Friday, April 29, 2011

I Know Her

Charlie Ardinger, Ethel Loxley, Esther Rhodes, Elise Ardinger, Will and Leta Wright
The picture is old and frail. Years have taken the color. It fades into the past. The names are written on the back. Two I recognize: my grandmother Ethel Loxley and her sister Esther Rhodes.

A beautiful part of having a computer is that I can save old pictures and tweek them to make the picture richer than it is on paper. Still there are parts that will not be saved. I have saved what I can.

I love that I can enlarge the picture in order to look more closely at faces, clothing, the site of the picture. I only saw my grandmother from the eyes of a small child. Now I can see her in a new way as an adult. I can know her by the friends she kept and the way she dressed. Once more I am with my grandmother.

There is a rich history in the photo basket. There is a rich history we can preserve for future generations. Not every cares, I must admit, but I am one who will do what I can to keep our history alive in word and in the photos. I care.

Will someone care as much when we are gone? Will we leave behind our gifts of the person were are? Will we leave words of poetry, a spirit loved by others? Will we leave behind a photograph of us in happy times?

I know my grandmother by the stories my parents told. I know her by the lives she had touched. I know her by the face I see on the paper. Ah, I know her.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a Sign

I'm in the British mode today, so you will all just need to join me in a few chuckles. A few years ago I visited England with a friend. The trip was wonderful. I loved the countryside, the architecture, the pubs, but, what caught my eye most were the street signs. So, today I give you a view from my British roots.


Divided highway

Speed Bump

Speed Bump
Hat Rental

Crosswalk (my favorite)

The place of my roots I embrace wholeheartedly. Cheers, my readers. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Thousand Words

The old pictures are tucked away. They sleep for decades occasionally passed over.

"Who is that?" my granddaughters ask whenever we come across an interesting photo.

I don't know. My trunk is full of pictures of people captured in a moment of time passed on to the future, to those who would not know them. The trunk is full of a history that should not be ignored.

Some pictures grab you and hold on. No matter how you search the picture for clues, or how you try to look for recognition of a relative in the face on the old photo, there is no record of the place, the person, the time. Still the picture tells a history.

This is indeed one of my favorite photos. The child sitting in the cart. Was it taken in a studio? Is the goat a taxidermed specimen? If it was taken on site, who worked the camera? Was the old tri-pod brought to the location? Why do the goat and child have the same look on their faces? How old is the child? Who is the child?

It is a time when carts and goats or carts and dogs would have been a reality. A time captured fascinating my granddaughters as well as the grandma. I want to sit in the cart. I want to pet the goat. I want to step back to the time of long dresses, hair coiled into a bun and babies in long dresses. And.....for a moment I am.

A picture is worth a thousand words....many of those words are questions.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Blossoms of Spring

Spring was coming to Washington, DC. A farm family piled into their old Packard and headed toward the cherry blossoms. It was a big trip for the Loxley family.

Cousin Gene was in the service. We met up with him allowing him to be our guide. My memories are spotty of that time in my life as I was just a little girl in her red coat and matching hat. I remember watching the changing of the guard at tomb of the unknown soldier. We stood at the top of the Washington Monument looking down on the reflection pool. A snow globe was purchased for me in the gift shop. Abe sat on a big chair looking down on me.

We stayed with family friends in DC. I remember it well as it was the first time I'd ever slept on a cot. A simple thing, yet pressed into the memory of a little girl from Neff Road.

I do not remember the trip to New York when I was a baby. There many other trips while my sisters still lived at home, but only a few stick in my mind. This trip to DC is full of memory for me of riding in the car with my sister, standing by state signs while Mom or Dad snapped a picture. I remember them holding my hands and sitting close to me. Treasures are stored in those memories.

It's as if I can almost hear the laughter of my father, and my mother's coarse voice when I go back to that time. I remember my cousin lifting me up onto his lap at the Jefferson Memorial. Dad stopped at farms on the way so we could see the baby lambs in the fields. We stood among the white headstones at Arlington.

It was a long way from the farm to the capitol. I has been a long time since that trip with my family. A memory triggers a moment it captures in a picture, captured in the scent of military jacket and sight of blossoming trees.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brown Eggs

The Easter Bunny has come and gone. The colored eggs will slowly disappear over the next week added to school lunches, snacks and egg salad sandwiches. On the farm, we knew that our colored eggs would soon become pickled eggs hanging out with pickled beets or in a huge bowl of Mother's potato salad garnished with a few slices of hard boiled egg on top.

Coloring eggs was different on the farm. My granddaughters look at me strangely when I tell of gathering warm eggs from beneath a chicken then taking them into the house to be boiled then colored.

"Our eggs were brown," I told them.

"Did they taste different," Gabby asks.

"Why were the eggs brown," Sydney asks.

Did they taste different? Well, yes, they were fresh and maybe with a bit warmer egg taste. Why were they brown? As I remember, it had to do with the type of chicken.

"How does the chicken lay the egg? Where does it come from?" Gabby asks.

Oh, my. I hate these conversations.

"Well, they just plop them out their backside," an easy out by Grams.

A duel chorus of, "yuk".

"They poop them out?" Gabby exclaims.

"Noooooo," I answer trying to dig out of the hold I'm in.

I hate these conversations that take me places I just don't want to go. So, I change subject.

"My mom had big white cups that she put the dye in to. We dipped eggs a lot like you do now. You know, brown eggs look different when you color them," I said.

"How do they look different," Gabby asks.

Being a grandma is a challenge. Sometimes telling my suburban born grandchildren stories of my past on the farm back the lane must seem to them a fairy tale. They have never been to the farm. Never walked around a hen house. Never placed a small hand beneath a warm, clucking hen. They have never seen the house where the eggs were dyed nor the met the woman who was their great grandmother. In case you didn't know, this blog is a history I write for them.

"Well, the brown eggs are just darker than your white eggs when they are dyed. Brown eggs are brown, so the color you color them will be darker, too," I explain.

They are trying to figure out what I just am I.

I didn't tell them that some eggs just turned out brown and often yucky shades of the other colors.

Easter egg question are dormant for another years. Whew!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Something is Missing

Something is missing. Spring is upon us and yet something is missing.

For the last couple of years, I have been driving my sister either to or from Indiana from Key West where she migrates each Fall much like the birds. Her mode of transportation is all by land. It is a special time when we are confined to a small space with nothing to do but talk and laugh. This year I did not make the trip. Instead I am going back for the month of July. Something is missing this Spring.

Sisters. What a lovely word. My sisters mean the world to me. This once small farm girl born seven years after her next sister remembers little of her sisters in those growing up years. By the time I was starting school, June was in high school and Peg heading to college. The old house was quiet and lonely.

I know from the stories of when I was small how my sisters watched over me. I know that they rocked the baby who came home from the hospital with a mother who was not recovery well and was in bed. I know that when I was in the hospital with spinal meningitis, that my sisters sat waiting for news of their baby sister. I know that my sister, Peggy, took care of me while Mom and Dad tended their daughter with rheumatic fever. My sisters were the silent force in my childhood. I was loved and tended to by them until I could face a time without them.

As I grew up, my sisters and I grew closer. We found common bonds reintroducing us to one another. We found friends in our sisters. We now have a relationship that is beyond words.

I sit in Oregon while my sisters are together. June is staying with Peggy until she hops into the car and heads north again. I am not there. I feel it as a caged Canada goose wanting to fly north.

There are only three sisters who truly understand the life back the lane on Neff Road. When they are separated, something is missing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sheaf of Paper

Sheaf of the past. Sheaf of another time, of new beliefs. Sheaf of the history of a teenager.

I came across a file of old writings of mine from 1964-65. I was a senior in high school. I knew I had the sheaf of papers yellowing with time. Why I kept them is beyond me. Maybe I kept them unknowingly for a day like today. I would like to share these papers with you. Both blogs will have the same writings until I feel I've come to the end of my reflecting. These papers are the story of us as teens, parents and now grandparents. The buds of thought that began to take root in those years have come to full bloom. We see in the words, a time long past but still viable in the present. We see the farm girl's view of world events so far away from her home on Neff Road.

I hope you don't mind my sharing this, but I need this history for my family, my grandchildren. I hope you will note the date this was written.

September 11, 1964
Segregation vs. Integration by Pam Loxley

Segregation and integration are two words heard almost every day. Some blame the southern states for the fight against integration, and yet, many northerners are determined not to integrate. Others are not concerned with the problem. Many fool themselves by standing up for the negro until faced with coming in contact with a negro. Every day steps are being taken to give the races equal privileges.

It is stated in the Constitution of the United States that all men are created equal. And yet today many are afraid to associate with the other races. Intermarriage is a fear of both the negro and the white. Many white Americans treat the negro as trash and feel that they are superior. This feeling is held over from slavery days and some other reasons.

Intermarriage is a big step for any couple to take. The couple may not be accepted by either race. Their children could be either white or black and neither society will accept them.

Many states and cities have started a rehabilitation plan for slum areas. If one was to drive through a slum district, he would find blocks and blocks of apartments and houses run down and dirty. Porches on some home might be broken down. Others would be only shacks with holes in walls. Rats are probably a common menace in these homes. Many places have windows broken or none at all. There is little grass area around these places. Children have no place to play.

In many areas where slums have been torn down, housing projects have been started. For many blocks in these areas one would find rows of apartments, all indentical. Green lawns surround these places.

(Please remember that this is the 60's and the writings of a child raised in an all white rural area)
The negro is of two classes. The first is the lazy negro. This negro has no ambition. He sends his family out to work to support the family while he sits at home. This negro is both unconcerned and uneducated. His children will never be any different unless education is available to these unfortunate children.

The second type of negro is the ambitious one. If he can acquire a high school education, he has a chance to get a good job and a comfortable home for his family. If he can go on to college, he has a great chance to do what he plans to do. Yet there are many barriers that even the highest educated must face. The barrier is too often color.

Too many Americans do not realize that there is also many white people classed the same with one exception: color.

With these new laws that are now being made, these barriers are being broken. If younger white children can start school with negro children, this barrier will be broken sooner. Younger children have no strong knowledge of this barrier and are yet in the impressionable age. They have not yet formed opinions. To bring these younger children together will be a big step in the direction of integration.

It is our responsibility as citizens of the United States and children of God to treat the negro as a brother. There is NO difference between them and us except for their color. It is possible that some day we will all be as one race. Integration is the only answer to the race problem, but this will take time and patience for both races.

Pam Loxley
English IV
Grade: A

I hope no one is offended by this blog. It is a piece of my history, a piece of me and the woman I have become. I am currently reading the book The Help. A history taking place as I wrote this piece. How little I really knew back then.

Thank you for sharing this piece of history found in a sheaf of paper.

Pamela Loxley Drake
47 years later

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stepping Away

Introduction into life beyond the farm:

My sister, June, worked as a soda jerk. I didn't grow up where kids went to work, so this work thing was new to me. I knew my sister was a jerk whenever she picked on me, but I didn't understand why anyone would pay her to be one. One day Mom and I stopped into the drug store. June came over and asked what we wanted. I was busy spinning on the seats at the counter. Mom probably asked for a cherry coke. June made a phosphate for me. I remember the first sip. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. But this bubbly stuff was pretty good once you caught on to it.

My sister Peg had gone off to college. Going off to visit her was an adventure. The girls in the dorm would yell "Man in the hall" when Dad passed through. I went to my first football game.

One time we went to visit my uncles parents. They lived in a really modern house. I was just a little kids, but fell in love with the house immediately. Wilbur showed me how to work the snazzy light switches. I'd only seen switches that clicked on and off, or you pulled a chain to turn on the bulb. These switches didn't make a sound.

Things changed on the farm for this little farm girl when her sisters' worlds expanded. New people came into our lives. New experiences happened. They were small steps, but they were steps leading away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Could Walk

Walking was what I did best. Every day I walked to the barn, to the chicken house and most days down the lane one or two times....maybe even more in the summer. I could walk down the back lane to the creek, to the field where my dad was working, to the thicket or to the woods.

I could walk to my best friends house, the neighbors at the end of the lane and even to school if I really needed to....which I didn't. I could walk to my grandfather's house, my uncle's house and to two different bridges.

I could walk along the creek. I could walk from my other aunt and uncle's house to my other grandparents and the old Beech Church. I could walk to the little store from the same house when it was still a little store.

I could walk through Red River by just crossing the road. I could walk Neff Road and never really break into a sweat. I could walk the main street of Arcanum in just 3 blocks. I could walk the main street of Greenville in a few more blocks, but in less than 10 minutes if I didn't dawdle.

Yes, I loved to walk.

We didn't think about dangers along Neff Road. Hardly a car went by. And, if it did, more than likely we knew the person inside and yelled "hi!" as it passed.

I miss walking up and down that lane. I miss the sense of security we had living on that road. I miss the 'howdy' to a passing car or buggy. Most of all, I miss the Loxley family that lived in that house on the lane off Neff Road.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mulberry Tree

It sat sentry over the house and barn. With glossy leaves and thick limbs, the tree was the hub of activity.

I don't know that I've ever seen another mulberry tree other than that one that stood in the yard across from my bedroom window. The tree had been a part of my life longer than my sisters had been at home with me. It's shade filled the circle of yard surrounded by driveway. I mowed that part of the yard, so I knew the tree well.

The tree watched over a young family. A sandbox beneath, a swing hanging down from a branch, a board for the seat notched by Dad. We played beneath the branches in the summer.

Farm hands rested in the shade as Mom cooked the noon meal. It was a place to cool off the sweat gathered by their work in the field. Sometimes the lawn was covered with straw from the bales unloaded from the flatbed wagon onto the elevator taking them to the loft.

I played with my fiends beneath the tree from the time I was in diapers to a young girl going to the 8th grade dance.

The car was always parked beneath the tree in the summer. The old Packard was an oven with heavy fabric interior. So it sat in the shade of the old mulberry tree.

My horse was new to me and the farm. I was going to ride her down the lane to the road. The neighbor boy spooked the horse. She reared and ran toward the barn via the mulberry tree.

"Pam!" Dad yelled. "Duck!"

The big limb brushed my back as we passed beneath it. Had I been sitting I might have been killed.

I'm not sure how long after that incident that the tree came down. The tree was old and when the wind blew, limbs sometimes came down. But one day the decision was made.

We missed that old tree after it was gone. The sentry had seen the Loxley girls raised through their childhood. It had cooled an old car and given refreshing shade to the children and farm hands that sat beneath its glossy leaves.

Everyone should have an old mulberry tree in their memories.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Electricity

This writing is for me. So if you want to check out other blogs or go for another cup of coffee, please do. I'm writing this for both of my blogs this morning, because this is for the children filled with a power they don't understand. This is for the adults who can help the child. And, this is for the little girl who lived on Neff Road, a child who danced on the wind.

Last night my son and his wife took me to see the musical, Billy Elliott. The movie had been one of my favorites. Both shows have something different to offer, but the young man we watched last night who danced across the stage understood the power within Billy, a boy who heard a voice alien to his community and family. These miners had no time for dreams. Neither did farmers.

There is a scene in which Billy explains to a panel of judges what he feels when he dances. The boy sings about an electricity that comes from within him, an feeling that has no words, only movement. A power that is full of anger, excitement, passion. He danced, and we were all inspired. As a child, I was like that boy. I knew it and felt it once more as tears ran down my cheeks.

Our old farm house had a huge playroom upstairs. It had been my oldest sisters bedroom years before. Now it was my stage. I was very small when I realized the electricity that was part of me. When the music of my old records began to play, that electricity filled me to overflowing. I had to dance.

The church did not sanction dancing. My oldest sister took dance and could not tell anyone. Mom and Dad surprised me with dance lessons when I was about twleve with the addendum that I could not tell. I stood in the first class with six-year-olds and never returned. Still the music, the dance filled my soul to bursting. A feeling that is so strong that you think your skin will burst for trying to hold it in.

I sat in the packed auditorium, tears spilling onto my dress, wondering if anyone else besides me and the writer of this story understood the feelings this boy and I shared. His father could not hear understand the electricity this boy possessed. My parents couldn't either.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

The Doe began pulling out her hair making a nest in the birthing box. Before long tiny pink babies snuggled deep in the furry nest. It wouldn't be long until pink noses and pink eyes peeked out of the box. We were never without Easter bunnies.

We raised rabbits for years.When they were big enough Dad took them to market. The does stayed. One of my favorite was the black and white doe. I'm not sure but it seems that we called her Dot. When Dad decided that we would give up raising rabbits, he set her free.

At first the doe didn't know what to do. She sat at the end of the back lane. Dad tried to chase her away, but she didn't want to run. She had been our pet; she was domesticated. I only saw her one more time. I walked into the back of the old barn where boards were broken and the floor was dirt. The doe sat against the side. I never saw her again.

In looking back, I wonder if  Dad thought this was the best way for me to say farewell to a pet. Perhaps he I would believe that Dot lived with all the other bunnies on the farm. Maybe it was easier for nature to take her than for him to take her away. For a child neither way is easy. I was a farm kid. I knew what would happen to Dot.

Raising rabbits was a good experience. We learned to do the care for the rabbits. Cages had to be scrapped out, food bowls needed to be filled and water fresh. We learned to love the bunnies and to say 'good-bye'.

Perhaps Peter Cottontail is really a black and white doe, one I last saw on a dirt floor in the old barn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Big Hair

"Grammy, you had big hair," Sydney said.

Sydney is looking over my shoulder as I thumb through my old yearbook. Yes, we all had big hair.

I hadn't looked at the old yearbook in a long time. I smiled seeing pictures of my then friends who are now on Facebook and back in my life once more. We seemed to go from 'kid to senior' in just a blink of the eye.

"You were president of the geometry club!?" my granddaughter exclaimed. "You can't do geometry!"

It was a fluke. I'm not sure how I ended up being president of the club. I think maybe there were more 'unpopular kids' in the club then popular thus I was voted in.

I came across the picture of our senior choir singing at graduation. It was a sad day for my family. That evening Dad come home from the hospital after surgery to remove polyps on his vocal cords. We knew this singer might never sing again. They sat in the back row so Dad could avoid talking to those around him, and they could leave immediately after the commencement.

"Where are you, Grammy?" Syd continued. "I don't see you."

I scanned the picture of the choir remembering where I stood. Where in the heck was I? I ran my finger along the row. Suddenly there was a dip in the row of mortar boards. I guess I was always short.

My kids won't want this old yearbook some day. They will not know that girl who graduated in 1965 from FM. They won't know the teenager who struggled to find herself. They won't know the girl who was in love. They won't know that sadness of that girl singing in the third row while her father sat in the back watching. They won't know.

I think I'll leave the book out where my family can see it. The blue book with the vinyl cover, a jet racing across the front holds a story. It is the story of a girl with big hair.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Hoop on the Barn

The basketball hoop hung on the end of the barn. My horse stood beneath the hoop while I saddled her. Brenda and I played in the corncrib across from it. We rode our tricycles beneath it and parked our bikes there as well. Dad parked the milk truck there and often the trailer. The basketball hoop hung on the end of the barn.

I vaguely remember my sister, June, tossing a ball up at the basket. Basketball was never my forte, especially when it came to dribbling a ball on gravel.

Neff Road is basketball country. Everyone in the county supported their high school teams. The FM Jets were the best.

"Blue and white, fight, fight. Blue and white, fight, fight. Yaaaaaay blue. Yaaaaaay white. Yaaaaaay team, fight, fight."

The FM teams were often state champions. These farm boys fought there way to the top. Tough, strong and smart. They grew up with baskets hoops on the barn and a basketball in their hands. They came from a long lineage of players. The years changed, but the names of the boys on the teams remained the same.

Basketball. Basketball hoop. Dad didn't have his boys. Perhaps the hoop would have seen more action. But still, we had basketball in our hearts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baggy Elephant

She draped the frame with the old burlap bags. Bit by bit the big structure started to take shape. My sister, June, was making a costume. I remember sitting amid the wood, wire and cloth watching the big critter get into working order. It was a elephant. My sister worked the front end of the elephant with the articulated trunk while her friend worked the aft end of the beast. Burlap and wire.

Feed sacks and burlap bags were important parts of farm life. My sisters had dresses made out of feed sacks when they were young. Dad's grain was bagged in burlap bags and stored in the barn. When you walked into the barn, a big pile of empty bags were draped over the top of the headlocks in the milking stable. Twine was piled next to them.

The old bags were used for storage, holding oily tools, rags, a nest for new kittens and sometimes a cloth to wipe off a newborn lamb. Twine was used just as often. Staples on the farm. An unmistakable smell that said "burlap".

Nothing went to waste on the farm. We hardly noticed those things used and reused. They surrounded us every day. Yet the sight of those old bags hanging in the barn and the strings of yellow twine call to me once in awhile bringing back memories of a big brown elephant.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What do You Think it is Worth

"So do you want to go to Antiques Road Show with me?" I asked my friend last night.

"Oh, I'm not into antiques like you," she replied.

Hm. Looking around at her French Provencial furniture, I realized that our taste certainly went in different directions.

Yes, I love antiques. They carry a history with them. My sister, June, and I love to go to estate sales. Another friend asked if I didn't feel badly when I bought something that someone had to sell.

"No, because I will love it and give it honored place in my home," I replied.

I thoroughly enjoy Antique Road Show. Often I see something from the past and am once more catapulted home to the farm.

"I had one of those," I often say out loud to no one else. "I wonder what happened to it?"


The show is coming to Eugene in June. I am excited to take a few of my discovered items and those from the farm. I don't want to know the worth as much as I want to know the history of the items. Who held this item? Who carried the old wooden Bible across the sea? Why was the old broken pitcher so important to my Mom?

I was delighted to learn that one of my former Franklin Monroe classmates owns an antique store. How little we knew about one another back then. I guess I didn't know back then that I would some day like antiques. Well, maybe I did to some degree. I remember standing on the radiator in my grandma's kitchen looking into the corner china cabinet. A lovely purple pitcher with painted flowers sat on the top shelf. My other grandmother had a wonderful china hutch full of delicate dishes. I remember standing next to it looking at each piece. Maybe the antique lover was taking shape then.

It will be a day long trip of driving, standing, driving, but I look forward to peeking at the treasures of other participants. A true antique lover never stops looking for a bit of history.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Imprints from Yesterday

"I think it was the tree at the end of the circle?"

"I think Aunt Alma stayed with us."

"She didn't cook, did she?"

What do we remember most? What imprints on a child's mind?

We were just kids. Since my sisters were both at home, we assume I was about five or six. My parents were in Michigan. The debate between sisters established that my Uncle Sam had his first heart attack, the reason our parents had left their daughters. Probably the only time they had left us.

"I think that was when we got Whitey," my sister wrote.

"Yes, I said it was. We got Whitey when Mom and Dad went to Michigan," I replied. In my head I was yelling, "Read all of the email!"

When my uncle had his first heart attack, we got our puppy. I remember sitting on the porch swing with my great aunt holding a tiny pup.

"I remember Aunt Alma running across the yard," I wrote.

"She didn't run. I don't think Aunt Alma could run," June answered

"Who drove to the doctor?" Peggy asked. "I must have. I don't think Aunt Alma drove a car. I think I was too young."

"No, she had a bad foot. Back then you needed two feet to drive," June added.

The conversation is still continuing today. The entire conversation came up when someone from our past wrote to me about my column in the local paper. A face, a memory surfaced and sent the Loxley girls into action. Francis was a Bright back then.

"I don't know if you were ever to our house," Francis wrote.

Long before that fated day, Dad had taken his daughters to the Bright's house to pick a puppy from the litter. Such sweet tiny babies. I chose the white one.

One sentence and we were on our way to a memory.

"Why were you looking up," Peggy asked.

"Because you called my name," I answered a bit sarcastically, if that's possible via email.

Peggy was sitting on a limb filling the heavy bucket with apples. The a rope was attached to the bucket. Peg lowered the bucket to June where she would empty then sent it back up for a refill.

"Pam," she shouted.

I looked up and the bucket hit me squarely on the forehead. Little Pam needed stitches.

The memories of children. Those things that stand out drawing sisters together. Taking us back to others in our lives and places we no longer live. A time spent with a great aunt. A day still shared in our later years. The memories of children.

"I thought I was in the tree," June said. "I can't imagine Peggy climbing a tree."

Our dog Whitey was killed the day my Uncle Sam was buried after his last heart attack.

A moment in time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Day on Neff Road

Shhhh. I'm having a quiet moment. I'm lying on my back on the hill by that home back the lane on Neff Road. I hear the cows in the creek bottom and the sheep in the barnyard. The chickens are clucking and scratching. Mom is cooking. I can hear the sound of pots and pans. Betty must be over because I hear her talking.

Dad must be in the back field by the woods. I hear the tractor. A bit earlier I heard his birdlike whistling just before he left the barn. Carl is in his field. I hear his tractor as well. Gene has to be in the barn. I smell his cigar smoke. Someone is mowing the lawn on down the road. A horse and buggy are going down the road. Hollie just plowed the field next to the lane. I smell the rich, black soil.

If I listen more closely, I can hear the crops rustle with the breeze passing through them. I smell the cows and the grass. I smell the hay in the barn and the dirt and oil in the old garage. The birds are singing in the mulberry tree and the maple tree. I smell the flowers growing below the hill next to the field.

The chatter in the kitchen has moved to the porch. The old porch swing creaks, and I hear the snap of beans. Creak, creak. Creak, creak.

A day on the farm. A moment spent looking up at the clouds on a blue canvas. A day in the memory of a farm girl. A day on Neff Road.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Not Just Water

Water. A different time. A time when safety of water was not considered. A time when rain was needed to keep the wells from getting low. Was it really a different time?

Going back to the farm had one very big drawback. Well water. We grew up with hard water that tasted like minerals. The hard water yellowed clothes, especially when the well was low. Household items over time had a yellow cast to them. Porcelain gradually yellowed. My children hated the water. After being away from the farm, I disliked it as well.

Our fields near the well were treated with fertilizers and insecticides. We cheered when the cropdusters passed over standing outside to watch the chemicals float over the fields. Little did we realize the threat to our water, to our lungs. Cattle grazed near the creek. What could it hurt? Hm.

Dad sprayed crops with insecticides not using a mask for protection. He breathed in the dust from the treated fields and from the grain he combined. There was always a new progression of fertilizers and chemicals to keep his crops strong and disease free. Did those very chemicals take his life?

In 2009, the EPA published a report on the Stillwater River which is the river into which our creek, Painter Creek, emptied.

The most pervasive problems facing streams in the basin is habitat destruction through channelization. Channelization is the removal of trees from stream banks coupled with deepening, and often straightening, the stream course. It is a direct cause of sedimentation, and greatly magnifies the effects of introduced nutrients. This latter problem is especially troublesome in the northern portion of the basin where large amounts of synthetic and organic fertilizers are applied to the land. The other pervasive problem in the watershed is organic and nutrient enrichment, primarily from land-applied animal manure and secondarily from failing septic systems and municipal waste water treatment works.

Here are some segments from a 1975 EPA report on the same area:

Painter Creek and Ballinger Run are polluted by municipal sewage.....Swamp Creek, Indian Creek, the North Fork and the Stillwater River upstream from Ansonia are polluted by fertilizers....Both phosphorus and nitrogen enter the stream as part of human sewage, animal manure, and fertilizer.

Twenty-four years and little had changed.

We didn't realize we were living under hazardous conditions. Our livestock ate the grain produced on the farm and drank the water. In doing what he could to produce better crops, to give us a better life, Dad exposed himself to dangers unknown.

Yes, I will return to Ohio in July. I will drink bottled water.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Michigan Green

The house caught my eye the first time I passed by on my rainy walk. Michigan green.

When visiting Vancouver, BC, I was immediately struck by the eclectic styles of homes. Mediterranean, Middle East, Arts and Crafts, ordinary box homes sat side by side in neighborhoods. At first I found it disturbing, then I began to appreciate that all of these styles could reside side by side the same as the people inside.

In Nottingham, England, the homes old and new are brick row houses. Wonderful row houses. I could imagine running next door for tea time. Inside, the older homes reflect a time long ago. In small villages, frame houses line the streets.

When we moved to Wisconsin, I noticed that more homes came in a variety of colors. Obviously, this was the Dutch influence. In Oregon, homes blend with the nature around them in neutral tones and design. Small homes from the logging era are found in the small outlying towns.

In Key West, homes reflect the tropics. Arizona and those surrounding states also reflect a southern feel with homes made of stucco with tile roofs.

On my return walk, I paused in front of the yellow house with dark green trim. Once more I was in Ludington, Michigan, at Aunt Bess's lodge. All of the building there were white with the same dark green trim. Other homes in the area wore the same dark green. Michigan green.

I find it amazing what one can discover while taking a leisurely walk. I found a memory back to Michigan.