Friday, December 30, 2011

Quietly into the New Year

No pans were banged. No fireworks lit up the sky. There was no horn blowing or confetti. New Years on the farm came quietly.

My parents always met up with the same group of friends for New Years. Good food and friendship saw the new year in. But most of the time, New Years came in quietly for the residents of Neff Road. The cows in the barn had no idea that a new year was taking place. Chickens slept and sheep pushed against one another in the barn making the floor look like a wooly rug. The dog was in the barn wondering why he couldn't sleep in the house. The cats were snuggled in the straw in the haymow. All was quiet on the farm as the new year came to be.

My sisters and I have often talked of how we didn't celebrate birthdays or other big events. Oh, we had Christmas to celebrate, but most holidays consisted of church and family dinner. We seem to all remember having a big 10th birthday party and that was it for those yearly happenings.  I'm not sure why it was that way. Mom and Dad never exchanged birthday presents and rarely Christmas gifts. Celebrations were not a part of our lives back that lane. I think perhaps this might be why we are so humbled when someone gives us gifts. We never learned how to receive.

There will be no noise this New Year. I will probably see it arrive then make my way to bed. In the morning, the day will be no different than the day before even if it is in the year 2012.

Quietly, I wish you a happy New Year, the same as if I were still living in the house on Neff Road. I wish you a new year of contentment and adventure, of receiving graciously the gifts that the new year will bestow upon you. Happy New Year, my friends.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To the Nest

The snow fell in Ohio. My children and I had flown in on the red eye from Seattle the night before. Junior picked us up at the airport and drove us to the farm. We were exhausted. It was a long journey in more ways then one.

My ex-husband and I had been separated yet living together. A marriage was falling apart, and I felt very alone in Oregon, my home of only a few months, trying to hold broken pieces together that would not heal.  So I made the big decision. We went back to the nest to heal on the farm.

Few people knew we were there. I didn't want to be pushed and pulled by opinion. My heart was broken and needed to be mended. My kids needed my parents' love. It was winter and the snow fell.

There was a healing that took place back that lane. For the first time in my life, I handed my troubles over to my parents, so they could help me heal. For the first time, they didn't offer opinion, only love. I stayed in that nest for a month then made the decision to stay in Oregon and move forward. Was it the right decision? I don't know. Perhaps moving back would have been the best decision, but at the time, it was my only decision.

Perhaps I write about Neff Road because it keeps me grounded in that love that thrived there so readily. I can always go back there in thought and words. The song that made my heart beat with nature at my back door still echoes despite the years. I am the better for having lived back that lane in a home that was loving and giving.

Yes, I returned to Oregon and my life here with my children. Yet each day I can still reside in the big white house on Neff Road.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Opportunities

I wanted to wait until I had a chunk of time all to myself. I knew that conversations would be long. I wanted to savor every bit of them.

Over the years away from Neff Road, most of the Christmas phone calls were from the daughters who couldn't make it home for one reason or another. Mom or Dad would answer the phone. More times than not, someone was sitting at the kitchen table.

"Junior's here," Mom would say. "Do you want to talk to him?" Or...."Here's Betty," giving me no time for a response. Yes, we were in Mom's kitchen catching up with the neighborhood and old friends and family.

"Here, I'll give the phone to your mother and go upstairs," Dad always said when he answered. The three-way conversation lasted for a long time each of us settling in on an imaginary sofa that covered the miles between us. Each call was time well spent and a gift to my parents.

In looking back, I wish we could have made it home for more Christmases. I wish I had taken more time for those personal conversations we never had. Perhaps as a grandma, I would like to have those conversations with my own children. They have no idea how precious they are to me.

The presents are revealed. The paper is tossed and bows packed away sleeping until the next season. A few more pounds have been added to make clothing a bit more snug. Digital pictures sit in the camera. Leftovers will last a couple days more. It is a long time from Christmas to Christmas and a long way from yesterday to today.

A new year offers us a time to make changes. A year to make positive changes in our lives and better relationships with those we love. A new year perhaps should be called New Opportunities. I have gathered sixty-four New Years. I have many more to go. I look forward to the new adventures and deeper meaning to my life. May your days be blessed with new understanding and a year of opportunities.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Walk Down Neff Road

Festival of lights. Tour of holiday homes. Downtown Christmas. Storybook land. Christmas Village. The list goes on and on. Events of light and sound held for holiday entertainment.

I sat looking at the paper full of holiday 'walks' and wondered why Neff Road wasn't on the list. Sure it isn't a festival of lights or homes decorated by a professional designers. Yet, I think it might be a wonderful holiday event. Well, maybe not for everyone, but I'd go.

I'd start with a caroling at Painter Creek Church, then I would make my way down the Hogpath past the recently demolished Franklin School where two generations of my family played in the halls. I would walk past Granddad Loxley's old octagonal barn, a beautiful sight in itself. Over the bridge I would go and walk down past Uncle Keith and Aunt Kate's old homestead. Maybe I could share a cup of hot chocolate with Janet and Don Rhoades. I would insist that my friend Brenda Sparks tag along with me. We would stop at her once home and remember other Christmases with the Stager family gathered around the tree. Doris and Victor Lavy wouldn't be home, but we would sit on the stoop and remember baseball games in the field. Next we would walk back the lane where many a Christmas tree stood. Santa knew this house well. He had a good chimney to go down and a little girl who awaited his surprises. Brenda and I would shed a few tears and a great deal of laughter. We might even go to the barn to swing once more. It would be the holiday walk down Neff Road.

We all have a Neff Road, a place where our memories reside. Walls that knew Christmas when we were children. Walls that heard the laughter that I'm sure rings there still. Marshmallows over the fire in the fireplace. Loving arms wrapped around us. Friends and neighbors dropping in with Christmas wishes and sometimes cookies and candy. And, as we have our own visits down Christmas lane, so too do our families.

Thank you for walking down Neff Road with me. We are all memories in the making. Memories saved for other generations. May your Christmas memories be many and the joy of each day be yours. Merry Christmas from the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

On A Grandparent's Voice: Nestled in the True Meaning

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Sled

Each year I like to remember this piece I wrote about a time with my father walking through the barn. A memory of a sled.
Peggy, June, Merrill, Geneva, Me, Marilyn

It hung in the milking parlor all covered with dust and cobwebs. Boards were broken, held together with wire. The rope tied to it was knotted by my father's hands. Dad and I walked through the barn remembering other days. He loved to share his stories. "That's my old sled," he said pointing to the greyed sled hanging in the corner. "I got it for Christmas when I was boy." He told me about the Loxley boys sledding on the snow, he on his new sled. The same sled we sat upon, racing down the hill back the lane on Neff Road. The old sled now resides in the corner of my living room. A sled from Ohio to Oregon. From father to daughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are all memories in the making. Memories saved for other generations. May your Christmas memories be many and the joys of each day be yours. Merry Christmas from the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.


On A Grandparent's Voice: The Ornaments of My Life

Monday, December 19, 2011

Worth of the Journey

What is the worth of a history? Does it have a dollar worth? Is it worth a new best seller or a career in an already determined field? Is it worth anything to anyone else? Is it worth something to you? What indeed is the worth of your history?

I'm learning what my history is worth. As I lived it and heard about that parts that I didn't live, I didn't understand the worth it held. Yet as I age, I know the richness that my life back that lane on Neff Road added to my life. I have discovered a new pride in the past that my family lived. I am richer in soul for the life of this country girl.

By writing this blog, I have discovered that my history is one that others are interested in for one reason or another. Perhaps the memories are shades of their histories as well. Maybe it is a glimpse into a certain era, a certain way of living. Or, maybe people are bored and decide to stop in for a visit.

My history is rich because of my children. They will not have memories of my grandparents, my grandfather's farms. They will not know me and my sisters as children, young adults. My grandchildren will not know the life on a farm. They will not have the grandfather who takes them for a ride on a tractor or a walk in the woods. They will not walk out the door to see sheep, cows and chickens. Their history is rich. They should know it.

My history is priceless. It is unique to me yet part of the whole, isn't it? All of our histories blend together to hopefully make a better future. Histories for our future generations. Some day someone will be much as I am today reflecting over their past. They might wonder what it is worth. Maybe in looking a bit farther back, they will find a richness I have passed on, a look into a time that began my journey on Neff Road, my journey into their history.

Good journeys, my friends. The worth of the history from there to here is priceless.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Prancing and Pawing of Each Little Foot

This morning I woke to a chilly Oregon winter. No snow on the ground but a blanket of white frost tipped the trees. I'm living with my friends, Paulette and Mike. It is a new move for me and a good one. Paulette came back to Darke County with me in July and fell in love with my roots.

Once in awhile deer wander into their yard. I'm always looking for them, and she is always hoping they will leave her plants alone. A couple of days ago I got a call from her.

"They're in the backyard!" she exclaimed. "Three of them! I took a picture for you."

Well, the picture is great, but I really would like to have seen the real thing.

It got me to thinking of the little things we took for granted on the farm. After a night time snow, the activity of those sleepy hours was evident on the clean, unblemished surface. It wasn't unusual for Dad to pop his head into the kitchen door to announce that we'd had a nightly visitor. Maybe a fox. Maybe a raccoon. Always a possum. Dad knew where the sheep were headed and where the rabbits had been. My horse in her shaggy winter coat stood in the barnyard wondering what all the excitement was about. The dog came to the house to find a warm body. Chickens roosted a bit closer, and the horse trough would be frozen. Dad's boot prints would add to the others.

I was always fascinated looking out across the yard at the little grey indentations crossing the snow. They seemed  sometimes to wander and circle as if looking for something. Other times they were in a straight path to a destination. Many lead to the barn where the critter could find warmth. The night time visitors to the farm left their signs.

I wonder if as a child I looked for reindeer hoof prints. I'm sure they would have been evident. Of course, Dad wasn't about to climb up a ladder to check out the roof of the house. Well, anyway, we had plenty of prancing and pawing in the barnyard. The prancing of pawing of each little foot...er, hoof.

On A Grandparent's Voice today: Unbridled Love

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Deck the Halls

The sign in front of the church read:

Christmas Eve
Carols and Candles

A smile crossed my lips in remembering Christmas at Painter Creek Church where members sat in the pews singing to the top of the lungs carols that they knew by heart.....carols I still know by heart. Some sang out of tune. Some, like my mom, could belt out a carol heard above everyone else. The Loxley men sat in various places in church, so the mellow tenor harmonized and blended notes into lovely song. It was a time of family and joy. Past members came back to visit. Once playmates reunited. It was Christmas at Painter Creek Church.

I cannot go back home in memory at Christmas time without recalling Ludlow Falls. I remember standing between my parents, just a small child holding onto their hands. My checks burned with the cold despite the layers of pants, coat, hat and scarf wrapped around my face several times. It was a wonder to behold. A wonder that continued when my young daughter stood between her dad and mom holding hands and echoing the oooo's and ah's.

Arcanum wore the decorations on the lamp posts, and Greenville was light like snowglobe town. Christmas had come to Darke County and Neff Road.

Wrapped in the warm remembering, I greet another Christmas full of lights and sound. Once more with closed hymnal I sing:

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly.........."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Now I Understand

The road is long from Neff Road to Oregon. A road that is about sixty-four years long. No longer the girl who grew up there, it seems when I go back I am still thought of the same way. It's not a bad thing, but we do grow and change over distance.....over time.

I am probably at the most difficult time in my life in many ways. And, it causes me to wonder about my parents and what all they went through. Their children didn't live there. Their grandchildren were seldom seen. We were busy living our lives and really didn't think much about it. Now I wonder why.
My Dad had my same hand degenerative disease. I remember seeing him almost knocked to his knees when he would hit a hand. Now I understand. I remember how Mom would beg me to come and stay. I didn't want to. I was too busy with my life and had basically wanted to get away from that life. Now I understand. When my parents were failing, I didn't drop everything and go to them. Too many miles. Too much money. Too many other things I'd rather do. Now I understand.

I was blessed to be by my father's side when he was passing. I was blessed to be able to serve him. I was honored to help him through it. There was where I belonged. I didn't understand until I wept at his bedside and lifted him in his bed. Someone once said that we should live our lives backwards. Perhaps I am now, because now I understand.

The house back the lane didn't change much during the holidays except for a bit more traffic and the Loxley girls coming home every so often. I wish I had been there every year. Family is a gift, not a given. Family is to be honored, not abused. Family is a manger in a stable and a family around a kitchen table. Every day on Neff Road was Christmas, because Mom and Dad gave their all to anyone who needed them without once saying, "I can't."

Now I understand.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a Sentimental Journey.
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey
To renew old memories.

I was just a kid when Doris Day sang this hit song way back when. I find this time of the year that I take many sentimental journeys. And, after sixty-four years, I have quite a few of those to take.

For a very long time, I have tried to find old friends from the days back on the farm. One family I've missed over the years was that of Joe and Helen Eliker. Their daughter and I have birthdays one day apart. I don't know when it started, but our families always got together to celebrate our birthdays. Once a year we met up and as children do, we stared at each other for awhile before we decided that playing together might just be fun. Their farm was always a fun place to go. Joe had a go cart, and they had a pony and cart. We didn't lack for fun things to do or laughter.

So, I went online to see what I could find. I knew the girls were probably married making it impossible to find them. So I tried for their younger brother. I found a phone number and called. And, being "old", I could make a phone call and a fool of myself and not really care. Thank goodness the answering machine picked up. I left a message, this voice from the past. I just hoped for a return call or email. That night I got my phone call.

One Christmas many years ago, I decided to send a "gift" to those on my Christmas list. I would send each of those people a letter about how much they mean to me. Over the many years, they had been a gift to my life. I took a sentimental journey into the past remembering the love  and support I'd received from each of them. I remembered the little things that meant a great deal to small farm girl. Each letter was filled with love and gratitude. In reflecting back over that Christmas of letters, I am thankful that I took the time for many of those people are gone now. And, for those who are still part of my life, those letters mean even more.

It is a season of sentimental journeys. I have a family added to my life that I once thought lost. A simple task of reaching out has brought home those days of ponies and birthdays. We are a gift to one another. One well worth giving. One well worth recognition.

Gotta take that Sentimental Journey. Sentimental Journey home.

On A Grandparent's Voice: I Believe/Twas the Night Before Christmas

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Banjo Mama

She stood in the snow with her fur trimmed winter coat and heavy stockings. A 1930's hat on her head, she looked a bit like someone from the flapper era. Young Mom and her banjo.....with hair longer than I ever saw on her.


I never saw my mom play the banjo even though one sat in the upstairs closet all of my life. I don't know why it never crossed my mind to ask if she would teach me to play. I look at the picture and wish I'd known Mom had this photo album, this album we found when we cleared the house. So many questions and she isn't here to answer them.

Why didn't she pick the banjo up again? Once in awhile she would do the Charleston for us. She always played the piano. I feel short-changed.

I think perhaps I would have enjoyed playing a stringed instrument, the cello, guitar, BANJO! My hands won't allow it any more...or any less.

A woman standing in the snow, banjo in hand. A woman of laughter and fun. A woman, my mother.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Building the Future

 The saw mill was set up in the creek bottom. Trees were cut and boards sawed then loaded on the sleigh drawn by the horse that took them to the site of the barn raising.


My sister, Peggy, was a little girl when Dad built the barn. She was the first to sit in the big door in the mow. She was the one to remember the horses. She was the first to walk into the cow parlor when it was all brand new.

The barn was a new style. One of the first to have an open loft with beams that ran from the floor to the peak of the roof like ribs inside of a huge carcass. It was a piece of art made of wood, made by hand.


I love knowing that the wood was from the farm and carried by horse power. I know that Mom was in the kitchen cooking for the hungry builders. Crops were still growing in the fields and in need of attention of man and beast. The farm grew up by my parents' hands and sacrifice. A different era that today is precious to the daughters who lived there. A barn was raised on Neff Road.

And so was I.

Monday, November 28, 2011

They Were Love

In memory of my parents who would have been married 76 years this year. In memory of two people who knew how to love not only each other but everyone they ever met.

 

Only my mother would be married in a dark blue velvet gown with strappy little heels and gold lame cap. She held yellow long-stemmed roses, her favorite. Her best friend, Lucy Beane, stood up with her while my Father's brother stood up with him. Willard, a man who fell in love with his bride when he was just a boy.

My parents struggled many years. They suffered huge losses. They faced death and illnesses. Yet, their love saw them through the worst of it and celebrated the best of it. 

It wasn't unusual to find Mom wrapped in Dad's arms. He kissed her and hugged on his way to the barn and on the way back from the field. He kissed in front of his children or anyone else who happened to be in the room at the time. Mom watched for her husband and smiled whenever he came into the house. They loved....and we knew it.

In their late years, they sat side by side on the sofa and watched Jeopardy. Dad held yarn while Mom crocheted. Every night they sat side by side. I remember once walking behind them through an airport. They were aging. Both smaller than the parents I knew the last visit. They walked holding hands just as they must have when they were children. Sometimes I wasn't sure where one stopped and the other began. They were always as one. 


Perhaps their love has kept me company all of these years. I always hoped to find that soul-mate, but it has never happened. Still, I am warmed at the memory of two people who truly understood what it is to love.

In memory of Mom and Dad, I send wishes of love to each of you. A love that encompasses all, that forgives all, that embraces the beauty of every moment.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Noodling

It was a day event. The dough was made then put aside to set for a couple of hours before Mom rolled it out into thin sheets. Mom was making noodles.

I'm pretty sure that if one were to ask any family member who remembers our days on the farm what was the favorite food, Mom's noodles would be the number one pick. Fresh eggs from the hen house and Mom's magic hands made memories.


I can't think of the holidays without thinking of Mom's labors of love in the kitchen. She was a born cook. We sat at the table talking with neighbors, friends and family while Mom cooked. We all knew to stay out of her way. Maybe we migrated to the table drawn there by the aromas and laughter that drew us there.

In later years when I had moved away, Mom would send as part of our Christmas a bag of homemade noodles. The kids would squeal with delight. The perfect gift.

None of us can quite capture the method or the taste involved with Mom's noodles. I no longer get a bag of her noodles in the mail. But as I write this, I find myself smiling at the delight over the years that came when Mom made her noodles.

Hm. Maybe I'm hungry. I think I'll go eat leftovers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Savor the Day

We sat around the table. One of the few times our family would all be together for a holiday. I was expecting my first child. The year was 1971.


In the blink of an eye, time passes. The children once wiggling in their seats waiting for Grandma's good cooking are settled into their own homes and lives. The gatherings no longer happen where once the relatives abounded.

Each year I recite the same litany of the Thanksgivings when the Johnson's came to dine with us on Neff Road. Mom and Dad always hosted the event. The tradition went on for as long as Aunt Welma and Uncle Bob were around. I know that Mom and Dad must have felt the changes, the losses. Still those of us who sat around that table knew of Aunt Welma's butterscotch pudding and Betty's beans. Mom's pumpkin pies. Then men watching football, and the card table brought out for the yearly puzzling. We started with lunch and ended with dinner. Or, as they say in Ohio: We started with dinner and ended with supper.

No matter how much I want that same feel of Thanksgiving, I know will not happen. My children have their own lives, and there is no extended family here. Priceless are the memories of those Thanksgivings back the lane on Neff Road. Priceless were and are the people.

To you, my readers, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy those around you. Make memories for a lifetime. Savor the tastes, the sounds. Most of all, embrace one another in love.

From Neff Road to you, God's blessing this Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Knock at the Door

This is a story I share from our history as told to me by my Uncle Bob Johnson. I came across it when putting together my book Neff Road and wanted to share it. This story was told to my uncle when he was a child by my great grandmother, Parolee Johnson. I relate it in my uncle's words.

Grandmother "Pal" was all a grandmother could be. Always happy and telling me things I liked to hear along with a piece of butter bread or a cookie. One of her stories I remember well. She and her husband Jim moved into a little two room log cabin, a kitchen and bedroom, about 200 feet north of Painter Creek. She had finished her morning work and heard horses outside. She looked out the door and there were two grown men, tying their horses to the hitching rack. They walked up and knocked on the door. She answered and was told that they had been riding all night and could she give them a bite to eat.

She fixed breakfast for them and invited them in. They ate very hearty and when finished expressed their thanks for the good food. On their way out, she asked them where they were going and the one said that they had been to Kentucky to see relatives and was on their way back to Missouri. As a last word, one turned back and said," I am Jesse James and this is my brother Frank."

My grandmother remembered the names and it was long after that she found out that they were the most notorious bank robber in America.......As related by Bob Johnson (90 years old)

Rich is the history of Neff Road. A place that began with dirt roads and paths and men on horses.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Once Upon a Table

When the new kitchen came along, Mom and Dad got rid of the old dining set. The heavy furniture that had accompanied us our entire lives was gone.


We sat at the table. Mom and Dad at the ends of the table. I am sitting next to Pop Johnson. Cousin Camille sits next to him. My sister, Peggy is next to Mom along with my brother-in-laws, Paul and Bob. The old grandfather clock stood in the corner. A clock that once chimed 84 times when I came home from a date late one night. I know because Dad counted each chime.

The heavy dining room suit would find its way to a friend's house. The table I played beneath for hours would live somewhere else. The china cabinet that held Mother's favorite dishes would disappear. The room that had seen dinners with relatives and friends would turn into the master bedroom. All that was of our meals there would be gone. Well, not really.

I'm not sure if there was another table in the kitchen full of other family members. Camille's husband, Leonard is not evident, and I believe he was still living at that time. My sister, June, seems to be missing as well. I'm thinking there might have been some other Johnson's at the kitchen table. It seems like yesterday that this picture was taken.

When we sold the farm, I found the pair of shoes that I'm wearing in this picture in the old closet. They were a bit tattered suggesting that maybe some children had been playing dress up. They had been my favorite shoes with pointed toes and a wine glass heel. Of course, they had been new thirty-eight years before. The china now resides with my sister in Indiana, the clock is living with my niece.

For me? I have the best part of all.....I have the memories.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remodeling the Family Tree

They sat beneath the grape arbor. A grandmother. A great grandmother. They sat with two granddaughters who would always remember them. On a sunny day, they made a memory.

Ethel Hollinger Loxley, June, Peggy, Angeline Bookwalter Hollinger

My sisters have memories that I, born years after them, do not share. I'm jealous. I want those memories, too. Sometimes I look at these faces trying to absorb what I can of the women who touched the lives of so many. Still all I have are pictures....pieces of a time I did not know.

Maybe that is why Neff Road is so important to me. I want other generations to know more about their roots. Not just a family tree but a story of the past and profiles of the people who share their genes. Perhaps I want to have a conversation with those future generations telling them that there were  wonderful people who came before who loved, who struggled, who were full of laughter and talent. Now I must try to find glimpses of those I never knew. Their lives are the roots of who I am. Perhaps through the window of my writing those to come will discover more pieces of themselves.

Most of my life I was asked if I was Ethel Loxley's granddaughter. She touched lives. She had a sense of humor and a loving heart. She was intelligent and bore much during her years. I know my great grandmother by the words of my cousin, Alma Lea. I can see in the pictures the love she gave to the children she held. I have only glimpses, but those who remember give to me the women in the pictures.

I think we make a mistake by just drawing lines from name to name showing our roots. My sister has included in her family history profiles and pictures of each person. She writes history in each entry. She passes on a gift to future generations.

They sit beneath the arbor. A moment captured. A moment that today includes me.


On A Grandparent's Voice today: Brain File
www.agrandparentsvoice.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fevered Brow

So whatever is going around has taken me in and begs to remain. How I wish I was back on the farm with Mom to look after me.

We seemed to be ill a lot on the farm. I attribute it to a drafty house and sometimes not the most sanitary of conditions. It wasn't unusual to play in the barn then come into the house to grab something to eat....bypassing the hand washing.

Mom was great at providing an atmosphere of care. When I was sick with German measles or a miserable with chicken pox, Mom made soup and saw to my every need. She held our heads when we were feverish wiping our faces with a damp cloth. She held us when we were in misery and sat with us when she could. After we got the TV, Mom made a bed on the sofa for her ailing child. We always knew that Mom would take good care of her ill children nursing them back to health.

When a Loxley girl was ill, neighbors and relatives stopped by to see how the ailing child was doing. Sometimes they brought something for us to eat knowing that Mom had her hands full. Sometimes they came and sat with the child. Our medical staff was the people who were part of our lives. Dad always stopped in during his busy day to bring some sunshine to the sick child. Sometimes he even brought in a winter breeze.

Even though I'm sixty-four, I still want the loving hand of my mother on my brow. I want to crawl back into the warm memory of the past and be visited by Doris, Margaret, Betty and even the men of Neff Road who cared about the Loxley girls.

Today I think I might live. It's a struggle, but I'm working at it. I still hear my mom asking, "Can I get you anything?"

Oh, yes, Mom. Oh, yes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smell of Horse and Leather

The wheels that got us from there to here. From the Johnson's to the Loxley's. From the farm to Greenville. From Ohio to Michigan. The wheels that carried generations of my family.

The romantic side of me would love to have lived in a time when horses were the mode of transportation. A sweet carriage ride with a young man. The smell of the horse, the wind in my hair, the creaking of the saddle. I was a little over one generation away from those day. My mother was on the edge of that day and age that was leaving Neff Road.


I love this picture of my great grandparents, Sarah and David Ernest, riding in the buggy behind this enormous, sway-back. I want to know more about the horse. Who is the young woman who stands next to the buggy. I want answers! I want to ride in that buggy behind that huge horse that only a little girl from Neff Road could see as a beauty.


Granddad Loxley loved cars. I remember washing his Edsel when I was a kid. He had one of the first and few of these cars that showed up in Darke County. My Dad stands next to a car that took the family on a trip west. A handsome picture.


With affection, I remember our old, black Packard. I was recently explaining to my granddaughter about riding in a car with the front seat a bench like that in the back.


"Three people could sit in the front?!" My how time flies.

The family wheels have a history. Again, it is the small things in pictures that we fail to notice. The history that sits in plain sight. From the wagon wheel to the Honda that sits in my driveway, the generations in my life saw them all.

The wheels beneath the buggy pulled by a white horse. The smell of horse and leather......

Monday, November 7, 2011

Old Loxley Homestead

He ran to the trees where the tiger lilies bloomed. "Mom, it's here!"

I never knew my great grandfather Ben Loxley. From all of the stories I've heard of him, I'm not sorry that I didn't meet the man. However, I am always wanting to know more about my family (you probably already knew that). I've written about this before, but I though a 'before and after' might be fun.

 The old Loxley homestead is located outside of Bradford, Ohio. At that time, Grandpa Loxley was a prosperous farmer. I think he had as many acres as he had children. That's another story. At one time a lovely house sat back a lane in the middle of the acreage.

The house that we found had been burned down for the most part. Some of the brick walls were still standing. James and I walked through the house. This house that had seen the death of a woman and the birth of many babies. A house full of history. Some we would never know.   

I touched the bricks and thought, "This is a place of my beginnings, the place where my grandfather was a child."
 
James was checking out every inch of the house. The gaping hole of the old cistern sat in the corner of one room waiting to swallow whoever wandered blindly into the hole. Even though vines and plants had overtaken the house and trees pressed against its sides, the new growth could not erase the eeriness of this place. A place of unsmiling children.


I have a brick from the old homestead as do each of my children. Perhaps one day another will seek to find these ruins and another story will be written remembering an adventure into the past. A history lays hidden in the rubble......


                                                           

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hands of Time

From there to here. Maybe that is what Neff Road is about. It is about a journey from there to here. I constantly go through the pictures and paper I have accumulated from there to here looking for stories to write and memories to embrace once more. All of it is my journey from childhood to this age that some call senior. I call it the age of illumination.

In working on my book about Neff Road, I came across an old card that evidently I sent to someone when I was a toddler. I've seen the card before paying little heed to it. Yesterday I place it on a pile of papers, a pile I turned over this morning. My mother had signed the card with my name, but not until the card was turned over did I see the true signature.....a small hand print that just fit the card.

I sat holding the card looking at the small print wondering what I was like as a child. Did I giggle and wiggle when Mom tried to outline my hand? Was the card to my Dad? As I looked at the card, I noticed the hand holding it. A hand that had gone from there to here.

I have my mother's hand outline when she was a girl. I have her mother's as well. Now I have mine, my daughter's, my granddaughters'. Five generations of hands. It's not that I needed proof that I was a little kid. I wish I could remember those times when I was very small. I wish I could remember my mother holding my little hand and my father laughing when he saw the hand print on the card. The distance from there to here is measured in the hands, the hands of time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mother and Child

With my hands hidden beneath the blanket, I held my baby daughter so she wouldn't fall over during the photo session. I did the same for my son. Mom under the baby blanket holding up the wobbly baby.

I came across this picture recently. It is an old tintype. It is out of an album that was given to me....not family. However, the history of the 'early method' of holding a child for a picture is quite evident. This picture has given me a quite a few giggles. I feel lucky that I didn't need to cover myself with a blanket waiting for the photographer to take the shot.

I did a little research on tintypes finding that there is actually no tin in the aforementioned. The pictures were taken with a twelve lens camera and produced on metal, but the metal was not tin. And the negative type pictures are priceless.

I am thankful to have the tintypes recalling another day and age. Most of all, I love having this one of 'mother' and child.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Haunting....EEEEEEEEEEK!

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Okay, there are no 'eekings' here. We have a ghost the girls have named Gloria. We don't see her, but we hear her. We discovered her when the floorboards in my bedroom creaked as steps crossed my room. Step, by step, by step Gloria made herself known. Since then, Gloria has opened doors and slammed them shut. She surprises us once in awhile with some new noise. The dog crate opens and things fall in odd places.
"Grammy, Gloria knocked a vase off the dresser!" Gabby yelled. I followed her up the stairway to her room. When we entered, she gasped, "Grammy, the vase was on its side when I came to get you." Now the vase was standing upright.

A friend knows the people who lived here before us. They indeed verified that a ghost lives here. They actually saw the old woman walk down the hallway and smelled food cooking. I'm hoping she likes to cook and takes over the kitchen duties.



We had a ghost in our home many years ago. He would shake my bed and that of my daughter even as we sat there awake. The bed would shake. Stop. Then shake once more. My son had seen the man standing in his bedroom doorway.

Once a friend came to house-sit for us……she slept in James' room.


"Do you know you have a ghost?" she asked upon our return. She was unaware of our silent resident yet went on to describe him exactly as my son had previously. Oh, yes, we had a ghost.

When my grandmother passed, the neighbor swore she saw doves flying from my grandparent's chimney. Spirits. There are many who might be unbelieving, but I for one have no doubts.
 

One night in our house where the man ghost resided I was trying to fall asleep. Night after night undoubtedly one of my two children would tap me on the back. "Can I have a drink?" "Would you tuck me in again?" etc.


On this night, I felt the tap on my back. "Go back to bed," I warned.


Again......the tap.
 

"I said, go back.....", and as I turned over, I saw that no one was there. I got up and checked on both children who were both soundly asleep.

My granddaughters so fairly well with Gloria. Having a ghost has given me a chance to talk to my children and grandchildren about fear and about accepting that there are some things we just can't explain. We talk

about death and afterlife. We talk about the lives we imagine for our visitors turned ghostly. We accept that
we have no answers....but we do have a ghost.
If Gloria is looking over my shoulder, I hope she understands that we can live peacefully with her and wish for her final peace.
 

As for me, I ain't 'fraida no ghosts! 

This post will also be on A Grandparent's Voice today. Happy Halloween!!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

From the Hands of the Women I Love

From the hands of the women I love came pieces of art and timeless treasures. I am surrounded by these pieces never forgetting the days I received them and never forgetting those who created them.

Mom was never without her crocheting in her hands. She sat for hours making baby clothing and hats. She always had a gift for a new baby or newlyweds.

Cousin Betty Johnson crocheted doilies as had my grandmother, mother and aunt. My Aunt Welma Johnson tatted around handkerchiefs.

A quilt made by my grandmother sits in my bedroom.

My sister and I embroidered as did most of the women in our family. In the 60's it came in very handy.

My cousin Alma Lea paints incredible pieces of art. My sister, June, creates with leaded glass.

Stacey, my daughter, knits. From hats to stuffed toys, her art fills our home with delight.

I have a chest full of pieces of the handiwork of people I know and those I do not know that have been handed down.  Pieces of art made by the hands of the women I love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Driveway

So I crawled into my friend's car yesterday. "Guess what I found?" she said handing me a bag of Jacks.

I gave the game to my friend several years ago after a conversation in which we both said how much we loved to play Jacks as kids. Then, she misplaced them. Personally, I think it was on purpose. Now I'm not so sure how long I can sit on the floor to play the game with my sixty-two-year old friend.

"Brings back memories of Brenda and I playing Jacks in their driveway," I said just before imaginary light bulb went on above my head.

I'd never thought about it before. I knew it, just didn't think about it. We played on the cement in front of the garage. Not many people on Neff Road had a cement drive into their garages. Brenda and I were lucky they had one so we could draw with chalk Hop Scotch squares and bounce the ball for a game of Jacks.

It wasn't much of a discovery I made yesterday, but it takes me back remembering the changes that took place during that time. Bathrooms went from out back to inside. Roads were paved. Cabinets were built in. Not major events, but each a progression into the future.

A small bag of ten jacks and a little red ball took me back to two small girls grabbing at jacks before the little ball bounced back to the cement driveway. A place of good memories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Focus

My apologies for not writing every day. Weekends are always down time. Now I'm extending some of that time due to the work I am doing on the book, Neff Road. I will try to write at least three times a week. I appreciate the time you take to visit my blog and love your comments. Hopefully, the book will be in final editing before the end of the year.

I look forward to spending more time with you on Neff Road. Please continue to visit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hardly Simple

A barn. A door to the hay mow. An old kettle and old bucket. A grandson. Three sisters. The last day we would spend on the farm back the lane on Neff Road. The old racks once sat in the cow stable full of Dad's tools. Old boxes, crates and buckets held all sorts of odds and ends.  A cow stable that once was a milking chamber became the catchall for an old piano frame, old sleds, baseball bats, piles of twine and sweet memories.

The older I get, the more I realize what an incredible experience was that life on the farm. It was a place of adventure and imagination. A place of hard work, bonfires, long walks and lazy Sundays. A place of wheat, corn, tobacco, soy beans and oats. A place for cows, chickens, sheep, rabbits, horse, dogs and cats. A place where the planter, drag, rock slide, baler, manure spreader, tobacco planter, plow, cultivator, elevator, wagon and tractors resided. Barns full of tobacco hanging from the rafters, corn piled to the top of the corn crib, hay on the west wall and straw on the east in the hay mow, oats in the old barn along with the wheat. A place that saw lambs, calves and bunnies born. Where sheep were shorn, bulls became steers and bunnies went off to market along with the chickens. Warm eggs were gathered from beneath the hen.

We played in the barns, in the creek bottom and in the woods. We roamed and nobody cared where we went. When dinner came, Mom would yell knowing we were within hearing distance. We ate fresh vegetables from the garden, meat from our own stock, eggs from the hen house. We saw ground hogs, owls, moles and sometimes packs of wild dogs.

One might say that life was simple back considering the above, I hardly think it simple. I think it simply wonderful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Only a Photo

Vague memories lie somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Memories of a big round table in a kitchen. Adults laughing and teasing. The smell of my grandfather's pipe and my uncles cigarette. An adult world that I remember only in soft memories that tickle my awareness now and then.

I do have the pictures. I do have pieces that I can put together to discover a life of which I had no part. A brother and his sisters play around in the yard. An uncle as I never saw him. A loved aunt that was full of mischief that we all loved. My mother young with a brother she adored and a sister who truly loved her. I do have the pictures.

My children will not have my memories. No, someday they, too, will have only the pictures. I thank God for the gift of words that I might add to them the stories they might one day care to know. We are all only pictures in time. The history we hold is every bit as important in time to a family as is that we read of other in history books. We write our own history book. I hope that you are in mine and I in yours.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Bond

"I would have stayed on the farm. Why did you sell it?" my son asked. Why indeed? My son learned to love the farm, not by being a farm kid, but by the love of the place we all called home.

Today my blogs are for my son. A boy who first met his farm grandparents the beginning of November when they came to see the new baby in Wisconsin. Their last grandchild. My grandfather, Mom's dad, would die on their way home from this trip to see his great-grandson.

James loved the farm. He and his sister loved the freedom to roam with no one worrying about where they might be. They loved the swing in the barn and the animals that lived behind the barn. They rode on the tractor and played with the neighbor kids. They bonded with the home place where once their mother played.

James was never at the farm long enough to learn much about farming, but still he loved the land as much as any of us. The dark, rich soil had found its way into his blood. Over the years we have all wondered why we sold the farm. None of the Loxley girls wanted to live there at the time. Caring for a place hundreds of miles from home was impossible. Yet my son would have given up anything to have the farm back in his life.

Maybe the farm was really more a frame of mind for those who lived far from it. Peace, a slow pace, an oasis in our busy lives calls us home over and over again.

James may have been born in Wisconsin and raised in Oregon, but his heart is still back on the farm on Neff Road.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It Was 1966

In late October 1967, I flew for the first time. I flew from Dayton to Hawaii to meet up with my fiance who was on R & R. Panicked I sat in the back row of the plane. An elderly woman (Ha! She was probably my age now!) from Canada was in the seat next to me. She asked if it was my first time flying. I guess it was obvious. She reached over and held my hand and helped me through that first flight.

On each leg of the flight, other angels watched over me taking me to my gates, talking me through the long flights over the ocean. I was only eighteen and leaving home for the first time on my own.

I stood with other young women in a receiving room waiting for the young soldiers from Viet Nam to arrive. Girls primped and giggled full of anticipation. A door opened and miles were erased.

Hawaii was beautiful. The beaches weren't cluttered as they are now.We were in Hawaii during Aloha week. We stood on a above the parade that passed below. Exotic flowers and beautiful people waved and smiled. We were far away from Neff Road, away from bullets and bunkers.

It was another time. A time when a farm boy's first adventure put a gun in his hands and sent him to war. A time when couples were torn apart and parents wept. It was a time when two kids from Darke County spent a few days putting war behind them.

It was 1966.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just Good Cents

1944 Postage Rates

First Class letters cost the sender exactly 3¢ an ounce (sealed or not sealed). Special delivery over 2 lbs., not exceeding 10 lbs., was all of 25¢. Newspapers and periodicals sent by the public could go for 1¢ per ounce.

I'm always amazed when I see old postcards with old 1¢ stamps on them. Of course, a penny meant more back then. I remember shining copper pennies on the living room rug, precious pennies. One  could buy a piece of penny candy or a stamp. Along with the cent sign disappearing from the keyboard, the penny has lost its worth.

I'd like to get more mileage out of a penny. Used to be that a child lighted up when a shiny penny was placed in a small hand. Now the child says, "What am I to do with this?" Penny loafers aren't around to claim a couple of pennies. Pennies from the tooth fairy are long past with the sound of coin replaced with rustle of paper. Lincoln's face is less and less recognized by children. George seems to be in the piggy banks that make no sound when shook.

Christmas cards are just around the corner. For the price of four stamps, I can buy a cheap card....if I'm lucky. Mail bags are a bit lighter with internet cards sent instead. The thrill of find a card in the mailbox will fade in time. Instead a card will be read then deleted.

Today I honor the penny that meant something to children when I was a kid. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Other Kitchen

The women gathered in the kitchen. A kitchen that was as much theirs as was the one where they cooked daily meals for their families. The took their aprons out of their baskets and bags reaching behind to tie them. Laughter was a companion to these women who had known one another most of their lives.

Dough was rolled and cutters busy making little circles. I was old enough to place the rounds on baking sheets. The process repeated over and over again. Once a tray was removed from the oven, another took its place. Little donuts were tossed with sugar and bagged in brown paper bags. A dozen in each. It was the churches annual donut sale.

Orders had been placed for the bags of sweet delights. Of course, once the smell of fresh donuts reached the nose of the buyer, more were requested.

I miss standing in the kitchen with those women. I loved those women. Pauline, my preschool Sunday School teacher, became my friend when I became an adult, a friendship that grew in that kitchen laughing over pure silliness. I miss the smell of those wonderful donuts that showed up once a year.

Apples, donuts, pumpkins. It must be Fall.

Friday, October 14, 2011

For Aunt Esther

The piece of petrified wood sits on the shelf. A gift from an Aunt and Uncle who knew their niece loved nature. They knew because we looked for agates together. We shared a love Indian stones. The birds that flocked to our yards were important. The creatures that live around us were safe with us. A bond of blood. A bond of nature. Wonderful memories are mine. I get to keep them and cherish them, revisiting them time and time again. Aunt Esther, this is for you. The pictures tell it all.

 Daddy's young sister came long after her brothers. A true Christmas gift to a mother of three sons.

My children got to know their great aunt and great uncle. They got to know their grandfather's sister. They gained an important relationship in their lives.

They came to Oregon. We looked for agates along the Pacific coast. We laughed and were happy to have them with us.

Twice they came. Each visit was a treasure.

Their adventures were ours. They shared their rock finds and their pictures....and our world grew bigger. Each visit was a treasure.

A new generation is welcomed by a loving aunt and uncle. A child who has grown up knowing about Uncle Phil and Aunt Esther and who is sharing their love of nature as well.

We had sale at the farm. They stayed by their nieces and remembered. A loving uncle and aunt with us at a difficult time.

As precious as the stones she gave to me is the love I have for my aunt who left us this week. I always thought that she understood nature the same as my dad. There was a connection that started long before I was around. How my father loved his little sister.
On my visit to Ohio in July, I got to see my beloved aunt and uncle. They always were willing to drive to whatever location necessary to see their nieces. Our aunt loved her girls. I am blessed to have spent time with my family. Time over lunch, over old pictures, over a piece of pecan pie.

This saying 'good-bye' is difficult, but in my heart I know I will see her again....and I know that she and Dad are sharing laughter once more. My heart is with my Uncle Phil in his loss. My home will always be his.

For Aunt Esther Loxley Barnhart with love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In the Headlines

Standing in her kitchen posed for The Daily Advocate, Mom was enjoying the spotlight. I came across the old newspaper clipping today. The article came out in 1994.

Few were the times our family had holidays together. Still their children knew that their parents would be with others who considered them 'Mom and Dad'. Mom loved company and rarely was her kitchen free of visitors.

She always wanted a large kitchen. Our little kitchen with the old sink, stove and refrigerator had only a cupboard for storage. The table took up most of the room. Mother dreamed of a remodeled kitchen where she could cook for an army. Here she stands in her new kitchen with built in cabinets and window on two walls.

Home Extension Service was a blessing for Mom. She loved what she learned and what she could teach. How often we had heard her say, "I have Extension today".

I think Dad enjoyed the new kitchen as much as did Mom. He sat at the window on a bar stool watching the fields and his birds. Sometimes they both would sit there eating lunch, a far cry from the old kitchen they shared with their children. This was their kitchen. Their children had not been children there.

The kitchen is a gathering place for family and friends. Mom's kitchen was for her family, those related and those not. This article meant a great deal to Mom. I remember receiving the article in the mail.....in fact, I think I received two or three of them. She deserved to be recognized.

The farmer learned to cook with his wife in her new kitchen. They puttered around one another, Dad predicting her next move. Over time he came up with his own recipes.

A porch was another of Mom's dreams. A porch that wrapped around the east side of the house. The original porch did eventually expand and was screened in, but the wrap around never happened. The old house has been remodeled. Now a small porch sits on the east side of the house. I smile thinking how happy Mom would be that the porch was finally finished.

In the headlines......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sitting by the Fire

I flipped the switch. The chill in the house faded as warm flames chased it away.

The basement door opened and the brisk fall wind entered along with Dad, his arms loaded with logs. He took the logs to the fireplace stacking them for the first fire of the season. The outdoors chill emanated from his grey jacket. I sat on the old piano bench watching Dad light the wood. The flame faltered. Dad lightly blew on the weak spark, raising it to meet the dry wood. Fire whooshed across the fireplace and smoked into the chimney.


Dad and I sat on the old piano bench watching the colorful flames. He explained the different colors of flames flickered from different types of wood. We listened to the crackling bark and twigs sitting in silence. Our faces warmed. A father and daughter.

"I'd better go help your mother," Dad would say then disappear up the stairs.

Sometimes Dad fixed fish over the fire. Eat bite of fresh fish from Michigan was savored. The usual fare was hot dogs and potato salad. While Mom puttered around setting up the meal, Dad placed a hot dog on the end of a roasting fork and handed it to me. He usually had two on his and sometimes ended up with mine as well. I could only take the heat so long, but Dad would crouch down in front of that fire seemingly unaware of the heat.

Casual dining at our home began in front of the fireplace. It was a gathering place of happiness and contentment. From my days as a little girl watching my Daddy build the fires to the years I would watch my children roasting hot dogs next to Dad, the basement held and saved memories for the Loxley girls.

I flip the switch. The chill in the house fades as warm flames chase it away. How I miss the smell of the wood burning and the crackle of the fire. Most of all I miss my father, his arms full of wood and the chill of fall clinging to his grey coat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Place in the Heart

"Hi, Pam. This is Michael."

Michael. It has been probably two years since I last heard his voice. He in Berlin. Me in Oregon. The last time I saw him was around 1988. Hearing his voice again was a nice surprise.

Michael came to stay with us when I was just a kid. A strong-willed, hard-headed, teenage, exchange student stayed with the Loxley family for a time. It was post-war. American families were still trying to forgive. A German boy was trying to be a proud man. It wasn't a good mix. I was just a kid.

There is something to be said for being a little brat. No one pays too much attention to you. You are too young to have prejudices. And, to top it off, life is an adventure every day from dawn until dusk. I loved Michael. I don't think he paid too much attention to me. I probably followed him around fascinated with his accent. One day when playing in the barn, I stepped on a nail stuck into a board. Michael ran from the house, picked me up and carried me into the house. That was the beginning of a friendship with my 'big' brother.

Michael visited the farm again when I was a teenager. He was more interested in his 'little sister' wanting to meet her friends and to learn about her life as a modern teen. Several years ago he came to visit us here in Oregon. I spent a couple of days with Michael showing him the beautiful sights in Oregon and learning now about this man I'd known for decades.

"I have come to look at things differently," he said over the phone. Age and time have mellowed the boy now man. He talked to me as a brother would a younger sister. His regrets of not appreciating what he had during those times on the farm and of the people are in his mind. Age is a mighty learning tool.

"I will call more often. You have a place in my heart," he said.

"I love you, too," I replied.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Bright Golden Haze

Theirs a bright golden haze on the meadow. There's a bright golden haze on the meadow.


The musical Oklahoma had it right. In Darke County, the landscape is a bright golden haze. Fields and fields of gold appeared every fall. In the country quiet, you can hear the leaves of the stalks slapping one another. The corn silk turns brown and dry. Ears push out of their summer cocoons. It was a good day when Dad walked into the kitchen holding a full ear of ripened corn. We knew the harvest would be good that year. We knew we would have an easier winter.

Dad drove the corn picker into the field, the wagon attached behind. Corn was separated from the chaff as the picker clipped off the stalks then moved up the elevator and into the wagon. Quickly the wagon was filled with bushels of gold. Once the wagons were filled, the corn was shoveled into the tall elevator that dumped the corn into the bins in the old corn crib. Brenda and I would sit on the beam high above the floor of the crib watching the corn drop into our summer playhouse.

Tractors pulling wagons and truck laden with the fall crop made their way down Neff Road to the elevator. Corn would be stored. Feed bins would be filled. Winter for families and their stock would be easier.

The corn rustled in the field beneath my bedroom window. The sound lulled me to sleep. Perhaps I even heard the sound of it growing.

The corn is as high as an elephant's eye, an' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Little White House

The little house sat next to the school yard on McKaig Road in Troy. A sweet little house. The place they had raised their two children. I would marry their son.

Many Sundays were spent visiting my in-laws. When we visited, we spent the entire afternoon and evening. Mom Drake and I played card games while Jim and Dad watched football, baseball or whatever was the season sport. It was a place I felt at home.

The school yard butted up to the house. The Drake kids just popped out the back door and over to the school. Lunch at home was easy. A big playground in the back yard was every kids dream. It was home.

After my husband and I divorced, I still stayed in contact with my in-laws. Whenever we were back to visit, we spent time with them. My children would have that time with their grandparents. My son has written a musical based on WWII, a musical written for his grandfather who once shared the war with his grandson. The once and only time he talked about it.

I walked into the room. I didn't recognize him, but he recognized me. Mom was gone. Dad was frail. Tears filled his eyes as I took his hand. I had always had a special bond with Dad. I laid my head on his pillow next to him giving him all the warmth I could.

"I love you, Dad."

"Oh, I love you."

The sweet little house on McKaig Road.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Old Bus

Bill was one of a group of twenty kids who were the first to go to Franklin School the year it opened. He started the first grade when the school opened in 1926 and graduated in 1939. In a conversation with his sister, Bill told that before Franklin was built, there were one room schools since kids had to walk to school. He went by the name of Leonard back then. William Leonard Kinnison.

I stood at the end of the lane waiting for bus #16. Louie was our bus driver. I rode the bus with his daughter, Patsy, who was a year older than me. The same Patsy wrote to me after reading my column about Franklin School. She provided me with this history from her brother Bill.


I never thought much about the way my parents got to school. I guess I thought they walked or were taken by their parents. They never talked about a bus. I thought of my grandmother watching her children walk down their lane to meet the bus and of my mother standing by the mailbox waiting for it to pick her up. I tried to envision them sitting on the old bus in the rain and in the snow. How many kids were on the bus? Was it just one bus or were there several? What was it like to be a kid back then going from a one room school to a big school with two floors of classrooms? Bill more than likely rode that bus with my parents. His story is theirs as well.

Patsy gave me a gift by sharing Bill's story. I have a new appreciation of the history of the old, brick school.
I wonder if Bill's dad decided to be a bus driver when he took this picture of his son getting into that first Model T school bus heading to Franklin School. I write this for Patsy, Bill and their father, Louie.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hauntings

With October here, I decided to look up some fun facts. Today it's all about places that are haunted in Darke County and surrounding areas. These facts are all taken from online sites at: www.ohiohauntedplaces.com/; www.forgottenoh.com/; www.ohioexploration.com/ 

The Bradford Sanitorium was built in the late 1920's and burned down in 1935. I'm not sure if there is anything to haunt now if it burned down. Hm. Some rumors say that it was a boarding house and not a sanitorium. Frankly, I'm too young to remember.

Bear's Mill is said to have a ghost of an old farmer who might be Major George Adams who was awarded the land in 1832 by President Monroe or maybe Gabriel Baer who built the Mill in 1849. Whoever it is, his footsteps creak on the old wooden floorboards on the upper levels. Bet he's tired.

Evidently Memorial Hall is haunted by a ghost. An old custodian fell to his death while changing a light bulb in the ceiling of the main theatre. I can vouch that the ceiling is quite high. I just looked at it in July. Don't know when it happened. Maybe he was trying to blow out a lamp.

On West Water Street a boulder is said to have a Native American girl buried beneath it. She supposedly had been assaulted by soldiers from Ft. Greenville and has lingered around since. It is also rumored that a woman visits another home on Water Street. Water Street is a busy area.

Cromer Cemetery in Gettysburg: a shadowy figures roams the cemetery. I have relatives there. I wonder.....

It seems that on McMecham Road, the homes are built over old burial grounds. I don't think I need to say more.

We'll never know if the claim is true that Franklin Monroe High School (torn down this year) had some strange occurrences. A mysterious piano player. Footsteps in the band room and on stage. I was in a couple of plays on that stage. Never heard a thing....not even applause.

One site has the Jamison Farm haunted by Aunt Ella. Evidently, she rocks in her chair. The shutters on the house seem to open and close randomly. Who finds out this stuff anyway?!

It is all fascinating this idea that ghosts are still roaming around Darke County. It seems to me that no one ever sees ghosts in miniskirts or love beads. Maybe somewhere along the way it got easier to move on.

Fall. More than colorful leaves and changing weather.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Black and White

Reruns. News. Entertainment shows telling all. Boredom. Millie, the Airedale, was asleep on her bed. I sat at my son's house scanning through the several hundred TV channels. Nothing.....not until I found the cowboy station. Nothing but cowboys.

When I was little girl and TV came to live at our house, I was glued to westerns. My first crush was on Roy Rogers. I truly don't think there was a cowboy show that I missed. I fell in love with the animals Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Fury. I didn't seem to notice the shooting and violence. I was captured by another day and age. One that really wasn't so far from the childhood of my grandparents.

Last night a show I'd forgotten greeted me when I landed on the cowboy channel. Paladin. I was mesmerized by the show. The black and white seemed more vivid than what we watch today. The starkness of the scenes drove home the starkness of those times back when families lived in houses crudely built out in the middle of nowhere. Those old shows didn't spend money on fancy sets and costumes. Women wore dresses that looked handmade. Cowboys were rugged and sometimes ragged. The stories were simple. They had to be. They only lasted 30 minutes.

After watching my old friend Paladin, James Arness came onto the screen. I watched a simple story of a father trying to make a home for his daughter. I was reminded of why I loved the cowboy shows. James Arness passed away in June this year. I imagine he may be one of the last few 'old' cowboys still around. Once Warner Brothers started producing Maverick and the other classic cowboys, the old simplicity of those black and white shows, the starkness of a set, the story that took the screen was gone to personalities who changed the cowboy image.

I will visit the cowboys again. The little girl who sat in front of the Raytheon television can still go back and watch her favorite shows. Those cowboys may have ridden off into the sunset, but they never truly went away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Telling the Story

When did I know I was a storyteller? Why do I care about the past? Why do I love antiques? What is it that draws me to the 'old'? Why do I hold on to it all?

A family comes from the same roots, but they are all different. One might be a singer and one creative with needle and yarn. One might be an artist and another a writer. One might be a jock and another a ballet dancer. We are all different. No one can plant those differences in us.

Against the wall sits a pile of books. Old photo albums of people I don't know. Notebooks full of daily writings. Tintypes, black and whites, old wrinkled pictures of other times. Why do I care? In all honesty, I have no idea, but I could no more turn off this desire to embrace the past as I could stop eating.

As I have said before, I know that I am the storyteller. I know that this desire to keep the memories is a gift....a treasured gift. As far back as I can remember, I sat in a variety of homes listening to adult conversation, reminiscings of the past and stories of the present. Didn't know it at the time, but those times were history. I care. That's all there is to it.

I write a new story now. I sit in my living room with you passing on history waiting for a new storyteller, someone who feels that desire to know just as I do.When you find this history, think of us sitting in the living room sharing another time, then tell the story well.

Monday, September 26, 2011

We Sat on the Hill

Time and time again I sat on the hill. Seasons changed. I changed. Still I sat on the hill. In the winter, I sat on the grey sled waiting to go down the hill. In the summer, I sat on the grass watching the clouds and white streaks trailing a dot in the sky. When Brenda came over, we sat on the hill. When my children were small, we sat on the hill. The house back the lane sat on the hill.

The crops changed in the field below the hill. Dad uncovered a nest of bunnies in that field. Often he found an arrowhead waiting for him in the field. The red winged black bird built her nest in that field, and I watched Dad work in the field. The hill was where Mom hung the wash and the chicken for Sunday dinner. The clothesline was where the clothes flapped in the wind bringing the scent of soap with it. We sat on the hill time and time again.

There wasn't a neighbor kid who hadn't rolled down that hill. The momentum of a child running in tag often took them down the hill and into the field. I rolled down the hill with my small granddaughter the last time I was there. I was too old to roll down that hill, but my granddaughter laughed, and I had one last memory.

I still sit on that hill overlooking the creek bottom. I feel the breeze and think of my mother. I watch for the ground hog who irritates my dad. I sit outside the big white house back the lane and am thankful for what I had then that embraces me now.

There was a time we sat on the hill.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weather Witch

It hung on the wall in the kitchen. Most people wouldn't have noticed it. I remember it well. Maybe it was because I was a little kid. The weather witch hung on the wall.

There is sat right in front of me. A memory. A forgotten remnant. A piece of the house back the lane. My sister had found it at the auction in Shipshewana. She didn't remember the one on the farm. Maybe it came reside there after she was off to college.

The Weather Witch consists of a little wooden house rather like the cuckoo clock fronted with a Scandinavian chalet. A small thermometer sits on the front between two open doors. A woman stands on a small piece of wood in one door. A man in black stands on the other end. When the weather is good, the woman pops out of the house. If bad weather is in the air, the man in black appears. Our weather witch on the farm had two small children in one door and a witch in the other.

We found a Weather Witch when I was visiting in July. Like ours on the farm, it was made in West Germany by a company named BAMBI. Gabby is our resident Weather Witch watcher reminding me of myself so many years ago.

A piece of my past came home with me all new to another generation. We can hardly wait for bad weather so we can see the man in black.

The Weather Witch.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Looking Through the Pane

Windows. They let in light. They allow mom's to check on her kids. Unaware birds can be observed through them. They enhance the ambiance of church service. Window go hand in hand with memories.


Today I was going through my pictures loading them onto CD's. I noticed how many pictures of windows were amongst the photos. With each window came a memory. Last year for Christmas I decided to take pictures of James and Lisa's new 'old ' house. Windows on an old house giving new views.


On the trip back to Ohio and Indiana in July, old windows brought back memories from the past. A new appreciation for what was part of my past. The Old Order Church with it's heavy shuttered windows. Windows shutting out a more modern world that surrounded the old church. The stained glass windows in Memorial Hall.


I was there the day they began tearing down my old high school. I had one last glance at the windows on the room where my writing began. A room with windows on my future.


When my grandfather's house was torn down, my aunt and uncle recovered some of the panes from the French doors that opened from the dining room into the living room. Doors that were often closed when my grandmother was ill. Doors that were always open when the family gathered for Christmas. Panes of glass that saw a family grow. Saw my father go from boy to man.




Barn windows. The historic barn in Indiana. A family working to save the round barn. My grandfather's barn, a historic barn as well. My father's barn, with a 'first of it's kind' roof. Barns. The smell, the history, the windows looking out over the rich soil of the fields.


The window sills were wide. A great place to play with small toys, a place to read a book, a place to watch for an expected guest. The wind and rain pelted the windows. Snow and frost clung to them. And, in the summer, a warm summer breeze teased the curtains.


Windows. Those overlooking Neff Road.