Thursday, September 30, 2010

A New Season

Fall. One of my favorite seasons on the farm. The summer humidity wanes and fall breezes begin. Cornpickers in the fields suck up the golden ears of corn. Everything begins to reflect colors of gold and red. Fall on the farm.

Farm equipment was prepared for winter storage. Feed bins were filled for the livestock. New straw was strewn in the barns for winter beds. Hay filled the hayloft to be tossed down to the cattle manger when grass is sleeping for the winter. Sheep donned their heavy winter wool. Chickens stayed inside the coop warming themselves from the fall winds. Dad rigged a light over the cattle watering trough in the barn to keep the water melted when winter came with freezing temperatures. Fall was a time of preparation.

Tobacco was all hung in the shed curing for the winter task of stripping the leaves from the stems. The tobacco draped overhead filled the barn with its scent. The old barn would be alive with activity during the winter months. Fall was a time of ripening.

The house was settling into a more restful season. Canning was finished, fall cleaning was done and Mom settled into her crocheting. My sisters were off to college. I was once more an only child. The house reflected the change of seasons.

Fall. The smell of fallen leaves, pumpkin pies and always Mom's fried chicken.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just Another Day

Bugs crawled through the grass, the cows mooed protest at one another, a ewe was once more stuck in the fence and Whitie, the cocker spaniel, sat next to the girl looking over the field to the creek bottom. There was no rush, no place to go. The sun shone hot on the hillside. Her father pulled the cultivator in the northeast field turning the soil between new sprouts coming up in the corn rows. A hot summer day back the lane on Neff Road.

Cyril's hound howled at a tractor passing. A young boy drives the road from one farm to another. In the fall the road would be busy with tractors taking wagons full of corn to the elevator. Neff Road had little traffic, compared to a later time, it was a story in itself.

The old bridge creaked and groaned with each passing vehicle. Many times it signaled company coming to the house back the lane. Clamorous sounds of  birds and frogs echo through the creek bottom as they carry on constant dialogue beneath the bridges beams. The view from the hill was the same each day yet always new.

Her mother called to her. Time to gather eggs from the dark hen house with some hens reluctant to give over their daily prize. With basket in hand, she gathers the eggs nestled in the boxes and occasionally in some other odd location. Sneaking a hand beneath a warm hen, she captured the egg before the chickens either flapped out of the nest or decided to attack the sneaking arm. Life in the hen house was a tedious adventure.

The day was long and there wasn't much to do since chores were finished. She could play in the barn, visit her friend Brenda, walk to the bridge and throw rocks. Maybe she could go over to the Lavy's and play with the boys. Maybe she will just lie on the hill a bit longer looking at the clouds.

Ah, another day the lane on Neff Road.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Halls of History

Noise echoed down the dark halls. Herman, the custodian, made the floor gleam, those floors that had seen the feet of children since 1926. In the front entry, pictures hung of those first students who graduated from the school. Future generations would stand in the short hallway looking up at pictures of parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors. History roamed the halls of Franklin Elementary School.

I walk through the halls of my granddaughter's school missing that history that surrounded us as children. Yes, we attended an old school....we experienced history. I have pictures of my mother and father sitting in front of this school when they were children. Glum faces pose for pictures either unhappy at the event or possibly no one said, "Smile." My parents in front of my school.

There is something to be said for attending a school that had seen most of the township through its doors.

There were two favorite places I loved in that old school. The first and foremost was the music room. "Pickin' Up Paw Paw", the little plays in the back of the song books, Fern Fourman with her fiery red hair, the children gathered in a circle playing music games, all this and more drew me to this room, this room down the stairway.

Fall reminds me of those days long past, of the children I knew, of those teachers many long gone. Franklin Elementary holds my history, too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Down the Aisle

 Brenda was my maid of honor and I her matron of honor. From the day of curtain veils and dress up clothes for bridal gowns we traveled twenty-three years together to our own weddings.

Could it possibly be forty years since we walked the aisle at Painter Creek Church? I did not make the distance, but Brenda and Sparky despite the trials of their marriage and children have made it to forty years. I'm proud of them. Life was difficult yet they made the decision to stand by one another and make it work. They held each other through the rough times and battled out a few others.

My sister Peg will be married fifty years in November. I was thirteen when I put on the royal blue bridesmaid's dress. It was the prettiest dress I'd ever had. And, blue was my favorite color. So many years and miles have happened since.

Most people I know from Neff Road stayed together through thick and thin. Farm living is exhausting, stressful and many times tragic, yet these people made a commitment to face the future together and did it in great style. Years ago I watched my parents walk hand in hand wherever they went, the flame never extinguished. Margaret and Hollie (Brenda's parents) would sit close with Margaret nudging Hollie every time he said something silly. Doris and Victor sat on the porch daily delighting in one anothers company. They were the models for the rest of us.

We need to mark those passing decades, the recognition of the successful marriage, the binding of lifetime friend to friend. For the celebration of these couples is worthy of note. A note that has touched me and those around them.

Congratulations, Brenda and Sparky. God bless.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Confession From Back The Lane

The dark was truly dark. No streetlights to cover the evening sky. No busy highway to smother the sounds of the night. Nighttime was dark back the lane on Neff Road.

Confession time. I don't think there was a night that I was not afraid to go to bed in my bedroom upstairs in the old farm house. As a little child, I would hide my head beneath the blankets, hoping that nothing would notice the lumpy bed and come investigating. Yes, I was afraid.

When I was a bit older, I shared a bed with my next oldest sister, June. You might think this ended the fears. However, if you know my sister, June, that wasn't about to happen. She was always in bed first leaving me to pull the chain to turn off the wall light next to the door. While I was turning off the light, she would crawl beneath the bed. Of course, little me crawled beneath the covers only to find an empty bed.

"June." No answer.

"June, where are you?" Still no answer. Noises came from beneath the bed along with the pushing up of the mattress. When I was finally in tears, she would pop back into bed quite happy with herself and go right to sleep. I retreated back beneath the covers.

Other nights I would make my journey from light to bed. "Good night, June."

"I'm not June," my sister would say in a strange voice. I ran my fingers all over her face hoping to find signs of my sister.

"Yes you are," I would say fighting my fear to fly from the bed or to put a pillow over her face and be done with it.

Finally she would admit that she was my sister, fall to sleep, and I buried my head once more beneath the covers.

When I moved to the front room, I was probably in junior high. The fear of the dark didn't stay in the little room next to Mom and Dad. No, it followed me to the front room that had once been Peg's. The windows rattled with the wind. Rain fell on the tin roof of the house. The elm tree brushed against my window. The house was entombed in darkness, and I was afraid.

Hard to believe that a girl raised on the farm would be so afraid. I was never one to wander out at night alone. Some hidden fear had made a mark on a little girl.

The night before we had sale at the farm my family all went to Greenville to stay for the night. We needed someone to stay at the farm in case someone decided to see what could be stolen in the night. I volunteered. No beds were made so a mattress on the floor with a pillow and throw would have to do. I slept in my parents' bedroom.

Now a woman in her fifties, I decided to conquer my fear of the dark in that old house. I decided to make my peace with the loss of my parents and the loss of the farm. I roamed the house that night saying good-bye to each room and the memories. I stayed there with the spirit of my parents watching over me. I longed for the days when my sister would torment me. And, wished with all my heart that time had not gone so quickly.

That night I slept with my head above the covers and love in my heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dressed to the Nines

A man in a felt hat. A woman in her best dress and lovely chapeau. They were the men and women of Neff Road.

Mom never wore anything but a dress when I was growing up. Well, none of the women wore anything but dresses. House dresses. Simple cotton frocks for every day wear. A pretty suit or dress for good that lasted a season or two.

When I look back at all the old pictures of family gatherings, the men are in suits and women in lovely dresses. Such dignified people who daily dressed down to house dresses and overalls to dig in the garden and plant in the field. They knew how to work from dawn until dusk and later. They knew what it was to do the dirty jobs without complaint and to stop on Sunday when hard work was put aside for the day of the Lord. Yes, they were dignified, lovely people.

I grew up with handsome men standing at the double doors at Painter Creek Church handing out programs of worship, later passing the offering plate. Mom in her suit and hat lead the choir. My Sunday school teachers were all dressed in their 'Sunday' best. I wore my only good dress and whatever shoes fit me at the time. On Easter, I wore a hat. It was a fine day for a little girl.

I miss those days. I miss the lovely women and handsome men who found escape from the daily grind in those Sunday clothes. I miss the example of those women and men on a little girl who was taught how important it was to be respectful by the way we dressed.

There is no longer that unspoken rule of dressing up for events. I've sat at the opera next to a man in a ski jacket and kids in jeans. Church is now a 'come as you are'. Dressing up seems to be a thing of the past. In many ways, I have no problem with this since it allows freedom of expression. No longer are people judged by the clothing they wear. When I was young, I felt out of place if I wasn't dressed correctly....which was a lot since we didn't have much. But I did have a good dress.

I still dress up when going out for the evening or other special events. Maybe it is a carryover from my youth. Maybe it is out of respect for the event. Maybe it just makes me feel as pretty as those women did back on Neff Road.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Elphanants

It smelled of dirt, sawdust and elephants. The big white tent loomed ahead of us. I was a little girl. I was a little girl who had never been to a circus.

The circus seemed a long way from Neff Road. I have no idea where the circus played, but we were taking a day away from the farm for a new experience. The lighting was dim inside the big top. Dust floated on the air. Hawker lured kids to cotton candy, peanuts and popcorn. Long bleacher benches were filled with families eager for the show to begin.

When my niece, Jobi, was about four, I took her to the circus. "Smelly elephants," she said covering her nose. Nothing made an impression more than the smell inside the tent. About half-way through the show, she drifted off to sleep. My experiences years before were not about to be relived with this sleepy head.

My children loved the circus. We oohed and aahed making memories. The 'elphanants' were my son's favorite. Only now we were no longer under the big top. No, we were at Memorial Coliseum. The circus atmosphere was gone. Now the hawkers pushed balloons, inflated clown baseball bats, soda and candy. No sawdust. No intimacy with the acts which were formerly a few feet away. It was a new circus.

When I was a little girl, we didn't have the money to do special things, such as going to the circus. I only remember going once....but I do remember it well.

Life was good back the lane on Neff Road.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rub-a-dub-dub

"Where are the girls?" I ask my ex-son-in-law.

"They are probably still in the bathtub," he said. "They've been in there for quite awhile."

I knocked on the door. No answer. The music was loud, obviously drowning out my voice.

"Girls, it's Grammy," I called out a bit louder.

Soon the door knob rattles. The door flies open and two wet girls wrapped in large towels tackle me.

"So what are you two doing," I asked despite the obvious.

"We're taking a bath," yelled Gabby. "And talking."

Two sisters slowly turning into prunes playing in the bathtub making memories, building a bond that will last a lifetime.

This took me back to another time. A time when we were little girls like these girls. Sleepover meant taking baths together. Probably because many of us didn't have bath tubs, so when we stayed with a friend, who did, we all piled in. Giggles, wet floor and towels flung around the room. Little girls.

My sister, Peg, and I talked about our visits back to the farm and how the sisters sooner or later ended up in the bathroom giggling and talking. The bathroom was and is a place where girls talk.

The days of sharing the bathtub are long gone. The memories of a tub full of giggling girls at Vivian's house still makes me smile.

"Are you finished," I asked.

"Not yet," Syd calls back over her shoulder as they both jump back into the over-sized tub. Two sisters still little girls on the verge of becoming young ladies. Ah, Neff Road. The memories travel over years and generations. Sometimes they surface in a bathtub.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Where I Go, They Go

Late post today. This moving business is wearing me out! Not enough hours in the day.

A friend of mine asked why I keep moving the same stuff from one place to another. (This from a woman who has never moved since she was married 45 years ago.) I explained that I have narrowed down out of necessity moving from a 2500 sq ft house to an apartment. Now I have my treasures. Where I go, they go.

So what are those treasures? Well, many of them sat in the house back the lane on Neff Road. The two chairs that my parents received as a wedding present, my grandmother's pink, Depression glass, my other grandmother's copper lustre pitcher. Memories. Memories are what I now take with me. Memories of my family, my children, my grandchildren.

My mother never kept any of the things her children cherished. She gave our things to other people, other children. However, we did have a room full of fabric and plastic containers. Thank goodness Mom and Dad didn't move.

My son and his new bride asked to take my saddle. Lisa wants to restore it.

Memories move with us, and sometimes we pass them on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mom Was Our Newspaper

Mom was our connection. She was our newspaper keeping us up-to-date with the news in Darke County. Births, deaths, marriages, gossip and general news didn't fall into a column on the Obit page or Community News or Local News. Nope. Mom gave us all the scoop with her usual flourish. However, when we lost Mom, we lost our verbal newspaper. We lost our connection to our roots.

I've learned that people who never live away from their birthplace do not understand what we who have miss. Not everyone cares, I know, but this girl from Neff Road does. I miss the people, the daily activity. I miss being part of it.

For the last year, I have taken the Greenville Advocate online. The gossip is missing, but most of the other items of interest are there. Now I can keep my family informed of home town news often including pictures. Not nearly as good as Mom, but a visit glimpse back home.

Last week I had an idea. Why not see if the paper is interested in having a contributor? Why not have a glimpse into the past, into the life on Neff Road? So I sent off an email asking the editor to check out my Neff Road blog.

"We would love to have your column on our Senior Page," she replied after checking me out. Wow! Now I can write to those I miss and love on Neff Road. I can share my history which is theirs, too.

When I was a senior in high school, Mom took me to the offices of The Advocate to meet the editor in chief and to learn more about the newspaper industry. At the time, I was hoping to focus on journalism in college. Mom would be smiling now. She would take credit for getting me published, and ask me, "Do you remember when....."

Yes, Mom, I do remember 'when', and soon I will be visiting weekly in The Greenville Advocate. http://dailyadvocate.com/index.asp

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remembering September

It's September. The month cannot pass without the past creeping into the present. It begins with  September 6, 1969, when I married the father of my children. It was a hot, humid day at Painter Creek Church. Oh, was it hot.

The folding doors on the side of the church were opened to accommodate the guests. Pews were packed. Windows were open but no air came in to cool the vestibule. The groom was shocked when he lifted the white veil to kiss his new wife only to find her drenched in perspiration. It was a hot day on St. Rte. 571.

The bride's family and friends laughed and mingled catching up on their comings and goings. Four generations of my family celebrated together. Those who had traveled enjoyed memories with old friends. It was a hot day, but a good day for a wedding.

Years later September would be the month that saw the passing of my Uncle Bob Johnson and Dad. They died on the same day years apart on September 17. My daughter was married the following December 14. He would not sit at his granddaughter's wedding, nor would his wife. Oregon was a long way from Ohio.

September is a month that draws me back to the farm on Neff Road, to the friends, the family, the losses and the good memories. It begins the season of sleeping land and farmer's rest. It draws us closer to the warmth of a good fire and sweetness of pumpkin pie and apple crisp.

Remembering Neff Road and those who lived there.....remembering with love.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Family Foundation

Even though I am surrounded by packing boxes, I need to feel my feet back on Neff Road once more. Back home.

Oh, I have lived in Oregon since 1978, yet the Loxley farm back the lane on Neff Road will always be home. Probably because more than anything I am part of the wealth that resided there, the rich soil, the history of the land, the barn built by my father and the old house restored making a home for the three Loxley daughters. Yes, I need to rest my feet back that lane once more.

This morning my sister and I were talking about how fortunate we are to live near our grandchildren. Mom and Dad would never leave the farm to live near one of there daughters. They could never leave the land. There was a gap in our lives with no family living near. Our children didn't have a grandparents' home to visit where they could have sleepovers. They didn't have a grandparent, aunt or uncle involvement in their lives. At the time when I was a child, I oblivious to the gifts I had, those gifts of family.

When we had sale at the farm, friend and neighbors flocked over to Willard's place to see what was going on. Cousins came to see family, to support family. The Loxley girls with their children and grandchildren on the farm at the same time was very rare. Family gathered on the grass in lawn chairs reminiscing, catching up on each others lives.  The cousins who had played together as children whose children played together, whose parents had homesteaded in Darke County once more shared time.....though Mom and Dad were missing.

For the this child of the house back the lane, their relationships seemed priceless.....and I was envious. I had no circle of cousins as such. They were Mom and Dad's cousins, sister and brother who had lived close all of their lives.

My old saddle has gone to reside at the little yellow house belonging to my son and his wife. Once more my daughter will be surrounded by pieces from her past and those from the farm. We do not have the people here with us, but we do have memories abounding. My sisters and I all have our children living close. Their children will have what their parents missed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Away From Neff Road

It is moving week for my entire family. Well, in truth, it will be two weeks of moving the Drake family. A little yellow house will have the warmth of a family. A mom, a daughter, two granddaughters will learn to live together. Wish us luck!

I will not be writing this next week. Please keep in touch. Would love to hear from you. Check back in a week. Furniture will be settled and granddaughters in school. More time to sit with my neighbors on Neff Road.

Thank you for keeping up with the comings and goings back the lane on Neff Road.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Didn't Realize

A revelation sneaked up on me last night while watching the news. Oblivious to what is around me, I move across days, weeks, years unappreciative of those places that dot the weather man's map. Astoria with the fishing boats and ships coming into the great Columbia. Mt. St. Helens peaking up across the river occasionally sending up a plume. Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock. Tillamook with the dairy farms nestled close to the ocean. Mt. Hood with its sharp snowy peak. The national forests that cover the Coastal Range. The vineyards in the Willamette Valley, right along with the hazel nut trees. The Gorge and Multnomah Falls. The fish ladders at Bonneville Dam. The great, blue Pacific. Lava caves in Eastern Oregon and the high desert. Cowboy country to the south. I could go on and on about the bounty here. A bounty that I have grown accustomed to.

It dawned on me that on Neff Road had a bounty, too, that I took for granted by just growing up there. Of course, the little girl in me would have answered that we had lots of good stuff like Joy Land, Ludlow Falls, Celina lake, the Greenville swimming pool and the old Hamburger Shop. The adult in me who has lived away all these years has a different view of the richness around our little neighborhood.

The simplicity of the Mennonite community gave us horse and buggies, the meeting house, bonneted women and whiskered men, houses lit by lantern light. The Indian mounds and Ohio Caverns. Museums: Garth and Wright Patterson. Bears Mill and Ft. Greenville, The Indian digs and state parks. I know there is more places I didn't realize were visitor sites. I didn't know that even our own simple countryside was scenic and lovely. I didn't realize how precious was our way of life, old homes, rolling fields of grain, pastures of cows and sheep.

I just didn't realize. I didn't realize on Neff Road.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homemade Fun

Neff Road Times:  The bride wore her mother's blue velvet wedding gown and baby blanket on her head. Her groom was decked out in plaid and Zorro's cape. Minister Rowena Miller was draped with another baby blanket over her vintage dress. Attendees were bored.

Dress up on Neff Road was a wonderful thing. Make believe became lovely dressed in blankets, old hats and dresses, worn out curtains and over-sized shoes. Princesses, brides, ministers, teachers, mommies, princes, avengers and grown ups all resided in imaginations and discarded articles of clothing kept in a bin in Mom's paisley closet.

Whenever the minister's daughter, Rowena, and I got together, we made up stories to act out dressed in over-sized clothes and items Mom relinquished to the little girls begging....."please".

My cousin, Kenton, seemed to always get the raw end of the deal. His sister had dressed him up as Robin Hood and now he was a groom. Being the only boy to play with me, his first cousin, and I being the older child, he probably didn't know the difference. He was always ready and willing to join in the fun.

I wish Mom had saved her wedding dress for her daughters to cherish. I'm not sure how she could just toss it into the dress-up clothes. She was such a lovely bride in her chic dress, hat and shoes. This small child in her mother's dress looked anything but chic. Yet this little girl felt like a lovely bride....with a baby blanket on her head.

There was good, 'ol homemade fun back that lane on Neff Road. Imaginations created entertainment. Rags and worn out made for hours of delight for little girls. Wooden fruit crates made great tables and shelves. Blankets made tents when draped over the card table. Saw horses became horses to ride and with a board tossed across one, it became a teeter totter. Tobacco lathe turned into swords or with a piece of twine, a trusty steed. A bushel basket became a crib for a doll baby. When turned upside down, it became a table. The farm was ripe with new ideas from old things.

It wasn't a real wedding. First cousins can't marry, you know. Not even in Darke County.......back the lane on Neff Road.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Season to Hibernate

Ball jars lined the table. Vegetables sat in the old dented kettle waiting their turn. Pickles were pickled. Tomatoes blanched and peeled. Summer was being squirreled away for a season.

A ritual handed down over the generations was once more happening in the kitchen back the lane. Mom labored over the stove damp with the heat of it. The kitchen smelled of vegetables. Peels and stems were tossed into the pot that would be emptied in the barnyard for the chickens and sheep to eat. The garden was naked once more of her summer garb.

My sister, Peg, and I never liked to be sent to the basement for something from the fruit room. We knew that once in awhile a mouse would find its way onto one of the shelves nibbling through a box. A mouse that crept into the old house, a house unable to keep them at bay.

I don't remember helping with the canning, but I do remember the smells and sights. The old enamel canner, rings and lids. The filled jars cooling in the garage. Once more the shelves in the fruit room would be filled and the garden would hibernate until awakened in the spring.

A cool summer day reminds the farm girl of another time.