Monday, February 27, 2012

Of, By and For

I decided that all politicians should be 'qualified' for their positions before they campaign and have participated in the following in order to qualify for current positions. There are rules.

Political Mandate:
  1. 1 month living under each of the same conditions as their constituents. Those in the following categories: unemployed, on food stamps, unemployed and not receiving benefits, social security, disability, living on street, etc.
  2. Each politician will permanently be on an HMO along with all constituents.
  3. Politicians will renew their licenses to be a politician every two years. If they don't renew, they are fired and cannot collect unemployment.
  4. Politicians will be investigated yearly for sources of financial backing and associations with anyone seeking their own end through aforementioned politician.
  5. Each politician will live up to their promises or be sent to a time out serving their constituents for a year in social services.
  6. No politician can make foreign policy without having served the people in poverty stricken countries for one year.
  7. All politicians must take a test at the end of each year that will be graded by the public. If they fail, they must double all time sets in the above and take a cut in pay.
  8. All pay grades will be set by the people they serve. No increases or benefits can be increased by the people who will benefit from the aforementioned.
  9. All increases in spending will be approved by the people who will 'pay for it' in the end.
  10. No media sources can take sides in political campaigns. They must report unbiased facts.
  11. We the people will take an active interest in the people we have 'hired' to serve us, serving for the people, by the in a country of the people.
My thoughts of the day.

(Same post on A Grandparent's Voice today.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Working Child

My jeans were worn. One toe peeked out of the old tennis shoe. Under a baggy shirt was a bathing suit. I was off to work. Of course, work was as far away as the tobacco beds next to the house. Cousin Gene and Betty were there. Gene was busy removing the canvas off the beds while Dad, Uncle Bob and Betty had already started pulling plants. Mom was in the kitchen baking. You could smell the pies from the tobacco beds.

We pulled the plants one by one. Gene kept the beds wet so the plants would easily give up their place with the other plants. Hand full by hand full we placed them into the bushel baskets. They would set the same day as when pulled. This day we were planting in our field. With wet, muddy fingers, we held the fragile plants. Gene's cigar smoke was battling for air space against Mom's pies.

Plants were pulled early competing the sun that would wilt them. Plants could not sit in the basket too long or they would complain about lack of soil and water. There was no break between pulling and planting. Gene had the planter ready.

We were using Gene's newer planter. He had built a canopy over the seats. Aunt Welma was allergic to the sun. Her planting time was over. Dad, Betty, Uncle Bob and I would be sitting on the planter. I protested that I couldn't get the sun I needed for a good tan. My complaints fell on deft ears. The plants were placed front of each setter. With a four seater, two rows could be planted at the same time.

It wasn't long before the laughter began. This planting time was some of the best times on the farm. Conversation often returned to old memories. Uncle Bob was sometimes replaced by Mom who didn't want to miss out. Then the stories really took off. Occasionally, Gene would yell back from the tractor, "Are you planting tobacco or having a party back there!" A plant was hardly missed. So I guess in essence the party could go on and the planters be efficient.

I never understood why my family raised tobacco. Our faith was against smoking. Yet it was our livelihood, so perhaps God understood. I often thought that between Gene's cigars and Uncle Bob's cigarettes that the tobacco industry was well supported by the people who raised it.

Some might think that hard work in the field by the children who lived on the farm was cruel, but I disagree from this farm girl's prospective. Those days of soil and plant were some of the happiest I remember. We worked hard and laughed with equal zeal. I grew up knowing my history and loving the rich soil of Darke County. I saw no difference in age. I was treated as an equal. I knew my relatives as friends. My heart and memories were filled with these people I love, filled with fun times in the fields.

I am a farm girl. I am Neff Road.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Entree

The creek housed many creatures. Leeches, minnows, frogs, worms, crawdads, turtles and water bugs. Brenda and I grew up looking into the water watching critters swim about, turtles sun themselves on rocks, and frogs croaking. The creek was our own nature laboratory.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we were introduced to several new things. Snowmobiles were new. Friday night 'all you can eat' fish fries. Homemade cheese. Corn roasts. Brats.

Once our neighbors invited us to a cookout. Cookouts during the short summer season occurred about every weekend. A big pot boiled with spices floating on the top. Soon I was facing crawdads who were facing back at me.

"We're going to eat these?!" Visions of crawdads in the creek mucking up the dirt on the bottom came to mind. Dad always said they were dirty, bottom feeders. Mud, muck and now entree.

After the initial shock, I was shown how to pull the shell apart to expose the meat. Apologetically, I looked the critters in the eyes and tore off their heads. I worked to peel the little guys coming up with the ratio of 4 crawdads peeled equaled 1 bite. A lot of work, a pile of heads and a queasy tummy.

I think the crawdads and I see eye to eye now. I will let them alone to replenish the streams and muck the mud. Seems only fair to us both.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Back Way

We drove to Greenville the back way going over to 36 instead of down 571. We didn't go this way often on our way to piano lessons. Mom drove, and we chatted as we passed the farms we knew. We passed Loy's. We passed Neff's. We checked out the houses to see if all was well. If someone was outside, we waved.

When we finally got to Gettysburg, a story of the past would more than likely surface. Perhaps it was a story of the time Mom bought a rug at the furniture store. Maybe it was about watching Gene play baseball. Sometimes the story were about the cemetery that sat near the stop sign. The place where many of the Johnson's rested.

Gettysburg was one of the small towns near us. Cousins lived there. Mom would often stop and visit.  I remember once sitting in front of the barber shop waiting for Dad. Mom was visiting with Almeda and I was just watching the traffic. There never was a great deal of traffic in Gettysburg, so the watching was tedious at best. However, I learned history sitting there. Stories that made Mom and Almeda laugh. I caught up on the local gossip and the health of other relatives. I didn't live in a small town but got a glimpse of the life in Gettysburg.

Sometimes the simplest of events in my life gave this farm girl insight into the world that surrounded our country home. Sitting on a bench next to a wooden Indian. Walking in a cemetery looking at names and dates on stone. A drive down a road looking out for neighbors. I learned and saved for today.

It was a good day when we went the back way to Greenville. It was a good day for a ride with Mom.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pass It On

My granddaughters complained: "I will be fifteen when the twins are five." "I will be twenty when the twins are ten." A gap. Cousins years apart.

"Girls, you will be like aunts or big sisters to the babies. You can baby sit for them. You can teach them."

"What can we teach them," Gabby asked.

"Pass on what I have taught you," I said. "You can teach them about nature. You can talk to them about things they don't know. You can be very important to them by spending time with them."

My father never told me to pass it on. He never told me that I might want to show my children the wonders he showed to me. And, in all honesty, I'm not so sure that I did spend that much time with my children as my father did with me. Yet, as a grandparent, I now know what a gift I had from all I learned from Dad.

Sure, it's a new twist from the ways I learned to love nature. I no longer live on a farm. I no longer live where the creek runs by and woods hides adventure. We have nature parks. We have treed yards full of all sorts of flora and squirrels.

My father left a wonderful heritage to me. It would be selfish for me not to pass it on.

"Can we make nature collages?" Gabby asked.

We walked the neighborhood picking up lichen, beautiful leaves, pine cones and moss. With glue, we fastened them to a paper plate in beautiful arrangements. Our collages were given as gifts or kept until they fell apart....or ants crawled out of them.

Yes, we will make nature collages....collages of generations learning from one another and passing on the gifts of the earth....from grandchild to grandchild.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Day Began......Begins

Morning breaks, and there are no words. Just another day that began as normal. Now a day begins with remembering. There is no need for words.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Chapter

Lyle was the only child of Iva, the oldest of the Johnson children. Mom and Lyle were very close. She was just kid when he was born. He graduated from Monroe School. I didn't know that fact until someone posted this picture on the FM Facebook page.

Monroe Class of 1937 (taken 1933).
1st Row ~ Lyle Hunt, Eula Mae Miller, Arline Bluhalse, Ruby Werts, Alvin Cottrel, Lucille Shreff.
2nd Row ~ Nellis Middham, Mary Bess Beane, Mr. Darst, Robert Flory, Aureda Davis, Dick Shreff.
3rd Row ~ Naomi Galindo, Pauline Werley, Ralph Aukerman, Ciril Welbaum, John Shoemaker, Paul Besecker.
Lyle went into the service after graduation. He was on landing at Iwo Jima. The boy became a man the hard way.

Lyle married Betty and moved into a little house on the same square of land where my parents, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle lived. Often I stayed with Betty and my cousins while my parents worked in the fields.

Whitey (the dog), Sharon, Lyle Wesley, Me

I love this picture for several reasons. Our dog was young then. Mother's laundry was hung on the line. I remember the day well, but did not realize that I was missing a tooth.

Bob and Welma, Betty and Lyle, Mom and Dad
I don't remember my parents and my aunt and uncle at this age. Lyle and Betty are as I remember. They were friends as well as relatives. They had their difference, their problems, yet hardly a day passed that they were not in contact. It was the way of Neff Road. No one called ahead. No one felt put upon if a child was left with them. It was family.

I often wish I was older, so I could have known these people at a different time. I wish I could have been more than a child interacting with them. But I don't have that luxury. I have the pictures to tell the stories. The memories the older generation shared.

Life is a story, and I am blessed to be a storyteller.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In the Headlights

I opened the blinds this morning. I was literally the deer in the headlights. Well, in reality, I was the deer in the deer's eyes. She stood staring at me. I stiffened and didn't move an inch. We were locked in a staring match each afraid to blink.

Often I have talked about the deer I had seen in Michigan when a child. Later we would see deer on a regular basis when living in Wisconsin. The beautiful white tail deer perked up ears and, with a look of surprise, managed to give us a few seconds to glimpse beauty before it dashed away. I savored every moment of this rare encounter.

"They eat my plants," my friend and landlord informed me. Well, this morning they were eating her plants, and I just watched. Two more deer were standing right outside the window of my bedroom on the lower floor. I could almost touch them.  I was delighted.

I was taught about the awe and wonder of nature. I sometimes think that even if I'd had a dad who didn't embrace it all as he did, I would still be the same person. A child is born embracing those things of wonder. It is our environment that introduces other ways of viewing the world around us. I was a lucky girl.

The deer finally decided that I was harmless. And, I am. She continued to eat my friends plants as I continued to watch from my window.

We should all look outside of our windows. We should all be awed first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Siblings

The children posed on the porch. Iva the oldest, Bob the next child, followed by Bessie. Children born before my mother came along. Three children bonding. Three children learning the ropes living with their parents. Three children. The first of born of John and Mettie Johnson.

 Bessie and Unknown standing. Bob and Iva sitting.

We miss something, we youngest kids. We miss the childhood fun our older siblings enjoy together. We miss being part of the memories. Our lives will be different because of family placement and the change in times. We will be the youngest kid as long as we live.

 Mettie, Bob, Bessie, Iva, John

Mom came on the scene long after Bessie was born. Iva was a young lady by then. They were rebellious children. Their lives would be colorful. Their adventures would be much wilder than those of my mother. Mom loved Dad and would never leave the soil of her birth.

 Mom, Bob, Bessie

Despite the age difference, Mom was close to her siblings. She idolized her brother when she was growing up. Her sisters adored her. Then Iva died. Died too young.

The Johnson family was a colorful family creating wonderful stories. The four Johnson children were all very different and lived very different lives. Yet that bond that happened on that farm on Yount Road held until the last passed....when the youngest died.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Absolutely Dashing

Pop Johnson is the fourth gentleman from the left in the back row. His wife, Mom Johnson, is below to his right. I sat with a magnifying glass trying to find their children among the primly dressed young men and women. I have seen pictures of the white haired man on the right. This is a picture of family on my mother's side....just not sure which part.

The location is a question as well, but my guess is that it is either the Fair Grounds or a church (double doors). This may become one of my favorite photos with the women in their finest hats and dresses. Men dashing in their suits. Not a poor family. Indeed not.

This picture tells a story of little ones taking care of little ones. A loving father sitting on the ground with his son. Dapper young men, and boys with attitude. The girls and women wore their hair off their faces in braids or a bun. Bonnets, frilly hats, stiff Katies and caps. No doubt this is a family reunion.

The music of My Fair Lady rattles around in my head.............

What a smashing, positively dashing spectacle: The Ascot op'ning day.

On A Grandparent's Voice: Camera Rolling

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Man. An Experience.

Aunt Bessie was married to Uncle Sam Fisher. Saying that Uncle Sam was a character doesn't seem strong enough to capture the true essence of Uncle Sam. He was the perfect match for my lively aunt.

I learned about cussing at a young age. Little came out of Uncle Sam's mouth that wasn't colorful. I heard works I'd never heard before. Words I wouldn't be say much less repeat. Yet, Mom and Dad sat listening to him not blinking an eye.

Many times we sat in the kitchen with Aunt Bessie cooking and Uncle Sam telling fish stories. Black coffee filled the cups and laughter filled the room. A lifetime of history came to life with sister's sharing stories and reminiscence of other fishing trips to Ludington, Michigan.

The White Birch Inn sat on Lake Hamlin which was located on the other side of the dunes from Lake Michigan. Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam rented cottages and fishing boats. We were never at a loss for something to do and every day was a fishing day.

Dad cleaned the catch of Sun Fish, Perch, Blue Gill and Catfish. Aunt Bess rolled the fish in cornmeal then fried them up in the cast iron skillet. The small kitchen in the back of the Inn was full of life. Some of the sweetest memories of a small girl away from the farm.

I came across this picture of Uncle Sam in a batch of pictures I recently received. I don't remember Uncle Sam this young, but I love the picture.

We should all have a White Birch Inn and a colorful aunt and uncle. I know because I can't sit here and write about them without a silly grin on my face and a deep love in my heart.

On A Grandparent's Voice: I've Got Class

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


She celebrated her 100 years of life last spring. A woman who had 'spring' in her step and laughter in her eyes.

Her husband Elgar had gone to school with my Dad. He often talked about his friendship with the man. Elgar and Leah lost a son and a grandson. Still somehow the smiles continued as well as the love for those who had been given to them. I can't remember a time before having Elgar and Leah in my life. They had been part of the 'gang' that got together a couple of times a year. When Elgar passed, Leah took up the reins, especially where the Loxley girls were concerned.

"Leah wants to know when you girls are home," Mom often said. I could usually count on a visit from Freeda and Leah when I came back to the farm. We sat on the porch talking for hours, laughing at old stories and 'catching up'. Leah was one of those people who was interested in you instead of rambling on about her own life. Friends who cared about one another.

When Mom died, Leah told me that she wanted to see all of us the next time we were home. She may have started out being my parents' friend, but truly I counted her as mine. I can still hear her was contagious.

When we lost our friend, Freeda, Leah held my hand, tears in her eyes meeting the tears in my eyes. My mother and father weren't there to share the pain of old friends losing old friends, but I was their daughter and knew the love these friends all shared.

In planning my trip last July, I knew I would see Leah. I knew her health was failing so I made her promise to stick around until I got there.  I wanted to see her and hug her one more time. With her same humor, she joked with her roommate about their advancing years. Who would know that within the year both would be gone.

Sometimes it is difficult to see our loved ones in the nursing homes, not the spry person we remember from earlier years. For me it is a gift. I'm a hands on person. There is no greater gift than that of a hug, a kiss, a hand in my own of a loved one who has been my friend for as long as I can remember. I am grateful for the opportunity to tell them that I love them and that they have impacted my life. I would not be me without 'Pam's people'.

Leah and Elgar are now sitting with Mom and Dad looking down on me writing this piece. Mom is probably saying, "Well, who could have guessed she could write. AND, for the Advocate!" Dad would be talking to Elgar ignoring me. Leah would say "Now I can see the Loxley girls whenever I want. It was nice to see Pam one more time."

Leah, I miss you. I will come back to the Brethren Home this summer missing the visit to your room, but I will be warmed by the lifetime of love you gave to me. Hugs and kisses, dear one.