Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween was such a special time at Franklin School. We dressed in our costumes and paraded around the other classrooms. Once a class passed, we could not wait to get up from our desks to join the parade. Our costumes were simple sometimes consisting of only a mask. Farm kids eager for a Halloween party. Farm kids on Halloween.

Repeating a bit of last October's blog, I need to share what it was like back that lane on Neff Road. We didn't have the close houses to run from door to door with paper bags open and eager hands out for candy, or maybe an apple which back then wasn't tainted. Dad drove me from house to house following me most times up to the door of a darkened house. I always wanted to go to Jimmy's house first because I had a crush on him. Vivian's grandparents always said the same thing,"This must be Willard's girl. She has that dimple in her chin." Neighbors were delighted to see us at their door and relatives were ready for the yearly knock from a niece. Halloween was fun back on Neff Road.

When we were older, too old to don costumes and knock on doors for candy, we knocked on doors in Greenville for Unicef. Old farm stories of Halloween consisted of cow-tipping and knocking over corn shocks. Teens still found ways to get into trouble, but we learned a way to do good.

If I lived back on Neff Road now, I think I'd put on a half-mask and head up to the Brethren Home. I'd knock on doors, "Trick or Treat." Margaret would answer and laugh hugging me close enough for her hearing aid to buzz in my ear. Victor would probably say, "Well, look who's here." A hug and kiss would follow. I'd hold his hand to go visit Doris. She would say, "Oh, my." Frances would echo her father and say, "This must be Willard's girl. I see that dimple in your chin." "Well, Pam Loxley," Leah would say then pull me in to a big hug.

It would be nice to be on Neff Road for Halloween. My bag would be full of hugs, of kisses, of love and precious memories. Ah, just to say once more, "trick or treat".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Search Of A Mountain

For days we drove around looking for it.

"Why can't we see it," my aunt said.

Well, it wasn't as if Mt. Hood was just a rise on a hillside. We should be able to see something that rises 11,239 feet toward the sky. Yet the tallest point in Oregon remained hidden.

When our little family drove to our new home in Oregon, we came down the Columbia Gorge. I yelled for my husband to stop the car. The kids and I dashed out at a viewpoint standing in awe at the beautiful mountain that reigned over the famous river below. I'd never seen a snow capped mountain as such. We drove through the mountains, but none were as lovely as this sight that greeted us for the first time.

How a mountain can hide even on sunny days is beyond me. Every day of the visit of my aunt and uncle, we went out to see the mountain. Not once did it show it's snowy cap.

"I remember seeing it years ago and just want to see again," Aunt Kathrine said.

We didn't have mountains in Ohio. I'd driven through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but still did not know the beauty of a mountain until I saw Mt. Hood.

Sometimes the mountain is hidden by a haze that lies somewhere between it and Portland. Try as you might see it, the mountain is magically gone.

Why does this have anything to do with Neff Road? Last week I decided to read some of the old letters and post cards I have in a basket. They date as far back as 1907. I came across one of Mt. Hood. In the bottom corner it is noted: Mt. Hood from Lost Lake. The card is dated June 26, 1950, and was sent to my Grandma Johnson. It reads:

We were going to drive up this mountain but the road was closed because of so much rain. We are having a wonderful time. - Love, Rena Beane

Rena was my Aunt Kate's mother. I wonder if she was with her parents on that trip in 1950. This card with a one cent stamp makes me think of that once young woman standing here in Oregon, all the way from Ohio, looking up at a mountain that has awed us both.

Sometimes we find surprises in the oddest places. Mine was on a postcard written sixty years ago.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Migration to Neff Road

"Pam, hurry up," Dad would call. I ran to the yard hearing the ruckus. Dad and I would once more look up to watch the familiar 'V' pointing south. The geese talked to one another. A father and daughter shared a moment.

Oregon is a long way from Ohio. Our trips back were way too few and far between. The children always had a 'settling in/reacquainted' period. Mom was always a power into herself grabbing the kids and hugging them. When the kids were little, they would head for cover. As they grew up they began to understand those bear hugs.

By the same token, I always had to find my way again with my parents. They still had trouble thinking of me as an adult, and I still fought for my independence. Going home was an ordeal....and an absolute joy. I  'home' once more.

I grew up with livestock, barns and tractors. Lightning bugs evidently do not cross over the mountains, because we have none in Oregon. When we visited in the summer, Meg would come over to run with my children across the lawn chasing bugs capturing them in jars fascinated, intrigued and delighted. The adults sat on the porch watching the kids catching up on local gossip, the crops, births/deaths/marriages and best of all, just embracing our precious time together. Fall and winter visits brought on roasting hot dogs on the fire and cozy visits around the kitchen table.

We always knew that when we went home neighbors and relatives would come to call. Family friends would find their way back the lane. Seldom did we find times of  'just family', but it was the way of Mom and Dad.

The last time I was home I visited the Brethren Home.

"Pam? Is that Pam?" Leah asked.  She grasped my hands teary eyed.

Others held my hands and kissed my cheek welcoming little Pam back home again. My parents are gone, but these people are my home. A young girls love for these men and women grew more deeply over the years even though she was on a coast far away. But once again sitting with these dear people, I was back in Mom's kitchen laughing and visiting.

When I go 'home', I wonder if the people who live there appreciate where they live. Do they ever get that choked feeling, that lump in the throat when an old friend remembers, when walking into a building that embraced you as a child, standing on a bridge tossing rocks into a very loved creek? They seem to go on with life as usual. There is an awakening that takes place when you move away from home....at least for this farm girl.

As a friend recently told me, we are becoming the old generation. We are losing those of our past. My children remember glimpses of the farm and my parents. My grandchildren have never returned with me. This blog is a history of me, my sisters, my parents and all of those who lived on Neff Road. It is a history of  Darke County. We are the keepers of that which is past. We are the storytellers for other generations. Perhaps we are "those who remember".

Listen. Hear the geese? Again I migrate home to Neff Road.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Demolition

Description: Description: Description: darke franklin twp school 
(WinCE)
Built: 1926
Closing: 2011
*Demolition Pending*

So Franklin School is scheduled for demolition. Wow. A part of my heart aches at that news. We seem to cherish our one room school houses, those pieces of history that dot Darke County. Yet the old schools that take up property and those which are out of date and probably have lead paint and asbestos in them must come down in order for something better to take its place. Not so easy for this person. That school holds memories.

I've written about about my old elementary school before, but I'm not sure I wrote of special memories inside of those old brick walls. Not those of my parents who graduated from there or those of my sisters who attended the school on the corner of Byreley Road and the Hogpath. No, this is all about a time when I went to school on the yellow bus #16 that delivered me to the back door of Franklin School.

Normal Rhoades, my eighth grade teacher, taught archery to me out by the flag pole in front of the school. She taught me to pull back the bow and am for a target just as she taught me that knowledge lead to success. My Aunt Kate Loxley once subbed for Miss Rhoades. I remember being completely confused as to what to call my aunt. I avoided calling her anything in order not to make a mistake. Having her as a teacher felt all wrong. She was my aunt!

Dickie Neff and I had our first kiss on the bus sitting at the school waiting to take us home. I believe we were sitting in the front seat. I'm sure our driver, Louie, was chuckling.

I remember suffering in the health room not feeling so good. The school secretary, Betty, came down from the office to check on me from time to time. Soon she would marry my cousin Gene and become my like a big sister to me.

My dad helped my cousin, Gene, with the scout troupe in the little garage behind the school. Many a camp out began there. Boys went on to become responsible men. Some made it to Eagle Scout.

I went to my first dance in the gym at Franklin School. It was the first time a boy held me in his arms. One boy had a crush on me. I thought he was too short and didn't encourage him. Later he would grow into a very handsome man. Oh, well.

Teachers: Mrs. Delaplaine, Mrs. Gordon, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Westerman, Mrs. Sims, Mrs. Root, Mr. Franz, Mr. Martindale, Miss Rhoades, Miss Fourman.

In the eighth grade, we lost all of our classmates who were from the German Baptist families. Those children we played with every day would disappear from our lives. We knew they didn't want to leave, and we didn't want to see them go.

We had choir concerts memorizing songs to be sung to parents and school mates: "Teddy Bears' Picnic", "This is My Country". Dance classes where we learned the box step, the waltz and square dancing. The boys hated it, and every girl had a chance to dance with the most popular boys.

We sat in chairs above the railing in the gym or on the bleacher below for school assemblies and basketball games.

Vivian and I lip synced  "Mother-In-Law" at the eighth grade dance. We experienced our first record hops. We wore our pretty dresses to the class dances that took place in the school gym.

Our class was there when the first monkey bars were set up in the playground. We played softball in the fields beside the school. I was hit in the cheek with a flying bat. We pushed the old merry-go-round so fast that I often felt ill. We teased the boys and hid behind the chimney.

Fashion changed: Pencil skirts, sack dresses, fifty yard crinolines, pedal pushers, bobby socks and saddles, poodle skirts and circle skirts, the chemise dress and drop-waist dress. We saw it all quickly changing from one style to another. For farm kids, the fashions changed more slowly getting all the wear we could out of what we had.

"Pam and Jimmy sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love then comes marriage then comes Pam pushing a carriage." Wow, shouldn't someone edit those words!?!? My granddaughters still jump rope to that one. Recess after recess the rope was twirled and little girls jumped and jumped.

Memories. Many old school building are scheduled for demolition. The hallway with pictures of past graduates will be gone, the music room in the basement, the crows nest in the gym, the little rooms on each side of the stage, Herman's custodial closet, the principal's office with the spanking paddle hung on the wall, the kitchen serving mashed potatoes, rice pudding, gooey chocolate cake and corn. Memories of another time.

Mega schools take the place of those once hallowed halls. I live in Oregon, a state that is finding that smaller magnet schools are the way to go for a student's success. The big schools are moving on, or moving back, to a time of small classrooms and teaching in new ways. The once focus on sports has given way to focus on all interests of the kids with equal enthusiasm.

I wonder if anyone will miss these old brick schools. There will be no sign of this generation of school like there is of the one-room school house. Will anyone wonder why?

Thank you, Franklin School, for giving memories of another time, of a group of wonderful kids, of a way of life that has disappeared and best of all, for your hallowed halls that nurtured me. Thank you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Puddles

No matter how hard Dad tried, they always came back with each rainfall. Dad would pour new gravel on the lane and scrape it, but when the rains came so did the puddles.

The lane dipped about three-quarters of the way down or one quarter on the way up depending on whether you were coming or going. I remember as a small child, my sisters warned me, "Walk around, Pam." Oh, how I wanted to walk through instead splashing my way to the bus.

In the summer, Brenda and I would play in the rain puddles. The poking of the gravel on bare feet was nothing to these little girls who grew up walking on all sorts of terrain. Shoes disappeared once school was out and only returned after the great Darke County Fair. Puddles were made by God for bare feet and two girls on Neff Road.

I don't think there was a time I walked down the lane that I didn't note or look at the place where my beloved puddles often sat waiting for me. No longer did I have the urge to walk on the gravel with bare feet. Yet the puddles did call for the little girl I once was. My sisters and I would look at the gravel that had been tossed aside by cars and tractors landing in the grass (the gravel landed there not the cars and tractors). "Looks like Dad will need to gravel soon," we would often note.

Long after my childhood, Dad tiled the front field. The dip that was in the lane no longer puddled as it had in the past. But in my mind's eye, the old lane traveling up to the big white house or down towards Lavy's will always have the two puddles that called to little feet.

Puddles.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Harvest Moon

A friend posted a picture of the beautiful pumpkin moon. The huge white moon hung in the sky like a big light bulb. Were the moon red, Dad would have called it a harvest moon.

Many times growing up we watched the sunset. Our kitchen window looked out over the western landscape sometimes offering breathtaking views. Barns set against a red sky. An earth cast in shades of red. Around dusk someone usually found a seat by the window waiting for the change in the western sky. The sun's nighttime journey encouraged livestock to settle for the evening. Chickens began to roost, cows found a comfy bed of straw and the sheep huddled close together. It was evening on the farm. It also singled the wake up call for owls, possum, raccoon and other night meandering creatures.

The Loxley girls well remember the times that Dad would yell from the barnyard. "Girls, get out here."

We ran from the house expecting God knows what only to have Dad point to the western sky. All thoughts melted away captured by the 'glory that shown round about us'.  Never were two evening views the same. And always we oooo'd and aaahhhh'd.

In Oregon we sit on the sand waiting and waiting. The sun slowly makes for the horizon then seems to drop suddenly into the Pacific. Still I miss that view from the kitchen window.

The pumpkin moon rises, the shadow lengthen and the spirit of Halloween seems to lurk behind every tree.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Through The Lens

What do you see through the lens? The Today Show this morning had a segment on the children attending an inner city school in Philadelphia who were given cameras and told to go out and shoot pictures. What they saw was beyond their circumstances. What they saw was beauty where someone else might think there is none.

What would you shoot with your camera should you be set loose on Neff Road? I have albums of photos taken over the generations. Many of the people are totally unknown to me. Yet when I look at the pictures, I see a story. Posed photos of children and family seem to show very little, but do they really? The clothing, the hair styles, the backdrop show quite a lot about the people and the times. Photos reflect the way farms were kept, the dirt driveway, the picket fences, horses and carriages. I even have one of a child being pulled in a small cart by a goat. It was another time than you can hold in your hand, a rich history exposed on paper for distant generations.

When I left the house back Neff Road for the last time, I took pictures of each room. From empty room to empty room I captured the last of my home, my babysitter, my roots. In looking at them at a later time, I may see an empty room, but my mind is filled with memories of a little girl growing up in those rooms. The lens captures what I can no longer experience.

What photos would I capture now should I return to Neff Road? I would take a picture of Margaret's hands. Hands that sewed, hands that canned, hands that reached out to hold my hand. I would take pictures of the tree where my parents initials are carved, those of white siding with red trim around the door that marked a Johnson farm. My camera would capture the polished wood on the pull up doors in Painter Creek Church and an old windmill standing next to the white house back the lane. I would look for the things I took advantage of not noticing their importance. Lavy's porch, Granddad's pond, Uncle Keith's big trees at the end of their lane, Uncle Bob's bulldog shed and the back lane going down to the creek bottom. Those are the memories I would capture. Those are the little things I took for granted.

A few years ago I did take some pictures inside of Granddad's barn. This historical landmark was a marvel when it was built. A bank barn that now resides in the listings of historical barns. The lens captures the memories.

If I could again, if I could step back in time for just one moment, I would take a picture of my parents' hands intertwined, a memory well worth framing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Different Rememberings

"Some things you remember differently than I do," said my sister.

She's right. My memories are those of a sister years younger than her sisters. I remember from glimpses of the past and feelings of a small child. Yet in reality, their memories combined with mine give a pretty complete overview of our past.

"I remember one year when I drove the baler and Dad loaded the bales," my sister shared.

"I hulled manure," I countered.

"We wore clothing made from old sacks," my sister shared.

"I wore my cousin's hand-me-downs," I countered.

"I loved being with Grandmother," she told me.

"I don't remember her," I replied in return.

Three different childhoods in the same house. In the seven and ten years between my sisters and me, times had changed. The years that separated us separated the memories we shared. A grandmother had passed, my parents grew older and I was literally alone in  growing up. My sisters and I finally got to know one another in our adult years. When the three of us are together, my two older sisters share memories of which I am not a part, and those years when I was home alone, my sisters were not a part. We lived in the same house, in the same family but were raised differently.

I learn of my past, the years when I was very small, from my sisters. Their stories are rich with memories of my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, of old friends and neighbors. I love that our memories are different, that we saw things differently. In this dialogue, I learn about myself and my roots. Most of all, I learn about the two women in my life who make up the other part me.

Sure my sisters remember things differently.....but I write mine down.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh, Nuts

They torment the dog. They sit waiting hoping he will either look out a window or be set out on his chain. They wait and wait.

Squirrels. I swear Oregon is squirrel haven. They're everywhere. Trees teem with them. Not just in our yard but in every yard. They scamper across the street; they run the fences. They sit on the porch railing and bury nuts in your potted plants and flower garden.

I remember seeing an occasional squirrel in Granddad's woods. Dad would show me a nest high up in a tree. If I'm not mistaken, I think that Hollie and Bil from next door often hunted squirrels. Never did I see a squirrel in the barnyard. 

So why do I see more squirrels in town than in farming areas? Were we low on squirrels when I was a kid? Were they not so brazen back then? Did they only live in forested areas? What is the difference????

I could use some feedback from my friends on Neff Road. I never had a squirrel tail tied to my handle bars or one hanging on the side of the shed. Dad never tanned a hide, except mine on occasion. So where were the squirrels.

Since I believe Neff Road to be low in squirrel population, perhaps Oregon should consider a new source of income in exporting the rascals from here to there. We could even send along some hazelnuts just to make the bargain juicier.

Silly dog looking out the patio door, ears perked watching a squirrel dance on the limb of the tree. Oh, nuts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Path To School

"I had to walk to school."

Any of us growing up on Neff Road had surely heard those words a few times in our growing up. Now I giggle because if I'm not mistaken, Dad's first school was just over the bridge at the end of the lane of the home place. Not a far walk. But still walking to school was walking to school.

Mom talked of writing on a slate. Books were few, paper and pencils luxuries. Even heat in the old one-room was a luxury. The teacher sometimes came to the house for dinner and often a teacher would even live with a family; however, Grandmother Loxley was a teacher so Dad probably walked to school with his mom. A small community. A history of early education.

We were at the end of the bus route, so we got one mornings in the close to the end. Delivering us home at the end of the day, the bus dropped us off last. When I got into junior high, my brain clicked in. Instead of riding the route at the end of the day, Brenda and I got off at the corner of Byreley and Neff. We got off at the corner where the old one-room school house had once stood. Another generation walking home. Not far, mind you, but we were walking the road, once a path, then a gravel road and finally black topped. We walked home on Neff Road.

Now I tell my grandchildren, "My Dad and Mom walked to school even in very bad weather. Sometimes my Uncle Bob rode his horse. When I was growing up I walked down the lane every day to the bus then after school walked home from the corner."

"Wow, you're old, Grammy."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Family Names

"Where did you come up with those names?" Doug asked. "They're great!"

"They're their family names," my son replied.

Doug was reading from a script, the brainchild of my son that came about from a conversation he had with his Grandpa Drake. Miles never spoke about his tour of duty during WWII. We all knew not to ask, but his grandson did. A story unfolded handed over to another generation.

James feels that this story was given to him for a reason. He has stepped back in time asking questions and discovering more. He thought about his grandparents who lived in town. A grandfather who left a young wife and two children to go to war. He asked about his grandparents who lived on the farm during this time. His new bride asked about her family. The stories were their history and the history of all who suffered from that war and all wars. Lovingly, he named the roles from those of his family and Lisa's, many names native to Darke County.

I was surprised to hear Doug ask about the surnames. Never had I thought they were unusual and uncommon. I have wondered since of the people who settled in the county. Did those families share a journey together? Did they have the same country of origin? Were they drawn by other family members? Were fleeing from another place? Why did they settle where they settled? Our family included surnames of Loxley, Johnson, Besecker, Hollinger, Langston and more. Do other parts of the country have their own nests of names? Surely they do.

My son is writing a musical about World War II. It is a work in progress. A group of actors and directors have offered to participate in the readings shaping this material. Whether it will ever see the stage is still unknown, but a history is alive in the pages he has written. A history that began in Ohio.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Piece of Land

A piece of land. A place to build a home, to get a new start. A piece of land where a family could grow food, could raise children, could feed livestock. A piece of land.

Wagon trains carried pioneers across the land to a new paradise of free land. They lived for their land and died for their land. They tried to survive pests, drought and floods. Wars were fought over possession of land, water rights and access. Land.

Only farmers can appreciate the full value of owning land, the soil. The toil it takes to raise crops, the struggles against nature, the losses and the successes. The farmer owns the land, and the land owns the farmer. It is a bond that forms from sweat and tears from sacrifice and victory. My father was as much a part of the earth as he was of those who stood on it. In fact, I think Dad always had an earthy scent about him that was indeed that farm on Neff Road.

Non-farmers cannot possibly understand what it is to be raised on a farm, part of a farm family. Our hands were daily toiling in the soil, for the soil, and even with that which was grown in the soil. Our chickens pecked at the dirt in the chicken yard while the cows and sheep grazed in the grass. Our bounty was in the rich, black soil of Darke County.

I wish there was a way to express that love farm families have for their lands. I wish there was a way to implant that feeling into everyone. Perhaps all would cherish the earth a bit more. Perhaps everyone would do whatever it takes to protect the earth.

I am a child of this rich soil. I am a child who carried the rocks to clear the fields, who hoed the weeds, planted the plants and helped reap the crops. My roots are strong buried deep in the farm soil back the lane on Neff Road. They reach all the way to Oregon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Embracing Bugs

The newswoman gave her report. "You probably won't know about stink bugs....."

"Oh, yeah," I thought. Any farm kid knows about stink bugs.

Of course, these bugs are not native. Evidently our stink bugs when I was growing up were either native or sneaked over on a boat way back in history, but any of us growing up on the farm knew that a stink bug was aptly named.

Farm kids aren't afraid of bugs. In fact, my dad taught me many lessons watching bugs. I watched dung beetles slowly roll the balls of manure down the back lane. Slow, but determined progress. Amazing how long a kid can watch a bug. I looked for tobacco worms hidden beneath the big green leaves and loved stomping on them. Spiders lived happy lives without anyone disturbing their webs in the barn. Bugs were just part of our lives in the country.

Dad taught me that pluses that are attached to the little critters. The praying mantis and lady bugs were not only fascinating but ate nasty bugs. Dad and I listened to the katydid and the crickets. He revealed hidden stick bugs that blended in the shrubs looking like on more stick. The praying mantis changed colors according to its background hiding it from its prey. Flies and horseflies were just part of the landscape. So many bugs.


From an early age, I learned about the cicada that left their shells clinging to the old mulberry tree in the yard. Dad would attach the sharp feet of the golden shell to my shirt like a pennant for a farm girl. I would gather as many of these treasure as I could find and delighted in showing my children and my granddaughter the mysterious little shells clinging to the tree bark.

I laugh a little when a city kids runs screaming from a bug. I am immediately reminded that my growing up was fascinating and full of surprises. Dad often brought cocoons into the house. He would put the praying mantis cocoon in a jar so we could watch it hatch. Dad would sometimes surprise us with a cecropia cocoon. Every day we would check the cocoon kept in the backroom waiting for it to open. One day the cocoon would open, and we would find the moth as big as Dad's hand hanging on the wall. Dad captured the moth and held it for us to see taking outside for its release.

Yes, there is a lot to be said for being a farm girl, the one who lived back the lane on Neff Road. Sometimes my lessons were leaned and my life made a bit richer by looking a bit closer at the world beneath the leaves. A good life lesson.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Snowbirds

Fall brings on  colorful leaves, cooler weather, sweaters and a fire in the fireplace. Well, not for everyone. This time of the year my sister, June, thinks about going to Key West. One more snowbird migrating south for the winter.

The signs of fall were definitely there on Neff Road. I noticed early that one of the neighbors closed up their house for the winter. When we went to church at Painter Creek, many of the congregation were missing. Fall was in the air. More and more as children left home couples disappeared heading south to Florida.

I was 17 my parents took me to Sebring, Florida, to visit my Aunt Alma. I'd never been that far south. The Spanish moss and palm trees captured me. Finally I understood why so many wanted to spend the winter in the green, lush state instead of in the slushy snow and grey of the farm.

Mom and Dad never had the desire to go south for the winter. Sometimes I think that the farm was their oasis, the place they loved most. Yet my dad was more animated and excited as I had ever seen him when he showed me the wonders of the swamp, Bok Tower, orange groves and most of all the Atlantic. In looking back, I think perhaps it would have done Mom and Dad good to soak up the winter sun and wade in ocean blue, er, grey.

Now I try to drive on leg of the trip with my sister on her winter journey. Key West is a tropical paradise. I can see why she wants to spend cold months there. I understand why so many go south for the winter. Perhaps I would be a snowbird as well had I stayed back east.

The pews might have been empty, but there were those worshiping God's beautiful earth under the sun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lessons At The Keyboard

She played the piano like a ragtime pro, hands dancing back and forth across the octaves adding rhythm to a well-loved hymn. Her piano was well-loved and Mom's dearest possession. Anyone who walked through the door into our house had probably at one time or another stood next to the piano singing along with Mom.

We didn't have much but we did have a piano. During a time when blond furniture was popular, that blond piano came to reside in our living room. We had music that belonged to Mom's family when she was a child, music from her era, music from both of my sisters teen years, music from piano lessons. The bounty of music was my delight. I sat for hours at the piano making my way through the pile of music reaching into the past, learning about all types of music and the styles that changed over time. Picture on the front of the sheet music fascinated me. Artistic, historical, pictures of Rudy Vallee and Frank Sinatra. There was a history to be learned at that piano.

Mom was known for organizing singing groups. She taught us all to sing parts. Vivian was alto, I was harmony, Donna and Marilyn were soprano. We were only one group of the many kids who learned to sing sitting next to my mom on a piano bench.

The old piano was worn and aged when it finally left the living room. The ragtime tunes were laid to rest. No more young people would learn to sing at its keyboard in the house back the lane. But music rang out from that farm house on Neff Road. Music that began generations before when the piano was the center of entertainment in homes, when families loved to work together and sing together.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Read All About It!

"Pam, can you send a picture? I like the one used on your blog," she said. "Your column will be in tomorrow's paper."

Nervous? Yeah, just a little. Never wrote a column before. This is a first. Tomorrow my first column will be in The Greenville Advocate, my hometown newspaper.

This has been quite a year for my writing. As my son says, "God must have a plan for you, Mom." Indeed He must since I don't know how to do any of this.

Over the last year, I began two blogs. A Grandparent's Voice was chosen as one of the top 50 online blogs coming in at #16. My Neff Road blog was featured in our newspaper The Oregonian. Two of my stories have been published in Sasee Magazine out of North Carolina. I was just notified that another story is being considered for publication in an anthology, Chicken Soup For The Soul: Grandmothers and tomorrow I will have my first column in a newspaper. Indeed, God is watching over me.

This should all just really knock me off my feet, but it doesn't. I'm just a farm girl doing what she has to do. I don't consider myself a great writer. I don't really consider myself talented. I just put on paper what falls out of my usually empty head. The perks are not important. Any good my writing does is.

We all have gifts. I didn't know I had much talent growing up on the farm. I spent a great deal of time playing alone and drew pictures of stories, but no talent was stamped on my head or poured out of my pores. I was and am just a farm girl doing what comes naturally.

I think maybe the farm was my best mentor. It taught me to observe. The cycle of life of the animals taught me compassion. The hard work on the farm taught me appreciate the life we struggled to have. Farm kids have great imaginations. A barn becomes a castle or a rugged mountain range. A horse can make any kid a cowboy or cowgirl. Working side by side with adults gives the child a sense of belonging and worth.

I am blessed to be able to do what I do. I am blessed to have a rich life from which to draw. I am blessed to have been the small girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

Thank you, God.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quilts, A Memory

Quilts, the trademark of country living, the flag for farmers, a history of family, a memory of a cold winter night. Quilts.

I grew up snuggling under quilts at night. As a child, I remember looking at the squares and picking my favorites. My favorite quilt was basically blue with tiny floral prints and occasional stripes. Years ago I found the old quilt torn and discarded in the attic tossed in a corner. It was nothing more than pieces held together by rotting thread with edging gone and torn quilt pieces exposing the filler. I asked Mom if I could have it.

"Why do you want that old thing?" she asked. She didn't understand.

I took the old rag home lovingly washing it. Pieces of liner fell off but once more the small surviving squares were clean.

"That's an icky quilt," my granddaughter said.

I looked at the small faded squares, some stained, some rotting. "I know, Honey," I said. "This was a very special quilt when I was a little girl."

"So why do you want it now?" she asked.

Why indeed. A castaway, a rag, a remnant that more than likely should have been tossed on one of Dad's fires.

"It's a memory," I explained.

Years later my friend, Geneva, would send two small quilts with matching pillows for doll beds to my each of my granddaughters. Geneva lived next door to the house back the lane. She was my angel helping me when Dad was failing. The gift to my granddaughters was indeed a gift for me.

Quilts. A history of a family. A gift of the heart. A memory of Neff Road.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Smell It

Don't remember having pumpkins back that lane on Neff Road. Don't remember ever carving one as a child. I do remember a paper mache pumpkin that sat out when the time came. It had a rather munched face. I think a candle could be placed inside, but what idiot would put a candle inside of a paper mache pumpkin?! Fall brought many memories of the farm, but the only thing that resembled a pumpkin was Mom's pumpkin pie.

Mom made one good pumpkin pie. She usually made two just to be sure we had enough for us and company which usually arrived at dinner time. Sometimes I think people just showed up for Mom's pies. Her fruit pies were to die for. Her cream pie was delicious. She made goose berry pie that made you pucker, but was lip smackin' good. And her shoe fly pie was the best....my favorite.

Other people made good pies. Aunt Welma's were good. I'm sure Aunt Bess could throw together a decent pie. Still Mom took the prize.

"I've been thinking about making a cream pie," my daughter, Stacey, said this morning.

"Sounds like a good idea," I agreed.

My daughter is a cook just like her grandma. She can open the refrigerator and toss together an impromtu feast. Cooking for one or a dozen doesn't bother her. When we received the newspaper clipping about George's pies and Gershaw's closing, my daughter took on the challenge creating a culinary delight equal to the original.

I never taught my daughter to cook. She and my son both picked it up on their own. I never was a good cook. My children are fantastic cooks. I couldn't roll out a pie crust to save my soul. Who does any more? Mrs. Frantom would be disappointed in me. My 4H leader would deem me unmarriageable. Yet I can make Mom's pumpkin pie.

I kinda wish we would have carved pumpkins. I kinda wish I had those memories with my parents. However, playing in the kitchen while Mom rolled out dough and made pies brings back a flood of wonderful smells, powdered hands, little cinnamon rolls, a smudged apron and dessert for dinner. Close your eyes and sniff. Smell it?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Victor Is Ninety

Ninety years old. And to think he and Doris were the youngin's on Neff Road. Now Victor is ninety.

Some people have a kindness, a peaceful spirit that draws those to him or her like a lamp does an insect. Something that warms, someone who cares.

Victor was one of the few on Neff Road who did not farm. Victor worked in the city. I remember as a child watching his car pull out of the driveway wondering where he disappeared to every day. Of course, he came home about the time we were preparing to eat dinner (or supper as we called it). They lived in a farm house. Victor donned his overalls on the weekends, but he was no farmer. He disappeared every day, and I wondered why.

I don't remember Victor ever working in the fields. They raised chicken and had a huge garden in the summer. He mowed the yard and stayed close to home on the weekends. He and Doris would sit on the porch in the evenings watching over Neff Road.

Victor's parents were horse and buggy people. Often the black buggy would be seen in the driveway with the horse grazing nearby. I remember once sitting in the empty buggy in the dark barn when I went with the Lavy's to visit the home place of this man who drove away each morning and returned each night. I got to sit in the buggy.

I wish I was at the 90th birthday celebration of a man I consider my 'dad'. I celebrate this man's gentleness and caring. I celebrate his wisdom and love. I celebrate a man who has always greeted this daughter with a hug and kiss. Victor Lavy was exactly what Neff Road represented: a safe place for children, a kind heart who cared, a friend who listened and a mystery every morning and every evening to a little farm girl who didn't understand life beyond the lane.

Happy Birthday, Victor. Happy Birthday, dear friend.

Friday, October 1, 2010

From The Door

Door open, feet hanging over the edge. Many pictures were taken in that door of the barn. Mom and Dad could probably have created a photo album full of such pictures. Same location. Different faces.

From the time I can remember, I sat in that door in front of the barn. The door was designed for bales of hay and straw to be loaded from the conveyor into the haymow. A practical door that was used more for calling to the house from the barn (and vice versa), for catching a breath of fresh air relief away from the dust, to sit and look out over Neff Road. Just sitting. Not doing much. Just hanging feet over the door watching the scenery that rarely changed.

The barn door was one of my favorite places. Many times I sat there absorbing the world outside of the barn. I could see the farmers in the fields, Grandad's woods, Brenda's house, the almost non-existent traffic down Neff Road. The peace of country living was captured in that window above the ground capturing a young girl throughout her life until she said her final good-bye.

I wish I had that door once more. Everyone should have one such place, a lofty perch where peace and tranquility sit alongside. I know that I had seen Dad sit there many times. I wonder if he felt the same. Perhaps it was just a place to rest or maybe a place to call to Mom from the house so he could see her. Friends sat in that door along with family members. For those who knew the secret of the door and who loved the barn, it was a memory carried forward.

Though far away, I still sit in that door once more looking out to a place of memory and a place that holds my heart.