Wednesday, September 30, 2009

#16

I rode bus #16. I was 5 the first time I stood at the end of the lane watching the big yellow bus roar across the bridge down the road. The big doors opened and there was Louie all smiles for this shy child.

I rode that bus for 12 years. All 12 Louie drove the bus. He saw us from mere babies to young adults. From fluffy petticoats to blue jeans. From hating all boys to kissing Dickie Neff on the front seat in first grade. I haven't calculated the number of days I saw Louie, but the number would be high enough to constitute commonlaw marriage in some states.

Louie is gone now. I wonder if he knew the impression he left on those small children who passed through that folding door. We certainly didn't undersatnd the loving care he gave to us, the responsibility he shouldered driving a bus full of rambunctious kids from home to school and back again. How many sick children did he nurse? How much gum did he scrape? How many fights did he referee? How many losts odds and ends did he accumulate? How many days was he feeling under the weather and was still there for us?

I never saw Louie after I graduated, but I do still think of him once in awhile. Wonder if I will ever impact lives in such a simple manner as had that dear man? I certainly hope so.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moo

Cows. We had cows. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the income from the calves he sold. The cows would chew their cuds as they stood on the other side of the gate looking at us. My first words were "moo cow", so I'm sure I started cow watching at an early age.

Now you might think this blog is all about cows. Well, in one way it is but mostly not.

We moved to Oregon in 1978. Portland is an hour from the ocean and an hour from the snowy mountains. It was and is perfect. One of our favorite spots to visit is Cannon Beach. I'm not sure when it changed but when we Beach had invested in a tsunami warning system. The village is situated below the hills, so the only escape is up via one road that goes in to Cannon Beach and out. In order not to frighten the children, the warning sound was a mooing cow. When the cow bellowed through the warning system, citizens were to seek high ground immediately. Regular drills kept Cannonites on their toes. School children lined up in a buddy system walking quickly and safely away from danger.

It's said that the system worked well; however, I had concerns. Often I have seen children terrified by an approaching clown. My own children were apprehensive when approaching Santa. Some children wail at fireworks. Sounds and characters can trigger fear in children.

They have since changed the warning system. Yet, I wonder if there are Cannon Beach adults who when hearing the mooing of a gentle bovine sends fear into their hearts.

Ah, sweet cows. Hm.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Missing A Shoe?

One morning I was driving my car to work and catching a quick banana breakfast at the same time. I was tempted to toss the peel out the car window. Then I visualized every driver tossing banana peels....planet of the apes.

In my youth littering wasn't an issue. Banana peels and apple cores went out the window. I always rode in the front seat on our Saturday trips to Greenville. I knew that if I tossed something out the front window it would fly in the back and usually hit my sister. Ah, the good 'ol days.

Now our roads are well-maintained because of legislation and public outcry. Still, cigarette butts, other unspeakable items and an occasional shoe litter the streets and roads. It makes one wonder:  What happened to the other shoe? Is the wearer aware that only one foot is shod? Is there a body in the ditch missing a shoe? Where do the shoes go when they are picked up? Does someone collect them? Do wild dogs carry them away? It boggles the mind. Of course, my kids would say, "Only your mind, Mom."

So on the passenger seat resides a rapidly ripening banana peel drawing the attention of gnats. It's a good thing we do taking our trash with us, but I still wonder about the shoes.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't Wait

Who helped create the you that you are? What are some of your earliest memories of that special person?

There is something about a military uniform that holds your memory be it the smell, the texture, the bright gold buttons. He held me like a precious package. I remember it as if it were yesterday sitting on his lap at the Jefferson Memorial, cheering at his baseball games, following him around enough that I'm sure I smelled like his smelly cigars.

Gene taught me to drive a tractor when I was probably no more than 5. I sat like a queen on her throne atop my grandpop's old grey, Ford tractor. "Sit there and look straight ahead. Don't turn the wheel. Sit there and hold it steady." Well, I couln't do much else since the pedals were quite a distance away from the tips of my bare toes. Plus, I was too terrified to move. So, I drove the tractor that pulled the tobacco planter. Slow as a snail we crossed the field planting row after row. At the end of the row, he would jump off the planter, hop up behind me and turn the tractor. Years later I graduated from driver to planter. He taught me to pull the plants from their sterile beds then planting them seated on the planter. When reaching my teens, again his pupil, I learned to spear tobacco later stripping it for shipping.

In my adult years, he became my friend.  He shared family stories. Oh how I loved him, appreciated him. Gene was always there for me and my family. I was never alone with Gene in my life.

He wrote to a little girl when he was in the Philippines. In turn, she wrote in scribbles and crayon. He teased her and harassed her in the tobacco field, and she dished back the same. He cared for the entire family because he could.

Gene was my cousin, my brother, my friend. He died last year. All of my life I was precious to him. If only I could tell him once more, "Gene, you are precious to me."

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ruth

With thumb recuperting, I am relying on past writings. I hope you enjoy them. My mother was a remarkable woman missed daily by her daughters. Her name was Ruth, a name I hope you don't forget.

The woman lived almost her entire life on the square mile of land. Yet she touched more lives than most of us will ever know. Her mission was the life she led. No one was ever a stranger. No one ever wanted for a meal or a bed. She took in  youth who were homeless and gave them a family, gave temporary shelter to kids in trouble and babysat for anyone who ever asked. She never said "no" to anything.

The church was her life. She was choir director, custodian, pianist, Sunday School teacher, on every committee. She would wake before the sun did and cook each meal as the day progressed for a dozen hungry farm hands. She was a fantastic cook who never used a cookbook. She killed the chickens, made the soap, planted the crops and raised three baby girls. She saw her sisters date gangsters and fell in love at nine with her future husband.

Mom fought for children's rights before we admitted they had them. She was colorblind to the shades of humanity. She never believed that there was anything she couldn't do. She never saw a stranger and opened her house to exchange students, travelers, cousins ten times removed. She buried her parents, her three siblings and her husband. She always had a song on her lips and in her heart. She was loved and loved like few ever have.

As she entered her 80's, her life became more silent with her hearing failing. She was frail and tiny in her last days. But she was beautiful. Her song still remained. She was bright and still had the handwriting of her twenties. She still had an open heart and failed to understand the narrow-mindedness of mankind.

She sat crocheting with aching hands and played the piano like a ragtime pro. What a lovely sight to behold, this mother of mine. We should all have such a mission in life, to change it for the better. I had a good example. I think I'll pass it on.

Postscript:
My sister informed me a couple of years ago the reason for our mother's dedication to others. I was just a baby and had contracted spinal meningitis. I was not expected to live. A child in the bed next to me died. Mother prayed over me as they packed me in ice offering her life to God if he would save me.

She gave her life in service for my life. Mom, you lived up to your promise. Now rest.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Out Darn Truck

Tonight I'm missing neighbors. I don't know of a time in my entire growing up that neighbors didn't help one another. Helping a sick family, one in mourning, joining with other neighbors to help with crops, The list goes on and one. We neighbored.

People dropped in on one another some bringing over food to share, fresh baked pies, bucket of pears, freshly canned jars of pickles. Sometimes it was a just a visit, time to sit and talk. The churches in the neighborhood all pitched in regardless of religion. Farmers shared equipment. Farm people were more like family than friends. Golly, I miss it.

Today my neighbor and I had a disagreement. I moved into my duplex, next to he and his wife, about 14 months ago. From the very beginning, he has insisted on parking his truck in front of my house at the end of my driveway, They have 3 cars and a garage full of storage. I have one car which fits into my garage. He never moves this ancient junker. It sits at there in front of my house leaking oil onto the road. I have asked nicely if he would move it and he refuses. Parking spots are avaiable all around us. But because he insists on parking there, I must take my garbage down around the corner so the trucks can get to it. Last Tuesday the big recycle bin caught on a raised spot on the sidewalk throwing me off balance and, thus, fracturing and dislocating my finger.

Today I went next door and told him that I need him to move his truck on Sunday nights so I can put my trash cans out front of my house. He argued and fumed and said that he would probably have to give in to me then slammed the door.

I'm upset that he makes me feel wrong. I'm angry that I know he thinks he can push a woman around. And, I don't understand this kind of neighbor.

May neighboring never change on Neff Road.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shoo, Shoe

Grade school. May. The prospect of summer break was just around the corner. For farm kids that meant only one thing: NO SHOES!!!! No matter what the weather, the shoes came off and disappeared until Fall. Oh, sure, I had summer sandals for church or I wore my Keds if I worked in the field, but for all intent and purposes summer footwear consisted of bare feet.

Of course, feet had to toughened up, but knowing that we could be shoeless all summer made the transition fast and easy. I could run on gravel as easily as grass, ride my bicycle without our shoes, run across the barnyard, through the woods and along creek without shoes. Barefoot all summer long.

I'd step on bees, in cow pies and a few thistle, yet never once did I revert back to shod feet. I was a country kid. Mom was forever digging splinters out of my dirty feet. Washing mud off the feet and once pulling a nail out of the bottom of one. Bare feet. Ah, nothing better.

Things have not changed so much over the years. My toes are carefree all summer once in awhile captured by open-toed shoes or sandals. Yet when I am home, the shoes come off. In the Fall, socks take over but still I hide the shoes away.

A cultural tradition that has caught on here in the US. When entering a home, guests and residents remove shoes. Personally, I am sure that this tradition was started by a farm kid.

Hm. Fall got here yesterday. I wonder where I put my socks?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Memory

An apology: My writing has been a little slow. I clumsily broke and dislocated my right pinky. The finger has been 'relocated' but pain meds and difficult 'keyboardmanship' are making this difficult. Please hang with me.

My sisters were in the church youth group, and my parents were leaders. Babysitters were unthought of in 'those days,' so I tagged along to their activities. On a crisp fall evening, Dad would fill the wagon bed with bales of straw. The kids would pile in sitting around the sides with feet curled up and blankets tucked around warmly-padded bodies. The scent of straw and fall leaves filled the air. Laughter and camp song erupted as the hayride began.

Our destination was several miles away at the old stone house at Camp Sugar Grove. The house build of river rock was nestled along a rippling creek. Someone usually arrived at the house early setting the fireplace ablaze and hot chocolate and cookies ready to greet the teens. Flames danced casting shadows on the stone walls and vaulted ceiling, on our faces as we roasted hot dogs over the fire. We snuggled during vespers drawing warmth from one another.

The return trip was quieter. A few flashlights glimmered. A lone voice would break out in song soon followed by the rest of us gradually splitting into beautiful harmonies.

I was just a little girl tagging along on the hayride. And, still, the desire to go on one more pulls on my heart stings. "By the light of the silvery moon......"

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Hat, A Hat, For the Lady, A Hat

I wasn't very old when Mother took me to the millinery shop in Greenville. The dimly lit shop was full of wonderful hats, those with feathers, bows, of bright colors and in dark felt. The sat around the walls on pedestals calling to us as we walked in. A handful of small dressing tables were scattered around the room allowing the customer a place to sit and try on hats. It was a special place that made a woman feel special.

Aunt Welma always wore expensive, beautiful hats. Always a lady of fashion, she would rarely go out without a hat and when traveling often came home with a new one. Mother had a hat shelf where she kept her Easter hats, winter caps, hats made of little more than netting and small bonnets that we children wore. Hats.

So often I'm tempted to buy a hat. When I try one on I feel flirty, classy and sometimes just silly. I walk differently and perhaps talk differently. I am wearing a hat.

My Dad always wore a hat. A grey felt hat. He was quite dashing as I remember. Now I can't remember the last time I saw a man in a dress hat. Oh, I see plenty of ball caps and sock caps but never a dress hat. Frank Sinatra wore a hat. Bing Crosby wore a hat (usually cocked to one side). Even Parvarotti wore a hat. Hats.

I have my grandfather' stiff Katie (a bowler), my mother's raccoon hat, a couple of my aunts lovely hats. I have bonnets from when I was a little tyke, a straw bowler from the 30's, Almish hats and bonnets, a couple of hats from the 1800's. Straw hats for yardwork, sock hats for winter, ball cap for the Sydney's softball games. I have hats.

No longer does a man tip his hat or remove it when he is indoors. Rarely does one buy an  Easter bonnet. A covered head in church or at a funeral is passe. Hats are still good for collecting alms on the street, for finishing off a great costume and, of course, for dress up. Hats.

Hats are still kept alive in children's story books. Cats wear them, wild animals hide in them. We recognize witches hats, clown hats, hard hats, military hats. Lowly worm wear a hat, and if I go to Disneyland, I can have mouse ears on a hat.

I can't remember the name of the old millinery shop. I know it was gone by the time I was a teenager. A day and age gone by. If that shop was still open, I think I might like to buy a writing hat.

Hats. Hm. Missing them.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Tend To Your Roots

At what age do we learn about our roots? Literaly, I'm talking roots here. When Sydney was about 18 months old, I decided we would start those nature lessons just as Dad had taught them to me. We had returned to the farm for a visit. Each day Sydney would run to the elm tree, reach her small arms around it embracing it with all her might learning how to 'love Mr. Tree'. Together we looked for cicada shells the same as I had as a child. The cicada emerges from a shell once it has grown into its new flying self. The copper colored shell still resembling the cicada bug can be hooked by the fragile legs onto clothing creating a buggish pin. Sydney gathered the empty critters as fast as she could spy them hanging them on me, her, the tree. They often crunced in her fingers turning to dust when she loved them too much. It was a start.

One day after returning to Oregon, Sydney and I were reading a book. Well, I was reading. She was pulling on pages. We came to a picture of a lone tree. She leaned over and gently placed a kiss on it, "Love Mr. Tree", she said.

Maybe there is hope for Mother Earth, if we tend to our roots.....


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Growing Up at Hustons

Country cooking in country restaurants was just that. No fast food, no fancy cuisine, sometimes not even clean plates, but it was down-home cooking. I have no idea how long Hustons in Arcanum has been in existence. For as long as I can remember, we dined there on the same menu. As a child, I would stare back at the mounted animal heads and  fish that looked down on me, these creatures ornamenting the knotty pine walls.

The cook and cashier sat at the table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper until a customer came through the door. A well-used menu would be given to customers and a cup of over-brewed coffee. With each entree came three side dishes. The list was endless: cole slaw, mashed potatoes, green beans, lima beans, potato salad, applesauce, the list went on. Home cooked meals. The pie case full of homemade pies was at the front counter. Cherry, pecan, peach. Home cooked meals. Good farm cooking.

As I got older, I came to realize that Hustons was not so tidy, the wall creatures a little dusty and the dishes often mismatched, chipped and cracked, not so different from the people we were becoming. A little older, a few dings, yet full of memories. I miss those meals at Hustons. I miss the list of side dishes. Most of all I miss my family.


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Milky Way

Why can't we see the Milky Way in Beaverton, Oregon? The nightly sky over the farm was filled with a bizillion stars. The Milky Way paved a stardust highway overhead. So why isn't it in my sky here?

I've told my granddaughters about it. They look at our sky then back at me. "Why can't we see it if it is there?" Well, I don't know. I wish my astronomer uncle was here to help me through this question. No doubt about it. These girls will need to go to Ohio to see the sky for themselves.

Many nights Dad would take us outside pointing out the constellations and planets. No planetarium can compare to the bedazzled sky that hung just outside of our house. I remember seeing a comet go along the horizon when I was a child. The long tail follow the white star. And, I stood in the yard looking at the distance sky as the Northern Lights danced to unheard music.

I don't know where this relationship between the stars and my family began. Perhaps it was Captain Loxley sailing across the Atlantic from England. Maybe it was Robin Hood living beneath these same stars in Sherwood Forest. It could be that we just stood around a lot looking up waiting for something to happen. Slow times on the farm.  Whatever it is, I'm thrilled that Dad pointed out our beautiful celestial ceiling. I just can't figure out why the Milky Way doesn't go over this O state.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Country Road

Country Road. Neff Road. Family. Support. Love. Home.

I didn't leave Neff Road. It came along with me to Wisconsin then to Oregon. The people there were and have been  those who helped to mold the me I am. Never was I without a loving parent no matter whose home I visited, no matter what my age. Even when I didn't know it, these people watched over me. Even when I didn't know it, these people did their best to care for me.

Home was a place, but more so, the people were my home. With many of the older generation gone, we sisters find it hard to know the local news. One of us will hear something about home then go online or send out emails to find out what is happening in Darke County. I follow the local paper keeping up with my roots. I'm sure the people there would wonder why I care. For me, I can't think of why I wouldn't.

I didn't know until I was grown how much our neighbors at the end of the lane understood how lonely I was as a child. I didn't realize how much I was loved by Raymond and Lena. Little did I understand the gift I gave to my relatives by my visits, my listening ear. Until my parents' funerals, I had never been hugged by some of those tough, old farmers who watched me grow up and cared. Many of those living there have surely forgotten the memories or at least placed them in a "that was then" box. But for many of us who move away, we hold those memories and people as dearly as we did then. Maybe more so now.

Country Road. Neff Road. Home.

1971. We crawled into the car leaving our little farm in Ohio to move to a new life in Wisconsin. As we pulled out of the driveway, Mom and Dad waving good-bye, I turned on the radio. John Denver was singing, "Country Road take me home...."

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chicken Catcher Wins

Yes, Kevin Skinner is now the million dollar winner of America's Got Talent. Most people would think of his new career in music. Me? Looks to me like there is an opening for a new chicken catcher. This is something I know about.

Growing up with fresh eggs for breakfast usually involved walking to the chicken house wriggling you hand beneath an old fat hen stealing her eggs. There was a technique to keeping the chicken content on her nest while you sneaked you hand over the the top of the box and under her warm body. I was always terrified that she might be harboring a mouse under there. Now you could remove the chicken from the nest, but, usually that involved flapping of wings and other chickens in panic mode sure that a fox has wandered in. Chickens are not smart.

My friend, Brenda, and I were often bored. There is only so much you can do on a farm, so creativity is called for on those occasions. We found that we could hypnotize chickens by grabbing them, pinning their beaks to the gound and, with a stick, draw a straight line in the dirt away from the chicken's beak. The darn birds would sit there looking at that line not moving a feather.

Now if you are a chicken catcher, it's a great way to capture and hold quickly. If you are two little girls, it is a great way to have fun. If you are the father of one of the two little girls, you are frustrated to once more to find your chickens staring at lines.

My grandkids will never sneak their hands under an unsuspecting chicken to savor a fresh egg. They will never know the delight in spying on Dad when he discovers his crossed-eyed chickens staring at lines. They can share a chuckle with their grandma as I paint a picture in words of my life on the farm. They will be the keepers of the stories much like stories that have been handed down over generations from the beginning of time.

My granddaughters look forward to visitng the farm some day. New people live there now. I'm not sure I can go back again. I hurts so much to be away from it. Yet, if they have chickens, I just might be tempted to find a couple of sticks and let my grandgirls step back in time.

I hope you will check out agrandparentsvoice.com today. Food for thought. Thanks to all of you who are keeping up with my blogs. My journey is yours and your journey is mine. Thank you.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clip Clop

Clip clop, clip clop. The silence of the countryside was interrupted by the steady pace of a horse trotting down the road pulling a buggy behind. Growing up living side by side with the Amish, I took for granted the simple sound. Clip clop, clip clop. I remember waking early on a Sunday mornings to  that sound echoing through the dawn in rain, snow or whatever God chose for them that day. An eerie yet comforting sound. A sound from yesterdays long past. Clip clop, clip clop.

My children were probably around 10 and 12 when went back to the farm. Dad asked a neighbor if he would take our family plus Meg on a buggie ride. This was a treat for us and an unusual request of an Amish family. Taking non-Amish on joy rides was probably frowned on yet Mike hesitantly agreed. The three kids excitely piled into the back of the buggie while I sat in front with Mike. Soon the excitement of following a horse down the road gave way to silence. Clip clop, clip clop. We were all sensed another time wondering what it would have been like growing up as our great grandparents had. My father had farmed with horses before the tractor came onto the scene. Here we were visiting our past.

Clip clop. Silence. No car roaring down the road with the wind blowing through the windows. No need for speed to get somewhere in a hurry. The sound of hoof meeting road was the only sound we heard. No, wait, we heard the creek running over the rocks, we heard the cicada, the cricket, the flies. We slowly passed the pond with the trees at our fingertips. Perhaps we even found ourselves a little closer to our beginnings. A little closer to our souls.

Clip clop clip clop. I share this quiet journey with you. Close your eyes and listen.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Television Learning Curve

I am part of that generation that will remember a time when we had no television and part of that generation that remembers the first TV. My grandfather had an enormous radio that could pull in worldwide stations. We had a console radio that was built into a table. We were content with what we had and didn't know what were missing.
Dad and Mom finally saved enough money to get this new thing called television. Mom had her heart set on a blonde television set. Blonde furniture was a very light finish which was popular at the time, and it matched our piano. This big boxy TV sat in the corner of the living room with a round glass bowl on top filled with fake flowers. Why TV's came with this bowl was beyond me but that was the way  new TV sets arrived. I was always afraid that if we took the bowl off the TV, we would lose the picture. The bowl wasn't attached to anything. We had an antenna, so it didn't affect the quality of the already hazy picture. Perhaps it was there to make the TV a bit more attractive.

Our neighbors did not believe in such frivolity as a television yet when major events took place, they stopped in for a visit and sat for hours watching the coverage on TV.

As a small girl, I watched the Uncle Al show. I learned the hard way to never believe a man who dresses funny and hangs with children. Uncle Al promised all of his little TV buddies that we were taking a trip in a plane. He asked if we all wanted to go along. No doubt about it. I planned to go. I packed my bag and waited. And waited. And.....well,  Mom finally had to tell me that I wasn't going anywhere with Uncle Al. So we sat on the sofa watching, me in tears, watching Uncle Al step into his cardboard airplane leaving us all behind.

I think I miss the simplicity of the radio and the family gathering around to listen. However, the TV hours I spent watching the Arthur Godfrey Hour, Ruth Lyons, Libarace, Show of Shows and Ed Sullivan expanded my world. Yet in all that watching time, it never did learn the purpose of that round, glass globe on top.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Choose Your Hunting Dog Wisely

Many of our neighbors loved to hunt. Our neighbor had an old junker in the back corner of a field where he and his son would sit and wait for innocent bunnies to pass by. We didn't have many deer in the area so a lot of farmers headed to Michigan and Wisconsin for the hunting season.

I only remember Dad going hunting twice. Now before I get too far into this story, I must relate that my father gave me the gift of loving nature, protecting plants and wildlife and never taking for granted the awe and beauty. So here was a man picking up a gun to go kill one of those soft little bunnies similar to those I had seen covered with fur in a nest. A bit much for a little girl.

And, it wasn't as though we needed food on the table (or at least rabbit). My sisters and I raised rabbits. (There is another story here, but I'll save it for later.) The rabbit hutches were along the side of the chicken pen. In retrospect, I guess it was the killing field. My point here is that I couldn't get past the loving of little bunnies to understanding the sport in killing one.

So, back to my story, Dad decided to let me go along on one of his local hunting trips. He searched for bunnies; I walked a little behind him talking a mile a minute and tromping as loudly as I could. Thus Dad came home empty handed, but we had a great father/daughter walk. Hm. He was a little grumpy.

Animal killing trip two. Dad and his faithful cocker spaniel, Whitey, were up early and off to hunt the cottontailed beasts. I knew that if Whitey saw a rabbit, he would take off after it. Obviously, Dad didn't expect much action. A harmless bunny was taking it's morning hop when along came the deadly duo. Whitey was soooooo excited that he immediately had a heart attack. Thus Dad came home empty handed. Oh, wait. Dad came home carrying the dog. Whitey had a heart condition, so it was no shock. And, he survived.

Poor Dad. He didn't have boys to join him in the hunt and had the unfortunate luck to have a dog with a weak heart. Personally, I think God answered the prayers of a little girl. God save the bunnies.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pots and Pans

Boy, could she cook. Mom was dynamite in the kitchen. She could take leftovers and make a brand new feast. A working farm meant farm hands. Cousins, uncles, hired hands would help with the crops which meant many mouths to feed. Hungry, hard working men with hearty appetites.

We raised most of our food. Mother would chop off a chicken's head and hang it on the clothesline by it's leg, so the blood would drain out. Brenda and I would sit and watch the body flap. (Ah, entertainment on the farm.) Afterwards Mom would boil the chicken and pluck it. My sisters and I were wishing we were on a tractor. Then she boiled the giblets and other useless chicken parts. Nothing went to waste. We knew that when all of the rich broth was cooked out of the bones, she would make her incredible homemade noodles. The chicken was rolled in flour, browned then popped into the oven. Meanwhile we girls peeled potatoes, snapped beans and set the table.

Sweaty farm hands would come in from the field to find a table bulging with piles of mashed potatoes, rich gravy, incredible noodles, bowls of fresh green beans and delicious fried chicken. As always, sometime during the morning, Mom also managed to bake a pie. It was a feast that could have been created for  Thanksgiving but was an every day occurence in the life of a farm wife.

Probably the best thing I learned during those years was this:  When you use something in the kitchen, you rinse it and put it into the dishwasher or you let it soak until you wash the dishes. Not Mom. At the end of a meal, the clean up crew, consisting of me and my two sisters, were faced with a kettled coated with dried mashed potatoes, a skillet caked with greasy crumbs and plates full of leftover scraps. Stacks of pans and dishes loomed over us as the women dined on what was remaining of the feast.

The daily battle would ensue. Each of us wanted to wash dishes and not dry. Not sure why. I think it reverts back to the womb and water. After what seemed like most of the afternoon for her daughters, the dishes would be washed, dried and back in the cupboard. Mom? Oh, she was already preparing for the evening meal.

None of the daughters like to cook. In fact, I believe I'm not stating this too strongly in saying we all HATE to cook. The kitchen is the den of horrors for us. Why? Well, none of us learned to cook, Mom wouldn't let us help with the preparation. Oh, we could find our way around the kitchen if it was full of dirty dishes. No, Mom loved to cook ALONE.

My children cook. Perhaps they had to learn to survive. Me? I rock when it comes to cleaning up.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Farming in the Dark

9/11. The attack on the United States. We remember the anger, the fear and, most of all, the vulnerability.

When I was a little girl, I remember standing in the backyard of our house looking toward Dayton. Huge search lights scanned the skies. We could clearly see them even though we were 35 miles away. World War II was over yet our country was still living under the fear of attack. We still had info commercials on TV telling children to hide beneath their desks should we be attacked. I remember it well.

Dad told the story often of his experience during the war. Blackouts were scheduled occasionally to prepare US citizens for potential attacks. Blinds were pulled, lights turned off. The enemy planes couldn't find a target if they couldn't see it. But Dad was a farmer. He was working during the day trying to make whatever money he could to support his family and farming most times at night. On one such blackout night, Dad was farming. A lone light in the darkness. He wasn't aware of the blackout until a plane began to descend on him. The lights coming right at him. Quickly, he hit the tractor lights then sat alone in the dark field, his heart pounding. My dad, always fearless, was terrfied.

Farming in the dark. Sometimes I think we live in the dark. How do we bridge the differences between people? How can we be a light in the world, one that won't be a target? So much pain and fear in the world. We need positive veiws and outreach in a world that has so many who would pick up guns and hate rather than to allow us all to keep the lights on and to not be afraid.

Remembering 9/11 and a lone farmer in the field.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Singing Farmers

Dad was a singer. His beautiful tenor voice was known far and wide. Well, at least in Darke County. As a young man, Dad traveled with a singing group that traveled the area and beyond, singing gospel songs. Later his brother, Keith, joined the quartet.

We grew up with Dad singing at weddings. We probably didn't realize what a gift Dad had at the time, but as years passed we came to understand this gift that was handed down through the family genes. My grandfather had the same beautiful tenor voice. For all the hardness I remember that was my granddad, when he sang in the church choir, he became warmer. Yes, it was a family of singing farmers.

Who would believe that these men who milked cows, plowed fields, castrated pigs could make such beautiful harmonies? Yet I remember that men sang more back then. I remember holidays when my mother's side of the family would gather around the piano singing old songs. Uncle Bob, my mom's brother, loved to sing "Won't You Come Home, Bill Baily". I can still hear him. Again, this was a man not made up of warm fuzzies. Yet, when he belted out a song, I felt a little closer to him.

Mom and Dad would sing duets. Mom was at one time choirister and led congregational singing. None of us ever had the heart to tell her that her voice was much like dragging your fingernails across a blackboard. And she was loud. Dad carried on the beautiful meloday, and Mom harmonized. Perhaps that's why their marriage worked so well. Never did they criticize one another. It was all striving for harmony. They worked hard to live and singing made the hard times better. Singing farmers.

My son, James, sings now. Of course, he isn't a farmer. He has been on stage since he was 5 and wanted nothing else in life but to continue his love of theatre and music. Last year he found his fiance', Lisa, on the national tour of "Evita". Now they both live their careers here in Portland. The music still rings on in another generation.

It was my high school graduation. Dad had just come home from the hospital. He had polyps removed from his vocal cords. I remember standing with my class singing to the audience of friends and family tears streaming down my face. I didn't know if a song would ever again leave the lips of my father. He never sang again. Dad lost his voice, and he lost his music.

When he was dying, I asked if he would like for me to play the piano. He shook his 'no'. I believe the pain of losing his voice never left him. How can you take the song from the bird? How can you silence a melody? I can still hear him in my son's voice. Perhaps he will hear it in the song of his own son.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not Much

Tonight we will have no writing tonight more than to explain that I am home late from an evening with my granddaughters. I'm tired, happily so. I hope your day was good as well. G'night.
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monkey Bars

My sisters and I aattended elementary school and middle school in the same school that my parents attended and from which they graduated. Franklin School is an old brick school not too far from where I lived. When I was there, pictures of classes 20 years before me hung in a little hallway at the front of the school. When we played , we would look up at the faces now parents of my my classmates and I. Old statuettes still sat in the old trophy case hidden by the years of trophies captured in the following years.

Music was held in the basement. Fern Fourman would take the old books off the shelf, and we would raise our voices echoing those of earlier times. We sang "Pickin' Up Pawpaws, put 'em in your pocket" as Fern pounded out the melody on the piano. Everyone loved music.

Normal Rhoades taught PE when I was in middle school. We learned to raise and lower the flag and to fold it. She taught us to shoot archery and to have great hygiene. We learned square dancing as well as ballroom steps.

So many good memories there. However, one of the best was when we got new monkey bars on the playground. Monkey bars! Who could believe such luck! We had stepped out of the past and into the future. Our time had come. I'm not sure that this new play equipment made a difference in our grades, but it was our legacy to leave the school when we moved on. We were the first. The first to slide down the pole, the first to climb to the top, the first to play tag around them. No trophies. Nope. Only brilliant, bright new monkey bars. Did this impact my life? Sure. I still like to play on monkey bars whenever I have the chance.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Gentle as a Lamb

Lambs. I fell in love with them when just a little girl. Dad would stop by fields in the spring so I could watch the little tykes jump and play, long tails twitching with excitement.

Dad drove a milk route picking up milk from the farmers then taking it to the creamery for processing. Up at the crack of dawn, he would make his rounds then come home to do his farming chores. But this isn't about the milk route. This is about one special morning when Dad pulled in the driveway stopping the truck at the house instead of going directly to the barn. Mom, my sisters and I came out to see why Dad changed his routine. Smiling he opened the door, and two small lambs peered out at us. That was the beginning of our small flock of sheep.

Sometimes a ewe will not accept a baby. She will butt it and try to hurt it or will ignore it completely not allowing it to nurse. One day Dad came to the house with a bundle in his arms, a rejected newborn lamb. I was given the job of feeding this lamb and seeing to its care. We put the baby in a towel-lined box in the basement. Dad fixed a bottle of warm milk with a long black nipple attached the end of the glass bottle. He pried open the lambs mouth and inserted the nipple. The hungry baby suckled immediately. I became the new mom.

I christened the lamb, Pamper. As Pamper grew stronger, we ventured outside. She followed me like a puppy. Then when she was big enough, Dad took her back to the barn and the rest of the flock. Every morning when I walked to the barn, Pamper would be waiting with her two front legs hooked over the fence rail watching for me.

I still can remember the smell of that curly lamb. I can still hear the little 'maa' sound she made as a baby. Sometimes I forget what an unusual experience it is to grow up on a farm. Unusual and so wonderful. 'Maaaaa'.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Pond

The pond was an old gravel pit at the back of my grandfather's farm. In the summer, it was a place that we would spend many hours with fishing pole in hand. I don't remember a time we didn't go fishing at the pond. An old wrecked boat sat at the end of the pond and a downed tree at the other. Dad said that he had no idea how deep the small pond was but that it was extremely deep. It must have been because the water was almost black in the middle. Dragon flies would sit on the end of my pole and once in awhile, a large bass would flop in the middle. I never could catch one of those big fish, but Dad swore there were in there. Sometimes Dad would go to work the abutting  field planting me with pole in hand at the pond. I would sit there for hours waiting for something to happen on the end of my line.

In the winter, the pond became our ice skating rink. Dad would go to Troy to pick up worn out hockey sticks and pucks previously used by their hockey team. Neighbor kids would pick up sticks and try to stay upright long enough to whack the puck. Teenagers helped we little ones up and parents whirled around gracefully showing us all up. I remember when Bill Stager got injured when someone fell and a skate blade separated the top of his nose giving him a great scar that made him look like a prize fighter. It was cold outside but none of us felt it.

I learned patience at that pond. And, I learned lessons from my father. He pointed out birds and other occasional visitors that seemed to not know of our prescence as we fished on the bank. I learned about shag bark hickory and oak trees. About seeds and pods. I learned to hook a worm and to watch a bobber, a task of which I never seemed to tire. I had one on one time with my dad.

I miss my old cane pole. I miss my new figure skates. Most of all, I miss the quiet moments by the pond.
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Main Entry: hay·mow; Pronunciation: \-ˌmau̇\; Function: noun; Date: 15th century. : a mow especially of or for hay.

Haymow. Dad stored his hay and straw in the haymow. The bales were moved by a rope pulley pulling a course rope from one side to the other. Mommy cats hid their kittens among the bales, once in awhile an owl find the haymow as a roost but most of all, we kids used the haymow as our playground.
Bales of straw and hay became forts and castles. Tunnels were created to hide us from the enemy. The old pulley now held a swing that Dad had rigged to pull us from one side of the barn to the other. We could fly through the air like Superman or Peter Pan. We could always threaten to toss our adversaries to the bovine calmly munching hay downstairs.
I long for those days again. The smell of the barn, the chance to swing once more. Ah, those were the days.Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, September 4, 2009

Animals and me

Once in awhile you will hear me share stories about animals. When I was growing up, animals lived outdoors, and there was no giving in to it. If God had meant animals to live in the house, he would have created them house trained. Personally, I wonder if we were house trained when we were created. I'm thinking not. In fact, as I have heard, we didn't even have houses.

So, I come to the point of this blog. I fought Dad for years about the intelligence of creatures and the stupidity of some two-legged critters. Finally, I had my voice.

A few years ago I was watching a special on dolphins. The program was showing how different varieties of dolphins reside in different parts of the world. Authorities had been notified that a herd of dolphins had been spotted wtih strange growths on their noses. When investigated, it was found that the mammals had devised a way to protect their noses while searching for food around the coral. These dolphins managed to wrap sponges over their snoots as protection against the sharp coral. They even taught the skill to others. For this observer, it was an incredibly funny sight. However, the significance of ocean mammals using tools, in fact wearing protective coverings, was mind boggling.

Then I watched another show about a baby elephant that couldn't stand after it was born. The baby could only get onto its knuckles. It couldn't nurse or move on with the herd. The herd needed to move on but would not leave the newborn. The next morning the mother looked as weary as any human mom after a night of worry. The baby was terribly weak. Then, the tyke managed to get to his feet. He nursed and gained strength. When he was strong enough, the herd moved on.

Determinations, creativity. Not words that we often think of with the animal kingdom. But what wonderful surprises. What of mankind? Do you think the world of the wild looks on us with awe and wonder? Or are they just busy dodging our bombs, our bullets, our determination to take over see them extinct?

Ah, Dad, I continue to expand my mind.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

School Days

My sisters were both older than me. I can remember sitting by the window the first day of school watching them walk down the lane to the school bus. The big yellow bus would cross the bridge causing the family creaking. If your timing was right, you could make it to the bus on time if you left the house when it stopped at Welbaum's. Of course, that was on good days. Days with mud puddles and ice were something else. So on this day little Pam sat watching the year change to fall and her days more lonely.

I played for hours with my little toys on the upstairs windowsill watching the road wondering when my older sisters would return from school. When I saw the bus once more at Welbaum's, I would head out the house and down the lane.

I'm not sure why I was so excited to have them home. They never played with me. I hardly remember Peg at home. June was just mean to me. She'd pick on me. Mom took her side. So, why I was excited to see them is beyond my ken. Maybe I was lonely back that lane. Just perhaps I needed my sisters more than I remember.

Now I no longer see them go away from me down that lane to the bus. I no longer see them enough. Sometimes I think I still sit by the window waiting to see them wishing they lived right down the block instead of Angola, Indiana, and Bridgewater, Virginia.

I hate being the youngest.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Neff Road

Neff Road.

The Millers lived in the house at the north end of the road. Rev Miller talked in one of his sermons about a play Rowena and I had performed for him.

Uncle Keith and Aunt Kate lived a few houses down. I played there many days during the summer when Aunt Kate wasn't teaching. Kenton, Karen and I played dress up and acted out plays. Of course, we played Robin Hood. He was a Locksley, you know.

The Hockers lived across the road. Margaret was my Sunday School teacher. Harold was always an usher at church.

Raymond and Lena Linder lived next to Uncle Keith's house. They were like second family to me throughout my entire life.

Janet and Don lived on down from them. They were the 'newcomers' to the road but there for the duration of my time there. They were the 'kids' down the road.

The Tenny's lived on the corner when I was little. I remember hiding in their garage one time for some reason. I think we were in trouble.

Hollie and Margaret, Brenda (my best friend), Bill and Carol lived in the next house. My second family. They loved me as much as their own.

Doris and Victor Lavy lived across the road. We played baseball in their pasture. No one ever wanted me on their team.

Next was our house. A lovely sight on a slight rise. My castle.

The bridge was next down the road. Dad and the Boy Scouts had planted a woods there. I sat there watching the water as the sun rose on the day we sold the farm. Never had I seen geese on the creek until that morning when two landed below the cement abutment where I sat. I knew they had come to say, 'good bye'.

Welbaum's lived in the next house. They had hounds that barked at everything all hours of the day. Who could forget the pigs.

Irene Eberwine lived in the next house with her grown son, Emerson. He was a slow learner and sold greeting cards door to door.

Spitler's lived in the next house. June ran around with Donna. Sometimes they camped out in the creek bottom.

And the end of the road ended up facing Inez and Ola Viet's home. Two single sisters who lived in the house forever. When they died, their nephew bulldozed the entire house and furnishings. So many antiques. Memories erased.

Such was Neff Road when I was growing up. A community unto itself that nurtured the children who grew up there. My heart is not big enough to hold all of the love I have for those people on that road, those people who saw me grow up as a child. Everyone should have a Neff Road.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

View from the window

I knew of my father's family's love of birds but never so much as when my mother and father grew into their later years. When they had remodeled the old farm house decades earlier, mother had insisted on a counter under a large window that would look out onto the west and her garden. They would sit at this window watching the red sunsets or follow the lives of the birds that visited their feeders.

Dad would call us to the window when we visited to watch his birds. And, we in turn would drag our usually reluctant children to watch the birds as well. The birds must have known how much my parents enjoyed them for they seemed to flock to the feeders. Over the years, TV was nothing in comparison.

Many were the hours I spent by that window with coffee cup in hand remembering the gardens I had helped plant, watching the sunsets like those I'd watched as a child standing in the yard holding my dad's hand. The birds continued to be my companions. Could they sense the gifts they gave back to us?

The farm is no longer ours and, hopefully, the birds have found others who care for them as well. Only this last year have I had a chance to hang my own bird feeders. I understand how Mom and Dad felt watching these birds go from nest to full grown, from timid to almost sassy. We have a love affairs, these feathered friends and I. My job is to chase off the cat that stalks them and to yell at the squirrel who thinks the bird feeders are his domain.

Maybe it is my daily connection with my past.....and God. Whatever it is, I am pleased to help these birds survive and to take them into my care. God provides for us and our needs. I hope we don't continue to abuse our resources for not only will it be our loss but that of my friends, the birds, as well.

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