Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pie R 2

A crumbly topping over a layer of dark karo syrup. Mom could make a perfect Shoo Fly Pie. Not many people I know have tasted the  delicious pie. It seems to be a culinary delight that has disappeared along with hand-cranked ice cream and butterscotch pudding.

Whenever the Loxley girls visited the farm, Mom made our favorite pies. Recipes handed down from mother to mother made their way into our kitchen. She could whip up a pie in no time at all....and we could eat one up just as quickly.

Dad would take a slice of the pie in one hand and his cup of coffee in the other. The combination was wonderful. The top layer of the pie is similar to coffee cake. Oh, where has the original pie gone?

Before I drove from Indiana to Ohio, my sister and I talked about Mom's Shoo Fly Pie. I was still whining about it when I got to my cousin Sue's house. She suggested that perhaps her neighbor make one for me. And, indeed, she did. She hadn't made one before but promised to try her hand at it.

I packed up my suitcase and pie and headed back to Indiana. I couldn't wait for June to see that I had a Shoo Fly Pie. As I crawled out of the car, June came out of the house. We both had Shoo Fly Pies in hand. The Loxley girls had their fill of two differently made yummy pies....just not quite the same as Mom's.

Ah, the flavor of home. Flavor captured in Shoo Fly Pie.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From the Balcony

"Do you two mind if we stop one more place?" I asked my friend, Paulette, from Oregon and my once neighbor, Janet, from Neff Road. Really they had no choice. I was driving.

The building was dark when we arrived that afternoon. No one was in sight. I tried the door, and a flood of memories took me in.

The small child sat in the balcony overlooking that stage. Lights came up. Lights reflecting on a little girl's face. My small hands conducted the Arizona Boys Choir, and my heart sang to the music of Ferrante and Teicher. George Shearing's hands running across the keyboard thrilled me.

As with many kids growing up in Darke County, we were first exposed to the arts in Memorial Hall. Community concerts introduced us to a world beyond, inspiring me to be in the arts. Doors of possibilities opened, those I would not have discovered any other way.

I was determined to see the Hall once more. The last time I had been in Memorial Hall was about fifty-five years before when four little girls stood on the stage competing in the Rural Arts Competition. Singing "When Molly was a Baby", the girls took first place. All these years later, I returned.

"I'm going to the balcony," I announced.

"Do you think we should?" my friend said. "Maybe we are breaking in."

"Well, if I go to jail, at least I will have seen the stage," I announced as we felt our way up the unlit stairwell.

A few light pots lit the stage. I felt my heart drawn to a place I'd once stood. I looked upon the place where my love of theatre began. I embraced the memory of a girl with dreams, dreams that would someday take her to writing and acting. My heart filled with deep affection for this place I remembered.

We didn't get arrested that day. I left for Indiana the next. I'm not sure if we broke in or if maybe a silent Hand lead me back to experience Memorial Hall once more.

Thank you to those of you who support the arts in Greenville, Ohio. You give young people wings to fly and dreams of tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moo, Baa, Oink

Rabbits, chickens, horses, pigs, cows all checked me out as I walked by the cages and pens. They didn't seem extremely interested in me, not nearly as much as I was in them. The same enthusiasm I had as a child walking through the animals barns found me again as an adult.

I attended the County Fair in Angola. It is a small fair that centers around the animals raised in the area. June and I watched the calves being shown. My nephew came in second with his calf. We ate pork sandwiches and drank black coffee watching the calves paraded before the judge. Later my sister and I found ourselves standing before the rabbit barn. The loveliest bunny laid in his cage.

"Ah, you must be the Velveteen Bunny," I said. He said nothing. Just twitched his nose.

Chickens with wacky feathers hats and those in various shades of red and rust clucked.

I came home to our own Washington County Fair. Bunnies, goats, cows, horses, sheep and pigs filled the livestock barns. A wooly goat? Never a dull moment in the barns.The smell of the fair is the same no matter what state. The kids sitting on bales of straw next to the pens look the same. And the woman, once girl, smiles a few times more.

Yes, I'm a farm girl through and through. I still want a horse. I'd love to have a rabbit. The cows make me homesick. And, I thank God I don't live around pigs.

County fair animals are this grandma's delight.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rainbow Across the Floor

The sun laid claim to the window, and rainbows laid upon the carpet bejeweling it.

My sister, June, is a very talented woman. Over the years she has created leaded windows. A family of ducks sits in my granddaughter's window. A montage of color hangs in the window of my son's home. Windows that are family treasures.

Over the last few years, June and some friends have begun buying old leaded window and repairing them. They are preserving a history, a memory of old buildings no longer standing. The windows are lovely. When visiting, I found their windows in all of the homes of their friends.

Windows are sold and more rainbows visit more homes. I like to think that my sister and her friends are giving rainbow blessings to those who love their windows.

I sat in the chair watching the light dance through the leaded window along the side of the room. Everyone should have dancing rainbows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Old Order Church

The old church sits on the corner of Red River-West Grove and Hog Path Roads. The German Baptist Old Order Church has been there all of my life. On Sundays the parking lot is full of buggies with horses tied up to hitching posts.

 My friend and I got out of the car walking around the church taking pictures. True Amish and Old Orders do not allow their pictures to be taken or painted. Even their dolls are faceless. So taking pictures of the church was very special. It was the past.

The women sit on one side of the church, the men on the other. Two separate doors are used. It is the way of it.

An old outhouse sits outback. No modernization in the old church where women in bonnets and men in black coats and pants pray to the Lord.

The church is lovely in its simplicity. We stood in the parking lot trying to visualize horses tied up next to us.

A look at another time in my own backyard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cracklin' Cravins'

"We're all out until next week."

Huh? Did I hear him correctly?

"We'll have a new batch then."

Does he realize he is talking to a crazed woman who hasn't tasted cracklins in about 30 years? Does he realize they are about as elusive to me as morel mushrooms? How dare they be out!!!!

The foods from my days on Neff Road lure me back time and time again. Morel mushrooms fried in butter. Mush freshly cooked then fried up the next day. Mom's cream and shoo fly pies. Cracklins.

We didn't have pigs on our farm thus no cracklins. I was introduced to them by a friend who taught me to run the cooked skins over the top of my bottom teeth pulling off the salty fat. I loved them.  Sometimes as an adult I would sneak into the butcher shop and buy a bag of the tasty morsels.

I was hoping to find them in Indiana on my visit. My sister informed me that Yoder's market would more than likely have them. The first week we visited Shipshewana I stopped to inquire about them. They were out. They were out! I'd had a hankering and that hankering was going to have to hanker a bit longer.

On the next Wednesday visit to the same store I was told that they were in the freezer case. Freezer? Cracklins? I brought the cold bag home. They didn't look the same. Something was different. I bit into one and found that they no longer had the hard skin on one side. I nibbled away at the bag for several days. Then one morning a thought came.......

I have a cholesterol check upon my return to Oregon. Argh!!!!!

Without ceremony, the bag was tossed into the trash. I'd had my taste of cracklins. It was good, but not the same as I remembered. I'm still waiting to have my cholesterol checked. I've been working on an excuse. Somehow I don't think the doc will understand.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wedding

The gravel complained as the car drove into the driveway. My son parked the car. As I hopped out of the car, she ran down the front stairs. With tear-streaked faces, we were home again.

I went home to Neff Road for several reason. A major one was that my best friend's daughter was getting married. She was the last of our children to wed, and I wasn't going to miss it. Two families together as one. Brenda loves my children and I hers.

It was rehearsal night when we arrived. The atmosphere was light, and I was lighthearted being with my childhood friend. Brenda and I sat on the front porch talking, diving into a conversation that had waited a year. After awhile, my son came out to get drinks for everyone in the house. It dawned on me that the kids had all decided to leave the mothers to themselves. We had been sitting alone and didn't even notice.

I sat behind family members I'd know all my life. Brenda's aunts and uncles were mine, too. We nodded and smiled. Those I didn't recognize eventually came to mind. They were kids when last I'd seen them. Now, they had children.

Brenda's grandson sat on my lap. His twin was sitting two rows up with his aunt. It was what family did, right? The flowergirl, Addie, came down the aisle.....drop flowers, jump over them, drop flowers, jump.... Well, you get the idea. Right on her heels came the beautiful bride on her father's arm. I was there when that man took my friend as his wife. Yes, I was home on Neff Road.

I sat at the table with Brenda's cousin and her daughters whom I'd never met. The evening was delightful for on Neff Road there are no strangers. I sat with Grandma Margaret. Holding her hand, I felt the hand of my mother. She was not alone at the table for the spirits of Hollie and my parents were there as well.

That night we stayed in Centerville. Friends and family gathered the next morning for breakfast. I looked over at Margaret and knew instantly that something was wrong. My daughter-in-law got behind her and held her while I ran to her holding her hands and her firmly in the chair.

"Call 911!" I shouted.

A doctor was with the wedding guests. He asked her questions and told us to hold on to her. I whispered to her that she was okay, and I would not let go of her. My face was wet with tears. By the time the ambulance came, she was improving. She'd probably had a small stroke. "I will not let go. Please don't you let go." She is my only surviving parent.

Family. I went to be with mine. The distance between Oregon and Ohio could not keep me from the place I needed to be. The bond that was forged sixty-four years ago maintains its strength in those who branch from it.

When I left, a woman and man were married. A grandmother was walking around smiling. Two families once more said 'good-bye'. And, two women from Neff Road have new memories.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reserved for Adults

The park sign said "Reserved for Private Party". We tried to go the public park several times over the summer but were always met with the same sign. It was camp time.

Rivendale Park is a special park designed for special needs children. Swings are enlarged chairs. Ramps are all wide for wheelchairs. Slides are enlarged; the stairs are wide and railed. A large glider sits to the back where everyone can rock together. I think I enjoy the park as much as the children.

The sign said it was closed, but I had seen cars leaving as well as a bus. It was the end of the day. We drove past the sign where we found the park deserted. Gabby danced and cartwheeled across the synthetic floor. Sydney found a quiet place to lay back and enjoy the day. I sat in an oversize swing remembering.

No longer do the playgrounds have merry-go-round and teeter totters. Evidently children can be hurt or killed on them. I'm amazed we didn't lose more of us over my childhood as we spun the merry-go-round as fast as we could and banged one another's backside to the ground on a board. I sat there remembering other days on the school yard at Franklin School. Most of all I thought of the farm back the lane.

The old rope swing hung on a low limb. Dad notched a small board for the seat. The Loxley girls and neighborhood kids swung on the swing from our earliest days until the board seemed too small to accommodate the growing child. The knot was tied beneath the seat to make the swing higher as the legs grew longer. Sometimes the swing seat was shared with the swing in the haymow. Sometimes a seat wore out and a new one was made.

I sat observing my granddaughters on this wonderful playground and thought......"One should be made for adults".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Darke County Fair

Here I sit in Oregon missing the Darke County Fair, a fair advertised as the biggest county fair in the world. I don't know if it really is the largest fair, but I don't care. The fair is better than any state or county fair I have ever attended.

I grew up going to the fair. It seemed to offer something to each age. Kiddie rides turned into 4-H turned into walking the midway checking out the boys into bringing my children to experience a fair that had given me so many wonderful memories. Darke County Fair.

If I were to go now, I would be looking for people I know hoping to see friends from the past, those I lost track of, those who like me are visiting. The fair is about people.

Years ago my family returned during fair time. Cousins who were rarely together, now grown, attended the fair together. They explored the exhibits, rode rides and spoiled my oldest granddaughter. The Darke County Fair took on new meaning for another generation.

I wish I was there to walk the midway once more. I would love to eat my fill of junk food. I want my grandchildren to experience the thrill of this wonderful fair. How I want to see my Cousin Alma Lea's art exhibited in the Art Barn. I want to go to the horse races once more.

Darke County Fair. The best fair in the entire world.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hang Out the Banner

American Flag. State of Virginia. State of Oregon. The flags hung on the pole. Flags signaling that company had come to a little red house in Indiana.

My sister has state flags for those visiting from out of state. They signal that there are visitors. They signal that my sister has taken an extra step to make visitors feel welcome.

I love seeing the flags hanging in a row. It seems to me that everyone should be so proud of those coming to their homes. Mother used to say something about 'hanging out the banner' when someone came to visit. I never thought of it literally but love the idea.

When the storm hit, we came home to find the flags laying at the bottom of the swimming pool. Three soggy flags, wrinkled and seemingly ruined. I shook them out and hung them on the clothesline. They sagged and complained that they had been tossed to the bottom of the pool by straight-line-winds. Gradually they fluttered crisply announcing that they were ready to fly once more.

Out of the ruins of many an event, wars, disasters, catastrophes, our flag has still flown. It has remained strong and vigilant over a country that sometimes cries. I saw these flags representing family, roots that are made of sturdier stuff.

They waved in the wind. American Flag. State of Virginia. State of Oregon. The banners were hung.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On the Bright Side

"Welcome to Cracker Barrel. Where are you from?" (It's amazing what can happen in the matter of a few seconds with the asking of a simple question.)

"Mom, you talk to everyone," my kids always tell me when once more I have a new found friend or relative. I suppose I do talk to everyone. Life is too short not to meet as many people as possible, right? Who knows what you can learn about the world and about yourself? Just seems that if we are all living on this planet together, we might as well know one another.

My sister and I were in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to visit with a cousin we did not know. He had contacted us wanting to meet, and I'm always ready to know one more relative. We met at the Cracker Barrel. Old style products and country cooking. Before my cousin arrived, the greeter asked the above question: Where are you from? I, of course, said Oregon since that's from whence I hail. Then I added that I had been visiting my roots in Ohio. Then it began:

"What part of Ohio?" she asked.

"Darke County," I answered.

"I have family there. You probably don't know them," she continued.

As expected and asking in all sincerity," Who are they?"

"The Sarvers. Alberta Sarver is my cousin."

Well, knock me over with a feather!

"Alberta?!?!" I exclaimed. "My best friend works for Sarvers. I just sat with Alberta at a wedding!"

After this conversations, June and I went into the restaurant to wait for our 'new' cousin. Jack came in loaded with family history. He handed a special packet to me.

"Do you mind giving this to your friend?" he asked. The friend he referred to was Francis. I had told him that I was having coffee with a family friend at Smith's the Monday before. He asked who she was thinking he might know her since he was once a local boy.

Feather #2.

"Francis is my cousin," he said handing me the Bright family tree. "Do you mind sending this to her?"

You know sometimes you wonder if you are stuck in a time warp and not sure how you got there? Sort of a Bermuda Triangely thing. No? Oh....... Well, I did.

I'm beginning to feel the family and friendship loop expanding. I think I like this feeling. After all, we are all one family, right?

"You talk to everyone," my sister said.


Friday, August 12, 2011

By Gummy!

"What?" my friend asked when we began talking about an unusual place to lunch.

"Oh, it's just a sandwich shop," I said.

Just a sandwich shop! How I lied. It is more than a sandwich shop. It is history and memories.

"I remember sitting behind it eating sandwiches," my other friend said. Oh, I remember that, too. Hm, it was pretty dark in the back lot.

As we pulled into the parking lot, my friend, with a crinkled nose, exclaimed, "What is that?!"



Well, by now you know that we were in the parking lot of Maid Rite. The building has drawn visitors for years coming just to glimpse a building covered with chewed gum....and to eat incredibly delicious sandwiches.

"Ooooo," she replied with a less than pleasant look on her face.

I felt very protective of the old restaurant. At one time it held a few pieces of my own chewing gum.

We ate our Maid Rites then took pictures outside. My friend began checking out the gum on the sides of the building. She had a new story to take home.

Sometimes a memory is just as far away as a sandwich.....or a piece of gum.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Extra Mile

The four women stood with pieces of tubing, cords and a big canopy. The directions seemed simple, but the frame was wobbly. Two pieces in. Two pieces on the other side fall out. Frustration turned into laughter. Piece by piece the frame began to take shape. At last the canopy was in place.

"Wow, that's really pretty," said one of us. "You did a good job."

"It's just perfect!" exclaimed another.

"I love it," I think that was me.

My sister has a cute, little house with a lovely pool. The backyard is a delightful place to sit and visit. She hung the flags of her sisters' states on the line below her American flag.

We sat inside the newly erected canopy feeling a bit like we were in a cabana by the blue sea.

"Is it four o'clock?" I said.

"Wine time!" came the shout.

We toasted fine work and a perfect day by the pool.

She went the extra mile.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yellowed Pages

She brought out a box heaping with letters. That was the first load. Next she followed with four more bundled packets. Piles and piles of letters. Letters from my cousin, Gene; letters from his parents, my aunt and uncle; letters from friends, other family members. Over two years of letters. Letters written daily.

"Take them with you then send them back later," she said handing them to me. I was speechless.

Treasures come in all guises. Some find their treasures in precious gems, sunken treasure, Indiana Jones treks into the unknown. Some realize the treasures they have in their families and their friends. Sometimes we find added wealth in piles of papers laying tucked away just waiting.

My cousin was stationed in the Philippines from 1951 to 1953. A young man, a farmer, a scout leader entering a world alien to him. The same with all Darke County boys who turned quickly to men under the Flag. A world war was over and a conflict in Korea had begun.

I brought back from my trip to Indiana an extra suitcase, a bag full of letters. A few days ago Sydney helped me sort the letters by date. Slowly two piles grew taller and taller. History. We were touching history. I began typing the letters that began with a young man going to basic training. I learned that my aunt and uncle called one another Daddy and Mommy. My grandma related a tale of my grandpa's exploits with a flat tire and a truckload of gravel. The history of Franklin Township began to unfold with names of people I knew. Farmers bought farms, babies were born and little Pamela was beginning school. History.

The copying is going slowly. I'm so wrapped up in the story unfolding that the words travel slowly to the page. Each yellowed sheet of paper is priceless. It was a time when letters were written. A time when young men waited for the draft call. A time of separation.

The letters will be returned as I finish copying them. I hope to make them into a book for my cousin, a book of her family, my family. I don't know who decided to save the letters, but as one of the surviving relatives, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Yellowed pages of farming, army life, family life, boy scouts, points of views on politics and presidents, a history opens page by page.

Yellowed pages.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Trip to Garst Museum

Many times in the past I have walked into Garst Museum. This time was a bit different. This time I was there on a mission; however, I gained more than I anticipated.

I'm working on a book called Neff Road which I hope to have finished by the end of November. It is a compilation of many earlier blogs combined into a history of a time and place in Darke County, Ohio. One purpose of my trip back was to see if Garst Museum would be willing to stock the finished product.

With business done, my friends and I shopped in the gift shop. My friend from Oregon had worked for a local radio station and met Lowell Thomas way back when. She was delighted those relate stories and seemed right at home in Greenville. As usual, I seemed to gravitate to the book section. There I found a true treasure, a book called Archaeology and Artifacts of Darke County.

We grew up with Indian stones on our farm. Dad treasured them. Now they reside in Indiana, Virginia and Oregon. His daughters prize them and honor their history as well. Often have I sat with the stones marveling at that which resides in them. The intricate work done by the hands of someone who lived on our land long before pioneers came to settle. Until I looked through this book, I had thought our stones to be hundreds of years old. I didn't realize those hundreds were in reality thousands. The history of the land we lived on suddenly changed. The natives settled along the creek were suddenly more ancient.

When I went to stay with my sister in Indiana, I pulled out the book and started cataloging her stones. I wanted to know more. The stones I looked down on were suddenly more like precious gems. I could feel my father peering over my shoulder smiling.

My trip to Garst was one I will long remember. The stones in my home are dearer. My friend now owns a small piece of my history.

And, much to my delight, Neff Road will very likely find its way into the Garst Museum Gift Shop.

Friday, August 5, 2011


She had just turned 100. She was thrilled to see me enter her room at the Brethren Home. Little did she know that I was equally thrilled to see her and my other loved ones who live there.

I sometimes wonder if those who live back in my Darke County roots realize the gift they have with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins living close by. I know it was something I took for granted those decades ago when I could have visited more. Now I know the value of those lives, in the lives that shared mine.

I'm not sure if I made these visits for others or if I made them for myself. I think it is the latter. The hugs from Leah, Doris, Victor, Margaret linger still. There is a missing that always follows me, a missing of the opportunities lost.

I sat for about five hours with my cousin and her husband and my aunt and uncle. I wonder if they knew how much I savored the minutes as they ticked by. We looked at old pictures and shared stories. The distance between Oregon and Ohio was made shorter and the love I captured and have held on to from that visit has a place in my heart forever. Uncle Phil and Aunt Esther drove away returning to Columbus. I, in turn, left Alma Lea and Duane. But I left with memories to keep me company until the next time.

There is a gift in those people of our past, of our hearts. I cannot drop in on them for a visit, but those of you living near your family can. Perhaps it seems an inconvenience. Perhaps it is a bit out of the way. Perhaps you will find a bit more of yourself when their smiles greet you, and you find that you are at home once more.

Please remember me as I remember you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Bottle of Wine

My cousin had offered her house to this roudy Oregon bunch. Little did she know that she was in for a fun and crazy time.

As I drove to her house, I passed homes of dear ones that I just could not pass by. After several stops and hugs, I continued on arriving not long before my cousin pulled in. James and Lisa were due any time having just landed at the Dayton airport.

"I have a few bottles of wine. We could open one. I don't know if they are any good," my cousin said.

"Bring them out, and I will check them," said the Oregon wine connoisseur in me.

"The bottles were given to me. They might not be good," she said setting two bottles in front of me.

"Sue....." I yelled as she went back for the other two bottles. "One of these is champagne."

I sat looking at the bottle. One word caught my eye.

"Sue!" I screamed grabbing my computer typing as quickly as I could. "Do you know what you have here?!?!?!?!"

Calmly she came out and placed two more bottles of wine in front of me.

"No, what?" she asked....again....calmly.

"First of all you have a bottle of Moet."

"Is that good?" she asked.

"It is as good as champagne gets," I replied. "But that's not the big news."

Still the impact of it all had not settled in. I could tell by the look she was giving me that my sanity was in question.

"You have a bottle of Dom Perignon!"

"Is that good?"

"I just looked it up. This bottle is worth over $200." She didn't faint but seemed quite pleased. The giggles started.

"We're drinking this with James and Lisa," she said.

And we did. Every last drop.

By the way, it was excellent.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leaving Home

Home. A relative word. Sometimes a word that represents a relative. This is what I found in the month of July. I found a new home. New even though it was my old home.

Coming back from a month away from home requires an adjustment period. I have spent many a vacation 'visiting the farm on Neff Road'. We dragged our kids home. We planned vacations around my other siblings visiting at the same time. We didn't go to exotic places or theme parks. No we went to Ohio. Little did I realize at the time what treasures those visits held. Perhaps I didn't realize until I boarded a plane in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, heading back to Oregon.

The leaving was difficult this time. I had a month to settle into the life of a small town. Newrighbors dropping in for a visit. Going to auctions and eating home cooking the old fashioned way. Pitching in when a storm tore through the small town. A town that was lean on stress and rich in contentment. A small voice continued to ask, "How can you leave?"

I attribute the wealth of this visit to my cousin, Sue and my sisters. For the time in Ohio, I stayed with my young cousin who really didn't know me all that well. We found a bond that I know will continue to grow. Her generosity of time and space was wonderful. Laughter and great conversation drew two cousins together despite the age difference. I missed my cousin, Gene, terribly, but time with his daughter helped to mend a wounded heart.

My oldest sister could not make the entire trip due to a injury, but she was the reason I was there. Her generosity gave me a chance to breathe. June, opened her home and her life to embrace me making me feel closer to my roots. She gave me home. A gift with no expectations....only love.

Coming home. Leaving home. Bits and pieces of me.