Sunday, January 31, 2010

Under the Cowboy Sky

Just a note. Tomorrow I will have surgery on my right hand. I will get back to my blog as soon as I learn how to type with a bundled hand and no pain.


Trying to conjure up a campfire out under a cowboy sky, I played Dad’s old harmonica. It sat there on the shelf calling to me. I was sitting in my son and his beautiful bride’s condo waiting for her to get home. With nothing to do, my focus landed on the harmonica that was passed on to a grandson.

Dad could really raise a sweet melody from this small instrument. I’m not musically inept but found it hard to find the scale notes. Then I realized I could turn the double scaled harmonica over to create a melody. I tried to imagine myself after a day on horseback, sitting by a fire with a tin cup of coffee. Nothing. I tried to pull a song from the past from this piece of tin and wood. Nothing. Then I thought of Dad cupping this harmonica in his farm-worn hands. Ah, yes, I found the melody.

I don’t think that Dad was ever without music. It ran in his blood. Those who knew him also knew this was a man who could whistle. I received a note today from a friend who just lost her mother. I wrote to her of missing my mother; she wrote back, “Your Mom was a mold for MOM . Any wife that can make their husband whistle all the daylong is a wonderful person.” Yes, Dad’s whistle was memorable. We could hear Dad whistle as he walked across the lawn coming to the house after a long day of work. He was never bored with his music a constant companion.

The whistling is something I gave up on a long time ago. Evidently, the harmonica is something I need to work a little harder on and forget my cowboy night serenade. Neff Road lost music when we lost Dad, but those of us who listened remember.

The sound of a happy farmer……

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nesting

The large, blue heron flew over us as Dad and I walked through the woods. The bird’s destination was the enormous nest high up in the trees. It stood on the side of the nest, stepping in and settling.

Dad and I walked into through the woods at the back of the farm as we had many times when I was small. This time his daughter was looking to nest as well, carrying her unborn daughter. A snake skittered across the path. I screamed and jumped. Dad worried. I wondered what it meant to Dad seeing the last of his daughters with child. He was protective and probably a bit worried.

Mother had a hard time having this child who was determined to meet the world on her feet. Doctors back then were not as skilled at handling a breech birth. Perhaps it was a sign of a child who would always defy tradition. With sacrifice to my mother’s health, a child was born, and a father learned to worry.

From an early age I’d learned observe birds and their nests. The oriole nesting in tall plants in the field, the robin coming back to the same summer home, barn owls seeking refuge in the barn. I knew about nesting.
Sometimes I look at the eagles nests along the river and am once more taken back to the woods. An egret or heron stands next to a pool, and I pull my grandchildren along to glimpse the avian beauty. Nesting.

Perhaps I still nest, holding my grandchildren safe among the sticks and grasses of nature. Teaching them the things I learned walking the woods on Neff Road. Perhaps my nest is now full of memories and lessons. Once a small nest, now one that holds many.

A blue heron flew over us.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My History, Too

My Aunt Esther and Uncle Phil and my cousin, Alma Lea, receive my blog via email. Their feedback is not posted. Since it is important that their stories be part of the Neff Road story, I will on occasion post writings from them. Since I was much younger than most of my relatives on Neff Road, I lost out on those memories of places and people who would come to mean much to me. Their stories are mine, too.


My Aunt Esther wrote to me some time ago about how she and Virginia Royer would ride horses from Grandad’s barns back to the pond. Somehow I never thought about my aunt riding horses. Virginia Royer was Virgil Royer’s daughter, friends of the family. Lois Royer, her sister, helped Mom with a newborn baby back in 1947. I learned last week that this woman had passed, this woman who resides in my old photo album, her arms wrapped around a newborn Pam.

Alma Lea wrote about my grandfather’s farm:

I look forward to your blogs each day. I loved that home. I spent many happy hours there. Esther and I explored every corner of it. The attic was one on my favorite places. We would take our dolls up there and set up housekeeping. One day back under the eaves we found several crocks of apple butter. We went dashing down to the kitchen to tell your grandmother about them, and she came back up with us. I can still hear her say, "My goodness I forgot all about those, they must have been there twenty years." She carried one down, and added hot water to it, let it soak and kept stirring more hot water in until it was the right consistency, and it was as good as new. I thought that was so exciting, like finding a treasure.

I used to daydream about living there when I grew up. I was so sad when I heard about it being torn down. Not too long ago we had been to Troy and in the way home I told Duane I wanted to take a trip down memory lane; we drove all around the neighborhood, and I told him where different people lived and how I almost drowned in the creek , I dived in head first and hit my head on a rock, a little different from the Greenville pool, a city kid showing off. Things had really changed.


Things do change and memories get lost. I cherish these from my dear relatives. They tell my story as well as theirs.

I wonder what home was first built on Neff Road. Who first cleared this Indian land? Who took it away from the people who had been on it first? Those stories are gone, but my stories and that of my family are a history of a time and way of life, a way of life of a community on the once path named Neff Road.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Autographs

My old computer went to the great computer cemetery in Best Buy. After being drawn to a new, faster computer, one that would not be so hard on my hands, I found that all of the information that was to be downloaded was missing. Long story short: For 3 days I’ve been trying to get my computer set up with all of my files in residence. Downside: Computer is faster than the user. A new learning curve.

Also, the following is necessary dribble about future missing blog days: I am having 3 hand surgeries this year. The first will be next Monday. I am going to see how I am feeling so forgive me if I miss days of writing. Believe me, I miss it as much as maybe you do. I will be using my left hand as much as possible to keep up. So please be patient. I will do my best to stay on target and on my blog.

I peddled my bike from house to house down Neff Road, Red River-West Grove Road, and Byreley Road selling potato chips, a middle school class project. The target? An ugly red and white stuffed, autograph cat.

Autograph book. Not the type that movie stars sign but those containing warm thoughts, crazy thoughts, names of friends. In my elementary and middle school years, we had memory books with all of the class pictures in the front and pages for autographs in the back.

7th Grade (1959):

Dear Pam - When you get married and have twins, don’t come to my house for safety pins…..Judy Neff

I’ll be yours until the cow takes her bag shopping. Pam ‘n Jim. (Who the heck was Jim????)

Dear Pam - I (drawing of car/auto) cry, I (auto) laugh, I (auto) sign, My (auto) graph…..Love, Mary

8th Grade:

Higher the mountain, Cooler the breeze, Younger the couple The tighter the squeeze…..writer unknown

Dear Pam - When you marry Jerry and have twins, don’t come to my house for safety pins…..Judy Neff (Hm, I remember Jerry)

Dear Pam - Roses are red, Grass is green, Your mouth runs like a sewing machine. Yours until the river wears pants to keep its bottom dry…..Linda (friend?!)

Autograph books. I have my mother’s autograph book dated 1925:

Friend Ruth - If paw says yes and maw says no, no is correct….John Lavey

Dear Ruth – You are now about fiften, Full of fun – just a little green, May your life be happy to the end, Always count me your loving friend….Welma Johnson (Mom’s sister-in-law)

Dear Ruth – Remember me now, Remember me then, Remember me in the old hog pen….Major Beam

Dear Ruth – The doors locked, The keys in the cellar, Nobodys home but you and your feller…..Zelma Besecker

Dear Ruth – A coat is warm, And so is a sweater, But one of your kisses, Would be much better…..Your school friend, Willard Loxley (my dad)

Autograph books. I have pages from my grandmother’s (Mettie Besecker) autograph book dated 1891.

Friend Mettie – Your album is a garden spot, For all your friends to sow, I’ll plant a sweet “Forget me not”, And see if it will grow….Compliments and best wishes, Lucinda Swinger

To Sister – If Mother says no this or that, Don’t say what for or why, But let her hear your gentle voice, Mother dear I try….written by your sister

Autographs. Maybe yearbooks replaced autograph albums. Notes from classmates once thought something you would prize forever now collecting dust with no sentiment for anyone else.

Potato chip sales were high enough for me to win possession of the autograph cat. A few years ago when we were going through the house, we ran across the old cat now yellowed, bent and even uglier. I looked at the names wondering why it was so important back then. Yet now I look at my mother’s autograph book and the one my grandma cherised holding something that once they held dear in their youth.

Autographs. Send a stamped envelope and $10, and I will send you mine. For an additional $10, I will make up a verse. Autographs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Today is All We Have

Wedding joy has been dampened. The bride lost her uncle today. Not expected. The passing caught the family unprepared. Unprepared? Is anyone really prepared?

Growing up back that lane on Neff Road, death was not a stranger. Pets were lost. Dad slaughtered beef and pigs. Chicken met their demise on regular intervals. But that was not the teacher.

Mom and Dad seemed to go to funerals all the time. I can’t remember a time that I had not seen a deceased body. Open caskets were the way there and probably still is. We went to say ‘good-bye’ and to let families know that we cared. It was the way of it.

The first I’d ever seen that I can remember was a girl who drowned in the creek. I don’t remember much more only that she was a child. Death came to all ages. I learned that early.

Mom and I would argue over the open casket. I thought it barbaric to stare at the deceased. To Mom it was tradition, the way it was done. Talk at the casket would revolve many times about how the corpse looked. Dead was dead as far as I was concerned. No matter what was done, they didn’t look alive. So why have an open casket?

Then I lost my parents. Respectfully, we had the open caskets. A last chance to touch my parent, place a kiss on the head, say my good-byes, was given to me. The deceased became part of the conversation, not the conversation. We laughed at stories from the past. We shared last moments with many of these people we would never see again. My parents were our only tie.

This losing teaches us not to be toughened but maybe to embrace, to realize each moment and not squander the time away, to look at one another, really look, and love.

Neff Road taught me what it is, this thing of dying. It taught me community. It taught me strength. It taught me about myself. My children are on their journeys now into life and death. Today we mourn with Lisa’s family. Today we rejoice in what we have in our love of one another. Today……

Sunday, January 24, 2010

February

February approaches leaving January in a haze of wedding memories. Leaving January.

Along with the new month comes signs of warmer weather. Spring comes early in Oregon. It is time to put out the nesting string and raffia for the birds to use in their residential construction.

Despite the cooler weather we had this winter, my peony tree has continue to bud. Now the new limbs about 3” long are sprouting numerous leaves. I know that on the farm, the plants would still be dormant. Mom’s peonies would be nestled beneath the earth’s blanket of rich soil waiting for rays of Spring sun. She would chuckle at our plants in bud eager to invite us to a new season.

It is a different place here in Oregon. The plants are different, the crops are as well. Cattle are leaner and less beef cattle raised, more dairy cows, especially around Tillamook. Here winter is not brown and stark. Our grass is green and lush. Coniferous outnumber deciduous. Yet, I miss the snap of winter that keeps Ohioans tucked in their homes watching the winter sky and warming in the comfort of winter repose. The crunch of the grass frosted white, skating across mud puddles have been away from me for over 30 years.

I have no regrets moving to this lovely place. I know that all who visit love it here. I brought my children here to raise and have never doubted that decision. The beautiful scenery, the ecological consciousness, the Pacific an hour away from my home to the west while an hour away to the north I can go to the mountains. I have seen a volcano erupt, felt the earthquake, watched whales migrate, and gasp when I see another bald eagle. I have walked in lava tube caves, dug for thundereggs, looked into a crater of a perfect blue, stood in the otter caves, walked the many capes that reach out to the ocean and have called this my home state.

Yet, home is a place down a lane on Neff Road. A house that has the smell of home. A barn the holds my childhood laughter. A corncrib that every summer became a playhouse. A strip shed that bonded family. Neighbors who were family. A place called home.

I welcome you, February.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Home on Byreley Road

Picture of a house no longer standing. A picture perfect farm. A picture precious to those of us who lived on Neff Road.

Dad had wanted the farm when Grandad moved to the home. Mom had always wanted to live there. Dad did not. Dad wanted to farm the land. But decisions were made and the farm sold to someone who did not appreciate the memories or respect the beauty of what they now possessed.

The farmer who bought the farm did not want the old house. His wife wanted a new one. Gone are the French doors and window seats, the brick fireplace and summer kitchen was torn down replaced by a ranch style home sitting atop the once beautiful home.

Fred, a local minister, would later buy the home. He had not seen the house that silently hid beneath the new, yet he gathered the history, the pictures, the stories. He saw that the barn became a historical landmark. He has seen that the barn roof was replaced preserving this remnant of my father’s birth home.

I have often thought that if I had the financial where-with-all, I would build a house just like the one that sat next to the creek with the orchard peeking into the windows. My aunt and uncle sent a pane of glass from the French doors to me. It is a cherished piece of history that greets me each day holding the memories it saw as it watched over my father as a boy, my grandmother I never knew and the daily life of the family who lived in the home when it was new.

What is it that makes some people erase the old and replace it with the new? Why do we tear down forest for the sake of progress? Why do we fail to see the potential in what was old and find it lacking when indeed it is lovely?

The house is gone. Fred stands guardian over the once new barn while he and his wife live in the house atop a house of sweet memories. My children will not know the splendor of the house on Byreley Road, but they will hold this picture and have the memories of their mother.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Teenager in 1931

Once again, I am going back to another of Mom’s diaries from her high school years in 1931. I hope you enjoy a look at a teenager’s life on the farm, a love in bloom and all the things that were part of the life in the area of Neff Road back then. I will post all of each month in one blog as we pass through the year.

January
1 Had an oyster supper in eve. Surprised the folks. Class meeting at Rhoades but I didn’t go.
2 Basketball practice in the afternoon. Icy weather. (Mom played basketball)
3 Home all day as the weather was bad.
4 At Greenville in the afternoon Young’s in eve.
5 Went to Sunday school in morn with Willard to Harris Creek in eve to hear Gettysburg’s men’s chorus.
6 Vacation over and must go back to school today. Rather icy.
7 Willard here awhile in eve.

8 Basketball game with Pleasant Hill. Both teams won. Lyle (Mom’s nephew) smashed his thumb.
9 Beautiful day at school.
10 Played Arcanum. Both teams won. Score was close. Edna Morris went with folks.
11 Stripped tobacco all day. Tired in eve.
12 Went to Sunday school. Charles Morris here all day to play with Lyle. All of Morris’s here in eve.
13 Willard here in eve.
14 Received a letter from Iva and Bessie. (Her sister’s. Lyle was Iva’s son)

15 Basketball practice in eve. Willard here in eve. Letter from Doc. (Doc had a crush on Mom)
16 Test in English.
17 Test in Civics. Basketball game with Jackson. Girls won. Boys lost
18 Went to Sunday school. Grandma and Leland here in afternoon. Willard here in eve.
19 Test in Geometry. To Robert’s (her brother) in eve.
20 Seniors went to Greenville to see a trial, jail and court house. Had a good time. (Hm. Makes one wonder.)
21 Test in Physics. Alumni had show ‘Grandma’s Boy’ in eve. Doc and his girl there, met her. Came home with Willard.

22 At home sick. Mom and Pop stripped tobacco.
23 Home. Did not feel well. Played Gettysburg. Girls lost. I did not play.
24 To town with Roberts in eve. Willard came when I got back. Joe Evans’ married.
25 To Sunday school in morn. Went home with Margaret and Mildred Williamson. Doc up.
26 Practiced basketball in eve. Isaiah Krieder died.
27 Lyle got up with chicken pox. Went with John Rhoades to FHS. Willard here after John left.
28 Institute at Franklin. Attended all day and eve. I played.

29 Nothing written
30 Basketball game with Arcanum. Won.
31 Class meeting at home of Olive Aukerman. Went with Willard.

A teenagers life, another time, names of parents whose children I knew. Life around Neff Road.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brenda

We held hands like two little girls in dress-up clothes walking down the corridor. She is my lifelong friend, the sister of the heart and my children’s other mom.

It is a long way from Darke County and Portland. Yet, just as years cannot separate dear friends, neither can the miles when it comes to celebrating a son’s wedding. We don’t write often and seldom talk via phone. Sometimes I’m afraid that things will change when I next see her, but it never happens.

Brenda and three of her daughters, their men and a grandson came to celebrate another of our children’s wedding. I had been back for Meg’s wedding but could not make it for Jake’s or Becky’s. Brenda had come out for my daughter’s wedding. What a blast! We danced the Bunny Hop with Christmas wreathes on our heads. We celebrated not only our children but also our friendship.

I was Brenda’s maid of honor when she married and she was my matron of honor. Childhood friends who once played house and dreamed of becoming wives and mothers stayed close on that journey forward. We were both married in Painter Creek Church. Pews filled with family, hers and mine. Friends from the church who had watched these two girls grow up. We got married near Neff Road, near home.

James walked her down the aisle as later he would his aunt and his mother. She, too, sat behind me, nearby. She was touched by this honor my son paid to her. She should have known that she was his mother, too. We shared a love of one another’s children drawing our own children close to each other.

Some day someone will see two toddling old women holding hands, leaning on one another not for support but for absorbing all of the love the two cherish, a lifetime of knowing nothing else. They will not see the joys we have shared, the weddings, the births and, yes, the losses. They will not know that we cannot remember a time when we weren’t in one another’s lives, that we sat on the floor with cut-out, paper dolls, played house in the corncrib and made a commitment to never be parted by this thing called distance.

They stood in the lane, hand in hand…..forever they will be a memory there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Other Mom

Back to Neff Road. I have missed writing. So much to share with a brain rattling with words and images. Thank you for coming back down the lane again to meet me. I have missed you.

She walked through the gate last Wednesday. Suddenly the stress I’d felt over the last year was gone, and I was home again. Another of James’s mothers had arrived.

There is nothing quite like sisters. They help raise you when you are little, torment you when you are older, add you to their lives when they are married and embrace you the rest of your life with unswayable love. Sisters.

It wasn’t a journey I’m sure she really wanted to make in the dead of winter leaving her warm nest in Key West. Having just been home to Indiana for Christmas, this was another huge expense. Yet here she was full of positive energy. I was thankful.

June had never been the social butterfly of this threesome of sisters. I was worried that she would feel out of her comfort zone, but she tossed all aside and grab hold of the reins holding me to task, making me laugh when I was stressed and embracing those she knew and those she did not. I am still beaming with pride at my older sister, especially when I saw her on the dance floor having the time of her life.

When James was in college at Northwestern in Chicago, his Auntie June would be his mom away from home. He would drive to her house on holidays and days he needed to escape campus life hanging with his Auntie sometimes bringing friends along to laugh and relax. She became his companion going with him to Toronto to see his friend, Heather Headley, in Ragtime before it went to Broadway. She ended up there in Aida, but nonetheless, they shared this special time together. June drove to the farm with her nephew to visit Mom and Dad. Because of her, Neff Road became more deeply embedded in my son’s heart.

When James graduated from Northwestern, June was at my side sharing this son or ours. And, on January 16th, my son took his aunt to a seat of importance behind his mother, seating this dear, special ‘mother of the groom’.

Saying ‘good-bye’ is never easy for my sister and I. Usually, I toss her from the car or she disappears into a crowd at the last minute. ‘Good-bye’ is not easy. I hugged her not wanting to let go and kissed her once more. Thank goodness I will see her in March or my heart would have cracked.

It is fair to say that I love my sister a bit more. Her blanket of love made this wedding of my youngest child a blanket warming me, her niece, her nephew, her grandnieces with unending warmth.

Once more Neff Road had come home to me.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Blog Until Jan. 20

Wedding week. Company coming and the time has come for my son to be married. I will resume writing late next week. Please come back and visit with me then.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Place for Everything

In England, I discovered that houses did not have closets. Wardrobes were used for most of the storage. Not to say that there were no closets, but in the houses we visited, there were no closets.

Our house on Neff Road before the remodel had two small closets upstairs and the big walk-in closet that took the place of a wardrobe.

Grandad Loxley's home had a huge walk-in closet between bedrooms and a linen closet. Pop Johnson's house had a closet under the stairs. In thinking back, I don't remember closets in many homes.

I wonder when the idea of building a house with closets came into being. Obviously, old cabins didn't have closets. One room school houses didn't have closets. The house in England was probably built in the 70's and stil had no closets. So when did the closets make the scene and where was everything stored?????? Barns? Attics? Fruit cellars????

I never have enough closet space. It's not that I have that much, but I do have things from my past that I treasure as well as toys for the kids. Right now I have wedding presents stored in a closet. I have puzzles and games. I have piles of sheet music and papers that I need to keep. My kitchen is small, but I don't like to cook.

Mom and Dad remodeled the house after their girls were out on their own. They built an attic over a new garage. When the farm sold, we found it only partially full. The fruit room in the cellar was neatly packed with things. The old walk-in closet held many things in cabinets and boxes. Yet, at the sale, a flat bed wagon was filled with fabric, patterns, etc. Furniture filled the lawn, some that we hadn't really noticed or thought of much more than something that held things in the house. Games, toys and other items for children were pulled from every nook and cranny. Old hats, petticoats, my old pointy shoes still resided in the closet. Boxes of greeting cards, old diaries and pictures flooded the floor giving us much conversation and great memories.

Closets. Keepers for the junk we seldom use. Keepers of the 'might need some day'. Keepers of the memories. Wonderful places to hide presents.

Hm, closets. Wasn't there a water closet as well?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Down a Dirt Road

The Johnson family was traveling to Colorado to see Aunt Molly, my grandfather’s sister. Mom Johnson kept a diary of their trip.

Their trip west was not just about the trip but also about the life and times of Neff Road. Instead of a hotel, they camped. They fished for food, hunted for berries. One town in which they stopped was the small town of Arnold, Missouri. The then population was six. Now the town boasts a population of 20,000. They passed homes still using a well with the bucket on a pulley. Few roads were paved. Some were dirt.

I discovered the year of the trip west from a notation she made when they stayed in a camp in the center of the town Breckinridge Missouri. They stopped at the drug store and heard the returns of the Dempsey/Sharky fight that took place in 1926.

They traveled on 5 or 6 gallons of gas between stops. Rainy weather made for pushing the car when it got stuck. The tent was set up daily and torn down the next morning. Meals were cooked over a fire or picked up in town and eaten along the road. They passed through an area alive with grasshoppers 3” long that clung to the car. Some days they made 250 miles.

I love this line: Monday morning the kids packed a box of grub, took a stove and dishes and started up Hubbard Creek for the day.

84 years ago this was our country. Neff Road was probably a dirt road. Horses still pulled plows and children went to one room schools.

I remember when the county came to pave Neff Road. The hot tar would bubble under the summer sun. We children would run down the road popping the bubbles of tar that appeared when the pavement heated. Popping sounds followed us as we laughed and ran to the next bubble gathering black spots on the bottoms of our feet.

Amazing how quickly time passes. How quickly we have gone from the above day and age to this age of technology. My grandchildren would probably wonder why the lane is still not paved.

We have come a long way. Or have we?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Forever Best Friends

Best friends play paper dolls and dress up with you. Best friends love you when no one else does. Best friends get in fights with you and love you anyway. Best friends stand with you when you get married. Best friends share their children’s love with you. Best friends share your grief when you lose a parent. Best friends are still best friends when you don’t hear from them or see them often. Best friends come to your child’s wedding. Best friends are forever.

In one week my childhood friend, my best friend, my friend from Neff Road will come to Oregon for my son’s wedding. Along with her will be two of her daughters and families. I sit on pins and needles waiting for them. Brenda has been a ‘mom’ to my son James. If I listen closely, I can hear them laughing together. The smiles are that of a mother and child.

Brenda and I have lived apart since we were 18. Most of that time, we have been years and states apart. It has not always been easy. I have longed to have her with me when my marriage failed, when I was so alone. But just knowing she cared, brought her home to me once more. I have a strip of pictures of us on the frig taken in a photo booth in Dayton when we were in our forties. We were older yet the same love and friendship we shared as children show in our faces. One week and those girls on Neff Road will be together again.

My sisters are my best friends, too. No, they are more than best friends. They are the other part of me. My sister, June, will arrive for the wedding in six days. If I were a puppy, I’d piddle on the floor with excitement. Despite the days of our youth when she loved to torment me, we have become very dear to one another. She is my pillar, my strength, my hero. With the holidays, traveling from Florida home to Indiana and now to Oregon, she has taken on much. She will save me from the stress I am experiencing and make me laugh and enjoy the week. I am aware of the sacrifices my ‘best friends’ are making for me and my family. I am blessed.

When James went to school at Northwestern in Chicago, he would go to June’s for breaks and just to get out of town. She gave him a home away from home. She gave him a mom away from mom. When James graduated, we both were there as his moms. They formed a bond of friendship and family that I wish all of the nieces and nephews could have with their Aunts.

I will crawl into the nest once more next week, when Neff Road comes to me. My best friends, those who know me best, will once more come home to that place that waits in my heart. For my son, his mom’s best friends have become his and more.

I know for a fact: Best friends are forever.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

National Honor Society

Today in the Greenville Daily Advocate, a former classmate talks about the day he was inducted into the National Honor Society in 1965. Oddly enough, it was the same day that I too joined the ranks.

In the article, Ron talks about how he dressed up in his Sunday best for the day. Only a few students were tapped each year. He had worked hard to be one of them. He wore a dress shirt that day and had been criticized by a friend for not wearing dress pants but instead jeans. He was the last chosen for NHS but did make the ranks.

My sister, June, was one of the first inductees into NHS. She worked hard to make good grades. For being such a mean older sister who tormented me most of my childhood, I was amazed that she was smart, too.
I didn’t really care about grades. She could be smart for both of us.

I think perhaps I was ADD. I couldn’t concentrate very well and test left me with a blank mind. So, at an early age, I decided that I would just do what I could to get by. Had I been diagnosed back then, I might have surprised everyone. For in my ‘just getting by’ I did pretty well. My grades weren’t bad. In fact, I was the president of Geometria. I could spell geometry. I just couldn’t do it. Yet, I passed and was president of the geometry club.

I really didn’t care what I wore on NHS induction day. I sat on the left side of the auditorium with my boyfriend, Gary, watching as my friend, Shirley, walked down the aisle to escort another new inductee to the platform. Suddenly, I was tapped on the back. In my head I was thinking, “Whoa, wrong back!” Shirley lead me to the front of the auditorium where parents appeared and pinned me. I sat in the row of inductees wondering if anyone really could see me sitting there or if this was a time warp and not really happening. I received an NHS award for outstanding character. The audience laughed knowing that it was a perfect award for me.

There were other students who deserved to be in that seat much more than me. I was honored and thrilled yet it was surreal. I still have that pin and the gold braid I wore on graduation day noting my NHS specialness. I don’t know why I still keep it. Perhaps it seems rude to throw out an honor award. Maybe I’ll take it to the alumni banquet next year and give it to someone in our class who deserved it more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Path Across the Sky

Whenever I flew into Dayton, I strained to see the ground below looking for our farm. Not a great navigator on the ground, the sky offered me the same.

With our farm lying below the flight pattern between Chicago and Dayton, our house was buzzed several times a day and at night as well. First came the old props. The whine of the aircraft grew louder and closer to earth as the plane approached Neff Road. Dad would point out the airline company name on the plane.

Neff Road noises are good noises. Tractors in the fields, the clip clop of a horse and buggy going down the road, a dog (usually Cyril’s hound), an occasional car. Those were the sounds of country. With progress came more noise. Ours was air traffic.

The planes we knew best were crop dusters. The big old single engine plane would be heard coming miles away. It would buzz the farm presumably getting the lay of the land. Then it would bank and come in across the field with the white fog coming out fogging the field. I don’t know if anyone forewarned the bugs to seek shelter, or chased the bunnies from their nests. I’m sure the birds had time to escape, but probably not their eggs. We loved to watch the plane. Little did we know about the fog and it’s danger.

Props were replaced by jets. We would lie on the hill watching Air Force jets from Wright Patterson paint trails of white across the blue sky. Jets would fly low making their descent into Dayton. The sky became a noisier, busier place.

Street lights have not yet found Neff Road. An occasional farm light brings daylight to a home along the road. But for the most part Neff Road still hides from traffic jams, traffic lights and sidewalks. The riders in the planes passing overhead are missing a beautiful piece of Americana. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wielding a Gun

“Looks like you’re horsing around today,” the man behind me in the check-outline commented. My granddaughter had asked for horses for Christmas and only got one Breyer horse. In my hands I held an on-sale horse that was on her list. It is for her birthday next October. She can make the mold of the horse then paint it. Also, I captured the last barn and horse set. It will stay at my house. I know both girls will love it.

“Oh, and you have…..” I was trying to see what he had in his hands. “Ooooohhhhh, you have…. bullets,” I said with a bit of sarcasm in my voice. The conversation continued. He works with the fish and game department killing varmints, such as coyotes that kill small domestic animals, wolves, mountain lions or bobcats that kill the long horn sheep that are endangered, and the rabbits attacking the crops. He offered to carry my gallon of milk to the car. He was a nice enough guy, this man with his bullets.

I don’t remember many people hunting when I grew up. I remember the fox hunts when I was in grade school. I also remember Hollie and Bill with the old car in the field used as a hunting blind. Dad had a shotgun. June had a BB gun. Dad’s shotgun was used to kill off varmints that attached his animals or crops.

Oregon is much different than the farm in Ohio. Our wild animals are different. Even our endangered species are different. The crops range from fields of red clover and those acres of flowers from sod farms to ranching. It is different. Many people raise alpaca and some buffalo. The cattle are wirier and lean.

This man with the gun got me to thinking. Yes, we do need regulations. Our salmon are coming back in record numbers due to strict regulations on salmon fishing. The long horn sheep are multiplying. The spotted owl has a chance and the wolves are again returning to areas where they have been eradicated.

He was a nice looking man chatting with me as I placed my things in the car. I appreciated having my milk carried to the car even if the man does wield a gun.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Landmarks

The surroundings were too familiar for me to be awed. In looking back I wonder what I missed. Sure, we had the tourist sites, but were other sites just too close to see? Were they just too familiar to understand the significance?

My children and I took a trip through our state of Oregon. We had one week to experience a few chosen places. We began heading west to Madras and Richardson’s Ranch. There we were given picks and a bucket with a map marked for our dig. We were going after dig thunder eggs. Thunder eggs are Oregon’s state rock. Thundereggs are only found in areas of previous volcanic activity. As silicic lavas poured out on the ground, the gasses made it frothy and bubbly. The lava cooled and over a period of millions of years, became buried. Water, which contains many minerals including silica, penetrated the gas pockets through a crack in the nodule. As water slowly dissipated, the solution deposited agate. Thundereggs are spherical masses of rock that range in size from less than an inch to four feet in diameter. Most are about the size of a baseball. They have a knobby rind of drab, siliceous rock and a cavity filled with agate. The rocks literally rolled onto the ground as we used our picks to break up the ledge where we dug. When cut in half and polished these globes revealed their beauty. We were in cowboy high desert country mining for volcanic ‘gold’.

After Madras, we headed south to Crater Lake. My father had always talked about seeing Crater Lake nestled in the top of a dead volcano. It was summer, yet on the mountain, we met up with snow. The view was truly awe inspiring. Dad hadn’t come close to describing the beauty we saw.

Next we decided to slip over the border into northern California. We stood in the redwoods feeling dwarfed and impressed with the handiwork of God. Our final journey home was north along the Oregon Coast. We stopped at the Oregon Dunes, the largest dunes in the country. In places, the dunes extend 2.5 miles inland, and some are as high as 500 feet. We passed through Coos Bay and the fishing boats, through Newport with the aquarium, to Depoe Bay (the smallest year-round navigable harbor in the world).

Yes, we love Oregon and the beauty it offers, but I sit wondering at the marvels I might have missed in Ohio. Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith had taken the children and me to the castles in West Liberty and the Ohio Caverns. As a child I had seen the Indian Mounds, the Air Force Museum, etc. But what had I missed?

Dad was always sure that the rise in the back field by the woods might be an Indian mound. Indeed, the field did seem to come to a soft peak in a place where fields were flat. A small Indian grave was supposed to be along the river near Franklin School, but I’d never seen it. Ft. Greenville was just a part of our lives we saw whenever we went to the park along with the swinging bridge. Bears Mill was a working mill when I was a kid but is now on the national registry. We had often stopped at Annie Oakley and Frank Butler’s graves. Yes, I had seen those sites even though I probably didn’t realize the significance.

In looking into the landmark sites online referring to places in Darke County, I ran across this:

Octagonal Barns
Two octagonal barns can be found in Darke County. The barns are within two miles of each other in Eastern Darke County. One is on Byreley Road just south of Neff Road and the other is on Gettysburg-Pitsburg Road north of Neff Road.

Grandad Loxley’s barn on Byreley Road was a landmark. We knew that the barn and my dad’s barn were unique. (There is more on that story for another blog.) But I did not realize that I grew up playing in a barn that would be considered an important landmark.

Maybe I need to look a bit closer at my surroundings. Maybe, just maybe, I might be at the site of a piece of history.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Receive. It Does A Body Good.

I am posting this on both blogs today because I just want to. Living on Neff Road was not always easy.

The invitations were out, a huge anniversary party planned. Their daughters were not there.

Raised in a faith that stresses that it is more blessed to give than to receive, this receiving thing was a bit uncomfortable for me. I love giving gifts. The thrill of finding something that will make that other person beam is a real high. Doing something for someone in need, involvement in a project, anything that makes someone else smile makes us feel really good. It is what we should do. Well, that’s just half of the story. For every giver, there must be a receiver.

Mom and Dad didn’t like to receive anything from anyone. It had something to do with this thing called pride. My parents had to be doers. Receiving was not something they even considered. This was never so evident than in their senior years. They who had always been the caregivers could not easily accept the care giving.

I wrote a play about receiving, about the humbleness we need show when accepting something from someone else. This thing of receiving was new to a lot of people. Not many stop to think that someone needs to receive in order for someone else to experience the thrill of giving.

Mom and Dad had their 50th wedding anniversary coming up. The Loxley daughters wanted to make the occasion special inviting friends from our growing up years as well as community and lifelong friends. Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She did not want us having all of these people come in to celebrate them. Wow, that hurt. We three girls wanted to see these faces from our past. We wanted to give to our parents a huge gift from our hearts, but Mother forbade it. Strongly forbade it.

Then the news came. Some people from the church were having the big celebration for them. Mom and Dad were thrilled. Pictures for us were taken of the church social room packed with people, people we hadn’t seen for years and would possibly never see again. Mom and Dad were thrilled and loved every minute. Wow, the people who did this for them were wonderful. However, their children weren’t invited. I’m not sure any of us would have gone had we been. It hurt. We could never do anything for Mom and Dad without an argument. Yes, it hurt.

There is a need for more receivers. Where is the graciousness that comes with accepting something from someone else, whether we need it or even want it. We givers are excited to see the smiles and to see the difference in someone else’s eyes. Christ accepted many gifts with great joy and thanks. So what was up with our church not promoting receiving?

If I want to give something to you, please take it. Be a grateful receiver. Understand what your children want to do for you. Understand that your grandchildren need to see that you are a humble receiver saying in all humility a simple “thank you”.

I am trying to be a receiver delighting in the effort put for the by the giver. I wonder if the givers realizes the gift I give back in my receiving.

My new year’s resolution: Receive. It is blessed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Step into a New Year

A new year enters, and I spend the day with friends, football and great food and games. A good day for the beginning of the year.

Not much to a beginning on my blog, but it is about a step into a new decade. C’mon, let’s make it a good one.