Monday, October 29, 2012

Our History

The hours are terrible. In fact, they are 24/7. All of the income goes back into the business. There are no paid benefits, no sick days and no vacation. The working conditions are not always favorable and risk of injury is possible. The love of job runs deep and never thinks of giving up.

You can buy stock. Of course, this kind of stock is either for milking or beef. Sometimes you take a day off and maybe even a vacation, but you are always on call. It is a profession that seems to be dying away in many parts of the country. Part of the reason is that the population is creeping out of the city into rural areas. Some newcomers are trying new methods, new ideas in farming. Changes have taken place over the years. But still there is a sameness to what went before.

It is not an easy life, this of the farmer. Yet it is a life cherished by those who live it. I think my dad enjoyed being at home where he could run into the house for a glass of water and a kiss from my mother. We were all part of this farm business doing chores and working in the fields. We were a family together most of the time. I feel sorry for those who have never experienced life in a farm family. My, what you have missed.....

We are the history of Darke county not just the history of our families. Within the soil is the life of the earth; the life of its inhabitants. Sons often find the way into the same fields. Daughters marry a future farmer from school. They are continuing this history of Darke County. They are protecting its rich cloak and closeness of community.

The rewards for the farmer are the crops they grow. The rewards of family and extended family. Of neighbors and friends. The rewards are the freedom to grow and build all on your own. And, there are enemies. Market value, government restrictions, weather and diseases lurk waiting to knock down the farmer. Yet time and time again, the farmer rises to the occasion and makes the best of it.

I cheer for the farmer and the families who thrive on the land. I am one of you...and so darn proud of it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We are Neff Road

Some might think that I have not left my past behind. I would say to them, "You didn't have my past." Perhaps Neff Road is a frame of mind. The simplicity of life that not everyone can understand. A way of looking at the world from a pod of neighborhoods on the west side of Ohio. A pod of loving and caring friends and neighbors.

I love Oregon. I moved to one of the most beautiful states I've ever seen. My move here took place in 1978. Yes, most of my life I have been an Oregonian. I was struggling to keep a marriage together that had suffered irreparable damage. Where could I go? I went home to the farm.

For the first time, my parents sheltered me from everyone. They gave me and my children a place to rest, to heal while I made decisions that would change our lives one way or the other. It was January. Snow had fallen and the hill was white and waiting. Dad pulled out the old sled, the sled that I have now. I sat behind my children, and Dad gave us a shove. I was home once more. I stayed for a month before returning to a different life. I returned stronger from going to my roots.

You might wonder why I didn't return to Neff Road. I knew that I couldn't return to the life I had before I left. I knew that I could not take the kids away from their father in Oregon. I was strong enough to leave knowing that I would take Neff Road with me in a way I did not before. I found a relationship with my parents that I did not have before.

Neff Road was the womb that birthed me. The friends and neighbors there made me who I am today. My journeys back to Neff Road in the past twenty years have not always been easy. Most have been to say 'good-bye' to loved ones. It has been easier than I thought it would be, because I know I am always surrounded by those who were part of that loving family of Neff Road.

We are Neff Road.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Love that Lasts Forever

Nothing prepares us. There are no words that can prepare us for this thing called life, this thing called death. There are no words. There is no preparation. We just go forward as best we can.

One of my favorite people, one I call my other parent, is failing. I will probably not see her again. I don't like being the youngest. I don't like seeing those who have been in my life forever leaving me behind. Oh, yes, I do believe that we will be reunited, but until then, I say good-bye over and over again.

I'm not sure if this is what makes us wiser in our old age. I think perhaps it is. We learn from pain. It begins when we try to walk and fall on our bums. I happens when we send our kids off to college and then into marriage. Then is slams us in the face when we lose that first person we love. I just can't toughen up no matter what I believe. It hurts.

Doris was my rock even when I didn't know it. Their belief was much different than ours. The grandparents were German Baptist and had horses and buggies. We wore bathing suits when washing the car, and I know that Doris disapproved. They were our neighbors at the end of our lane. They saw all of the comings and goings that happened with the Loxley girls. I didn't pay much attention back then. I was a kid on the way to my life.

After I was married and had moved away from Darke County, my trips back often began on the stoop of the Lavy house. We passed the house on the way in which meant that if it was warm weather, Doris and Victor were sitting on the stoop waiting to see when we arrived. I watched for them as much as they watched for me. They were the first stop before we went up the lane if only to roll down a window to say hi. Each day of my visit, I walked to the bridge. If the neighbors were out, I walked down to talk for awhile. We talked of family and weather. We joked about how no one ever wanted me on their side when we played softball in their pasture. So what if I was a lousy player! It always brought a laugh and a memory. They filled me in on the health of my parents who would never tell their daughters a thing. They were as much my home as were those who lived back the lane.

When I lost my parents, Victor and Doris became my family. Doris once told me that she had always watched over me. My heart was so full of love for her. I never knew they cared as much as they did. I had no idea how much they loved me.

Two years ago I last visited them. They now live in the Brethren Home in separate rooms. Doris is in the assisted wing. Sometimes she fails to recognize those she loves. I can hardly wait to see them when I go home. To once more hold their hands and hug them. I know that Doris is failing rapidly. I know that life progresses as it must, but my heart breaks at the news. I wonder if she realizes that now I watch over her with a love born in a small girl back a lane.

This blog is for my dear friends and a thank you for all they have given to me. There is a missing that never ends. And even more so, a love that lasts forever.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Always There

Like a sentinel she sat on the porch, Victor at her side. Doris didn't miss a thing. Over the many years of my youth, I played with their daughters and sons. It was another place I could call home. Marilyn was the only person I ever knew who memorized the Bible. She was a brilliant woman who lost her life in the mission field. Her family grieved, and I grieve with them still. Her older sister, Geneva, became the sister of my heart. When my father lay dying, she helped me to lift him, to tend to him, to grieve for him. Wrapping her arms around me, she gave me a safe place to shed my tears. Merrill, Don and I played together for as long as I can remember. We flew across the barn on the swing, walked the creek, played baseball in the pasture. Lowell came later. Mom babysat for him, and he tagged along behind his older brothers. He became familiar face at our house even after the Loxley girls as moved away.

When the married we girls came home to visit, the walk down the lane always began at Victor and Doris' house then on to Margaret and Hollie's. I always looked forward to the hugs I received as soon as I crossed into the yard. Neighbors who were more than friends. They were family.

My conversations with Victor and Doris had always been light. We talked of family and of the farm. We caught up on the comings and goings of Neff Road. On one visit, Victor was very ill. I sat with Doris in the livingroom. Our conversations turned serious. I shared with Doris how difficult it often was being one of the girls back the lane. "I knew they didn't watch you," she said. "But I did. I always did." Over the years she had kept tabs on me, and I never knew. In those times where I felt I was very much alone, Doris had been watching over me. My love for her grew that day.

Age and illness has taken a toll as it does. Doris and Victor now reside in the Brethren Home. When I visit, we reminisce about days gone by and talk of family. I sit absorbing these two people who mean the world to me. I want once more to sit on the stoop and visit with them. I want once more to run after balls in the outfield. These dear people are part of the family of Neff Road; they are my family.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Knee Deep

In case you wonder where I am, I'm knee deep in babies and working on days I don't have babies. Will probably be down to once a week until life settles in. Missing my daily talk with you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Down a Dirt Road

The Johnson family was traveling to Colorado to see  Great Aunt Molly, my grandfather’s sister. Mom Johnson kept a diary of their trip.

Their trip west was not just about the trip but also about the life and times of Neff Road. Instead of a hotel, they camped. They fished for food, hunted for berries. One town in which they stopped was the small town of Arnold, Missouri. The then population was six. Now the town boasts a population of 20,000. They passed homes still using a well with the bucket on a pulley. Few roads were paved. Some were dirt.

I discovered the year of the trip west from a notation she made when they stayed in a camp in the center of the town Breckinridge Missouri. They stopped at the drug store and heard the returns of the Dempsey/Sharky fight that took place in 1926. They traveled on 5 or 6 gallons of gas between stops. Rainy weather made for pushing the car when it got stuck. The tent was set up daily and torn down the next morning. Meals were cooked over a fire or picked up in town and eaten along the road. They passed through an area alive with grasshoppers 3” long that clung to the car. Some days they made 250 miles.

I love this line: "Monday morning the kids packed a box of grub, took a stove and dishes and started up Hubbard Creek for the day."

Eighty-four years ago this was our country. Neff Road was a dirt road. Horses still pulled plows, and children went to one room schools. I remember when the county came to pave Neff Road. The hot tar bubbled beneath the summer sun. We children ran down the road popping the bubbles of tar then returning home with black spots on our feet. How quickly we have gone from the above day to this age of technology. We have come a long way. A long way from a rich history that began down a dirt road.