Monday, March 22, 2010

In The Chicken Coop

A fox sat in the cage watching. And, in the next cage sat a skunk….a deordorized critter. I was about eight and off to a birthday party.

Our friendship began in first grade. Giggling little girInls. Four best friends. We all lived in different types of farm homes. One went to my church, lived in a rental house. Another lived in a small house with her parents back another lane as an only child. I lived back the lane on Neff Road with another friend lived just around the corner with her widowed mother in a house that was always dark. Best friends. Little girls who saw no differences.

The birthday girl lived in a chicken coop with her mom, dad, and two brothers. It had been renovated, this coop behind her grandma’s house. Inside the family had done well at making the long single room into a home. From a child’s view, it was fantastic.

The ‘wild’ pets had been tamed by her father and were part of the little family. Dad always denied my requests for a raccoon, fox, some other cool animal. Boy, was she a lucky girl.

We dropped clothes pins into a glass milk bottle, pinned a tail on a donkey and ate cake. Four little friends. Four little girls celebrating a birthday in the chicken coop home.

Children do not see the differences on the farm. We didn’t see a family, a family of five, in distress living as they could in a small chicken coop. We didn’t wonder why the grandmother lived in the house allowing her grandchildren to live with much less. We didn’t see the poverty that resided in that home. We only saw a happy family, to us a lucky family. They had a skunk and a fox.

Blind is the eye against prejudice and judgment. The eye of a child. She was my friend. Her parents were warm and loving. Her home was different and fun. My parents had dropped me off at this house without hesitation, a home we might question today. But it was the way on Neff Road. It was the way of those who toiled and struggled. Everyone did the best they could and didn’t question others.

I haven’t dropped a clothes pin into a milk bottle since then. Well, I haven’t even seen a milk bottle since then. I never met anyone else who lived in a chicken coop. Time passed and little girls went their separate ways. But we learned lifelong lessons.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Davy, Davy Crockett

1954. A seven year old girl sat before the Raytheon television. “When you wish upon a star….” Tinkerbell flew into our living room bringing Walt Disney with her.

Frontier Land, Adventure Land, Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land. Every Sunday evening the Loxley’s went to Disneyland. I always wanted either Fantasy Land or Frontier Land but was more than happy to take whatever Walt was giving in that particular episode. Our world grew looking into the future. We traveled the world with each adventure. We giggled at Donald Duck and flew with Peter. Fess Parker was born on a mountaintop and captured a little girl’s heart.

With the passing of Fess Parker yesterday, memories settle in of a little girl sitting on the edge of her seat watching Davy Crockett and his friend Mingo (Ed Ames) try their best to resolve conflict in the wild frontier. A man in a history book became a living legion, one I could see. I had a crush on Fess. Hm. Interesting name. Hm.

I sat in the corner of the basement playing the old record player. Over and over again the little Golden Record spun round and round. “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee…” My little voice would belt out the words, “Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier”. Played so often that the grooves wore down. Over and over again the same song with a little girl never tiring of the words or the show that went along with it.

Walt Disney lived in our house. Well, not literally. He gave us such delight over the years. Mickey Mouse Club taught me a lot about being a preteen, a teenager. I fell in love with Spin, I danced with Bobby. My world became a bit larger because of this man named Disney.

I’ve been singing “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” since yesterday. The song echoes in my head and a little girl once more sits on the edge of her seat waiting for the next episode.

Thanks, Walt. RIP, Fess.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Diapers! Argh!

Babysit? I hated babysitting. For all of the babies and children of various ages my mother had taken care of, her daughters did not know how to babysit for young children. Argh! Babysitting.

“Pam, Dolores needs a babysitter,” Mom said. I wasn’t asked. She just told me. I had NEVER babysat before and now I was being turned loose with two small neighbor kids and one baby. I couldn’t have been more terrified than if I’d been tied to a train track. Good news is that all three children survived the experience, the house did not burn down and the babysitter actually managed to do a decent job…..never to babysit again.

Some people are just made for babysitting and some….ARE NOT. Mom was the queen of babysitting. She didn’t babysit. The kids just came over and were part of the daily scene. No fuss. Mom just went on as normal with a child playing in the buckets of toys or a baby asleep in the nursery. I never changed a diaper. Never fed one of those little urchins. I would venture to say that all three of the Loxley girls were terrified of the little creatures. Needless to say, Mom did not nurture her daughters to be mothers.

From that experience down the road and back the lane to the old brick house on Red River-West Grove Road, I gained a couple of piano students and the parents became friends. Through Facebook I have gained their daughter back into my life learning that she still plays the piano and has grown to be a wonderful woman.

I never have been comfy with babysitting. I still can’t change the diaper of a baby outside of the family loop without gagging. The children who go to school with my granddaughters hug me and are my friends, but they are older and more maintenance free. Mother’s were not nurtured back the lane on Neff Road. We didn’t learn to cook, we didn’t learn to care for babies. I’m pretty proud of these girls who grew up there, because they did learn to be strong, caring women who can laugh at the struggles and who learned lessons from those struggles back that lane in the big white house.

Ah, Neff Road, you taught me much.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Artful Linen

One by one I removed the linens from the old camelback trunk. The trunk has gotten fuller over the years. Some pieces have been given to me over the years, some are my mothers, some are my grandmothers and some are from other friends and neighbors. Each an heirloom. Each a piece of art.

The tablecloth is small. A primitive animal is embroidered on the corner and other forest designs are roughly stitched. Its origins are a mystery to me. Yet there is something in the sheer crudeness that I find endearing. Was it a small cloth for a child’s table? Did perhaps a young girl create this piece?

The womenfolk did their share of needle work when I was growing up. Not so far removed from the pioneers, it was art handed down from generation to generation, from dowry to dowry, from hope chest to hope chest. A bit of pretty linen was a joy to those who often lead drab lives and could not afford store-bought linens.

I learned to embroider at an early age. In the 60’s it came in handy when decorating my chambray shirt and jeans. When my children were babies, I taught myself to do crewel. It really was easy considering that it was just very large embroidery with very large yarn. Then even later, I learned to needlepoint making Christmas stockings for my children and grandchildren.

Mom loved to crochet frilly trim on handkerchiefs when I was little. She always carried them in her purse. I was always in charge of ironing the hankies. Each time I would admire Mother’s handiwork.

My granddaughter’s wouldn’t understand making doilies or embroidering a pillowcase. However, they love to knit with their mom and love gifts from her. Sometimes we talk about pieces of decorated linen and the artist who created them.

Who will want this artwork at another time? What memories will it hold for the later generations? What understanding of those who made each little stitch will they care to carry on with them?

I guess I don’t know the history of all the pieces. Yet I appreciate the handiwork and would find it hard to part with any of the linen. They are a history of a time, the people, a place called Neff Road.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finding Neff Road

Facebook has brought Darke County home to me again. Old friends are found once more. News travels more quickly.

Old neighbors are once more found and memories shared. Updates from Neff Road come no longer from my mother via the phone but from those who knew our family, the one who lived up the lane.

This week I found out that my best friend will be the grandma of twins. I called to scold her for not telling me. “How did you find out?! I was going to surprise you when you arrived here!” I found out on Facebook from her daughter in Ireland. Yes, Neff Road is just a click away.

Another note reached me today. A high school friend I found on Facebook was contacted by another alumna. In turn, we will all be in touch and the years will melt away. I love this catching up with people who have passed through my life. Once more we can go forward together in new ways and with new memories. Neighbor kids who have been separated by years and miles are once more Neff Road kids catching up with the years.

My parents would love this new way of finding names from the past. They would be delighted that the Neff Road families have not lost touch with one another. They would delight in the pictures just as I do.

“I want to go to the farm,” Gabby told me this morning. “I want to see where you grew up. Did Mommy grow up there?” Again the same conversation with my grandchild that I have had often over the years with her and her sister. Neff Road is a world away from them, a mystery. They cannot find it on Facebook, yet those who were here from Neff Road for the wedding are now their new friends as well.

“Am I a Loxley?” she asks. The family tree is explained once more in the most simplest of terms. “Do I have your blood in me?” “You have a funny letter in your name. ‘X’.” The questions go on and on. Oh, yes, we need a trip to Neff Road.

I look forward to adding more names to my friends in Facebook after my visit home. I look forward to more years of more memories shared on a computer screen. The past is drawn into the present. Those lost are once more found. And, I am once more walking with my friends on Neff Road.

Friday, March 12, 2010


So I decided to take back to my class gathering old pictures, memory books and other things I found loose in my old scrapbooks.

In truth, I thought it might be fun to show my granddaughters at some point that their grandma was not much different than them in her interests. Just a bit more dated.

I giggled and laughed at the things I had saved. Old streamers from pompoms. Newspaper articles about friends who made the news: Miss Chick, Pumpkin Show queen, etc. We used to tell fortunes. I saved two that are now yellowed and ratty looking. Old programs, bulletins, school newspaper clips, all reflecting the girl I was those many years ago.

My old pictures reside in an old trunk. At one time they were all separated by year. Now they are in shoeboxes packed by size of what fits into each box. I pulled out pictures of 1st graders, birthday parties, school dances.

One of my ‘most fun’ finds was a small envelope. Inside were two folded notes from Doug:

Note #1:

Dear Pam,
I have liked you for a long time and I was wondering if you liked me. If there is somebody else tell me and I won’t stop you. Please write back by Thursday. Leave the note in your desk. Please don’t tell anybody about this.


Now I’m pretty sure the time has passed on the above restriction of telling anyone about the note. I believe I received these notes in the 7th grade. We changed classes and evidently Doug and I shared the same desk. I am pleased to know that Doug was not going to stop me from liking someone else.

Note #2:

Dear Pam,

Have you changed your mind? Please write back and give it to Anita today.


Well, I never dated Doug so would assume that I didn’t change my mind. And, I’m glad I saved the notes. They are a reminder of a time of innocence. And, the fact that I saved them probably shows that I didn’t have many boys vying for my attention.

After 45 years we will gather once more. We will catch up on one another’s lives. We will celebrate our youth. We will go our separate ways once more.

Maybe I’ll add a few momentos from this visit to those from the past. Maybe Doug will look better at 62.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Rag Bag

Nothing was ever thrown away. Perhaps it was a holdover from the Depression. Maybe it was just the way of life for country families who struggled. But, nothing was ever thrown away.

My kids laugh when they pull out an old rag from the rag bag and find a worn pair of pajama bottoms, an old ratty pillowcase, even an old ripped sheet. I wouldn’t dream of tossing them. Nope. I do what my mother did. I toss worn items into the rag bag. Why use paper towels when I can use a rag over and over again?

For years I have used old margarine containers for food storage, small craft pieces, the kids’ stickers and small pieces of toys. Old ice cream buckets can actually work as a regular bucket or storage place for tennis balls.

Most of us grew up with jelly jars for drinking glasses. Mom used old jars for food storage. She even washed old plastic bags to use over and over again. (Okay, I did the same thing for years.) An old Velvetta Cheese box was used for odds and ends. Now I use the old box for pencils and small games.

When Mom cut out a pattern, she would save the large pieces of fabric for quilting, to make doll clothing and for pieces on bibs and other baby items. Old quilts and blankets, tattered and worn, became filler for new quilts. Buttons were saved from old shirts and other pieces of clothing. My grandmother had button boxes full of old underwear buttons white with two big holes. Pieces of ribbon and yarn were saved. One never knew when it might be needed.

Mom made pie crusts later rolling out the dough scraps to make small cinnamon rolls for us. No piece of chicken was thrown away. Bones were cook from meat and used for soups, stews and dressing. Cooked mush was turned into fried mush the next morning. Mom used flour over and over again for breading other foods. Nothing was pitched until absolutely necessary.

I could go on and on. I have some of the ‘old’ handed-down ways. In fact, we are living in a time when it is more important for us to think before we buy and use whatever we have remembering good health for us and our planet. My kids won’t find boxes of old Cool Whip containers or shoe boxes full of salvaged odds and ends, but they will probably still find an old dish towel or random sock in the rag bag.

The history of recycling.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


$9.90!!!!! For a magazine?!?!?! I stood in the check-out line holding the cooking magazine. Thank God I didn’t live in Canada! I’d be paying $12 there! The media world is worried about selling their papers and magazines yet the price is so high that you must consider if you want steak for dinner or a magazine. Where is the reasoning in that???? You can’t buy the food to cook the recipes because the darn magazine it so expensive.

Okay, I had my say. I’ll focus now. Magazines. What magazines did you grow up with in your home, in your grandparents’ homes? One thing I remember clearly about my Grandad’s home was that he took National Geographic. There wasn’t much to do when we went to visit, but the magazines were there to read, to look at the wonderful photography and to learn about my world. Over the years the magazine has survived, yet it is a bit thinner and has a few less pictures.

Mom usually came home with Woman’s Day and Family Circle. I continued to pick them up after I was a mom clipping coupons, recipes and articles. I even sent for a pattern to make needlepoint Christmas stockings which I was still making until my hands started giving me pain. The best was when Life magazine came. The news, the world it brought closer, the photography was exciting. They were never out of date. They were our history books.

When I was a little kid, Mom took Highlights for me as well as signed me up for the Audubon club for kids. I couldn’t wait to get the magazines in the mail.

In looking back, I guess we could always tell what was up in Mom’s life by the magazines. Guideposts were tucked here, there and everywhere in the house. I guess they were scattered for instant inspiration. Redbook usually sat next to the sofa. Crochet magazines filled the end table and Sheet Music magazine sat on the piano.

Once in awhile someone would come to the door selling magazines. For awhile a new magazine would find its way into the house. In many ways these rag books became our first touch with reading. Comic books, National Geographic, Highlights, Children’s books all drew us in to the world of books.

I get one magazine now. It’s long expired but continues to show up in my mailbox. Obviously, I am not impulse buying in the check-out line after the $9.90 shocker. Yet, it would be ashamed to have magazines disappear from the shelves. A pity to see the old standbys go away.

Now I shop for magazines by dollar signs instead of content. Hm.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Gone. Let’s face it. It’s gone. While we were in awe and wonder at what had transpired in the lifetime of our parents, we must face that what has been in our lives is gone or forever changed.

Dial phone. Gone. Land lines. Mostly gone. We are a society of cell phones that for one low price can call nationwide. So I guess that means that long distance is gone with virtual calling. Oh, wait, we can also call from our computers. Hm. Oh wait, our computers can work through our phones.

Gone are the days of creating a meal after least 30 minutes to 1 hour of cooking in the kitchen. I had a full pot roast dinner after 20 minutes of cooking in the microwave and oven complete with pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn and baked bread. Didn’t even have time to break into a sweat.

Gone. No more driving to the mall to shop. Hop onto the internet and anything and everything can be purchased and sent directly to your door.
Stamps. Gone. We no longer pay bills via paper. Heck, we don’t even go to the bank to do our banking. Everything is direct deposit, automatic withdrawal, and most everything else you want to do.

Gone. Landfills. If you live in Oregon, soon, hopefully, trash containers will be obsolete with recycling and composting. Earth friendly products will take over those which are not.

Saturated fats and cigarettes. Gone. Bad things going because people are trying to live longer.

Wrinkles. Well, if you want to smile forever, a bit of Botox and some surgery and you can look good as new. Can probably even be smiling in your casket.

Outhouses are gone. This is a good thing; however, I haven’t seen much improvement over the years on that front yet.

Pencils and pens. Not gone but not used as often.

Fuel products. Another front where we are moving forward in good ways.
Board games and family time. Endangered. Video games and wide range of activities away from the home seem to threaten the family core.

So from whence have we come since I was a child? Technology has been the winner in taking us to new frontiers. I just wonder what we have really gained in the journey. I miss the slower life of Neff Road and the time people took to be neighbors.

Neff Road. Never gone.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In The Old Barn

Today I walked into the old barn. I sat on the wall of the pens where the lambs hung close to the ewes, smelling the grain in the bins, drawn into a trance watching the dust laden spider webs hanging from the loft. The old ladder clings to the side of one of the pens its rungs climbing to the loft that is too rickety to walk on.

I walked to the middle of the barn past the cow stall. In the corner a barn board is missing. I can stick my head out to chat with my horse who comes over for me to pat her head and to swat the fat horseflies away from her eyes. As I turn around I see the old scale where the tobacco bales are weighed, the rack where the tobacco is removed from the lathe and the old blue barrel slowly deteriorating against the wall. It smells of dirt and dust, of tobacco leaves and cigar smoke.

I pull open the old door leading into the tobacco shed. The old steamer stove sits in the corner of the shed with the water cauldron rusted and empty. Dust hangs in the corners and the windows are cracked open. One is broken. The dirt has been well trodden here from the many winters of stripping tobacco. If I listen closely, I can still hear Aunt Welma, Uncle Bob, Mom and Dad laughing as they work. Gene smokes his cigar as he lifts me to the top of the tobacco in the long bale trough.

The siding in the back part of the barn is broken leaving holes where rabbits and sometimes ground hogs find their way in. Dad’s tools are stored here. I can walk out of the back and be at the end of the lane leading to the creek bottom.

The old cement horse trough sits at the south end of the barn. When I was small, I remember putting my feet into the water. It stood long after the barn was torn down.

I love going back to Neff Road. The barn is gone as are the memories for future generations. Yet I can return whenever I wish. I grew up loving the smell of that barn, the old grey wood and the dirt floor. I loved the time spent there with my dad, the baby lambs, the calf I raised and the horse I rode.

Two pieces of the old barn rest against my wall. They are probably a decorator’s nightmare, but a farm girl’s pieces of art, art with meaning.

Well, I guess I’m back from Neff Road and need to get on with my day. It was a nice visit. Maybe we’ll go back again soon.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All That Is Old Was New

Yoder’s store sits at the end of the main street. Hitching posts for horses are available as well as parking spaces for cars. Straw hats, bonnets, canning jars, tables of fabric and other items for the Amish community are available in this unique store. Along with the simple items are a few souvenirs for those of us who come to visit the small town.

My sister, June, and I love trekking to the little village for the Wednesday auctions. The room is full of everything from an Amish wash rack to leaded windows. My camelback trunk came from one of these sales. For two auction lovers, this is paradise.

June and I have done this auction thing for a good many years. Auctions, antique stores and sales are creative destinations for us. June looks for items she can repair or refinish. I look for items that are just interesting and fun. My kids would say I have a definite bend toward collecting trunks. Well, for a single woman living in a small place, trunks work for tables and storage. A win, win for me.

Visiting my sister gets the antiquing juices flowing. In Key West we will poke around out-of-the-way places looking for the unusual. In Virginia, our second stop, we will probably visit the same antique stores as in the past. And finally, it looks like we will have two Wednesdays’ worth of antiquing in the little town with horses. Life is good for the Loxley girls.

I don’t know what it is that has drawn us to antiques. An old wooden tool box holds books. A smaller, red, toolbox holds magazines. A pewter frog (a holder that sits in the bottom of a vase to hold flowers in place) has become my pencil holder. Indian baskets hang on my walls as well as my mother’s old beaver hat. Dad’s old sled sits in the corner making me smile. An old crock jug sits by the hearth. The list goes on. Memories, pieces of the past, something no longer available in a store.

Shopping for antiques in a little town with hitching posts is in itself a reflection of another time. A time when all that is old was new. Ah, here we come Shipshewana.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where's My Kilt?

From the family tree:

In 1798 a boy was born in Scotland who was named James R. Johnson. Nothing is known of his parents, but the story has been handed down from generation to generation that when in his early teens, he arrived in this country accompanied by his brothers. They settled in the state of Maryland.

The story goes that when James was approximately 19 years old, he along with some other boys near his age decided to get in a neighboring watermelon patch. For some reason unknown, he was caught along with another boy who was much larger. Officials put them in a stone block jail to await the penalty that would be given them. During the night James and his friend succeeded in removing a small stone from the wall just large enough for James to squeeze through. The story goes that the friend could not make it.

Having found his freedom and being ashamed to face anyone he knew, he started west and did not stop until he reached Ohio. He never went back to Maryland and never got in touch with anyone there. He passed away on November 26, 1877, in Pleasant Hill. He was a blacksmith and farmer farming 80 acres. He was a Quaker. He is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. His marker is weather-beaten, worn and at the southwest corner of the cemetery. He died at age 79.

This story was handed down from my great aunt Mollie Ullrey who told the story to my Uncle Bob. James R. Johnson was my great great grandfather.

Keepers of family stories. Darn it, I wish I’d listened more as a child. So many things I wish I had asked my parents, aunts and uncles. Who were the story keepers? I have piles of old post cards and some old letter that have been passed on. Many families pitch those precious papers thinking no one would be interested. Well, take it from a descendent who does care, those papers are worth preserving.

I haven’t logged the information on those old cards, but it is something I need to do. You won’t find my family in a history book. You won’t find old diaries revealing all. But I do have bits and pieces of personalities and events that took place long before I took root. Perhaps our lineage is buried among notes scribbled on calendars, newspaper articles (which more times than not were cut off below the posting date) and in the memories of our siblings. Maybe as I dig into my history, I will find yours, too.

I wonder if I can play bagpipes?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eau de Rurale'

Essence of smelly breezes go hand in hand with farm country. You can’t hide it. You can’t cover it up. You can’t lie and say that you don’t own livestock.
Of course, there are chickens, turkeys, cattle and especially pigs that add to the eau de ruralé. It is the way of it.

I remember driving the tractor with the manure spreader following behind. This is not something that my city friends would understand, so please keep this to yourself. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it gave me a chance to drive across the field randomly without concern for new crops or straight rows. The cow stable was once more clean and a nasty task accomplished. Somebody had to do it. At least I didn’t do the shoveling.

When we moved to our mini farm on Teagues South, we had been warned about Baker’s pig farm. Of course, when you were looking at your dream home on a day that the wind was from the east, little thought did you give to Baker’s pigs. I remember the first day that we had a wind from the west. Jim was mowing the lawn; I was hanging clothes. Suddenly the wind changed. The west wind whipped around my head and my wet laundry. The rancid odor chased me with wet laundry into the house, caused me to shut windows and had me debating whether I should hide from the west wind or pack my bags.

It is the way of the farm this eau de ruralé that travels on the wind. Planning an outdoor barbeque, stepping out of a church after a wedding ceremony, hanging laundry on the clothesline are all at the mercy of the wind. It is the way of the farm.

I can only apologize for the direction my mind wanders on some days. It is as fickle as the rural breeze.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Table of Memories

I know I talk about food on the farm often, but those moments around the table were some of the best…and the worst.

Eggs. With chickens in the hen house, breakfast always consisted of eggs, usually in one form and one form only. Looking back, it is a wonder that I eat eggs at all for on my plate every morning was a soft boiled egg all runny and gross. I would break up pieces of toast and mix it with the eggs…a ironic form of French toast all mixed up in a gooey mess egg and bread. I remember pushing the slimy bits to the side of the plate wish that the egg was all yolk. Crispy bacon was the treat that made the entire breakfast tolerable.

Bread seemed to find its way into many of our main meals as well. I don’t remember ever eating a meal without a piece of butter bread. We floated pieces of bread in beef broth containing big chunks of roast beef. Grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken stuffing, French toast, dill pickle sandwiches. Foods that made a slim budget go a bit further.

Then we go on to greens. Who on Neff Road didn’t eat dandelion greens? Endive? Or what about blossoms? Pumpkin blossoms! Fried green tomatoes! The culinary delights were unending and wonderful. Well, I didn’t really like endive.

Around this time of the year, a craving creeps up on me. It is a twofold yearning. First of all, the hunt was exciting; the eating was heavenly. Morel mushrooms. We walked the thicket in the spring looking for the tasty morsels, the woods and even in our yard. Once in awhile we would go to Michigan to find as many as possible to satiate this taste we could only capture once a year.

We do have morels here in Oregon, but I have as yet to go on that search. Not the same as walking the farm. However, I have found a market on the way to the coast that carries the treasures. A taste reminiscent of home.

So many foods are not just comforting to taste but comforting in memory of another time. The smells in the kitchen, Mom smelling of soap and baking, a father breaking up bread in his daughter’s eggs, finding a small spongy mass under a pile of leaves. Memories, comforting thoughts of experiences around the kitchen table. Memory of a room filled with friends and neighbors, gossip and shared memories, of a family sharing daily life on Neff Road.

Neff Road….the family table of memories.