Monday, November 30, 2009

I Am a Gift

She sits on the chest, hair pulled up high on her head and metal earrings in dangling at the sides of her face on tiny earlobes. Her mahogany face never smiles. She is beautiful.

In dividing up the things at the farm, we girls seemed drawn to different items. Once in awhile we couldn't find some item that we had grown up with deciding that Mom had given it to someone along the way. The mirrored back to the sideboard in the basement was missing. Mother had at one time used it at a shelf. Where was it now?

Once in awhile we would debate the origin of items that had not accompanied us through our years on the farm. One such item was a picture of natives on boats that mother had hanging in the bathroom. It was in a beige, pressed board frame, circa 1960. I brought the painting back home taking it to be cleaned and framed. A beautiful picture appeared now hanging in my living room. The source of the painting? We don't know.

Another such item was this beautiful bust of a native woman. My sisters shook their heads when I asked to keep it. I have a passion for dolls of different colors, and I could not stand to think her going to a home where her roots were not known. Okay, I know that I didn't know either, but she had meant something to Mother or she wouldn't be on her bookshelf.

I unpacked the items from Ohio when they finally arrived in Oregon. My children saw the bust and they, too, shook their heads. I'm good for lots of head shaking.

This lovely, nameless woman resides with me. The little girls shake their heads and say, "Oh, Grammy." I would like to tell them her history but can only tell them that she means a great deal to me, she belonged to my mother. She was carved by someone in another part of the world, and she is in my care.

I don't know where these items originated, but they came to my parents who held on to them for the memory of the giver. I hold on to them for the memory of my parents and for the carver who took a piece of wood creating a beautiful woman and the artist who picked up a paint brush creating the art on my wall.

She sits idly gathering dust sometimes and at other times looking up at me as I ask once more, "Who were you." A silent reply comes to me, "I am a gift."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Privy Information

Tools, old oil cans, rags, a work bench and the old outhouse all resided in the little garage next to the corn crib. The old dirt floor only added to the ambiance of the old building and the dread we felt upon entering it.

The old three-holer sat concealed in the back corner of the garage. Many times Dad would accompany his daughters to the privy puttering in the garage while we spent time in the corner. All of us hated this little privy in the corner with no light. Mice had a small community that lived in the garage so more times than not a mouse would cross your path either going in or coming out of the garage.

Years later, Stagers put in a bathroom. When they moved their outhouse, it ended up behind our corncrib and became our 'new' outhouse. Fewer mice but a bit colder in the winter. Not as cold as Aunt Bess’s on Lake Hamilin, Michigan.

We never understood why our grandparents both had indoor bathrooms, and we did not. I'm sure it was a financial decision. In looking back, I feel sorry for my sisters who brought friends home from college. For some reason, I didn't think much about it then. We had what we had. I think I was in junior high when Mom and Dad finally put a bathroom in the basement. It was the pride of the Loxley household.

I look at those days of the outhouse as days of bonding. Someone always went out with me when I was little. We walked and talked. Dad and I looked at the sky. June probably tried to hold the door shut on me.

After Dad tore down the old garage, I cheered for the erasure of those days of dodging mice. Looking back I realize that we were not behind the times. Hey, we had an indoor outhouse. Not bad.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apron Strings

LJL, thank you for reminding me of the little babies in a blanket that my mother, too, made for her little girls. Now I need to get one of my son's hankies, so I can make one for my granddaughters to see. I think Mom also made babies in a cradle. Not sure if this was the same as the babies in a blanket.

Coincidentally, yesterday I received an email with an article about aprons. Wow, did that bring back the memories! Mother, along with the other moms, aunts and grandmothers, all wore aprons when I was a child.

I remember standing in Mom Johnson's kitchen cooking around the big oak table that demanded its space in the middle of the room. Aprons hung by the backroom door (along with the bonnets) where everyone could grab one and set to the task of cooking. Aunt Welma, Mom J. and Mother, in uniform, moved to an invisibly choreographed dance, cooking, preparing the table and never once running into one another. I was small enough to smell the wonderful aromas that filled those aprons.

The article brought up the fact that aprons were probably worn to protect one of the few dresses that women owned back then. We didn't do laundry often and had few pieces of clothing. I don't know if we did the 'sniff and wear' test, but I know that we did wear clothing longer than one day. It went along with the bathes taken less than every day. That's another topic. So Mom in her apron protected a dress, and gave me visions of home.

Aprons were used as hot pad holders when transporting a pie from stove to table. They could carry produce from the garden to the kitchen. An apron was a great rag to wave spooking an escapee cow back to the barnyard. A few eggs could be carried in an apron as well as a few precious morels. Tears could be erased, hands dried, a warm handle on a pan grasped by a hand protected by an apron.

When I was married, I bought pretty, crisp aprons for the servers to wear. Pretty aprons that couldn't catch a spill much less dry a tear. My mother had several of these aprons as well from weddings past. If I suggested to my future daughter-in-law that we buy aprons for servers, her reply would be, "What servers? Aprons!?!?!" Yes, the wedding apron has gone by the wayside along with doilies, embroidered pillow cases and, yes, the handkerchief.

I purchased old aprons at estate sales for my granddaughters to wear when painting. My son has an apron for cooking over the grill. I have an apron for cooking in the closet (not really cooking in the closet but hanging in the closet for cooking) Hm. I don't like to cook. I don't use the apron.

I made my first apron in 4-H about 55 years ago. I packed it around for years before deciding I would never wear it again. It was white with black polka dots and pockets across the front handy for toting kitchen utensils and envelopes when I went for the mail. For the life of me, I can't remember anything ever finding its way to the apron pockets.

The saying "tied to the apron strings" is no longer valid. Evidently we have become tidier cooks no longer of using these pieces of cloth. The tenderness of a mother's touch wiping a brow or drying a tear with her apron is gone. The smell of the kitchen no longer lies hidden in the cloth. But the memories of the women in my family wearing a well-worn apron, tied in back with a neat bow continues to bring a smile to my face and abundant memories.

I guess I am still tied to the apron strings.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Piece of Cloth

"Do you have a hankie?" Mom asked. Wow, we don't say that any more, do we? Now we carry a kleenex that usually is forgotten and found later in wet pieces of clothing in the washer.

A handkerchief was important back then. Every man and woman carried one. Aunt Welma tatted around edges hers; Mom crocheted. Each were pieces of artwork. Many were given as gifts.

I remember Mom and Dad tying a few coins in the corner of a hankie, so I wouldn't lose my lunch money or money for the offering plate at Sunday school. Sometimes I would sneak a finger into the knotted part and make a puppet out of the cloth. Hankies became bonnets and diapers for my dolls. Handkerchiefs.

Dad carried huge hankies that his daughters sometimes used as head bands or scarves. We could become a pirate with a red bandana or a lovely peasant girl covering her curls.

The number of hankies I ironed on Neff Road would be staggering. Yet they were the best part of the piles of articles we iron back then. The crisp, freshly-ironed smell of a handkerchief was memorable. A smell of home.

I carried a lace edge hankie when I was married at Painter Creek Church. I'm not sure where it was tucked, but it came in handy on that sweltering hot day. A handkerchief held tears of happiness and those of pain. It became a puppet for a little one when the time sitting on a pew became intolerable. It held coins, it wiped noses, it dried tears and held a memory of the woman who edged it.

I miss the day of the handkerchief, the tender touch of loving parent tending to their little girl. I think we've lost something when hankies became obsolete. Something that brought home a simple loving touch.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful for Neff Road

Wild turkeys now roam the countryside where once they were hunted and gone. The idea of hunting a turkey was about ancient to me as growing maize. It was a time of pilgrims and simplicity of life. Dad found our turkey looking much like a chicken only a few steps from the house.

The door would open and squeals of happiness erupted. Another Loxley girl was home for the holiday. Dad watched the lane for hours hoping to get the first glimpse of a daughter returning home. We didn't gather often enough. Many times one of us couldn't make it back for one reason or another. Yet this coming home is still something we cherish when we see each other again.

We were greeted with smells of Mom's baking and cooking. Pies sat in a row on the freezer in the garage. She tried to make our favorite pies. Mine was certainly shoo fly pie. We all loved her cream pies and pumpkin. The house was clean but Mom didn't spend time fussing on the house. She fussed in the kitchen and we reaped the benefits.

Our children once more became reacquainted tentative at first, best friends at last. Sisters piled into the bathroom for conversations long missed. Husbands found their way to the kitchen table or in the living room visiting with Mom and Dad. Exhausted from travel, we all settled into the womb once more.

I miss my parents deeply at these special times of the year. I miss that my children and grandchildren did not have enough of those experiences with my family. Oregon was just too far away. Distance didn't deter us from keeping the home fires burning. Mom and her daughters started writing a round robin letter keeping up on each other's lives with pictures, newsclips and other goodies making the rounds from Ohio to Indiana to Virginia to Oregon. My son decided that he wanted to keep the bond alive for the cousins since rarely did they see one another. For years the letter traveled from Oregon to Mom in Ohio to Indiana to Maryland to Colorado or wherever the cousin lived at the time. Mom loved the letters. They brought the family home again and again.

My sisters and I now email instead of round robin. That ended when we lost Mom. The cousins still try to keep theirs moving. Once it was lost and a new one took its place. They struggle to keep the cousins in their lives in spite of their busy lives.

The Loxley girls returned home again. Neighbors and relatives opened the doors and squeals rang again. Long visits over coffee and puzzles. Singing at the piano. Hugging and holding those we missed every day since we had moved to other places. We gathered around the table full of the bounty of the farm and the labor of Mother's hands. Dad blessed our meal and thanked God for these people we love.

Neff Road you are in my heart this Thanksgiving season. If I try real hard I can still smell Mom's chicken roasting full of her wonderful dressing and homemade noodles boiling in rich chicken broth. Once more I am home. Can you hear me squeal?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gypsy Sweetheart

"Dear Pam, we are sharing some of our treasures this Christmas. Peg said she hoped you would keep the letters as she thought I didn't want anyone to read them, but I never cared. I never did anything I was ashamed of." The package was my parents' old love letters.

The eight-year-old girl pointed to the boy in the field and told her mother, "I'm going to marry that boy some day." And, she did November 24, 1937.

"July 22, 1930, Mr. Willard Loxley: I would be delighted to have you present at my 18th birthday party on Wednesday eve, July 30th at 8:30pm. Ruth Johnson"

Sweethearts who held hands, who kissed, who hugged, rarely fought and struggle through life's difficult times as one.

"Hello, Honey. Was you disappointed when you didn't get a letter last evening? Well, I was so tired I couldn't hardly set up. I was going to write this morn but we loaded two loads of hogs so I didn't have time then. Mom said she was going to Bradford this afternoon so I told her to stop and give this to you. Gee, Honey, I sure am getting lonesome. I've been thinking about you all week. I been plowing so you see I have plenty of time to think, plan and build air castles. P.S. I don't know how I'll be able to stand being away from you until tomorrow eve. But I guess I'll have to. Yours forever, W.I. 1932"

The letters go on and on opening more windows into the love these two shared. This manly farmer wrote page upon page of his love for Mom. On some X's and O'x flow down the page in designs. The lived only a mile apart. Daily letters were delivered by their parents or siblings.

This is the 74th anniverary of my parents' wedding day. The beautiful bride in blue velvet with cute strappy shoes and a lame' cap took the man in his handsome suit to be her own. Mom's family didn't go to the wedding. Her mother sat at home and cried with Mom's old boyfriend. Evidently, they didn't think that Willard was good enough for Ruth. Little did they know.

Mom and Dad had a strength between that reached out to others. They didn't always do things right, but they tried. They tried to make a better world for so many others. They tried to live their faith. They were an example for those who had none. We had such a pride in these parents of ours even though it often felt like we girls were on the outside of such a strong love. Such love should fill a world. It did ours.

"June 29, 1931: My, but I miss you. I just wish and wish I had you right beside me this minute - so I could confide all my little secrets to you. I really didn't realize how much I did depend on you until your gone. Be good and have a nice time. (Dad was on a singing tour.) Lots of love, Your Little Gypsy Sweetheart. Ruth Marie....Our moon certainly is beautiful tonight if you see it."

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. I know you are still holding hands in Heaven.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kalamazoo Stove 1907

They bake, they warm, they clean themselves. New ovens are a marvel to behold. A naked turkey can is basted, stuffed and poked with a timer that allows the oven to bake the bird to perfection. Ah, we've come a long way from when I was a baby.

I sat in my high chair in front of the window overlooking the grape arbor. My grandmother lifted me from my seat as her mother looked on from her rocking chair next to the stove. It is a memory, only one of the three I have of my grandmother. A memory long ago etched in time and place.

In 1907 my grandfather bought his bride a new stove. I know because I have the paperwork from the purchase, a receipt of order sent with a 2¢ stamp. This fancy new stove was every woman's dream. Wood was stacked behind it waiting to be tossed into the chamber that heated the stove. Delicious smells of food mixed with that of burning wood. Much different from what we presently have but a memory of wood smoke and a place to warm oneself on cold winter day.

I'm not sure how the stove was delivered let alone carried into the house. I don't know what happened to this wonderful stove when replaced with an electric range. I do know that a turkey would have taken more than a few hours to cook, probably days. Grandad would go to the woodshed to cut pieces of suitable size to replace the burned logs keeping the stove hot and the pile of wood dry and ready. Probably a cast iron kettle sat on a burner adding moisture to the dry winter air.

Clothing would be hung by the stove to dry. Boots tucked close enough to erase the rain. Vents from the kitchen to the upper floors would allow warmth to flow into the cold bedrooms. The stove was more than a place to cook. It was the hub of the house. And, probably in summer, used as little as possible.

My grandmother's life was changed in 1907 as were the lives of other women living around Neff Road. The wood stove would later be replaced with electric. Oil lamps replaced by light bulbs. But the family gathering around the old stove would not be forgotten by those who lived then.

This is a picture locked in time of a woman I did not know, but of a time I treasure of a grandmother, a great grandmother, a rocking chair and huge cast iron stove. The smell of burning wood brings me home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hand Laid Street

Riders on horses and in carriages traveled down the brick street. My feet walked the same street as those who lived there long ago. History beneath my feet. Downtown Arcanum. A step back in time.

While in England, we visited Newark on the Trent. The ancient castle where King John died sat along what is now called the Robin Hood Trail. The small alleys and walkways as well as the main shopping area are cobblestoned. Stones laid, one by one, carried by man and horse creating avenues that last a life time.

Mom and Dad went to Arcanum at least once a week for groceries. We ate at Husten’s, stopped at the hardware store, shopped at Ben Franklin's 5 & 10 and at Smiths. Main Street was paved with bricks that been laid by men who leveled the ground, hauled rocks by horse and wagon then laid them ready for horse then car.

I love returning to that street. I delight in knowing that some things just don't change. Smith's has gone through many metamorphoses over the years and now houses a wonderful coffee shop. Ben Franklin still resides in the same location.

The small pockets of rural Americana are precious. They hold our history just as the Newark Castle and cobblestone streets hold on to an older time, a time of my ancestors. Pockets of history painted forever in time by stone and brick, by manual labor and horse. I can't imagine that I would ever return to a city full of concrete and feel the same.

Arcanum, you are beautiful just the way you are.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Picture Postcard Setting

Our house sat on a hill. Now this might not seem unusual to most people, but our part of the county was flat. Having a house on a hill was a bit out of the ordinary. Dad always thought that maybe the creek long ago had been a river that ran along the base of this hill. Perhaps it was a water line from an age when no one lived on this land. Whatever it was, it gave the house a lovely setting overlooking our friends and neighbors.

I often talk about the lane, this long strip of gravel that saw the Loxley girls grow up. Doris and Victor lived across the road. Hollie and Margaret lived on down the road. The bridge sat across the creek the other direction. The lane saw us to and from the bus as well as giving us skinned knees as we traversed the gravel on our bikes. The lane took us to visit neighbors, to toss stones into the creek and to find our way to the news the mailbox held waiting.

When the rains came, the water ran across the lowest part of the lane where it flooded from our field to Hollie's. It was difficult as a kid to walk down the lane at these times avoiding the mud puddles. They were deep and great for splashing. In the winter, they froze. We slipped and slid over the ice laughing and loving every minute of frozen wonder.

Living on a hill was the best in the winter. Old sleds were pulled from the barn. Kids were bundled head to toe barely able to move. Down the hill and into the field we would fly. Popcorn balls and hot chocolate waited for us when we finally dragged ourselves into the house wet, cold and delighted.

A picture postcard setting. A house on a hill surrounded by corn, surrounded by snow, surrounded in the past. Everyone should be so lucky. I know I was.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20, 1931

Entry Date: November 20, 1931

"Cleaned up house and wrote a letter to Paul B. Visited school in p.m. Went with Willard, Keith and Margaret to P. Hill to basketball game. Both teams won G.11-17 B.15-20."

Pages and pages reflect the life of my mother. Writing daily entries in date books began with her mother. Mom wrote until the end. Simple tracking of daily events. Funerals, weddings, visitors, haircuts, crops, daily happenings on Neff Road now give me insight into the life my mother lived. Perhaps it was the era she lived in, but in her date books and that of Mom Johnson, no feelings or observances are noted. I yearn to know more about these women and their feelings, but must be content with the simple, daily dialogue.

Mom loved to play basketball, and I'm told she was a pretty good player. I can imagine my mother in her glory dribbling the ball down the court. Back then, and even when I was a teen, girls' rules applied. The team was divided at half court. Offense on one end. Defense on the other. It probably took all of Mom's strength to stop mid-court and pass off the ball to her team on the other side. Knowing Mom, she was in her element and thrilled.

I guess in the simple daily writing my mother does show herself. I don't know Paul B., but I love knowing that Mom had a date with Dad that night going to the game with Uncle Keith and Margaret (not sure which Margaret). She was excited that FM had won both games by posting the scores.

I like to read Mom's daily postings. It's as if we come together to share as I glean a bit more information about this woman. I learn more about my roots, what elements made up my parent's lives. My blogs are my journals to my children, my grandchildren. A history of where their story began will be more than an entry into a little book. This is story of me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wall of Fame

Stacey, James, Peg, June, Kendall, Jessica, Brad, Trevor, Amy, Whitney, Joel, Jonathan, Meg, the list goes on. Mother measured the children. Upon opening the basement door, a row of names and years covering the door frame greeted you. The dates covered 1983 to 2000, the year mother died. Jonathan was a few inches taller than everyone else. Certainly this was a Lavy boy. Mother tracked 'her kids'.

When going through the papers after Mom was gone, we found a sheet of names, dates and measurements. Evidently Dad had copied the measuring wall before the doorway received a new coat of paint. John Marshall, Jobi, Lorraine, Eric, Betsy, Stacey, Steve, Trevor, Sue Ann, Keith and Brad all stood against that wall between 1971 and 1978. Stacey was just a toddler.

The list of names and numbers had no worth only memories more for the child measured than those of us reading the list. Although it reminded us of how much my parents loved the children who visited them. I'm not too sure how safe it was standing a teetering child at the top of the stairs looking down to the basement's waiting concrete, yet time and time again they stood straight waiting to see if they were a bit taller than the last time they stood in that same spot.

I'm sure the wall has since been painted. I have the list and pictures of the wall. For this daughter, they remind me that fine decorating of a home should consist of a wall of dates and names, a stairway lined with hand colored pictures, counter tops holding handmade gifts. Mother and Dad recognized children. Not always their own, but they did acknowledge the worth and goodness in each child.

I live in a rental, but I don't think that should stop me from taping a piece of paper on the wall to track these kids who visit this home. It can go with the wire strung across my stairway wall holding their painted pictures.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Check out today. I think you will enjoy the pictures.

I Always Watched Over You

Like a sentinel she sat on the porch, Victor at her side. Doris didn't miss a thing. Over the many years of my youth, I played with their daughters and sons. It was another place I could call home.

Marilyn was the only person I ever knew who memorized the Bible. She was a brilliant woman who lost her life in the mission field. Her family grieved, and I grieve with them still.

Her older sister, Geneva, became the sister of my heart. When my father lay dying, she helped me to lift him, to tend to him, to grieve for him. And, wrapping her arms around me, we wept together.

Merrill, Don and I played together for as long as I can remember. We flew across the barn on the swing, walked the creek, played baseball in the pasture.

Lowell came later. Mom babysat for him, and he tagged along behind his older brothers. He became familiar face at our house.

When the married Loxley girls came home to visit, the walk down the lane always began at Victor and Doris's house then to Margaret and Hollie's. I always looked forward to the hugs I received as soon as I crossed the threshold. Yes, I was home again.

On one of my last visits to their house, Victor was very ill. Once again, it was his heart. I sat on the bed holding his hand, tears streaming down both of our faces. I begged him to be strong and not leave me. This gentle man had been a father to me. I could not bear to lose a second one. I kissed his cheek and went into the living room with Doris.

We sat and talked. Talked of the neighborhood, talked of family. Conversation turned to the friction between my mother and I. "I knew they didn't watch you," she said. "But I did. I always did." Over the years she had kept tabs on me, and I never knew. I loved her even more.

Age and illness has taken a toll as it does. Doris and Victor now reside in the Brethren Home. The last I visited we reminisced about good times and again, family. I sat absorbing these two people who mean the world to me. I want once more to sit on the stoop and visit with them. I want once more to run after balls in the outfield. These dear people are Neff Road. I close my eyes and return to their loving arms again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Dog at Night

Just as sailors read the sky so too do the farmers. I grew up hearing Dad say, "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." Dad was great with his quotes. We girls still repeat them remembering Dad. A tinged sky takes me back standing with Dad looking to the west at the beautiful red sunset.

High wind warnings are in effect for our area. Last night I could hear their approach. This morning trees sway gracefully dancing together. I can't hear the wind. I try. I just can't hear it.

Our wonderful farmhouse had old windows and a metal roof. We were comforted when the rain hit roof, lulled to sleep by the music it made. Old windows rattled when the wind blew and even a few of them whistled. Some storms frightened us as they pounded the house beating on it like a drum, shaking it like a rag doll. Yet the house had stood for over a hundred years. It wasn't going any place.

Now I strain to hear the rain, the wind, the storms. Modern windows and walls, thick insulation, insulate me away from the sounds of nature. As I watch the wind whipping the branches of the trees I long to hear their music.

New homes on Neff Road take the place of old. The sound of the wind is lost in silence inside those walls. The comfort of the rain upon the roof is lost to another generation.

Folklore tells us that a ring around the moon signifies bad weather is coming. I don't know that Dad knew that ice crystals covering the halo signifies high altitude, thin cirrus clouds that usually precede a warm front by a day or two. A warm front that can signify a storm. I found out that it is believed that the number of stars within a moon halo indicate the number days before bad weather will arrive. A halo around the moon influenced the farmer in our house. A halo that fascinated his little girl and in the future would warn her of coming storms.

Sometimes I open the door and listen. Listen to the past and the present. "Red dog at night." Am I hearing a voice from my childhood or are we still sharing precious moments, Dad?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Get Your Paper. Get Your Morning Paper."

"Get your paper. Get your morning paper." Newspapers were hawked on street corners in the cities while on Neff Road we waited for our weekly paper. Down the lane one of us would go to pick up the morning paper. Dad would take the car down to retrieve it when the weather bulked. The paper was dissected page by page. We also received the Dayton paper, but the Advocate was 'our' paper.

My oldest sister at one time had a subscription to the Advocate. The news was a little old by the time the paper appeared in the mailbox in Pennsylvania and later in Washington, DC.

Our true local newspaper was Mom. She caught us up on all of the births, deaths, property sales, weddings, etc. She was a great 'newspaper' because we got the gossip as well. Our link to our roots was severed when Mom died.

Now I read the Greenville Advocate every morning. The current news pops up on my computer screen. I scan the paper for pictures and news of old friends. I wish for more news and less sports but such is the way of Darke County and probably much of Midwest rural areas. It concerns me that there is little, if any, national or world news. There is a birthday page full of pictures of small children. In a world teeming with child predators, I wonder why the paper isn't protecting these children instead of posting pictures with parents names and place of residence beneath. Syndicated columns fill pages for lack of local news. The paper is trying to change, to evolve, but has a long journey ahead.

Mom had at one time back in the 60's taken me into the Advocate office to meet the editor. At that time I was considering a future in journalism. However, nothing inspired me to take up the career. Had someone captured my imagination and potential, I would probably have embraced that future. Yet I needed my own journey to take me to the writing that was my own voice.

I don't go to the Advocate to be inspired. I go to it in order to keep the Loxley girls informed of the changes in Darke County. That local paper is at my fingers tips. It doesn't get wet in the rain or line a bird cage when I finish reading it. Yes, I do subscribed for a nominal fee paying for I pay that opportunity to look through a window at Neff Road.

My mornings start with the Greenville Advocate. Gee, Mom, I miss the gossip that goes along with the news.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sniff, Sniff

Had I gone into the house blindfolded, I would still have known Pop and Mom's house. Pop smoked a pipe. The wall, curtains, carpet, everything held onto the smell refusing to give it up no matter how well my grandmother cleaned. The scent of honeysuckle always takes me back to the front stoop where it grew with wild abandon. My friend and once neighbor, Geneva, lives there now with her husband Roy. When now I enter the house, scents of the fruit cellar, the pipe and my grandparents remain.

The nose. It unexpectedly captures memories, moments in time, people, locations. Grandad's house smelled of grapes, the wood bin and work shoes. We came into the house through the mud room. Outside of the door the wooden arbor groaned with the weight of the grapes.

The Loxley girls always knew when they were home as soon as they walked into the house. The smell of our nest. I'm not sure what made up the smell of our home, but my children noticed it as well. The scent of our past.

She walks through the door. "Your house smells good, Grammy". Gabby goes on to explain how she loves the way my house smells. Thank goodness it is a good smell. Will it be one she remembers the rest of her life?

Scents. They recall, they take us back, they stay with us. I know this is an odd topic, but I'm curious if anyone else has similar memories. The girls who went to school with my son would snuggle up to him. "He smells so good." It is a scent that reminds me of my father. Is there a scent that belongs to a family? Animals know their own by their scent. Do we know our own by a scent?

Ah, the nose. Wish mine was smaller.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanks, LJL

I love the story you posted on "A Perfect Row of Rocks". When you wrote about running to Granddad's, I was reminded that we children could run to any house on our road and know we had instant help. I remember when you were born but didn't realize I was 9 years older than you. Argh! Thank you for writing. I hope others will read your story of Neff Road.

A Land of Joy

Sometimes online research takes a great memory and slaps it down. Well, the memory is still here but no longer the building that burned February 2008.

Once in awhile when riding with Dad in the truck, we would stop for lunch at Joyland. Joyland., an old restaurant that wouldn't draw tourists. People who didn't know the secret would probably drive looking for another place to eat. Yet cars packed the parking lot. As with other beloved old restaurants, no one paid attention to torn seats, mismatched dishes and carpet a bit worn. No, comfort food drew us back time and time again.

When the Loxley girls returned for a visit, they packed up their children for lunch at Joyland. The favorite of a small child sitting with her father became the favorite of her children. Pork tenderloin sandwiches dwarfed the plates on which they were served. The bun became a place to hold on to as you ate the two inches or more of meat that hung over each side. It was a sandwich that would feed a family of four, and it called us back time and time again.

We didn't have the tree lighting in Time Square or city lights lit for the holiday season. But we had Ludlow Falls, the home of Joyland. It was about Thanksgiving or maybe later when our family would pile into the car heading to Falls. Colorful Christmas lights were strung behind the falls reflecting through the frozen ice. Decorations framed the site, and we smiled, held hands and welcomed a new season. Cold bodies were warmed by hot chocolate and tenderloin sandwiches. Family memories were made once more.

I started to write this blog remembering Ludlow Falls and the greeting of the holiday season. Now that I know Joyland is gone, I write in memory of family restaurant...our family's. Ah, Joyland, I will miss your tenderloin sandwiches.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Perfect Row of Rocks

The huge flat rocks laid in a row along the west side of the barnyard. Tall pig nut trees (at least that is what we called them) resided over them creating a perfect place for little girls to play. Brenda would take one rock for her house and I another. We could down the row of rocks pretending to shop in 'rock' stores. Rocks big enough to hold us and our dolls were big enough to fit our imaginations.

Dad went through a phase after he retired from farming making changes to the farm. The old garage was torn down. The old barn that at one time held my horse and the sheep was torn down. The fences were all taken down. The site of the old garage became more grass to mow. The old barn site became a large garden. Fences torn down made fields just a bit larger. Dad was on a roll.

One day we came home from shopping in Greenville with Mom to find Dad and our neighbor Carl who was up on the tractor with the loader, digging out our rocks...our little houses. Yes, I was in my 30's, but they were still my rocks. My sisters were equally upset that Dad had not consulted anyone else in the matter. Dad continued the digging; Carl shaking his head.

I wanted the farm to stay the same. Living away for so long, I needed to go home to nest in what I knew. Dad was bored and always needed something to do outside, to be active. He didn't see the farm in the same way as did his daughters.

I miss those big old rocks. I wonder how such large, flat rocks had been moved to this straight line across the west boundary of the barnyard. Certainly, it wasn't random placement and must have been moved to this location by horses. There were no other huge rocks like these in the area. Were they a boundary of a camp for those who made the arrowheads on our land? Did people grind grain on the rocks? Were they used in the foundation of something more? Did they come from a river that was now a creek?

Carl buried the rocks. The holes were at least 4' deep and as wide. Dad continued to bury things. We figured some day we would come home to find Mom in a hole up to her neck because Dad couldn't find anything else to bury.

They were just rocks. Just rocks. Weren't they?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This is a graphic story about a rather repulsive experience involving the birth of a lamb, but it is necessary for me to tell. It is my growing up. Please feel free to skip this blog if you feel uneasy in reading it.

They pushed, they prodded, they stood back looking for new solutions. No matter what they did, she didn't move. Before they had walked down to the creek bottom, Dad explained that the ewe would die if she didn't get up. He knew since sheep sometimes just go down and die for no reason other than what he considered stupidity.

Little did I know that when Dad opened the door of the truck that cool morning in spring many years before that the two adorable lambs peeking out at us would teach us hard lessons.

As I've mentioned before, a mother sheep will sometimes not accept a lamb and will often hurt the baby, if it is not removed immediate. Thus, my bottle-fed baby, Pamper. How could a mother turn away from her baby? This little girl struggled to be a good mother to ths lamb who begged for the warmth of another. How could a mother turn away?

One of the ewes was about to give birth. It was an event. Brenda and I had often sat in the field watching a cow give birth. Always, it was an exciting time. Now, I sat in the corner of the pen while Dad and, I think my sister, held the ewe trying to calm her. There was a problem. Our neighbor, Hollie, was called to help. We girls quietly sat aside wanting to leave but yet glued to the spot. The lamb was born. In the process of birthing, the ewe had pushed out her uterus. Nothing was to be done but to push it back and have the vet stitch her. She would not live. I was but a small child, and it was the way of the farm.

"We can't just let her die." My son and nephews were intent of saving the ewe who refused to get up. They went to the creek bottom to save her only to find that she would not cooperate. Two legs would be pushed up. As they encouraged the other end of her to also stand, the legs already standing would go down. Discouraged they returned to the house visibly shaken. They could not save the ewe despite their efforts, their sweat, their tears. It was the way of the farm.

Yes, I was exposed to things that most kids cannot imagine. I learned about birth, about death, about trying, about disappointment. Maybe more than anything, I learned early the cycle of life and the beauty it held as well as the horror. I am a farm kid. It was the way of the farm on Neff Road.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Difference

Religion was not apparent on Neff Road. In fact, I don't think I noticed religion as I was growing up. I went to school with kids from the Mennonite Church, German Baptist, Brethren, Methodist. There was no religious tension, there was no recognition of religious differences in any way. We were a community of people.

I think the only time I really noticed the difference was when the German Baptist kids dropped out of school in the 8th grade. They began their adulthood early. We missed those friends and never saw much of them again until they were grown and married.

Some of us weren't supposed to wear make-up or dance. Some of us did in spite of the rules. Some went to Bible study. Some did not. Some were deep believers and some were not. Our family life may have revolved around the church, but our community revolved around friendship and family.

We all dressed the same except for the German Baptist kids in homemade clothing. No one would ever think to tease the kids, because they were our neighbors. Leather jackets made a bigger impact. Long hair, greased back hair made more of a separation.

We went to ice cream socials at all of the local churches. I went to the Painter Creek Bible School then off to West Grove for theirs. Our friendships grew from the farm life we lived, not the around religion. Sure we had our differences, but as a kid, I never noticed. All the churches were part of our lives.

I wish the world was more like our little corner of the world on Neff Road. Acceptance: another reason we called Neff Road home.

Monday, November 9, 2009


"You-s aren't from Wisconsin." "You aren't from Oregon." How did they know? Time and time again for years I was asked the question, "Where are you from?"

So we said crick instead of creek. Read-up instead of clean up. We put 'up' behind a lot of words: packed up, hurried up, washed up, finished up, etc. Mowed yard instead of mowed grass. Sick-in-bed instead of ill. Many phrases that other parts of the country don't use. I read a great deal and discovered that some of our terms and words stem from Scottish roots. I have also learned that it is a language characteristic of that small part of the country.

No, I didn't say as they do in Wisconsin: bubbler for drinking fountain, hairs instead of hair, ooot instead of out, etc. In Oregon, I don't say: perduction instead of production, coulddent instead of couldn't, etc. Every part of the country has language quirks.

I seem to have lost most of my Neff Road brogue. I am no longer asked questions regarding my birth location. I love to go home and hear it again. I don't know of any Scottish roots in Darke County, but the origins of the language do peep through.

We are a country of many origins. Some of us wear them on our tongues.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Paper and Ribbon

My son is getting married in January. My house had been the designated location to receive gifts that will be mailed or shipped. I threaten to open them, shake them and listen for anything scratching or ticking. Not much for me to do, but I love being involved in this step into their new life.

It takes me back to 1969, when I was married. Gifts were delivered to the farm and at the wedding. We decided to open the gifts after we returned from our honeymoon in Florida. Mom had the ping pong table in the basement covered with packages. Family was invited to join us as we sat down to the task of paper and ribbon.

Gifts varied as much as the guests who were invited to the wedding. A touch of the 60's presented itself in color and design. Table cloths and handmade linens piled high. Champagne and ice buckets, silver plated serving pieces, Fostoria and Fenton glass, a set of antique Depression glass goblets, place mats and napkins, a crystal ash tray, a crystal vase, a variety of gifts filled the room. People bought what they could afford or choose one of their precious pieces wanting to give Willard and Ruth's daughter the best.

Each and every gift was a treasure. A few registered pieces were received, but most were gifts representing the relatives, church members, neighbors and friends. Our cabinets would be full and the linen closets bursting. People who had started their first homes with items they made or treasures handed down to them, gave gifts from their hearts.

Some of those gifts still reside in my home. Many wore out or were broken. Yet the memories are here of those eager to give those newlyweds a good start.

Giving of gifts seems mechanical now. We shop online or go to the registry to check off one more item. However, when my daughter was married, our dear neighbor, Margaret, gave her a vase that my mother had given her on her wedding day.

Those who gave gifts to us gave to me long before I was standing there on my wedding day. The true gift was the giver.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Red Roofs

Pop, my maternal grandfather, painted the roofs of his buildings red. Ownership and pride were reflected in that red paint. Who knows where the red roof tradition began. Perhaps with my great grandfather or before. No one knows.

My cousin, Gene, took over my grandfather's and my uncle's farms. He continued to purchase more adjoining farms soon owning many acres of land. Yes, he loved to farm and loved the land, but there was more.

He provided homes for his family. His daughter lives in the house where Gene was born. His stepson, before his death, lived in another one of the farmhouses. Even this stepson's ex-wife was given a little farmhouse, a home Gene provided for his grandsons. The roofs were red.

When my father died, a decision was made to sell the farm, a decision difficult for my mother. Gene bought the farm giving my mom her home until the end of her life.

He was an honorable man believing in family and their protection. A man not given to show of emotion he gave the only way he could.

The landscape around Neff Road is dotted with red roofs, dotted roofs that represent my family and a generous spirit.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yellow Sentries

"The corn is as high as an elephant's eye. And it looks like it pointing clear up to the sky". Ah, the words from "Oklahoma" ring true to those of us who lived, live, on Neff Road.

Fall was always time for the corn picker to come out of the barn and into the corn field. The stalks of corn had changed from green to tan and ready for picking. The combine mowed down the stalks grabbing the corn in the process tossing it back into the wagon. The corn crib with its wire sides turned from vacant to yellow. Some of the corn went to the grain elevator to shell for feed or to sell. Corn was a staple of our farm.

Many years, depending on the rotation of crops, our house would be surrounded by fields of corn. We looked out the window to see corn stalk sentries standing proud. Once in awhile a child was lost in the field and the search would be on. We kids loved to walk down the rows. It was a forest of corn.

Grain bins should be full now. Corn sold to help farmers get through the next season. Corn stalks would be plowed or the field would rest until the next planting season.

I miss the rustle of the wind through the corn. I look forward to visiting it again. Shhhhhh. Can you hear it?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Their...Our College Years

Both sisters attended Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, as did many of the kids who grew up at Painter Creek Church. I was seven when my oldest sister went off to her first year in college.

Manchester was far enough from Neff Road to keep sis from coming home easily but close enough that we could visit her for a weekend. When I was about 11, we went to homecoming. It was an exciting time. Football, girls popping in and out of Peg's room, all the excitement we didn't have on the farm. I took my friend, Vivian, along with me or rather Mom and Dad took her along to keep me entertained.

We went to our favorite restaurant for lunch. Viv and I had onion rings and fat sandwiches. Later in the day both of us got extremely ill. It was my sister's and her friends' homecoming yet they held our heads and wiped our brows. They tried to cool the fevered girls who had food poisoning from the onion rings.

My sister went on to marry a local North Manchester boy. They lived behind a bakery. Going to visit them was such a thrill for me, especially after I met a biker, all dressed in leather with slicked back hair. My poor sister gained a few grey hairs that summer.

It was the 60's. Vivian and I had gone to a local dance with this boy and a friend. We twisted to the music felling we were an instant hit as all the other kids stood by watching us. Little did we know that twisting was banned in North Manchester. We weren't a hit. I think they were waiting for us to be arrested. Ah, the 60's.

I didn't go to Manchester for college yet I went to college....with my sisters. While they grew by new experiences, so did I. Their college years in some ways were mine as well.

'By the Kenamokopoko stands our college fair. Where the Indian reared his wigwam.....' If this were a record, at this point you would hear the needle skim across the grooves. Today we are politically correct. "By the Kenamokopoko stands our college fair. Where the Native American reared his wigwam, we have studied there.' Ah, Manchester College loyal to you we will ever be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Remember, all errors in my blog are intentional and inserted just to see if those reading are paying attention. Yay, right.

Aunt Bess was not just my mother's sister, she was an event. Mom often told stories of her wild sisters growing up on Yount Road. Aunt Iva is a story for another blog. Aunt Bess was a crazy lady in a good sense.

Visits from Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam always meant presents. A Christmas memory: The double French door opened from the front room. There stood Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam next to a small, brightly painted, yellow, wooden pony. (Lots of adjectives to match lots of little girl feelings.) It was a toy for toddlers so I couldn't have been more than two. Wow. A pony. A moment etched forever in my then expanding awareness.

Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam owned a store and cabins on Hamlin Lake in Ludington, Michigan. There are many stories but this story is about a woman. We loved going to visit. In the summer, they moved from their house to the store due to the busy season. We either stayed in Mead Cottage or at the store. Mornings started with Aunt Bess cooking up breakfast and Uncle Same pouring coffee that Dad swore could stand up in the cup. He cussed and told stories bigger than imagination. The rest of the day was spent fishing with a skillet of fresh fish each night. It was a paradise away from the farm. Quite a distance from what we were exposed to on the farm.

When Uncle Sam died, Aunt Bess carried on alone. She was tough as nails. Her dyed black hair, gruff smoker's voice and cussing made me a bit shy. It was rumored that she had a boyfriend who owned bar across the road. Mom said she had once heard Bess sneak out after we were all in bed.

On one trip I was to bed down in Aunt Bess's bedroom. I laid there looking at the True Romance Magazines piled on the bed stand waiting for Aunt Bess to settle for the night. She came into the room wearing a long nightgown and her trademark beaded hair net. We said our good nights, and I waited. Sure enough, Aunt Bess quietly changed clothes and disappeared. She didn't return until after I had finally surrendered to sleep. Rumors were true. I could tell by the makeup on her face the next morning.

We all loved Aunt Bess. She was a bit rough but a whirlwind of great fun. We forged a new relationship when I was 23. She was visiting the farm when my boyfriend came to the house to ask my parents for my hand in marriage. Mom had her heart set on a boy I'd cared deeply about in high school. This city kid was seven years older than me and not to her liking. He stood in the kitchen and asked Mom and Dad. Mom immediately said 'no'. Well, that was unexpected and a bit awkward.

Aunt Bess took me aside. "She will come around. Just give her time." Fences were later mended. Relationships evolved into warmer, more honest relationships. My husband tagged her with the name "Sparkles" because of her hair net. It fit.

Aunt Bess was an experience. She brought joy and laughter each time we met. She broadened the world of her nieces on Neff Road. I miss her. She still makes me smile. Thanks, Aunt Bess.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Town Called Riptown

When I was a kid, Ken Whited's grocery store, Bud Wyan's service station, Willard Spitler's insurance office, Bob Cox's trailers and trucks and his law office all made up Riptown. In fact, it wasn't much more than a cross in the road. But it was the hub of rural activity.

I'm not sure if Riptown was the nickname for Painter Creek or if Riptown became Painter Creek. For most of my life, it was Riptown.

Riptown has a distinction that I didn't realize until I did some research today. In 1880, a Riptown resident named Monroe Roberson murdered his hired hand. The cause for the death seemed to stem from a quarrel run amok. The fight took place in the then saloon/grocery store. Roberson was the only person legally hanged to death in Darke County. A distinction I'm sure he would gladly decline.

First of all, I had no idea that there was a saloon in Riptown. I was surprised to know that there had been one in Red River. Evidently, booze were rampant in Franklin Township. A far cry from the Darke County I knew.

The old building that housed Riptown's saloon was next to the location of Ken Whited's grocery store. My sister and I argue over the location of Ken's store. She says that since Bev was her best friend, and Ken's daughter, she should know the true location. June swears it was across from Bud's garage. I say it was across the street and that we used to watch outdoor movies in the field across from Bud's. It really doesn't matter. The grocery was a favorite spot for everyone. Neighbors chatted, kids ate penny candy, and we often splurged for a soda.

Whited's store caught fire when I was in grade school. A local meeting place was gone. We all mourned the loss of the store. Ken and his family moved away. June was separated from a good friend and Riptown got a bit smaller.

Ah, sweet memories. A piece of history. I'm glad I'm passing them on. Maybe you think about handing out a little history, too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Piney Woods

They arrived on a bus. From Piney Woods, Mississippi, they made their way to Painter Creek Church on the Hog Path in Ohio. The choir sang in our church and at my school. Beautiful young women singing a new experience into our lives.

Mom and Dad invited them to park their bus at our house. They used our bathroom and ate our food. For a young girl who had never met a person of color, I was mesmerized.

My space away from the world was in the corner of the basement with the old record player. It was OLD. Often when I touched it, a small electrical charge would zap me. But turn it on I did. Small Golden Records with worn grooves played time and time again. My small voice sang "Davy Crocket", "Peter Pan", "Three Blind Mice", all the songs I loved. Here the painfully shy girl was happiest.

She came down the stairs looking for me, I guess. I was oblivious when my music played. When she spoke, I was mute. Marva Jo walked over and asked if she could listen to my records. She started to sing. I joined in. Soon the basement was full of girls. Me sitting on Marva Jo's lap, we all sang together song after song. Shyness turned to laughter.

I'd never been around people of color. We lived in a very white world. These strangers were no strangers when we shared music. They understood what the music meant to me. Their soulful voices reached into a little girls and hugged her.

It was the 50's. It was a time of discontent. It was a time of creating a child who would grow up to embrace all people looking past differences in religion, color, belief. My encounter with these lovely girls brought light into a place that I didn't even know was dark.

They arrived on a bus from Piney Woods, Mississippi. When they left, they changed a girl on Neff Road.