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FARM SCENE: Farm couple delights travelers with 10,000 Christmas lights

December 25, 1996

MALCOM, Iowa (AP) _ Howard Badger lights the central Iowa night each holiday season with 10,000 Christmas lights, stringing them across his farm.

The retired farm manager is in his ninth year of decorating an acre of land, including his farmhouse, fence line, display boards, silo, shed and barn.

``People going down I-80 may be getting a little sleepy out here, and it wakes them up,″ Badger said.

Badger and his wife Edna started with a modest display of lights when they retired to the farm on the south side of Interstate 80 in rural Malcom, located about halfway between Des Moines and Iowa City.

``I just wanted to do something different,″ Badger said. ``Now I have to start when it’s warm, just to get them all strung by December.″

This year he started in September.

Edna Badger says she still gets excited about the display.

``We hear people on their CB radios using us as a landmark. They call it the `Season’s Greetings’ house,″ she said.

While Howard Badger outlines their two-story farmhouse with lights from roof to foundation, Edna puts 37 electric candles in the windows. White lights spell ``Season’s Greeting″ on a shed east of the house. ``Noel″ is spelled out vertically on a grain silo, while a barn chuckles ``Ho-Ho-Ho.″

Howard Badger laughs when asked about his electric bill.

``I hear people saying `Boy, I’ll bet his meter’s awhirling’ but it isn’t that bad. Maybe $100 a month spread over two months,″ he says.

Badger doesn’t complain about the long hours putting up the display, even though he was slowed this year by heart problems.

``People have sort of come to depend upon us from year to year,″ he says.


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) _ Farming became safer in Indiana in 1996 after a year in which 42 people were killed in farm-related accidents.

A preliminary Purdue University report shows just 16 died in similar incidents this year.

Officials in LaGrange County, which led the state in farming fatalities in 1995, credit an intense safety outreach and awareness program for preventing the deaths.

``Education works, whether it be for kids or adults,″ said Steve Mickem, a volunteer with LaGrange County’s Purdue cooperative extension service. ``If we’ve saved a drop of blood, it’s worth it.″

Last year, seven LaGrange County residents, all of them Amish, died in farm accidents. This year, with harvest activities over, only one person has been killed in a farming accident there.

Much of the education has been targeted to the Amish, who tend to shun high technology, including basic safety gear.

The mechanized tools that the Amish do use in LaGrange County _ pickers, bailers, threshers and other belt-driven equipment _ are outdated, with little safety shielding.

Mickem said four classes were held in LaGrange County to push safety. Organizers considered the gatherings, which drew between 30 and 65 people, very successful, Mickem said.

``It’s been a fun thing to work with the Amish,″ he said. ``They’re really receptive to the education we’ve been doing with them.″

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