Monday, January 30, 2012

Where is Your Neff Road?

Where is Neff Road? What is Neff Road? Who cares?!

Sometimes I am tempted to leave Neff Road. My memories to write on the page are about empty having left their domain to reside in this blog. I find that I, in reality, cannot convey what it was like to live in that big white house back the lane, or down the lane, or maybe I decided it was up the lane. Well, no never mind. It is what it is.

I began writing this blog for me and my family. I wanted to capture the moments we shared and those I cared to pass on. I wanted to have my grandchildren step back in time and perhaps savor a bit of what life was like back then.

Somewhere along the way my original intent changed. My story became not just my story, but the story of farmers, a story of another time, a story that perhaps belonged to others and their past. I realized as I wrote that Neff Road was a slice of Americana. It is an antique more valuable than something to set upon a shelf. It is a feeling captured in words and a vision written upon a page.

A father who taught of nature. A mother whose domain was the kitchen. A playground of barns and livestock. A time at the end of the big war. A family who had known a time of horses to the time of cars, of car travel to airplanes, of fried chicken to pizza. A time that saw prejudice addressed and women finally finding a voice. The apron put aside for a suit and heels. The dreams of being a housewife turned to college. A time of peace saw our boys taken to a war in Viet Nam.

Neff Road is record of not just a family, but of a girl growing up in a changing world. Of a woman who can look back at lonely, troubled times and find the beauty in what she had in her life on a farm. I am a sum of my parts as is this blog. Neff Road could be in Indiana, Michigan, Texas, California, Oregon. It is remembrance of all of those times of our past, a past shared. The buildings might be different. The cattle might be longhorn. A farm is perhaps a ranch or maybe some sweet street in a quiet town.

I don't know that I have much more to add to Neff Road. I'm not sure I have much more to give to my readers of this time in history. Still I find it hard to walk away from Neff Road, because it is still alive wherever I go.

Where is your Neff Road? I thank you for walking with me on mine.

On A Grandparent's Voice: The Slideshow

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Images of Mind and Senses

Funny the things you remember as a child. A bit of polish added here and there make some things seem better; however, pictures do not lie.

I spent the better part of my childhood playing in the barns. The old barn with the weathered siding and broken boards was my favorite place where imagination seemed to thrive. The corn crib with the summer view of the fields. The old garage with the red light flashing letting us know that the electric fence was active. The big barn with the swing in the mow. The brooder house that welcomed baby chicks. And the chicken house that held adventure everyday of human versus fowl.

I came across this portion of a picture that shows the old gate and chicken house. Funny how I had forgotten that the building was small....maybe because I was, too. I suddenly realized that it was the images of the past and not the reality that my mind embraces.

We farm kids are so used to the smells of the farms that we ignore them. Cow, sheep, pigs, chickens all have an odor of their own. Yet, we walked into the chicken house every day, watching where we stepped to meet the challenge of finding all of the eggs and gathering them into the egg basket. Every day a Loxley girl walked into adventure where all things worked together creating a past.

I realize this isn't much to read, but I sit here smiling remembering the feel of warm bunnies in the hutch. The feel of the hen sitting on an hand reaching beneath to capture an egg. The hot breath of a horse nuzzling a hand. The smell of sheep on a hand run though thick wool. The senses that pulled images together that keep us company long after the years of being part of a farm.

The memory of an old gate and a slightly well-used hen house cause me to revisit all that made...makes...the farm a special place where memories love to linger. A place on Neff Road.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

She Flies Through the Air

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease
She lives back the lane and hangs by her knees......

Okay, I took liberty with the words, but you get the point. We had a trapeze. It hung in the old mulberry tree. I have seen many pictures of my sisters and I with the bar hanging in the tree but recently came across one I had not seen before. And....I remember the day it was taken. The picture belonged to my Aunt Bessie.

I have wondered why we had a trapeze. I remember going to the circus with my parents. A circus in a tent. I wonder if the Loxley girls were so enthralled with the act high above the sawdust that they wanted one of their own. A trapeze. I don't know of any other family with a trapeze. I'm not even sure if it was a trapeze or an old pipe!

Seems to me that we did a lot of swinging on the farm. The porch swing, the swing in the barn, the one-seater that also hung from a mulberry limb seemed to be fairly good evidence of the flying Loxley's.

None of us ever went on to join the circus. I came close once. However, I do think that should perhaps an old porch swing or maybe even a swing on a playground be within reach of a Loxley girl, she might swing once more for old times sake.

Monday, January 23, 2012

May 17, 1901

The post card is wrinkled and worn. 1901 was quite awhile ago. 110 years to be precise. I would be worn and wrinkled if I were 110. Yet, the handsome face on the card still causes me to smile and wonder who this young brave might be. I tried to find his face online in the hundreds of pictures of Native Americans, but still I could not find his name. Post cards usually have a description on the back of the picture on the front. Well, not so on this card. However, there is history in this card, this card from Los Angeles, California.

I could not read the message on the reverse side of the card so decided to scan it then enlarge it tweaking it until I could read the words. The card is from my Great Grandfather Benjamin Loxley written to his son, Isaiah, my grandfather. As I find with many of the post cards I have, the messages are rather generic and meaningless. Yet this card holds a mystery.

Los Angeles May 15, 1901. We got hear Wed. and all is well and in good spirits. Grand and inviting. A prosperous city. Staying at the Grand Pacificate hotel. Gibson and Smith proprieters. 423 1/2 South Spring St.

                                                                                          Yours truly,
                                                                                          B F Loxley Sr

 A father writes to a son. Perhaps just a note to let him know that his father had arrived at his destination. There is no affection in the closing. There are no words, like your father or Dad. We know that Great Grandpappy noticed that the city was prosperous. Perhaps a reflection of what he thought important. We know that he knew the proprietors which could say that he was social or maybe just interested in how they came to be proprietors.

At least my grandfather knew that the destination had been reached and where to find my Grandfather should anyone go looking. Oh, one more notation: Evidently my great grandfather was drawn to Native American interests just the same as my father as been.

A small card can tell a great just need to listen to it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Sound

We are what we are where we are planted. But we are what we are by our roots. Some roots are longer than others. Some are deeper. Some get severed and some, indeed, are far-reaching.

I sat looking out over the Sound....Puget Sound. The waves lapped the shore. Water surrounded the house on two sides. This landscape had never crossed the mind of the girl when she lived back the lane. No, I was girl of the soil.

When Dad and Mom took to Florida when I was sixteen, they opened a world to me that I had not known.  The roar or the waves coming in and the sound of lapping water kissing the sand. I stood there with tears in my eyes. It was after nightfall. I could not see this beast that raged. I had tears in my eyes from fear as well as the overwhelming sense of belonging to something greater than myself.

My parents didn't expect our exposure to the world to be that of only the farm. The offered their children opportunities to see other parts of the US even though money was always tight. We traveled to Michigan, Saute St. Marie, Washington, DC with all the states in between. We went to New York as well as traveled through Kentucky and Indiana. Florida was a highlight I never expected.

On TV we watched shows that taught us about the world. Dad and Aunt Alma educated us to nature. We learned by the people who came through our door and into our kitchen. They brought their stories to us from as far away as Germany, The Netherlands and Piney Woods, Mississippi. We were taught to embrace what came our way.

When I moved to Oregon, I fell in love with our Pacific Ocean. The capes, the monolithic rocks rising from the blue water. I fell in love with the roar of the ocean and the richness of nature that looked upon it. I came to a state that was a total of all I had learned to appreciate as a child.

I stood by this house on looking out over Puget Sound with tears in my eyes and memories in my heart.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bark and The Bite

“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
                                                                                                          ― Will Rogers

What farm kid hasn't known the sting of the electric fence. Dad said it was to keep the animals in. I think perhaps it was to keep the kids out. I remember once when I was intent in getting from the south field to the back lane. I picked up a damp stick and pushed up the electric fence, so I could wiggle my way beneath it. Dad didn't tell me that the stick would carry the electric pulse. I can still feel the tingle in my fingers from that one of a kind jolt.

All kids want to discover things for themselves. That rebellion that takes place when a parent warns a child not to do something making it irresistible to the youth. I remember the story of my dad eating a leaf of poison ivy because someone told him he would never get it again if he did. Well, that certainly back fired. He never got poison ivy again and was lucky to live through it.

I guess most kids think in terms of  'why not' instead of 'why'. Many times I think that my parents were too busy to listen to my questions. Instead I just found my own answers which sometimes carried a jolt along with them.

Our neighbors, Victor and Doris, had two trees struck by lightning. The first tree had been hit with the current traveling down through the tree across the roots and up through the neighboring tree. The trail was evident by the path of broken bark. The wood of the tree carried the current beyond what was expected of such a strike. Immediately, my thoughts returned to the stick and the electric fence.

Indeed that electric jolt has met with many a country kid. I did learn lessons the hard way. I learned to read and to observe. I learned that an event that strikes one can carry over into the life of another. I learned that one should never pee on an electric fence.

On A Grandparent's Voice: An Extraordinary Life

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Had a Dream, Too

The riots of the 60's. The black community in chaos. The struggles of women in the workplace. A world in transition. A country at war. Neff Road was a long way from there.

I'm not sure that those who lived away from the cities truly understood the 60's. We lived in a fairly isolated world tucked in that black soil of Darke County. The house back the lane wasn't drawn into the changes coming, changes that never really influenced that area except for the loss of life in Viet Nam.

I worked in Dayton after high school. I saw the burned out cars and businesses. Streets were deemed dangerous and avoided. We held our breathe as we drove through places where riots edged their way towards  Broadway. We were on the fringes looking in. Our boys died overseas. Husbands and boyfriends were taken away to a land where war had lived long before the US set foot on its soil. The world of hippies and drugs was alive and well in the cities. Coffee houses, long hair adorned with flowers and fringe on vests became a first in our history. The farm was a long way in thought and distance from all of this transition of the 60's.

My sisters lived as youth in a time after the depression when things were different in the home. They were on the edge of change when they finished up their college years. A time of following the parents wishes was being challenged. I moved to the city to allow myself to change.

I think perhaps that part of my life molded present for me. I fought for my voice back then often causing a great deal of distress for my parents who didn't understand that I needed to do it. I found a me inside that had struggled through my childhood trying to have voice. The injustice I saw only confirmed the injustice I noticed when younger. The rawness of war sickened me and called more strongly for peace and understanding, for changes in mankind that did not involve a gun. My faith grew in different ways, those that felt right. I was a woman allowed to find my own way incensed when the 'old boy views' tried to keep me in my place. It was a time of change and freedom for me.

Changes have taken place. The good and the bad. More voices are heard. Many injustices have faded away while some still hang on. We are no longer the voice of the masses but, hopefully, the voices of the individuals. This individual would never have found her voice on this blog had it not been for the changes set in place long ago.

I have a dream was a quote that spoke the girl on Neff Road.

On A Grandparent's Voice: Pam's Follies

Friday, January 13, 2012

Today Sixty Years Later

The Today Show is my morning newspaper. I settle in with a cup of coffee and catch up on world news as well as bits of our local news. Snow a possibility on Sunday. Politicians still throwing barbs at one another. My visual newspaper begins.

Today on Today (a bit repetitious) the show airs as it has for 60 years ago. I remember as a child watching Dave Garroway on the Raytheon, black and white television sitting on the south wall of the living room. I was almost five when the show first aired. Of course, back then we watched anything and everything that TV offered. It was my first introduction to the world beyond our home back the lane.

Ruth Lyons was perhaps the first to bring new ideas into our community with her variety of Ohio talent. She was a home girl who invited us into her life. The Today Show brought the world into our homes. New ideas and different ways of thinking came to visit and many stayed. I saw that there were women who did more than keep house and raise a family. They were an inspiration to a generation of baby boomers.

In some ways, the experience was confusing for me. I knew I wanted to do something with my life, but I didn't know how to get there from Neff Road. It was a long way between me and those women on the TV. Of course, none of us knew how to get there. Girls were just beginning to go to the city to work and live on their own. The Today Show opened doors to viewers.

I watch the anniversary show today seeing faces from the past who were part of my life. Those who inspired me. Those who opened windows to the world for me. Those who brought news of tragedy and sorrow sharing their own pain. Introducing me to history in the making.

This morning I raise a cup of coffee to the years of the Today Show. Thank you for giving me a window into possibilities. Thank you for allowing me to be aware of the world beyond, allowing me to be part of it.

I think I need another cup of coffee to go with my Today Show.

On A Grandparent's Voice: Ergo Ego

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


They pulled the ladder up to the side of the house. My brother-in-law was in charge. I sat with Meg in the grass watching and giggling. My nephew, Trevor, and my son, James, were eager to climb the ladder. We were waiting to see how these city kids were going to manage the work. It was one more task that Dad had assigned to the 'menfolk' of the family.

Each time the family gathered at the farm, we became part of the work crew. Mom wasn't too keen on her daughters getting in the way in the kitchen, but welcomed her granddaughters. Dad handed out chores to the boys sometimes shaking his head as they tackled their work on the farm.

I learned what work was on the farm. I learned that you didn't stand on the sidelines and watch. No, you were expected to take the initiative and dive right in. We grew up working. That's what you do on a farm.  I have no bad memories about the work. The camaraderie that I discovered working the fields with a crew made the work easier and most times fun. We gave our bodies, our sweat, our time to this working farm. We were all invested in the place we lived.

Whenever the family gathered on the farm from our varies other home states, the men pitched in helping wherever they could. The boys learned to listen to Grandpa and gave bits of themselves to the farm back the lane. Piece by piece the grandchildren learned to love the farm, perhaps because they were becoming part of it.

We learned lifetime lessons living on that black soil in Darke County, Ohio. We learned that if you stand on the sidelines, you might just miss the best parts of your life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Box

The box sat on the table. My heart raced. I picked it up feeling the weight of it. Tonight. I would sit down after the days events were finished and take my time opening this treasure chest.

My cousin, Lee, died last fall. He was the last of the cousins to remember the aunts and uncles, Mom and Pop Johnson. I sent a note to his widow asking what she was planning to do with my Aunt Bessie's pictures and letters Lee might have had passed on to him. She was thrilled to hear from me as the family had taken all they wanted of the pictures, and she was at a loss as to what to do with the remainder. Now it sat on the kitchen table waiting for me.

I don't know what my friends thought listening to me as I opened the box. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. And, I found other tears as well. I talked to my aunt as I looked at old pictures of her taken long before I was born. There were pictures of my Uncle Sam and his family. These mean little to me except for those that are so typical of the uncle I remember. It was a box full of my history, too.

I wish my aunt had written names on the back of each photo. Many of the faces I will never know, but some I can decipher. Old frames holding old pictures. A grandfather as a younger man dressed in a long coat with fur collar. My grandmother in a 20's dress looking the flapper.

My mother had stacks and stacks of old cards, letters and pictures. She knew the value they held, the memories of those she loved, the history that was hers and that of her children. I think perhaps I'm the one who is a bit like Mom. These pictures are our history book. The Johnson Photo Album. The Loxley Photo Album. The History of the House on Neff Road.

It is new year I start in reflecting on the years past when a picture was taken without the realization that someday a great granddaughter would be saving it for future generations. A daughter, a granddaughter, a cousin, a niece who would always remember.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Hold for a Few Days

Well, I am moving once more and will be off my blogs until next Monday unless I get myself moved and back in the groove.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I hope I am part of yours.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where Did it Take Me

"Don't you run out of things to write about?" I've been asked a few times. Well, yes, I do. Some days I seem to be brain empty. I lived on Neff Road for eighteen years. I cannot write every piece of my life during those days. But Neff Road is more than memories and a place on a map.

I have lived away from Neff Road longer than I lived in that white house back the lane. I grew up and had my own experiences and moved on away from my roots. I married, raised children and made a life far away from the home I love. Some memories went with me and some faded into the past.

So where did Neff Road take me after I left? Not the physical places I lived. Where did it take me?

Because of the compassion I learned from the people on Neff Road, the unbending love and support, I went on to work with kids at risk, to write social dramas to help families in pain. I took the exposure I had to people like Fran Snider and the community concerts we attended to go on to teach acting and to embrace music. The hard work we did on the farm taught me to work hard to do what I needed to do in my life. It taught me not to be a bystander but to be involved. My church taught me about peace. The church family and neighbors taught me about love.

Neff Road continued in my life after I left the farm. It came with me to Oregon where it still teaches me. It gives me a nest where I find peace. It gives a chance to write a blog, a love letter home.