speak, in from and down from Circle, and then they’d bring them along slowly and just let them graze their way in.
Then some of the beef cattle they’d be brought in earlier and then they’d herd them out around the Engineer Creek area, up on top of Engineer Hill and out through there.
My dad he used to tell stories, I never heard too many of them, he was always telling somebody else, but he herded cows for Wechter Brothers in the early days. Wechter Brothers was a local meat market.
Then they'd bring them down, the slaughter house was down about where the curling club is now, at the end of the old airport.
That’s where they did their slaughtering. And they'd usually wait 'til fall or cold weather, they didn't have that much refrigeration space. They’d hang them outdoors and freeze them.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How big was Fairbanks during the period the dairy was in production, and how did you distribute the products? Did you have any vans or was it through a commercial outlet?
DON CREAMER: No, when we first came here the Fairbanks population was usually about 1500, and in the summer it would get up to 3000 but they'd be all out in the creeks and the outlying areas. And the ah, what was the next...
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How you delivered stuff.
DON CREAMER: How we delivered. Originally we started out with horses and they had a sled and they had a little body on it just like you’d see on a milk truck in the states back in the 1920's so, the little milk trucks and carts down there.
And one of them was out behind the buildings there for years, but we never thought of saving it. Anyhow, then we went to trucks, and '25 or so, and uncle got a Chevrolet delivery truck from Service Motors I think it was in them days.
And that was used for, until about '28 or '29, then we got another delivery truck, and from there on...
These are panel trucks and we put a stove in the back in the wintertime.You'd fire the stove up after the first or second stop.
The truck would still be warm when you come out of the garage and you'd fire up the stove the second or third stop, and then damp it down, and you might have to add more to it depending on the weather before the day was over, and what kind of tour you were taking.
And I remember, when I first got back from the Service, when we were doing most of the milk to the military out here because we hadn't been able to get help and the folks they would get help on the farm so they're doing mostly military.
And I'd make, oh, at that time they'd give me a kind of a van body, wide body, so then we'd go out and we would start loading about 5 o'clock, 6 o'clock and then...
we'd be coming back in at about noon. So you may have to fire up once, or maybe twice, I think that was a cold winter, it was around 48 to 60 below there for quite a while. -48 at the farm and town, and -60 at some of the mess-halls at Fort Wainwright, or Ladd Field then.
And as I recall, you just had to fire up once or twice maybe in that time. There was a little space heater with 4 inch stack, put it out the back window of the truck. Let people see it quick. Other than that people come up from the states and see a truck going down the street with smoke coming out the back. Does that cover your question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yea, was there home delivery as well as...
DON CREAMER: Home delivery, yes. There was home deliveries as well. I might carry out on that home delivery bit. In the wintertime up here we started out with a glass bottles, and pasteurized milk...
with their raw milk, then pasteurized, and then finally homogenized. Part of homogenization if you leave your milk out a few minutes too long, the cream will come right up off the top. So the kids would find out in a short time that ah, the best part was on the top, and they'd take that off as they brought it in. Oops, dropped it, you know.
But anyway, then year round, usually at the...they'd leave the doors open. We didn't have any easy way to get out of here in the wintertime, so most years it was kind of hard getting away, so nobody locked their doors, because nobody stole anything. So you usually shut the milk inside.
That could unveil some other tales, too, but I couldn't tell them in mixed company.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you deliver seven days a week, or?
DON CREAMER: Seven days a week.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: And, did the whole, did the whole day's production actually get sent out that day? What is the shelf life you know, as far as... DON CREAMER: Well, usually going out that day. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Everything?
DON CREAMER: The production was kind of slow. I think probably three or four days shelf life was what they'd figure on, for the stores, you know. They’d easily run out before the day was over.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So there wasn't, you actually didn’t produce enough milk to supply the whole town?
DON CREAMER: No. No, when we first came up here the kids didn't like fresh milk. It didn’t taste right.
They were used to Carnation and Eagle canned milk. They missed the high heat taste you get in the canned milk. You know, so, that was most of them.
A few of them were using the powdered milk. The powdered milk in those days was not like it is now, with a fine... and didn't dissolve near as easy, and so that was a bunch more work, so that’s why most of the kids got started on the good old canned milk.
Not all Eagle brand, some it was Eagle brand.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How important was the military as a customer?
DON CREAMER: Well, they was more or less what kept us in business during the war years here. Help was hard to get as I said and ah, they...
We couldn't, were short on help so the delivery got cut back a bit. And the ah, military, furnished a lot of the people. A lot of the people worked on the farm were from the military.
And as far as the business and what they used, there was a big part of it. The ice cream contracts, the milk contracts. And, of course after the war we got a lot more competition from the flying in.
Then of course Matanuska [Maid] was getting bigger too all the time down there, and so, competition from the airborne as well as in state.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Maybe one more question then we'll, or two more questions.
ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: This might be kind of a personal question, but I was just wondering if you have ever had second thoughts about your decision to do with the farm what you did?
DON CREAMER: Well, it’s pretty hard to convince my dad of a better way of going. Like I was happy to sell about five or six years prior to the closing down, because they had plenty of assets there to sell off, and build the rest of their life in peace, but that was his hobby as well as his business.
And as far as who we sold it to, and the amount we sold it for, [no one ever really had second to us.] Might had done it different if I'd have stayed with it, but we couldn't stay with it.
We couldn't afford to stay with it, and so a few years later the price of land took quite a leap.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you have to heat the barns in the winter?
DON CREAMER: Originally, we put in heating in the barns based on the architect’s drawings and sketches and everything, and put in a heating plant down there, you know along side the old corral, blockhouse building to heat it, but we never used a lot of, never using the heat.
We had two exhaust fans in the barn, and we wound up putting in two more to bring fresh air in and exhaust the old.
If you go through the barn out there, you'll notice a little places right over head on the walk boards, both walkways, so that was the intake for the air to come in, we'd leave a couple of them open in the winter time, in the summer time of course you'd have them all open.
They were in the barn to a short time in the summer and the barn doors were open, so didn't need them in the summer. So no heat was ever to my knowledge, wait a minute; when we first came out there it was a log barn, and they had a wood stove in the back of the barn there with the old 55 gallon drum type stove. And they had wood cutting that you saw too in there.
Of course we had a kitchen range wood burner, kitchen range, and so. And a processing plant when we first started we had a Scratch Marine boiler in there that burned wood.
Then we finally went to oil and then a steam generator for, just for the processing plant and the heating. We added on to the second boiler in, down in the boiler room to cover contingencies, and to heat the rest of the buildings out there.
All those buildings you saw along in the picture were employee’s quarters, they were all steam heated. Low pressure steam.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: One more question?
ANOTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER: I just wanted to say that, I think what your parents did is a small miracle. And I think that the city of Fairbanks should be really grateful for the legacy that they left.
Not only with what they did with the dairy, but also what was left for the wildlife that we get to enjoy now.