Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rose Bowl Dilemma

Ducks are quacking in Pasadena; Buckeyes have flown across the states to get there as well. Ducks versus Buckeyes. Maybe it’s Buckeyes versus Ducks.

Not being one to follow sports, the playing of the Rose Bowl has never meant a thing to me. A bunch of kids go onto a football field trying to hurt one another over a dead pig’s skin. One wonders.

I find that just by location, I am forced to decide which team I will support. Do I support the team from my birth state? Do I support my present state’s school from whence most of my friends are graduates? One very good friend was once the Duck mascot. Mind boggling, isn’t it?

The last I knew, Woody Hayes was still the coach of the Buckeyes. Don’t be concerned. I still think Vince Lombardi coaches the Packers and Bart Starr is still quarterback. I was married to a sports freak back in those days. Fran Tarkington, Bill Bradley, Joe Namath…..all names that were household words in our home. We lived in Wisconsin at the time. Ray Nitschke of the Packers owned a restaurant in Appleton. Appleton, Wisconsin, was dressed in green and yellow.

College football, pro football, all blended together in the mind of this sports mindless person. Rosey Grier knitted and Roger Staubach looked great in his uniform. Football players were taking ballet and turning up in the movies and on the TV screen. A world of football filled our house and only the odd bits and pieces of trivia stayed in my head.

Again green and yellow come into my life. I will not sit before the TV screen glued to the game. Well, I might check it once in awhile. Choose a team? I know that those on Neff Road will be cheering on the Buckeyes. I know that most TV’s here in Oregon will be tuned to the Rose Bowl. I refuse to wear a duck bill. I wouldn’t mind having a plate of Buckeye candy. Should I choose? Yes. I have made my decision.

A New Year is on the doorstep. I think I’ll go answer the door.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Years Eve

Good friends. Yes, they had been good friends all of their lives. Their children grew up together. Every New Years eve they met up once more to remember and to have fun.

Mom and Dad’s ‘gang’ were gathering at our house this New Years Eve back in the ‘60’s. We kids were all grown up. Some married. The fire was lit, hot dogs on sticks and the teasing and laughing back in place for another years end.

Dad answered the phone. We caught his end of the conversation hearing the concern in his voice. “Gene wants me to meet him at Bub’s.” Garnet had called my cousin, Gene, when Bub didn’t return from the barn. He had been gone for quite awhile. The night was cold and she was very worried. Gene did not want to walk into that barn alone.

They at the farm on the corner of Neff Road and Red River-West Grove Road. They found Bub. He had died of a heart attack. Bub was more than a neighbor. Gene and Dad farmed with him. When we worked in the field, Bub and Harold Horner teased me. Working was fun with these men. Now one was gone.

Dad came home with the news. The party atmosphere gave way to tears and reminiscing. A friend from their youth was gone. We all felt suddenly older.

We children looked at our parents and realized their loss as well as our own as we realized how quickly we could lose one of these wonderful people we loved. Perhaps the closeness of this group became a little deeper that night. Perhaps a new year was begun knowing what was truly important.

Never does a New Years Eve arrive that I don’t think of Bub. He was one of the first adult friends of my parents who became mine as well. I was no longer one of Willard’s daughters. I was Pam.

It was a cold winter night when my dad and Gene walked into that barn. They walked in with courage and left bearing much pain. We do walk forward with courage thinking we are prepared for whatever lies ahead. The older we get the more pain we bear from what life takes from us. Yet all of what was before has created the ‘we’ we’ve become. I learned a great deal that night.

We do survive pain. We do survive change. We work hard at this thing called living. But most of all we hold close to our hearts those we have now and those who have gone before. There is not a moment to lose in this short time we have on this earth.

They sat before the fire as friends meeting for one more New Years Eve. They walked out of the house on the first day of the next year holding those friendships dearer.

Hold close the moment for too quickly it slips away.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Girl In Love

A girl in love:

During my second year in high school, Willard would take me to his class Sunday school meeting. His folks didn’t want him to date so if we met his mother when we were together, I’d find some place to hide so she wouldn’t know he was with me, generally down on the floor of the back seat of the car. One time Willard and his friend Jim Fourman came to take me and a friend home from a meeting. There was Willard on the back seat so I got in with him. When we pulled in our lane, my dad walked out on the porch. Willard opened the door and pushed me out of the car and Jim gave it the gas. And my dad stood on the porch and really laughed. Said I doubt if that young man comes around very often.

Mom’s last entry:

I married Willard at the Painter Creek church on November 24, 1936 at 9:30a.m. Roy Honeyman was pastor, Lucy Beane, my maid of honor, Keith Loxley, best man. My dress was royal blue velvet.

I am going to write, Lord willing, all about life with the man I’ve always loved and all about my 3 beautiful children. This will be in another book.

Mother never wrote that other chapter of her life…..not on paper. Three months after this book was sent Dad would be dying of cancer. I guess we know the next chapter. We knew the parents who loved one another with every part of their beings. Mom and Dad’s love embraced the world that knew them. We lost Mom four years later. In the time without Dad she didn’t seem to grieve. Instead she walked daily with him still beside her. In reality, I do think he stayed until she joined him.

Thank you for being part of Mom’s journey, a time in Franklin Township. Our journey to Neff Road.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to Neff Road

Back to Neff Road and Mom:

Gettysburg had 2 big department stores, a furniture store bigger than any in Greenville, hardware store, drug store. Everyone crowded in there for ice cream on Sat night. We took our milk in 3 ten gal. cans to a dairy there. They would test the milk and weigh it then pay for it. Then Mom would buy flour, sugar and sometimes crackers and cheese but never meat as we butchered and had our own. She baked bread. We raised chickens and sold our eggs at Red River Store.

Mom made all our clothes. Our undergarments were made of muslin as were our skirts and bloomers when I was young. My shoes were button up 5 buttons. Always had to be Buster Brown.

My first year in high school was very exciting. I worked in the cafeteria at noon and made chocolate milk drink for the whole school. They called it Ruth’s C-M. I also made scalloped potatoes twice a week and the kids went for them. I road the school bus about 3 miles to school beginning the 8th grade thru high school.

Mr. Orville Lawrence was my 8th grade teacher. Willard set almost to the back of the room. I sit in the front seat. I had an autograph album and I gave it to him to write in. He wrote: A coat is warm and so is a sweater but one of your kisses would do much better. When I got my album back, I turned around and looked at him and he scooted down in his seat. I thought he was going to fall out on the floor.

That was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted…………….

My ex-husband and I bought our first house from Orville Lawrence. It was a house that I’d always admired and am sure that Mom and Dad felt an attachment as well. Yes, it was the beginning of a love that lasted until Dad died the year Mom sent this diary to me.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In Who I Am

With the eyes of an older woman, I still see through the eyes of a small child the lights and wonder of the Christmas tree, of the fireplace in the basement, lights turned off and Christmas lights surrounding the ceiling warmly lighting the family around the fire.

With the voice of a small girl, I stand once more in front of the elderly in the county home singing “Away In The Manger.” Wrinkled hands reach out to touch my blonde curls. I sit on the bench next to my mother and find my harmony in this chorus of family voices.

With the ears of a small girl, I hear stories of Christmas’s past, of crops and baking, of local gossip and family catching up across the miles of separation. I hear the sweet voices of neighbors who have been mine for a lifetime.

With a small girl’s hands, I place bread on a once lit tree, our yearly gift to the birds. I sit with my father and watch them feast. A flash of red and a cardinal decorates the tree once more.

The missing of Neff Road sat heavy on this woman on Christmas day. This woman who will not see a cardinal on the feeder since there are none in Oregon. Of a woman who will no longer sit in the basement, the heat of the fire warming her face as she watches the flames dance across the burning logs. She weeps for those who are gone and those far away. Her voice no longer sings with the same clear tones. And she is the one with the wrinkled hands.

I am no longer on Neff Road. Yet Neff Road is found in the sitting by the fire with my grandchildren reading books and watching the flames dance across a Duraflame log. “Can we sing Christmas songs after Christmas?” Syd asks. Of course, we can. I’ll sing them with you all year if you wish.

Yesterday I sat by the bed of my friend who has MS. Her Christmas was spent in her bed unable to move but a few fingers. I meet her new roommate who has been fighting a losing battle with cancer. A wrinkled hand holds another of the same as I lay my cheek on the brow of my friend.

Neff Road runs right through the middle of my house. It is in what I pass on, in what I share, in who I am. For you who live there still, you are blessed. And, you live next door to my heart that resides there still.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas on Neff Road

The lights warmly glowed lighting the room full of packages and people. Not many Christmas’s found us all back on the farm. But this Christmas was full of magic.

We drove back to the farm from Wisconsin, a hassle with a baby, Christmas gifts and luggage. If I remember, the weather was nasty as well. But we would all be home for Christmas.

Young cousins bubbling with excitement opened packages as the sisters and husbands looked on. Mom and Dad had the best present ever. Their daughters were all home at the same time. A new little one added excitement to the season. We were all tired from of traveling, but the trip was worth it.

Dad had an especially beautiful tree that year. The old bubble lights captured the attention of the little ones. The kids separated by miles were best friends once more. Sisters living in different states once more caught up and reminisced. Mom cooked up a storm loving her time in the kitchen with someone always sitting at her table. Dad enjoyed visiting. Neighbors stopped in to see the Loxley girls and the Johnson’s came to celebrate. Mom ended up at the piano, and we sang together as we had in years before.

I wish I could go back and capture that time. I wish that many of those people who are gone now would be with us once more. Miles still separate the Loxley girls. We will probably never have another Christmas together. We have not had our families all together since the children were young. I wonder if other families feel the loss as much as do we girls. The miles and years that have separated us have truly drawn us closer in heart.

It was a special Christmas. I didn’t know it back then what I possessed. It was the gift of family together, a rarity of a life away from those who share my past. Each day I am thankful for my sisters. They share a bond with me which neither my children nor my grandchildren will understand.

It was Christmas on the farm… was family.

Thank you for daily visiting the farm with me. Hold close those you love and cherish this Christmas together. My love and Christmas blessings to you.

A Christmas Eve Baby

A baby was born on Christmas eve. Not in a manger but into the arms of a loving mother. Aunt Esther was a Christmas Eve present, one that has kept on giving over the years.

Another baby was not expected in the Loxley family when Esther arrived. The boys were all pretty much grown when this little one came into the nest. She may not have been an expected baby, but I know in my heart that my grandmother was thrilled to have a little girl, this beautiful baby.

Aunt Esther is married to Uncle Phil, the creator of Phoose Goose. They always lived away from the Neff Road community. Trips to visit them were always filled with wonder and delight learning about stars and about nature and rocks.

I remember as a little girl sitting in Aunt Esther's old bedroom. A little desk sat against the wall with a wonderful green wicker baby carriage close by. I was afraid to play with the carriage. I would just sit there full of little girl dreams. It was Aunt Esther's room. My mind spun wondering at what lie hidden behind that door in her room leading up to the attic.

The daughter lost her mother much too soon. We all lost Grandmother too soon. I know my aunt must miss her every day. A part of me always feels closer to Grandmother when I am with my aunt.

That farm that butts up to Neff Road had a great deal of excitement on Christmas Eve. Esther Mae Loxley was born. Happy Birthday, Aunt Esther. I love you.

Wishing for you and your families a blessed holiday season. May your memories be as special as those I gathered on Neff Road.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Around the Piano

With Christmas on the doorstep, I will take a break from Mom's diary.

Yesterday I was visited by my granddaughters. I'm teaching them to play the piano. They pulled out the pile of Christmas music and asked if I would play the songs they chose. We sang together as they watched my hands play across the keyboard.

As I have said in the past, the family always sang around the piano. Some of my dearest memories are of a family raising voices in beautiful harmony. I never knew a time without music.

Mom's blonde-colored piano was her treasure. It must have been a huge financial drain on their budget. Perhaps that made it more special. My grandparents on both sides had old, clunky pianos with yellowed, ivory keys. Grandad's piano was once a player piano. The old rolls were gone by the time I came along. Pianos were a part of many households. They entertained long before the radio and TV came into existence.

Children of all ages found their way to Mom’s piano. Little fingers would feel the joy of pushing the keys down and finding new sounds with each stroke. Mom would never have considered closing the keyboard. Youth from the church or friends of my sisters would stand around the piano as Mother played singing songs and laughing. The piano was probably the most important piece of furniture in that house on Neff Road.

A piano was one of the most important pieces of furniture that we bought as newlyweds. I don't think I probably considered what a gift it was that I had a husband who wanted me to have my new Everett Piano. It traveled with us to Wisconsin then to Oregon. Still my prized possession.

As babies, my children would stand at the piano with fingers barely able to touch the top of the keys. Sooner or later, I would make my way to the piano, pulling them up on the bench playing simple songs they loved. Sometimes we would sit on that same bench singing songs before the went off to school. However, as they grew up, singing at the piano was not something they wanted to do. A family tradition had taken a holiday.

Much of the old sheet music is held together with stitching along the side of the music. The music is tattered and worn some as old as the early 1900's. Some of the old Christmas music was Mom's. Silver Bells, White Christmas, Let's Light the Christmas Tree and more sit on the piano each year. "Can we sing more?" my granddaughter asks. Santa Claus is Coming to Town is placed in front me and my fingers play music box notes. My aging voice and two sweet voices sing at the top of our lungs. Music and laughter.

Maybe the tradition will continue. The girls both want pianos some day. Mom would be thrilled. For me, the day we stop singing together is a sad day, a day of losing something that once was very special and a part of a thing we called family there on Neff Road.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Family of Characters

A family of characters:

My folks always raised a lot of tobacco 17 acres and it seemed to me we worked in tobacco all year. We would strip tobacco in the fall then at Christmas time we would clean up the strip house and my dad would get Uncle Dan and Aunt Julie to help and we would butcher 9 hogs every year. We would can meat for a couple of weeks after we butchered.

We would take the tenderloins and butterfly them and the sausage and put a layer of lard, then a layer of meat and do that till the crock was full. I don't believe we ever ate a meal without meat on the table.

Brother Bob liked school. And Iva was a good scholar made very good grades, took a test after 8th grade and passed the Boxwell test. If you passed the test you were able to teach. She never wanted to teach so she did house work for several families. Bessie hated school and goofed off all the time and claimed she didn’t need an education. Bob and Iva would try to help her at home and she would really get mad. She made such poor grades she quit school in the 7th grade.

Pop always said Iva was too good a girl for any boy in the neighborhood, and he would never let her date. So I remember in my first years of school, knowing that Iva would crawl out her bedroom window and meet guys. After Pop found out, he told her she could have dates. I was about 4 or 5 years old then and when a guy came in to see her, I would go crawl on his lap and tell him I like him. My mother would come and get me. And Iva would say keep that kid in the kitchen.

Ah, my family. They were a bunch of characters. It was another time. Red River was a thriving town. School houses were one room. Cars were new to the scene. The gap between mom and her siblings was huge. I sometimes wonder that she found her way into the Loxley family…..I’m glad she did.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Changing Time

Willard, the boy she would marry, comes into the picture.

When I was 10 yrs old, Willard and his mother would go past our house and take eggs to Bradford to ship to New York, to Stern and Tettlebomb, and I said to Mom, “I’m going to marry that boy some day.” And she said, “You’ll change your mind a dozen times.” Willard’s folks had chickens and got 9 cases of eggs a day. Willard had to work hard at an early age.

When my parents moved to the Wilt Reck farm of 58 acres, their was 15 fruit trees in the yard and 7 maples. My dad didn’t like all the trees and cut most of them down. Then he put a picket fence around the yard. At Red River at that time there was 2 grocery stores, a post office, a Brethren church, a blacksmith and a sawmill. The men would go up to the corner store after they would get their work done of an evening and loaf talking about the crops, government, weather, etc. Sometimes the women would go to a neighbors house to visit. I remember one evening we, Mom and I, was going to walk to Youngs and visit and a ford car was coming down the road. Mom grabbed my hand and run down in the ditch and we hung onto the fence till he went by and she said, “He could of blowed us away.”

Bob took his junior and senior classes all in one year. I remember one of the teachers came and would help him with his lessons, then the teacher stayed all night. His name was Slonaker. After he graduated, he got a job on the railroad. It had come to Bradford and their was a lot of jobs available.

After the railroad come to Bradford, the one grocery store, the post office and the sawmill left Red River, so we didn’t live near a town any more.

My mother’s world was so different from my own. I miss having the stories come from her instead of in a diary. I wish I had seen Red River in its glory days. Perhaps it makes me more aware of telling my story. I hope you don’t mind sharing the journey from the past.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holy Cow

One winter we had a very big snow. My dad shoveled in front of our house for 2 days. When a buggy would go past, we couldn’t see the top of it for the snow drifts. That winter it was terribly cold. My dad had split wood during the fall and people in the town of Covington was having trouble finding fuel to keep them warm. My dad would start for Covington at day break with a load of wood and walk behind the horses all the way as it was too cold up on top of the load. He would get home about noon, eat dinner and load up so the people could stay warm. My mother would worry when he was late getting home in the evening. Afraid they would find him frozen along the road. My dad had beautiful draft horses and he had them trained to drive without a line.

One time my parents were going to a funeral of a funeral. This was in the summer, and they told us to stay in the house when the funeral came past. Bob never listened very well and we had a cow named Fran that all of us could ride. We would go back to the back field to get the cows and we could crawl on her back and ride her up to the house. This cow on the day of the funeral Bob hitched up to the surrey. Bob, Bessie and I got into the buggy drove out to the end of the lane. And when the processions passed, we waved. When my parents came by they were next to the last buggy. My dad turned the cow around and said ‘just wait until I get home’. We didn’t have any more fun that day.

Talking of cows, I learned to milk at a very early age and I’d take a poem along to the barn when I milked and I’d learn the poem. Some of the have stayed with me all my life. When I was in high school, my teachers would say how do you learn a poem or a part in a play so easily? And I’d tell them, they should of milked cows.

I can imagine my mother sitting in a buggy behind a cow. I remember her telling of riding the cow to the barn and the herd would follow. My mom. What a character.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mom and Music

And music came into Mom’s life and the life of her children.

When I was 9 years old, I started taking music lessons of my sister Iva. Our family all liked music and we’d all gather round the piano and sing a lot. My brother Bob had a cornet and he and Iva played for church at Christian Beech Grove Church for services. Bessie could play the piano by ear, and could play anything Iva played. I was playing for them to sing at Red River School by the time I was in the 4th grade and I played all thru grade school. We didn’t have a music teacher when I went to high school, but Superintendent Dalton Hill would take each class 3 times a week to the gym and teach them songs. And I played the piano. I get out of a lot of classes when I went to Red River to school.

Allan Puterbaugh was my first teacher and he loved to draw my picture on the blackboard. There was 5 in my 1st grade. My second grade teacher was Orville Lawrence. He was a good teacher and he would always go out at recess with all of us and play games like Handy Over.

A girl in the same class had to walk a mile and a half to school, and in the really cold weather, she would stop and warm at our house then we’d walk on to school.

A step back again in time. Thank you for joining me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Girl Destined for Disaster

I apologize for the spotty blogs this week. It will probably be this way until after the wedding in Jan. I will do my best. Friday I will not be writing.

Mom = walking disaster:
(I will trim out some of the non-interesting things for readers who really don’t care)

I cut my upper lip in two cutting a doll dress with a knife. Took 5 stitches to sew it up. My mother too me to Dr. Buell and he said He would have to sew it in my mouth or I’d have big bumps around my lips.

I did good in school and hated to miss any but in the 3rd grade I was riding Edward Young’s bicycle home as I always went home at noon from school to eat dinner. And I was going pretty fast and fell of the bicycle and hurt my knee. It got infection in it and I had 23 boils on my right leg around my knee and couldn’t go to school for 3 weeks. The teacher boarded with Bob and Welma and she come with m lesson every evening.

When I was 9 years old I helped my dad make hay in the fall before school started. He would hitch the hay up on the wagon and I would tramp it down. Our back field was a half mile back and one day my dad took the load up to the barn to unload and when he pulled up to the barn I wasn’t on the load. So he unhitched the horse and rode it back to the field to find me. I fell off when he turned into the lane and I was unconscious. He put me on the horse and we went to the house. He went for the doctor, riding the horse to Gettsyburg. The doctor came and said I had a sunstroke and I couldn’t get in the sun for 3 months. School started and I had to stay home all thru September and October. I still remember how hard it was for me to see my friends walk past our house and I had to stay home.

Anyone who knew my mom can well understand the woman from these things that happened to her as a child. I wonder just how much she really went to school! Ah, Mom, you were a livewire, a girl who later in her life would add her energy to Neff Road.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

School Girl

Mom was a character. Reading her words is like stepping back into time and being with her once more. Her strong character was evident even as a little girl. The day my granddaughter, Gabrielle, was born Stacey asked if I would like to hold her. I lifted this child only a few minutes old from her plastic bed. Tears ran down my face and I said, "Mom, she's you." I know that Mom kissed this child before our lips meet her downy head. And, yes, Gabby has the enthusiasm and tenderness for life that echo Mom.

I hope you enjoy this journey into the past, the past of your parents, your grandparents. A time of horses, one room school houses and no electricity, a history as well as a story.

Her story continues:

The year before I started to school Bess took me to visit. She had a man Orville Riffell as a teacher. I kept laughing and he told me to be quiet – and I told him I didn’t half to. So he took me up to his desk and switched me. Bessie got all excited an run down to her Uncle Daris (he was on the sch. Bd.) There was quite a lot of excitement for awhile. And when it came time the next fall for me to go to school, although there was another teacher, I wouldn’t go. Abe Minnich (the owner of the Red River Grocery) took me and sit with me every morning for the 1st week of school before I’d stay by myself.

We had a bench in the front of the school room that 5 persons could sit on. The teachers would call the 8th grade arithmetic class up from their desk in the back of the school. They would work problems on the board, then the 7th grade would be called on down to the 1st grade. Sometimes I would be asleep as it was boring to listen to all of them recite.

After I got in the 3rd grade I liked school and I liked to go early before the big kids got there and I’d carry wood from the wood-house in to make the fire. We would have to stay after school and clean up, sweep the floor, pick up papers. I really liked that part.

To be continued…………..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Young Ruth

I hope you enjoy this step back into another time. I may break away from Mom’s story at times, but I think this is important to show what happened in Franklin Township when my parents were children. Mom’s memories are history of family dynamics during that time as well as the way Darke Countians lived. Mom’s story continues:

Red River

My sister Iva was 16 yrs. old when I was born. Robert B. was 12 yrs. old and Bessie May was 10. When I was growing up, the families got together nearly every Sunday. Aunt Julie and Uncle Dan lived just 1/2 mile away. Raymond and Ralph, their sons, were the same age as Iva and Robert and they always were carrying me around.

One thing I remember, and was very small. My folks went to church and Ray Eberwein stayed with me as I was sick, and before the girls went, they put a curling iron in a kerosene light in their room upstairs, and after everyone had gone, Ray smelled smoke, and he carried me upstairs, and the curtain had caught fire. (Wow, Mom, that’s one long sentence) He put me in the kitchen, shut the doors and run back upstairs. I screamed and kicked, and I always remember it.

When I was 4 yrs. old, we were cutting tobacco. My dad raised 17 acres. Bob scolded me for something while we were in the field. I bet I had it coming. So I run off. When they got thru with the tobacco and went in the house for supper, I couldn’t be found. It began to get dark, and they (my folks) had all the neighbors looking for me. At 9 o’clock p.m., Bob found me sound asleep in the corn field.

My dad and mom were patriotic, and it was always important on July 4th to hang our big flag on the porch. My dad run for sheriff one year when I was small, and on voting day everyone in the neighborhood came and stayed till the votes were counted in Greenville. He lost by 4 votes. My mother and dad were very much Republican. I remember a couple of weeks before election my folks would not go and visit Uncle Dan and Aunt Julie as they were Democrats and they didn’t want to argue with them. After the election they were oke again.

So, Mom’s story will continue tomorrow. I hope you join us.

Monday, December 14, 2009


My mother has been gone for several years now. Yet every year on December 14 her daughters remember that cold day in December when she died.

On my birthday in 1996, the year we lost my father, Mom gave sent a journal to me that was to be one of two. The second was never written. I want to share her memories with you. It is a story of another day and age, of a young Ruth who was different than the woman most knew. It was a time of children losing parents and parents losing babies. The events that lead partially to the woman I am began on the other side of the block from Neff Road. It began in 1912.

She wrote:

June 16, 1996
This is not a diary as I tried to jot down happenings. I was having a hard time writing. So I decided as things popped into my mind then I would write it as I remembered it. Some of it might be hard to piece together.

Neff Road July 30, 1912
I was told it was a very hot day and on my Pop and Mom's 58 acre farm near Red River, Ohio, I was born. The neighbors were there threshing wheat. The whole neighborhood always said to me, “I saw you the day you was born.” I never asked whether they dressed me before they showed me to everyone. Perhaps not!

My father is John Johnson, son of James S. and Paralee Langston Johnson, my grandmother. She died of blood poison before I was born. James S. died of old age.

My mother was Mettie Salley Besecker and her father was George Besecker who died when my mother was 4 years old. He liked his liquor to well. My grandmother Sara Steffy (Ernest, 2nd marriage) and my mother’s 2 sisters, Julie Eberwein, Pearl Kreider, her brother Clarence Besecker lived all their childhood with 3 bachelor uncles at Painter Creek, John, David and Mose Steffy. I loved to go to Steffy’s. Their the only ones I knew who took a newspaper with comics.

I’m sure I was terribly spoiled as two years before I was born my parents lost a little boy. His name was Emerson and died of meningitis at six months. My Aunt Pearl had two children to die soon after. Aunt Pearl was like a 2nd mother to me always keeping me and buying me things.

to be continued…………

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Time in Greenville

At Christmas a huge tree sat in the center circle. Light poles were decorated and stores took on the holiday season with swags of evergreen, and windows filled with glass balls and little trees. The palace was full of stylish winter clothing. On the top floor Santa waited for me to tell him my Christmas wishes. I wanted the little blonde doll that resided in a box on the table nearby. She looked like an angel.

Fourman’s had dapper suits and hats for men. Most men wore hats back then as did the women. The men shopped on one side of the street for their hats and the women on the other side at the millinery shop. Bonfiglios was full of Christmas decorations and beautiful cards. We lingered by the shelves adding items to our wish lists. The 5 and 10’s coveted our money offering everything from hosiery to work gloves for Mom and Dad. Bins of candy and comic books for my sisters.

Garth’s Museum was decorated for the season with special displays. Room after room reminded us of our roots with pride and panache. While the city park, covered with snow took us to a winter wonderland. It was Greenville at holiday time.

Best of all was walking down the streets into the stores meeting people who stopped to chat. Stories were exchanged as well as Christmas wishes. We were all neighbors in Greenville. Store owners knew our names, and once in awhile a candy treat was handed to a small child. It was our town.

The lights will be down when I go home again next spring. The tinsel in boxes and winter replaced by a new season. For the small girl who once lived there, she will still hear the carols and meet old friends.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Forecast: Ice and Snow

Forecast for Portland, Oregon: Ice and snow coming in Friday night, leaving on Sunday.

Hm. Guess I’d better go get some food, just in case. Maybe I should grab a log or two in case power goes out. What will I do without a TV and computer? Another, hm. Wow, not nearly as exciting as ‘no power’ on the farm or when my kids were here, and we were electricless.

When the power went out on the farm, we moved to the basement. The fireplace would keep us toasty and offered a wonderful place to roast hot dogs. Mom always had chips and dip on hand, hot dogs and buns, and, at this time of the year, nuts and popcorn balls. It was an event.

The gravel on the lane wore an icy coat that offered no traction yet Dad would bundle up and hop up on the tractor with the lift on the front and a chain on the back. Neighbors would have clean driveways and cars would be pulled from the ditch. Food could be brought in to neighbors, rides given to stranded travelers and Dad having a blast doing it all.

When my kids were growing up, we loved the ‘powerless’ time when games were played, the fireplace roaring and boredom was replaced with creativity. We really weren’t powerless.

Rarely does the power go off here in Oregon. If it does, I will find myself bundled with a fire roaring and a good book or two in hand. Perhaps even a few new stories will adventure into my head.

Being without power reminds us of a time when there was no electricity, when lives were simpler and more of a struggle. We reach back in time to make do with what we have available. We are not powerless. Maybe we are a bit spoiled.

I miss seeing Dad ride off on that tractor with a big smile on his face, and his return with the stories of his adventure. I miss seeing Doris walking into the house from a hike up the lane to visit neighbors. Red cheeks and bundled head to toe, she joined us by the fire. I miss the silence that accompanies a world without power.

I wonder if I should pick up some chips and dip. Can I roast hot dogs over a Duraflame log? Ah, solitaire and books. I’ll be just fine.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Maybe it was the day and age. I'm not sure. Maybe when I opened a Christmas gift from my husband finding a food processor, was also a holdover from another day and age. But there I sat with Dad and a pile of red towels.

Never did I see our parents exchange gifts for any occasion. On this Christmas, Mom must have asked for red towels, otherwise, I'm sure Dad would not have known. Bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths all matching and waiting to be wrapped. Mom was gone when Dad and I sat before the gifts, paper and tape.

I sat in the middle of the living room when Dad pulled out the towels. He probably had been hiding them in the barn. Along with the towels came a new, enameled canning pot along with a new roasting pan. He had the great idea of making this present fun for Mom. We rolled towels packing them into the pans then placed the pans into boxes. Dad held the paper while I taped. It was an odd time for my father and I. Never had we done anything like this, preparing something special for Mom. Perhaps that is why it has lingered in my overcrowded brain.

We sat around the tree Christmas morning. I could hardly wait for Dad to bring in his packages. Mom was totally surprised to receive these gifts from Dad. Boxes opened, oooohs and aaaaahs over the new pans and delight at the discovery of new towels.

I can’t say that I was that excited about my food processor. But we didn’t have much on the farm. Pretty new towels were a luxury. Mother’s love of red was satisfied in her new towels. Dad was a bit more admired by his little girl. And I later in life bought a red sofa.

Memories just might come in a canning pot or in the color red. Memories might come in the shape of a gift from a Dad to a Mother. Whatever we set before a child is a lesson. Mine came in the color red.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Once a Path

"Why call the blog Neff Road," she asked. Well, I had tried to register other domain names, but they were taken. Neff Road seemed all that remained relating to 'home'. Now I know that this domain name was meant for me.

"Neff Road has become more than memories of my family and the farm. It has become a story of my community, friends, church. A story of the 1940's through 2009. It is a story of all of us. Perhaps even of a day and age that many have forgotten and some remember but lack words to share. Neff Road has a life of it's own. I am the recorder," I answered.

When I was home last year, didn’t think I would drive past the farm. My close neighbors were no longer there. My childhood home had been changed, the old barn torn down. I did not want visions of the present ruining the memories of the past.

Yet, on the last day in Ohio my car turned down Neff Road. The car crossed the bridge, my eyes glued to the road looked to the north. I smiled seeing the farm alive again. The changes reflected the young couple who made it their home. Babies once more cried and families gathered.

Neff Road holds the spirits of those of us who lived there. It holds an energy called love that bound us together. The old gravel road was paved time and time again much like the houses that change occupants. All things change.

I love writing this piece of Americana. Each time I write I find more pieces of me. I thank you for joining me day after day on another walk down that old road. A road that was once only a path, a path to memories.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Her Name was Amosandra

Her name was Amosandra.
What Christmas present do you most remember? Mine? I remember a Christmas morning when I was surely no more than three. I walked down the enclosed stairway into what was then our dining room. In the corner of the room by the window was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. A small, grey canvas baby carriage just like the big ones was turned away concealing the contents. Peeking over the side of the baby buggy was a soft, yellow flannel blanket trimmed with blue.

The carriage was just the right height for this little girl. I remember it well. I held my breath as I looked inside. Amosandra was dressed in a flannel gown with matching cap made for her by my mother. She was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen.

The little doll slept with me every day from that day forward. She traveled to Washington DC, visited my aunt in Michigan, comforted me when I was ill and resided in my room until dolls were replaced by other interests. Her name was Amosandra. I know because it was embossed at the back of her little head.

I don’t remember ever seeing her before that Christmas morning. I guess she was meant to be my baby. It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized my favorite doll’s mother was white.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zalig Kerstfeast

Zeist 14/12 ‘55 (a Christmas card from Holland)

“I wish you were here, Pamela, then you could play with him and pick up all the toys he throws away,” it read.

Deiederihfe was a beautiful baby with white-blonde curls and a big smile. I didn't have much experience with babies even though Mom often babysat. But I was mesmerized by this big, beautiful, Dutch baby. He would drop a toy. I would pick it up time and time again. It was a game he loved, and one I was willing to play.

Uncle Phil contacted Mom about a family that was coming to the US from The Netherlands. The father, Hans, was going to be working with Uncle Phil. His wife and baby boy needed a place to stay. Of course, as usual, Mother opened her arms and our house to these travelers.

Wilhemina introduced her country to this Neff Road home. She became part of our family chatting like an old friend, helping Mom in the kitchen and telling us of her home far away.

“On the other side of the card you see the bulb fields in Holland. Perhaps you have it so too a little bit next year. We hope that they will grow in Arcanum.” The row of tulips ran down the side of the old garden. Every year they bloomed and reminded us of the woman who sent them.

When she first came to our house, she brought to me a pretty handkerchief with a Dutch boy and girl embroidered in the corner, a chocolate orange and a beautiful pin when opened displayed pictures of Holland. A world beyond came to our house, and I grew.

We lost track of the Hubenauts. Sven joined their family a few years later and much later the Hubenauts were divorced. I think of them often and have even tried to find online that once darling baby now grown man. Amazing how a visit can change the world of a child.

Every Christmas I pull out the card I received from Wilhemina in 1955. I was eight when I when it made the trip across the Pond. Greetings from Holland. Fifty-two years later, I remember that time appreciating the experience that made my world a bit bigger.

Zalig Kerstfeast, my friends. Zalig Kerstfeast.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Phoose Goose

Long before I had heard of Dr. Seuss, I had seen a lumpy character with funny feet and a funny name. It was a phoose goose. Perhaps you’ve not seen this silly character. I’m sorry for you are missing a friend, one I’ve had for years.

Aunt Esther did a fine thing when she agreed to marry Uncle Phil. She got the man, and I got an uncle who is a favorite his niece. This tall man was a college professor, yet he had time to draw this funny phoose goose for his niece and to continue to make her smile even into her adulthood. My dear Uncle Phil.

Their Volkswagen was one of the first we had ever seen. Mother and Dad would laugh at Uncle Phil unfolding himself from the tiny car. It was only one of many things introduced to the Neff Road girls by this intelligent, witty man and equally wonderful woman.

I don’t know how little I was when I had my first phoose goose drawing. I prized it as I would an original Van Gogh or Charles Shultz. The quirkiness that was Uncle Phil was in the drawing as well. Even now I smile wishing I had one large phoose goose to hang on my wall. I could introduce it as a family member.

Aunt Esther and Uncle Phil opened doors of adventure and new thought to me. Uncle Phil was an astronomer offering me glimpses of a sky much more mystical than the one my little eyes could see. He and Aunt Esther were inquisitive and delighted in searching for wonderful rocks and enjoying birds. Their appreciation of nature only drew me closer to them. We shared the excitement of discovering treasures from the earth much as Uncle Phil had found the treasures in the sky.

Later, I would walk with my children on the Oregon Coast looking for fossil shells and sometimes even a fossil bone would appear. When my aunt and uncle came to visit, we scoured the countryside for new discoveries.

Christmas gatherings at Grandad’s always left me with a feeling of being on the outside looking in. Uncle Phil always found me. He teased the laughter from me and delighted me with his drawing. He recognized a small, shy girl who didn’t know how to come out of her shell. He crawled into that shell with me and asked if I would come out and play.

It was fine adventure growing up with this aunt and uncle of mine. They hold a place in my heart where those who have taught me to laugh and to learn reside. Even though they live far away, I have only to look in my heart to find them. I am, in part, who I am because they came home to visit Neff Road.

I am one of a kind like the phoose goose.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oh, Nuts

Dad retrieved the nutcracker and picks from the drawer. The familiar crack would sound. It was official. Christmas season was here.

One of my first memories of the holidays is the basket full of nuts that showed up every winter. Some years Dad would gather walnuts nuts to add to the mix. We all had our favorites. I loved the walnuts and had not yet learned that I would favor pecans at a later time. As a little child, I would pick out the different nuts studying their shells. Dad would crack them giving me a taste. I don't think a peanut ever crossed the edge of that basket. Evidently, they didn't have enough class.

It was Thanksgiving, "Mom, can you bring over the nut cracker?" my son asked. Of course, I would say 'yes' even though it meant that my basket of nuts would have no nutcracker. I apologized to the walnuts and took the utensil to my son. He remembered. He remembered another time.

Somewhere in my busy brain, I seem to remember my Grandad Loxley having a nut basket (for lack of a better term). Mostly, I remember the ripe olives that I would sneak reaching up over the side of the table. Again, another must at Christmas.

I wonder where these traditions began. Were the nuts a carryover from old England, pioneer days? Are they a symbol of another time when the fruit of the trees was a prized treat? I don't think the Johnson's ever had nut baskets; however, I do think Uncle Keith Loxley had one as well. Perhaps it was just a part of a family winter ritual.

I smile that my son has a basket of walnuts in his new condo with his soon to be bride. Perhaps he, too, is the family storyteller. Whatever it is, he now has the nutcracker.....I'm using a hammer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Sled

It hung in the corner of the barn all covered with dust and cobwebs. Boards were broken and held together with wire. The knot tied to it was knotted by my father's hands.

Dad and I walked through the barn. Remembering other days and learning new stories. We stepped into the milk stable. "That's my old sled," he said pointing to the greyed sled hanging in the corner. "I got it for Christmas." He shared stories of the Loxley boys sledding trying out the new sled, the same sled we children rode down the hill at home. It now stands in the corner of my living room.

Following is a piece I wrote in memory of that day with my father in the barn.

The Sled

It was my father’s sled. There. There in the corner. Ages old and weather worn now a remnant of the past, a remnant of my father.

Too soon the earth captures her own holding to her bosom the babe who played in her leaves, who fished in her ponds, who loved her earth, who fed and nourished the very soil of her cloak, who saw his own returned to her loving arms.

Death, you are a blackness that comes quickly when least expected, silently, hidden until the final assault. Your vengeance is cruel, your methods immoral. Yet you will not leave your throne until all have tasted your sword. Your shadow encompasses all who pass too closely. You, the victor over all who taste your wrath.

But you cannot take away. You cannot erase the moments, the memories of the mortal soul. Listen. Hear the laughter of a small boy running to meet the first winter snow, running to try his new sled sitting on golden planks atop freshly waxed runners. His face is red, so bundled he can hardly run. Yet he laughs dashing to try his new Red Flyer. Listen. No darkness. Only memory.

In the corner sits that once new toy. Now the runners rusted, the lumber grey. Here and there broken pieces held together with wire and dowel. Each scar a memory of a young boy’s adventures. A fairly new rope knotted by old, gnarled hands readied the craft for another pair of small hands. A small child eager to meet the first snow.

It is a fine, old sled that once, when new, held a fine young boy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Little Plastic Bell

The plastic bell hangs from the worn, black thread. When shaken, the sound is more a thud than a ring. The red plastic has dulled. This bell once new hung on a tree in Ohio.

Again, December had arrived. Dad lifted me to put the blue angel on the tree. Every year we debated whether to hang the star or the angel. The angel with spun-glass hair was always my favorite. I was hypnotized by the bubble lights. We draped icicles one by one over the limbs. Decorating the tree was a ritual....and a memory.

"Sydney gets to put the star on the tree this year, Grammy," said Gabby. Wow! No arguments over the star instead generosity. I told the girls

I would work on the lights while they made cards for our ornaments we would give out daily. Before I knew it, small hands were passing the lights around the tree.

"Do you want me to help hang ornaments so you can get done faster?" I asked.

"No," answered Sydney. “I want to know the history of each one.” Another 'wow'. Sydney would be the keeper of the memories.

“Can we string popcorn and cranberries like we did last year,” she asked. Well, if I remember rightly, last year we had popcorn everywhere and the girls gave up the effort after about 2 ‘ of stringing.

“Of course, we can,” I answered without hesitation.

A plastic bell hangs on the tree. A bell hung on a tree by my hand….the hand of a small child. The bell holds new memories for Sydney to take through life and holds memories of the trees on the farm on Neff Road.

“Did you know that an angel gets its wings when a bell rings?” asked Gabby. Ah, yes, they had seen ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.

The little plastic bell rings when my darling angels hang it on the tree. “Can you hear it, Mom?”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Trip Home

In heels and dresses, we clung to the tractor fenders literally for our lives. We knew we could tolerate the cold for the miles it would take to get us home.

Little did Shirley and I know that when we left for work in Dayton that morning, we would be struggling to make our way back again. It was 1966. I was working at NCR and made the daily trip to work with my friend, Shirley, carpooling with Doyle. Now riding with Doyle was a challenge on a good day, but carpooling saved money. Shirley and I would meet Doyle at my fiance's house.

The weather began to change around 3pm. Our bosses decided to send home those of us who commuted. Icy roads continued to worsen as we headed north. We were near Phillipsburg when night descended and the roads became impassable. Doyle turned the car into the lane of the nearest home.

The house was full of people. Strangers, such as us, who could drive no farther were welcomed by these residence of this home. We knew we didn't want to spend the night here in this mass of humanity. Doyle had headed out on his own. Had we gone with him, the chances were good we would be stranded.

I called Gary's parents, and before long, a tractor pulled into the lane. The Miller's had called their neighbor who came to gather two worried girls. In high heels and dresses, we climbed onto the tractor. Shirley and I clung onto the sides for dear life as the tractor made its way to Jenny and Marvin's home.

The warm house and warm arms greeted us. We were with family. With nothing more than purses and the clothes on our backs, Jenny found clothing for both of us, feed us and took us in as her own. The trip home from work took two day. Two days that created a small family talking of the boys we loved in Nam, playing games and enjoying the companionship.

I often think of that day. I'm not sure my bones ever thawed out from that tractor ride, but my heart warmed by those two days with people who were very dear to me.

Sometimes what seems to be a long trip home can end up being a trip 'home'.