Saturday, October 17, 2020

Because we are farm children

 Why do we hear the robin sing? Why do we lie upon the grass and look at the clouds? Why do we close our eyes and feel the wind kiss our cheeks and ruffle our hair and know that there is indeed a God? Why? Because we are farm kids: We are kids who are blessed with animals in the backyard. Warm eggs beneath an old hen. Turtles in the creek. Red-winged blackbirds, sitting above their nests in the harvested wheat field. Cows mooing, chickens clucking, sheep bassing and somewhere, always a dog barking. Farm kids. The luckiest kids in the world.

I laid back on the hill overlooking the field and creek bottom. I could smell the damp laundry flapping overhead on the clothesline. A dog? No, maybe a face. The clouds gave me a new vision with each wave of movement. Wave. What an apt name for the sky. The waves float and move like tides upon the sea. They grow dark and mysterious bringing feelings of impending doom. An ocean in the sky. A sky full of mystery.

Shhhhhh. Listen. Somewhere a buggy is pulled down the road by a fine old racehorse. The woman in a bonnet and the bearded man in a black coat and hat. Clip clop, clip-clop. The sound lulls my heart into musical rhythm. A rhythm of my neighborhood. The sound of quiet peace. Shhhhhh. Don't disturb the moment. It is captured in the folds of my mind where senses and sights make the me I am today. The child I was yesterday. Sweet treats like a cool drink of water on a hot day. A drink from an old thermos sitting in the field all day, waiting to quench a thirst gained from hot fields in the summertime. 

The old houses creak with the memories of us and all who came before. Small rooms with no closets. Old cabinets full of chipped and worn dishes. An old musty backroom where canning and soap making were yearly events. An old outhouse stands behind the old garage. A three-holer full of the family's discards. Damp toilet paper is all there is on a rainy day. A few silverfish walk along the boards. I pay them no mind. I'm busy elsewhere.

The tractor comes to the barn, and dinner is on the table. Soapy hands and the smell of grain and sweat. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Familiar foods that are as welcomed as the sun on a rainy day. Fruit cocktail again sits on the table. Again, I pass it along. A family on colorful vinyl chairs at an old grey laminated table. Love sitting with a family after a day of hard work in the field.

Why do we hear the robin sing? Peace fills the air in sights, sounds and scents on the farm. They might not all be pleasant, but they are indeed part of the way of life. Sweet robin, sing your song. Sing of me as a child savoring the life I lead. Sing for the past I cherish. Sing for the memories some of us share. Some of us who are indeed farm children still.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Little pockets

We no longer live in little pockets of society. We can't. There is a bigger world waiting and our children and grandchildren will grow up in it. Time is of the essence.

I was watching a documentary last week about third world countries and the problems they were experiencing with underage marriages. They were concerned with the percentage of your women between the ages of 14 and 19 who were starting families when they were just children themselves. I had to perk up a little to let this sink in. Golly, most of my life, young girls were married right out of high school if not before. So were we like a third world country?

Well, in some ways we were. Our kids were raised by those kids who fell into that age group when they married. They were just youngsters themselves. The marriage lasted long which I attribute to kids managing their way through an adult world together. Marriage, babies, grandparents at 50. Yes, this caught my attention.

My granddaughter who is a senior in college this next school year was filling me in on her friends. She is now 21. She told me about a girl who lived in her hall her freshman year who was getting married right after graduation. She laughed, "Can you imagine getting married that young?". I was 23 when I first married. Yes, felt I was too young even then. What did I know of the world, of other opinions, of other ways of life? Like in third world countries, the girls never went far from home. They all seem interrelated due to the decades of young community members marrying someone who always lived in the same area. We were blessed because our mother wanted us to find lives away from the area.

Perhaps it has to do with the Amish roots that settled in the area. Youngsters left school at 16 or earlier if needed on the farm. Babies born to babies. Boys becoming men before they could barely shave. Perhaps it was like a third world. Third world USA.

We can't afford to keep to ourselves in a world that is so interconnected. It is not our world or that of our parents. It is time to be moving our families forward not backwards. We parents and grandparents need to do the same.

Little pockets hold very little. Sometimes they hold on too tight and mash what's in them.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The belt was too tight

I came from country roots as far back as I can track. Grandparents, great grandparents, etc. I have had trouble over the years finding who I was outside of that long lineage. Maybe you can help me out.

The Bible belt was the main piece of garment we wore. We turned to it at least twice a week and had lives that wrapped around it. It was a nice comfy belt. When we were not allowed to dance or to wear makeup, it seemed a little snug, but it was our lives guided by the black book. 

We were all Republicans. It was the party of rich and powerful men. I was surprised in my more recent years to hear that my paternal grandfather was at one time a Democrat. Hm. Those secrets you held close so no one would know, growing up in the boonies. Rather like when I took ballet but couldn't tell anyone.

As I grew up I questioned more things. I seemed to argue with my parents more. I did not understand why there were orphanages when all the Christians could adopt a children. I didn't understand why people who did not believe in killing and violence still voted for people who took us to war. Maybe it was then that I began to question whether I was a real farm girl or not.

Growing up country gave me a great deal of incite into caring for animals and not killing them. It made me see the disparity of the people living around us, yet no one talked about it. No one helped. I saw teenage girls marrying while still children. Babies raising babies. I saw a male world where the women cooked, sewed and did chores, while men talked politics, worked together in the fields and enjoyed hunting and fishing. No wonder I wanted to sit with the men. They had it made.

I found it hard over my lifetime to voice what it was to move away from this environment and actually experience the world. It was not always wonderful, but I learned about people and their prejudices and idiosyncrasies of living in an environment where people all lived pretty much the same even though they lived in town. It wasn't until I moved to the suburbs that I could put it all together. I was an entity into myself. I did not need to believe what everyone else believed. I did not need to conform to feel good about myself. I could share opinions and also learn from others. I could even change my mind and go against the tide of believers on any one issue.

Yes, I am a farm girl. I would like to think of myself as a progressive farm girl. As with many others of my acquaintances who moved away, I understand that we cannot live in a bubble. We have to grow and change and find even more truth in life. We have to find our own ways to step away from injurious beliefs and unfounded lies. I am a farm girl who gained a voice and a wider view of the world....and, along the way, a deeper love of the people in it. 

We can be from the country but must grow into the world.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Count me with them

We live in a turbulent time. I just had a birthday and can honestly say that is not the only time I have said those words. Wars, riots, disease outbreaks are not new. In many ways, we have moved forward from those times, although, I say we have not moved forward enough. And in the last few years, we have gone in the wrong direction. Anger and violence, lies and deceit, hate against others seem to have finally met with a wall of people who care and want change. Count me with them.

I grew up on a farm. I grew up in a white society. Never did we have minority kids in our classes. Even when the migrant workers passed through to work on the farm, we never saw them in church or in school. I don't know if no one noticed or even cared. 

I was a little girl when I first met my first black person. Thankfully, my children and grandchildren have been in school with a variety of children from different countries, difference religious beliefs and sometimes even different languages. What a marvelous thing it is to see all shades of prejudice disappear in such an atmosphere.....that is unless it is taught at home.

As a Christian, I see Christ less in the people of faith than I do in the humbleness, humility and caring I see from other believers and even non-believers. I would say that it shakes my faith, but my faith is not in a building nor is it in a book. My faith is in God. A God truly without borders.

A man I knew as a child was conversing with me about his migration away from rural life. He told me he knew as a child that he could not live in that atmosphere. My sisters and I were the same. In fact, my mother encouraged all of us to move away. She knew. We had minds that needed to grown and arms that needed to embrace an entire world and not just that where we were planted. 

Perhaps it is time to stop writing. I want to be a person of hope and happiness, but right now, it is difficult. We wear a mask to protect others. I would hope that when we rip off these masks, we finally find a world more tolerant and loving. A world working together for a better place for all creatures.

Our environment has leapt for joy at these upright creatures giving them a break. They roam their ancient homelands and live in a similar world to what their ancestors knew. The air is cleaner, the water clearer and a world of nature recuperating from the destruction we have laid upon it. I cheer you on, beautiful earth!

Please know that I am always here for you. I may not write as often, but you can always write to me. I do not post all messages, because some are just between you and me. Be safe. Please be smart. Most of all, please be kind to one another and open yourselves up to new ways of living. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The old mantel

The old piece of wood sits against the wall. A lovely old piece full of memories of a house back the lane.
I remember asking Mom the age of our lovely house on the hill. She told me that it was at least 65 years old. Considering that I was a child when I asked, the house must be ancient at this point in my life. The house on the hill.

Old houses dotted the community when I was growing up. I remember as a teen dreaming of one day living in a little ranch-style home. Now as a woman of many decades, I appreciate those old houses more and more. I want to know their histories. I want to once more cross the doorways into history.

Mom and Dad decided to take the small rooms in their house and make a couple of larger rooms for a more modern family. Gone were the days of the woodstove and the vents in the upstairs floors. It was time for baseboard heating and more space. We had grown up sitting in the windows of our house, watching Dad in the field as well as the sparse traffic on Neff Road. It wasn't until the wall was stripped of its plaster during the remodel, that I understood why those windowsills were so deep. The outside walls of our house were made of hand-hewn logs. Huge logs chiseled and stacked within the walls. Our basement walls were made of fieldstone with the ceiling beam also of that hewn wood. Again, something else I never really thought about. An old house with a history hidden within the walls.

My grandfather's house on Byreley Road was built by said grandfather Isaiah Loxley. A modern man, he built the house with all the modern bells and whistles. It even had a bathroom inside the house! It was a beautiful house with French doors and window seats. A home I wish I had today. He had one of the most modern stoves and closet space galore. A house we all loved for its beauty and grace. A house built by my grandfather and his sons. My guess would be that the lumber for the house was milled in the woods at the back of the property. Another Loxley house with a history.

Uncle Keith and Aunt Kate Loxley had the most unusual house. Oh, how I loved it. We don't know the history of the house, but it was a house like no other. The large brick house was in an L-shape with a raised cement platform across the side of the house. The rooms on the first floor were fairly small with the upstairs separated into several rooms with one big room in the middle. They could possibly have been rooms for boarders. The heavy doors had latches. A large enclosed porch ran down the Neff side of the house. We have no history of the house. The house could have been a waystation for a stage or passing wagons. The house was very old as seen in the old red bricks. A history lost, but another of the old houses that I still carry with me.


The old piece of wood is a reminder. For each room of that house on the hill where I grew up had a different symbol on the door mantel. The door of the small room that grew in size with the remodel, lost its mantel to the barn where it collected spider webs and dust. When the farm sold, it came home with me to Oregon. It is a warm reminder of the houses within that quarter of a mile on Neff Road.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Thinking of all you moms

If you don't have a mother, I would stand in. 

If you don't have a child, I would understand. 

If you are a child, know that you are loved. 

If you are a daddy mom, know that you are admired. 

If you are a mother, you know the depth of love. 

If you are a grandma, then, of course, you understand. 

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are blessed to have a mom, blessed to remember a mom's love, blessed to be a parent, and most of all, blessed to have know what it was like to be in your mother's arms. 

Happy Mother's Day with love.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The ribs of a barn

The barn. The big, beautiful barn. Most of my life my Dad's name was on the side of the barn. I was never sure why since most people knew who lived there already. And, of course, I knew who lived there. I think maybe it was the pride in this wonderful barn. It was a groundbreaker.

The barn was built when my oldest sister was just a little girl, long before I came onto the scene. Monroe Riffel helped Dad build this new style of barn. It was the first of its kind in the area for this barn did not have pillars holding up the roof as did my grandfather's. Nope. The rafters curved along the vaulted roof.

The history of Dad's barn is the history of many barns in the area. Back then a sawmill was set up in the creek bottom. Dad and Monroe cut the trees and planed the wood. With his team of Belgian horses, Dad took the building materials to the site of the barn. There a foundation was poured and construction began.

As an adult, I am amazed at the practicality of this barn. Most 'kids' who played in that barn remember the big door over the front of the haymow. Yes, that was a place we sat to take in the view. In fact, the window looked directly at my bedroom window. Many a time I sat there in the barn with my feet hanging over the edge, looking out over the fields and neighborhood. I might see Doris Lavy sitting on her porch or Hollie Stager plowing a field. I could see the bridge and look over the creek bottom. Here life on Neff Road was captured in the frame of a door.

This barn was practical. On each end of the haymow was a door that lowered on pulleys. It was as if the top of the barn was being lowered. These doors allowed air to flow through the barn keeping the mow cool, keeping dampness at bay. My sister June thinks that maybe in the early days, hay and straw were blown into the barn through those doors. Bales were transported from the wagon bed to the haymow via an elevator. One man would stand on the wagon loading the bales onto the elevator, while two or three men moved them from the front window, stacking them along the sides of the loft. When the bales rose higher, the elevator was moved to the end of the barn where a higher window allowed the bales to come into the barn high enough to make stacking more efficient. What a barn! What a wonderful barn.

Once in awhile, someone would come to see this new marvel of a barn. It was a barn built for milk cows, and, in my opinion, a place for childhood memories. Yet over the years, my view of that barn across the yard changed. I learned that Dad had his new herd of milk cows destroyed when they contracted a disease. The dreams of a young couple were crushed; however, you can't keep a farmer down. Dad raised beef cattle and sheep. The old milk parlor remained coated in dust and cobwebs. It was a reminder of the past. Yet the rest of the barn was full of life. The old white barn built from the lumber of the land became a symbol of survival. It was a place filled with the laughter of children and the sweat and determination of that family whose name was on the barn. It was always the view from my window.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

From my window


FROM MY WINDOW

My bedroom window overlooked the backyard and barnyard. It was a window on the world for a little farm girl. Many a time I sat there looking out, watching chickens outside the chicken house pecking in the dirt for worms and cows milling at the back gate. Many mornings I saw Dad backing the Covington Creamery milk truck between the corncrib and the barn, the barn my daddy built. In warm weather, I could hear the tractor and perhaps spy Dad on the red Massey tractor with his faithful cocker spaniel riding along as they crossed the field. This was my window on the world for most of my growing up years.

I want to write about the views from that window for those views not only capture the sights of life on the farm but also captured the lives of those who lived on the farm. Two friends have told me that I am an observer. It shook loose an awareness that rather stunned me. I had been an observer all my life. And as that observer, I can now share what I saw from my window.

I hope you will find some enjoyment and perhaps memories of your own as I share these memories. Perhaps we can capture our histories together and bind them into a quilt of what life was like in Darke County, Ohio. I lived on Neff Road. Maybe you would like to learn about the incredible childhood I experienced with animals as my closest neighbors. A life built on soil, sweat and love. A neighborhood that extended far beyond one road. This is the view from my window. 

Come share the view.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

The cook has left the kitchen

Fried chicken. Can you smell it? Um.....I think I can smell it. Yep, I can! Mom is in the kitchen using the old iron skillet to fry up another one of those critters that live across the yard. Fried chicken. Oh, Mom, you knew how to take that skillet and make memories for your girls and anyone who ever sat at your table.

Fried chicken. Mom never allowed her girls do any of the cooking, so we didn't even know how to do the simplest dishes. I don't think I had ever made anything during my life on the farm. But I can wash a dish, a potato-caked-on pot, a pile of plates and a potato masher with the skill of a woman on KP. So, when I became a bride, I found the kitchen a foreign land in which someone should have tested my skills before the ring landed on the finger.

I can laugh now, but in truth, I was terrified. We were having our first dinner guests. Yes, I was doing the cooking. The best gift we got when we were married was the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Being a country girl, I didn't know what to fix for people who lived in town. My experience had been watching Mom cook for farmhands. So, I thought I would do what Mom always did. I would fix fried chicken. Sounds easy, right? Well, you weren't a Loxley girl or you would know better. I turned to Betty Crocker. She, of course, considered that there might be clueless women out there and had a simple recipe for fried chicken. I followed it to the letter.

When the couple arrived, I was standing in our little, townhouse kitchen frying up dinner. Melanie walked over to me and said, "You're using a cookbook to fry chicken?! Everybody knows how to fry chicken!" Okay. I died right there on the spot. I was angry with Mom. I hated my husband for having such rude friends. I was embarrassed right down to my chicken feet. As you can tell, this incident has remained with me to this day. It is rather like the first time I had a baked potato wrapped in foil and had no idea what to do with it. So I sat looking at it. Hm.

Oh, yes, I have had my kitchen bumps and bruises along my many decades. I couldn't even make Jello! However, at this present age of chuckling at the past, I realize that I was meant to eat out and not cook. And, perhaps I had an aversion to wringing the neck of those nasty birds in the hen house. Kitchen utensils were not made for these hands. Paper plates are my best friends. Now I can make peace with Melanie and her rude comment, because she did not understand that I was made for greater things. At least this is how I reason it out now.

Can you smell it? I can. Fried chicken. I love it. And, I am sure there are chickens out there that are thrilled that I have not gone through life killing off their ancestors. I admire Colonel Sanders and his ability to carry on. Yet, it is not Mom's chicken. Hm. Where's the menu?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

I will make do

As kids, we made do with what we had for entertainment. We used tobacco lath for horses, burlap bags for everything from costumes to doll bedding, bales of straw for forts and corncribs for playhouses. With friends, we put on plays, searched the creek bed for turtles and frogs and discovered new things in nature with each season. We could make do.

Cambridge Dictionary: Make Do: to manage to live without things that you would like to have or with things or worse quality than you would like: ex. We didn't have cupboards so we made do with boxes.

Make do. It seems like all my childhood was 'make do'. We did not have much but made do with what we had. A word came up in a conversation with my sister June. Bandana! Any farm kid knows that their dads had a stack of handkerchiefs (or bandanas) that we girls nabbed when we were going to 'make do'. Of course, Mom grabbed them for our runny noses and used them to cover our chests covered with Vicks when we had a cough or wrapped around our necks for the same remedy.

As for us little ones, those blue and red bandanas became diapers for our dolls and sheets for their beds. In church, one of these lively cloths became Cats in a Cradle. Sometimes coins would be tied into the corner for our Sunday School offering. And to keep babies entertained, they became great peek-a-boo cloths.

Then we got a bit older. Mom would take bandanas and create bathing suits for her little girls. A couple tied made the bottom and a string gathering the cloth in the middle then tied behind the neck with the ends tied in the back of the child made the bra. Bandana beauties! Then we got even older. Those bandanas became headbands, neckbands and headscarves.

We saw those handkerchiefs hanging out of our father's work trousers and watched them flap on the clothesline. We carried them into the field to wipe away the sweat. Somehow they became that overlooked staple that did so many things. We never thought about it. We just made do. Everyday things were essentials in times of need. They even went on to be fads.

Yes, we can all make do. We can manage to live without things that we would like to have. In this process of 'make do', our world will rejuvenate itself. Streams and rivers will rest. The air will clear. The earth will make do reliving the peace and clarity it once knew. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for us all. As for now, I will make do.