Friday, December 27, 2013

Off with the old

Off with the old, on with the new. That's supposedly what this transition from the old year to the new year represents. But we can't go forward with the new unless we build on the old. Unless we learn from the old.

I have a pile of old magazines. In this pile I found out that 1968 was an incredible year. So I decided to take a look and see if indeed is was incredible. The photo on the front cover is a view of earth from Apollo 8. Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders circled the moon 10 times shooting pictures never seen before. The first lunar orbit. Yep, that's pretty incredible. The Pueblo was seized. Mia Farrow was a flower child. Martin Luther King was assassinated in May. Robert Kennedy fell the next month. Jackie married Ari, and Nixon became President. A war was coming to an end and our boys were coming home. Discrimination was a dirty word and the line between black and white began to slightly fade.Tiny Tim, Mrs. Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Shirley Chisholm and a show called Laugh in were names readily recognized. Now that is incredible.

Cigarette ads filled the pages. Anacin announced that "When boredom and emotional fatigue bring on the 'housewife headache', a couple of Anacin will clear it up. A year subscription to Life Magazine was $8.75.  And I lived on Forest Park Drive in Dayton. At least that's what the address label says.

I sit looking at this issue of Life that cost me all of 40 cents back then, trying to mesh then with now. The time went so quickly and seems just like yesterday. This look back to a time when I was only 21 tells me a lot about myself. All of the ways I have adapted to this quickly changing world. The people who have been added to my life....and those who have been taken away. Still in all the ways we have grown, we are still holding back in many. Pockets of prejudice and violence reside with us. War still looms and mistrust abounds.

I leave 2013 knowing that the changes that take place during the lives of my grandchildren will be even more amazing when they look back to the time when they were young. The new hangs onto the edge of old, waiting for the baton to be passed. May you carry with you all you have learned during the old year and go into the new knowing that you can make it better for you everyone around you. What better resolution. Happy New Year, my friends!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas on Neff Road

Hot dogs roasting on an open fire. Cinders warming up your toes. Yuletide carols being sung by the piano and folks dressed up like everyone else in the 1950's. A basket of nuts sat in the living room usually in Dad's lap. An angel-haired angel sat atop  the tree. A stocking held an orange and a small wooden doll that walked when a tiny ball on the end of a string was dropped over the side of the table.Christmas on the farm.

Geneva and Marilyn pulled Merrill and Don over to sled down the hill. Bill pulled Brenda over on their sled. It wouldn't be long until Dad was off on the tractor pulling car out of the ditch. Mom sat with Margaret or Doris or Betty in the kitchen laughing and talking about the weather and the health of everyone on Neff Road. Christmas on Neff Road.

Many people go through their lives never looking back. I find that in looking back, I can make the journey forward even more memorable. God knew what He was doing in placing me back that lane on Neff Road. He knew that I would carry on the stories of the past. He knew that I would learn from the life I was given and put it to paper, er, computer. Most history books give the facts. I hope that I pass on to you the heart of the people of Darke County. A farm community is like no other. We all knew what it is to share the burden of years when the weather failed the crops. We knew what it was to put the farm and the farm animals first. We knew the importance of our neighbors and our church. We shared Christmas joy together from year to year. This is the legacy I pass on.

Neff Road continues to be in my life. Janet Rhoades keeps me in the Neff Road loop. Last week she sent two lovely pictures of the snow and my grandfather's farm. We are the few who still remember the old neighborhood. We have developed a bond of friendship because of our tie to that lovely neighborhood.

I send you all seasons greetings from a girl from Neff Road. Special Christmas hugs to three of my favorite ladies from Neff Road. Margaret Stager, Doris Lavy and Dolores Bucholtz. With you, I still remember. May your Christmas be blessed with love and memories to keep you warm on other winter days.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Songs of the season

Retold memories of a once little girl from Neff Road.

The line of cars caravaned from place to place. Dressed in our winters warmest, we were a ban of merry carolers. Sometimes it was Mom and Dad's youth group from Painter Creek Church. Sometimes it was a group of singers from the choir. No matter who it was I tagged along. It wasn't like a Loxley to miss singing.

Even in the bitter cold, we trouped up each sidewalk then gathered close for warmth. Somehow I was always pushed to the front of the group. I never remember any other small children tagging along so I'm sure Mom and Dad were in charge. We began to sing with voices harmonizing, creating music that drifted through the chilly night. Shut-ins and elderly huddled against the cold as they stood in their doorways enjoying their own private concert. Often we were invited into the homes, but carolers had to keep moving in order to make all of their stops. Musical Christmas presents home delivered with love.

We went to the County Home in Greenville. It was a dark building that seemed rather ominous to a small child bundled so heavily that only two eyes and a little button nose peaked out from the wool hat and scarf. I vividly remember the door opening. A stairway ran up to the left. Along with a few other people, I stood at the bottom of the stairs inside out of the cold. Several thin, elderly people stood on the stairs while others gather in the hall. My sister remembers singing in a common room there. Mom wanted me to sing Away in the Manger. I don't think I did, because I was terribly shy. Maybe I hummed along. The experience left a mark on me. Not a Christmas goes by that I don't think of that dark hallway and the people looking at me. Those dear people had such little joy. These carolers were indeed a Christmas gift. A bit like the Little Drummer Boy. We had no gift to bring only our voices. I wish I had sung that song for them. For today I still carry those people in my heart.

I haven't heard of anyone caroling for years. That simpler time in life that I once knew was immersed in music. Families sung together. Men left that 'man circle' to come join around the piano. Carolers took their gift to the homes of those who were lonely and those who were sad. Music lifted us up and carried us through the hard times. Being shut in due to bad weather didn't stop us from having a great time. Not with a piano in the house.

For unto us a Child is born. Give a gift from your heart. Give a gift of music.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A bit of snow

Winter has come to Oregon. Even though we are a northern state, we have fairly mild winters. This year the cold blast has brought chilling winds and a dusting of snow. Only in the last few years have we seen much snow. It was a rarity when we moved here in 1978. Snow. How I miss the farm when the ground turns white.

We had two sleds. One was Dad's old sled. I imagine the second was purchased when the second daughter came to reside at the Loxley home. As a late comer, I got to ride with one of my sisters arms wrapped around me. Most of Neff Road is fairly flat. Our house sat on a hill; therefore, all the neighbor kids came to sled. Bundled from head to toe, they flew down the hill gliding out into the field. Dad watched over us making sure we were all safe and having a great time. He liked to give the sled a push and listen to the laughter of the children. Mom waited in the house with hot chocolate and popcorn balls.

This time of the year on Neff Road was very special. It meant neighbors coming to visit more often. It meant a warm fire in the fireplace and hot dogs on the roastings sticks. It meant fresh pie in the kitchen and a basket of nuts to crack open. Cold nights in the upstairs bedrooms and warm clothes draped over the radiator. The animals had on their winter coats. And we, too, donned layers of clothing. The old, thick comforters came out of storage along with a musty feather bed.  Sisters sharing a bed got along a little better in order to share the warmth. Dad was in the house more since the fields were sleeping. It was winter on Neff Road.

I stand by the window with my two little grandchildren. They see their first snow. Eyes are big and wonder is written all over them. What is this white stuff? They won't know the hill on Neff Road. Only the stories I write, the pictures I share and the memories I tell will keep this memory of mine alive for those who come after. I long for Neff Road, but with you, I visit it often.

We share memories, you and I. Our history is alive in what we pass on. A bit of snow and a childhood remembered.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks every day

Today's column is being written on Thanksgiving Day. My calls are checking in with the relatives and friends. Food is stacked in the frig waiting to be called to the table. My family is taking a walk. Millie has a sore foot, so she and I are watching the Westminster Dog Show. Just about as exciting as it can get.

Nolan likes to mosey over to the music toy. He spins a wheel and music begins to play. He then stands bouncing to the music. Not quite like the Thanksgivings I remember when the Johnson family gathered on Neff Road. But music was there just the same. Like many families from Darke County, we grew up with music. For generations, our family had gathered around the piano to sing. The men sang just as powerfully as did the women, perhaps because there were fewer of them. Mom pounded out carols on the piano. As a small child I remember looking at each adult loving that they all sang. They didn't just sing! They harmonized. I think perhaps these were some of the best times of my growing up. Men who seemed toughed from working in the fields and wielding heavy loads became transformed when they sang with their beautiful voices.

Instead of extended family. It is just our little family. Much too much food and a whole lot of overeating, but traditions are followed. Instead of my mother cooking and me making the best of it since I hate cooking, my son takes up the turkey and creates a feast. Traditions set for the babies who, too, will someday remember.

It is a time of being thankful. Of course, I'm thankful every day, so this is no biggie. I find that it is a time of being especially thankful for the people who have been in my life. It is a day of missing. Many of those who lived in the area of Neff Road passed just this last week. A time of mourning overshadows this time of family. Still the joy of having those people in our lives and having shared wonderful memories makes one even more thankful for the past and grateful for the each moment of the present.

Thanksgiving doesn't just come one day and leave the next. Thanks should be a part of every day. For time, it does pass quickly.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From a Neff Road daughter

Today I'm taking this space to tell about a friend of mine who recently passed away. He was more than a friend. He was indeed one of my fathers on Neff Road. Victor Lavy left us on November 10th. He left not only his family but many friends as well. This is for you, Victor.

Probably two things that stand out for me when I think of Victor were his bib overalls and his laughter. His laugh was the same as that of the daughter he lost. Marilyn died while on a mission with her husband. It was a loss that affected us all on Neff Road. When visiting Victor and Doris, we would often talk of Marilyn. The hurt never left but the joy remained. I learned about strength in that home at the end of our lane.

As a child, I often played with Merrill and Don at their house or the boys came to ours. With our older siblings and the Stager kids, we play baseball in the meadow while Victor and Doris watched from the front porch and the sheep dodged the balls. We could hear Victor and Doris laugh and cheer us on. Every time I saw them we laughed that when teams were chosen by the two self appointed coaches, I was always standing alone at the end with each team captain trying to pawn me off on the other team. This is how memories are made and cherished.

Seeing it backward from my 66 years allows me to understand how much Victor and Doris loved me. They always watched over the Loxley girls even when we came home with our families in later years. When I lost each of my parents, Victor wrapped his arms around me and allowing my tears fall. I knew that every time I went to visit him, Victor would open the door smiling and with a ready hug. I was loved.

Things change and those who lived on Neff Road migrated to the Brethren Home. On each trip back, I was excited to visit each old neighbor. Victor would hold my hand and tell me how much he loved his bride. We talked of the old times and caught up on the activities of his children. After a chat, we held hands and went to visit Doris. Once I  knocked on the door of Doris's room. Victor opened the door a bit and Doris popped around the corner and planted a big kiss on me. A couple who loved one another for 72 years. They loved me as their own. Memories that I hold dear.

Victor Lavy lived a long life of 93 years. They were years of struggle and pain, but the faith of this family held them up and gave them laughter and joy in life. I know that next spring I will think of Victor when it is time to hunt mushrooms. I know that on every trip back I will shed a few tears for the missing of a warm hug. I embrace the friendships that I have with his son Lowell and daughter Geneva. I still have the love of the Lavy's in my life.

Rest in peace, my dear Victor. This from a 'daughter' of Neff Road.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A friend request

"No, that can't be him," my friend said. We were about 2500 miles apart but picking up where we left off as teenagers.

"It is. I'm sure it's him." My friend and I found each other on Facebook about two years ago. An old friendship became something brand new. Sometimes we call one another just to laugh or even more importantly to check to see how the other is doing.

"Well, he didn't used to look that way," she continued. No, we have all changed over the years. When you find an old friend on Facebook, it is often hard to see that person you saw last when you graduated from high school. Those catty teenagers now see no flaws. We just see years that we have missed by not keeping in touch with those who were friends long ago.

I have to say that Facebook has added to my life. I've found cousins and acquaintances I barely knew when I was young. I've found old friends from church and school. The neighborhood kids that played together for years then lost touch can now share pictures and enjoy news of family. A gift has been given to us. The distance between Ohio and Oregon is just a keyboard away.

Sometimes I wonder what my mother would have thought of Facebook. Once she conquered her fear of it, she would have been searching for the many people who passed through our house. She would have been like a detective hot on the trail of loved ones and their families.

Each time my friend and I find someone knew, we reminisce about what we thought about back then. Once in a while old secrets creep out, and we share a chuckle. We talk of the loves and the sorrows in our lives and once more build on a friendship that began over fifty years ago. Facebook made this possible.

There is a joy in going back to the past with those who shared it with you. It's nice to have an old friend share your current joys and sorrows. Someone to listen and give you an opinion. Someone who calls and wants to talk. Many people criticize Facebook, but I think they are afraid to give it a try. For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, I thank you for coming back into my life.

My friend and I sat looking at the picture each on our own computer screen. "Well, I guess you're right," she finally admitted.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beginning at Painter Creek Church

Often I tell people about life on the farm and living constantly with the many jobs of the farmer. We didn't leave our place of employment. No, we lived our employment. But we had a second residence. A place where we spent many hours a week. As a kid my comfort level there was no different than at home. The place was Painter Creek Church of the Brethren.

I sat thinking of the church and its influence on the lives of those back the lane on Neff Road. Dad and Mom sang in the choir. Every Wednesday night they took off for practice. They went so many years that Mom often directed the choir. I sat in the pews on Sunday and listened to my parents, Uncle Keith and Grandad Loxley singing praises to God. It wasn't unusual for one of our family to sing a solo or play the piano in accompaniment. Music echoed in our faith and in the background of our daily lives.

Every Sunday we entered the church and found the same people in the same pews. Jess and Rosie Riffell sat in the front right pew. The older generations sat in the back right side. The noisy kids sat with parents on the left. Friends and neighbors we had known all of our lives surrounded us, caring for us even as we grew to adults. The church was the hub of the community. I loved to meet up with my best friends Doris Royer, Vivian Force, Mary Kay Snider, Brenda Stager and Priscilla Wyan. I always begged to bring one of them home to play after church.

My parents were youth leaders and Sunday School teachers. In later years they took on the job of custodians. It wasn't that we were immersed in faith. Mom and Dad lived their faith without wearing it as a banner. They practiced in life the goodness of a Christian faith. I think that was where I learned that the world is my church. Giving, loving, caring were the practices in and outside of our home.

When I had just moved to Oregon, I discovered that my husband was unfaithful. My life was in shambles. I had two small children and no idea what to do. I came home to the farm to hide from life for a month. My parents took over the loving care of my children while I calmed my heart and began to look forward. It was a hard journey. After about three weeks, I wandered to Mom's bookshelf. I found a book about silent faith. Suddenly my life became clear. I knew that I was in good Hands. A faith that I learned as a child growing up in Painter Creek Church was part me. My church based on peace and love gave me a way to understand my faith.

This isn't meant to be a preachy piece. The little church where I grew up cradled me in faith. Those same people are as dear to me now as they were then. My heart sings when I see them on return trips. They were all part of my growing up and part of my family. I know my story is shared by others who grew up in country churches. We all shared the story of the land and God who created it. My heart will always with the little church called Painter Creek.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moo Cow

"Brrrrrrr! Darn that's cold! What's up with that!? Huh, ah, do you mind? I do have some dignity, you know. Okay, we have a language barrier, but maybe if I kick that bucket, you might just get the point. Hands off, Bud!"

Well, cows can't talk, but if they could, I'm pretty sure I might have just hit the mark. Vaguely, I remember cows in a milking parlour. Now that's the fancy name of a room where cows do anything but recline in luxury for a leisurely day. Nope. Cows were lured into the parlour with the promise of grain and/or hay poured into the feeding trough. The cows were held in place by stanchions. The udder was washed down by loving hands that would then coax the milk from the cow into the bucket. Two times a day the cows were allowed to 'lounge' in the parlour. "Saulk, saulk, saulk", he called. Automatically, the cows came to the barn. Dad had a name for each of his cows.  A farmer and his cows spent a lot of time together.

I was always fascinated with the cow parlour. As small girls, Brenda and I would walk around the edge of the cement feeding trough. Behind the stanchions was a track where the farmer washed down the manure that came from contented cows. The milking parlour was a place where Dad crooned to his cows. They seemed to love it as much as did his children.

Then came along the milking machine. It is interesting that a woman was the inventor of the milking machine. Ana Baldwin was a farm girl from New Jersey. My guess is that milking was her designated chore. Sitting looking at the underside of a cow three times a day must have given her much time to think of how to make the process go more quickly, especially during New Jersey winters. So in 1879 she invented the first suction milking method. Several generations of milkers were developed until most farmers had given up the old of hands-on way, changing to the new milker. Farmers had more time with their families and cows had more time to mingle in the field. Win-win on both sides.

Uncle Keith put in a new system for milking cows. I believe it was a pipeline milking system. Cows didn't seem quite as happy as when the farmer crooned to them trying to relax the cow into giving up her milk. It was no longer a hands-on system. Cows were run through one by one until the herd was milked and the cow went her way and the farmer his.

My first word was 'moo cow'. Yes, it is two words, but I was a brilliant child. When you grow up with cows in your barnyard, you learn early on that they are fascinating to watch as they stand chewing their cuds. One might walk over to the fence with a wet nose and huge, sloppy tongue hoping for a bit of fresh grass or bit of hay. They smell of the field and manure. For the most part, they are gentle.

There is a bond between a cow and his farmer. Enough of a bond that a farmer might name his cows and sing to them on a cold winter day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

We've come a long way, Baby

The weather was wet and sloppy. It was fall. I remember pulling up to the field in the old '29 Chevy Roadster (this was in the 60's not the 20's). In fact, I remember wearing a blue jacket. Pretty vivid, huh? Fred Dafler was standing in the field by the table where a few of us sat with pencils in hand. We kept the stats for the cross country team. In the spring we took stats for the guys as they pole vaulted, ran the dash and relays, etc. In the fall it was cross country time. I was a sports enthusiast yet being part of the support team was the best. I had no idea that a new day was coming.

A friend of my granddaughters runs cross country. She just beat her own time and is a very strong member on the team as a new freshman. We've come a long way since it was only boys who ran. Now those girls who have the ability can challenge themselves in events that are now open to both sexes. Girls have more chances for college sports scholarships now. The guys are as supportive of the girls as the girls are of the guys.

Suffragettes were founded in 1903 by Emmiline Pankhurst and daughters Christabel and Sylvia. My grandmother would have been the first in our family to have a glimpse of what was to come. In fact, I think my Grandmother Loxley tried her best to have her own freedom in a time when men still held the reins. She tucked her meager egg money behind the baseboard hoping to buy something for herself or her children. Or, perhaps she thought of it as a way to escape from a life that held her back. She wrote and was actually published in the Advocate. She was a teacher and a woman who loved to laugh. I often wonder how she would have soared in this present day.

My mother was a basketball player. She came from a family of strong women. Her sisters were always pushing the boundaries. Mom was her own woman. Dad had a strong influence on Mom, but Mom usually had her way in expressing herself and making a difference in the lives of many people. She was power in herself. Mom wanted to go to college but hopes were doused in the Johnson household. Mom was intelligent and strong. She would have made a great ambassador.

We didn't think about liberation in high school even though it was the 60's. We were well-educated in Home Economics to be well-trained wives. We sat on the sidelines and watched the boys in sports. We were still living in homes where our fathers were considered head of the household and having a son to carry on the family name was preferable.

Many women have paid a price for us to have homes that consider both parents as head of household, where women have careers and baby girls are just as desired as boy babies. We live in a time when equality still struggles on so many fronts, yet, we've come a long way baby.

Fall brings on memories of a damp day and boys covered with mud and sweat. A '29 Chevy sat along the road. It was the eve of a new day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Where fall comes to visit

October. Neff Road. Hayrides. Bradford Pumpkin Show. Corn in the corn crib. Sheep wearing warmer coats. The fruitroom lined with jars of vegetables and fruits. A season of preparation.

The tobacco in the barn is turning brown. Dad spends time in the barn cleaning up the tools and lawnmower used in the summer. The cow stable is clean. So are the sheep stalls. Even the chicken coop smells a bit better. Grain bins are full and the hay mow is near bursting with straw and hay bales. Fall arrives on Neff Road.

I know there are many of you who lived life much like that of the Loxley family. Life on a farm was constant activity. Our parents didn't go off to work. Every day we all worked. It is the way of life for those who live with the rich dark soil. Each season brought on the standard chores. Spring meant airing out and cleaning. Summer meant crops and hard work. Fall meant preparation. Winter was a time of relaxing...except for those who raised tobacco. The seasons of the the earth were the seasons of the farm.

Fall has always been a favorite season. It seemed that our house took on a new feeling. Dad cut wood and stacked it by the cellar door. The colder weather meant hot dogs roasting in the fireplace and meals in the basement. Mom got busy making fall pies such as, pumpkin, cream and apple. Seems we had more people drop in since farm work was winding down, and they knew Mom would have fresh pie. The youth group at church became a bigger part of our lives with hay rides and gatherings at our house. Kids played in the barn swinging on the rope, making memories they carry with them still today. Dad loved to pull the rope sending kids flying across the barn. Come to think of it, the fall season meant laughter and warmth.

I miss the farm this time of the year. I still think of the people who lived there. My thoughts turn to Doris and Victor Lavy and Margaret Stager who live at the Brethren Home. I am kept in the loop by my friend Janet Rhoades who keeps watch over Neff Road for me. I know that Fred and Joice Bernhard are watching over my granddad's farm. Geneva and Roy Yoder are loving my other grandfather's farm. The land is still loved by those I love. Our farm back the lane has children running and laughing giving new life to the old place. A child who once came to see Grandma Ruth now resides in the same house. A history that rotates much as the seasons. It is a season of preparation. Preparation for coming generations.

So as I relish the memories I have of those days on Neff Road, I know that many of you are remembering as well. We all have a Neff Road. A place where fall comes to visit.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Fall Palette

Now you might think that I'm going to write about leaves changing into their fall colors. Nope. Perhaps you think that I will write about the changing from bright summer colors to those of rusts, oranges and golds. Nope. I'm writing about artists, and the arts in Darke County.

"You can't make a living in the arts!" a statement that the Loxley girls grew up hearing more and more as we grew into adulthood. Peggy and I wanted to be dancers. Of course, going to a church that frowned on dancing made for problems. We stealthfully hid our dance classes. June was headed the way of the paint brush. Her lessons were okay since everyone knew that artists starved, and she wouldn't be tempted. Perhaps Mom and Dad tried to dissuade us from the arts, because Dad was a singer and knew that he could never support a family with his talent.

Well, maybe not all of us can make a living with our artistic endeavors, but we certainly need an outlet in which we learn and grow. I didn't step into an art gallery until I moved to Oregon. In case you didn't know, this a very artsy place full of galleries, theatre and more recently the TV show Grim. I saw my first Monet and Rembrandt paintings when my son went to Northwestern in Chicago. People did follow their dreams.

On one of my trips back to Ohio, I spent time at Bears Mill.The Mill itself is a piece of art, a piece of historical art. I was delighted to see an exhibit of sculptures and paintings. It was not only a historical place to visit but was the first art gallery I had visited in Darke County.

My cousin Alma Lea Gilbert is a wonderful artist. She truly has a gift. I first discovered her talent one summer back in the '80s. The family attended the great Darke County Fair. Mom wanted us to stop at the Art Pavilion to see Alma Lea's art. Wow! What talent! The pavilion was full of talented artists.

Our family tree contains several artists. I even sometimes have a hankering to pick up a drawing pencil or paint brush. A history of painting was alive in Darke County in the past. Before the camera, artist painted portraits and surroundings. Our past stayed alive through art and talented artists. Women were encouraged to paint China and do a little needlework. Art. Part of the way of living.

I love that Garst Museum protects the art of the past. I am excited to see the art at Memorial Hall. I know that I have not mentioned all of the places that support art in the area and apologize, but I sing your praises. Some time I will come back to Greenville and visit the places I have yet to see. I want to take the tour of the old downtown buildings. I will spend more time seeking out the art and artists of the area. Your events, your encouragement of young people to grow in knowledge of the arts is admirable. Businesses, I hope that you are using local art on your walls and giving to the arts in Greenville. Those of you who live in Darke County, learn more about the artists in your community. Try your own hand at something you love. You don't have to make a living at it. You can try something that just might give you joy.

The arts are important. They are the palette of talent that makes up the heart of a thriving community. Fall is here. Grab your camera. Grab a paint box. Pick up a pencil and paper and head out into nature to capture that fall beauty that is beginning. You don't need lessons. You won't be critiqued. This is just about you and a whisper that says, "Give it a try."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Living in a modern cave

Emma is a mover and doer. She takes everything in, processes and acts. She came that way when she was born fourteen months ago. On the other hand, her brother has been content to sit with a toy, looking it over then chewing on it for a bit. Two babies born together yet so different.

Definition from About.com Archaeology, Hunters and Gatherers:  To state it simply, hunter-gatherers hunt game and collect plant foods (called foraging) rather than grow or tend crops. Hunter gatherers is the term used by anthropologists to describe a specific kind of lifestyle, that of all human beings until the invention of agriculture about 8000 years ago.

We were farmers. Dad taught me to be a hunter and a gatherer in a different sense. He taught me to look beyond what the eye captured to find true treasures in the beauty around me. He taught me about the fish we caught, the nature and the sound of a pebble dropped into a crawdad hole. He taught me that there is much more to life than that which we casually observe. As a child, I gathered bits and pieces of nature that caught my eye. I gathered bunnies, puppies, kittens and lambs. Dad was a farmer who grew his own food, yet he saw much more in this place where he toiled.

In a conversation with my sister June, I discovered a bit about myself. I love the hunt. I get a thrill when I walk into an antique store or attend an auction. Shopping for something specific becomes an adventure. Trying to come up with new ideas to help my grandchildren learn takes on the feel of the hunt. "You gather people," my sister said. People? Hm. I guess maybe I do. I love people. So many people and so little time to get to know as many as I can. Wow, I am a hunter and gatherer.

Perhaps the most difficult part of being one such person is that I must realize that not everyone is not like me. Not everyone has that enthusiasm to hunt and gather. We all see things differently, a different prospective. Truly, it is a part of our nature. That thing that makes us tick when we take that first breath. Learning to accept the differences is the challenge of life.

The twins have grown into a new phase. Emma is always on the go climbing and running from one thing to another, while her brother sits with cars and trucks, spinning the wheels and checking over the underside as well as the top of each vehicle. Each of us comes with something in our genes that calls to us throughout our lives whether we recognize it or not. It calls. I don't know what I was like as a toddler but have a feeling that I was much like Nolan analyzing and playing in a world of imagination and adventure.

I am a hunter and gatherer living in a modern cave.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to eat an artichoke

1978. Restaurant: Eathquake Ethel's.

Earthquake Ethel's was a restaurant where every so often, the floor shook and earthquake scenes with sound flashed across a screen. This was a new experience for a young woman who had recently left her dreary life in Combined Locks, Wisconsin. My friend suggested the artichoke stuffed with shrimp salad. Oh, why not. New place, new food.

The artichoke came sitting with attitude on a plate. Voraciously, I devoured the shrimp salad. "What's wrong?" Mary Lyn asked as I stared at the remaining artichoke. "I don't know how to eat this", I replied. Indeed we did not grow artichokes on Neff Road. I embarked on an adventure that I appreciate to this day.

With my sister's new heart healthy diet, I hiked the aisles of Meijers looking for low salt, low fat foods. My sister who had a taste for artichokes asked me to check them out. A small display of artichokes was nestled next to the peas. "How do you fix those," asked a voice from behind me. The voice belonged to a woman in charge of handing out pieces of watermelon in hopes to lure customers into buying one to take home.

"What?" I asked.

"How do you fix one of those (referring the the artichokes)? I always thought I'd like to try one." Now that lesson that I'd learned twenty-five years ago was proving to be useful. I could relate....and did.

How to eat an artichoke:

Cut stem from the bottom of the artichoke. Cut off the tips of the top leaves removing the prickly end. (I use scissors.) Wash thoroughly under cold water gently pulling the leaves back so water can rinse through the leaves. Place the artichoke, bottom down, in a pan with 2"of salt water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until leaves are easily pulled from the next to bottom row of the artichoke flower. Can be cooked without a lid; however, keep an eye on the water so it doesn't run dry. Takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

Time to eat! After you pull each leaf off the flower, pull the soft side across your bottom teeth. After all leaves are removed and munched, the fuzzy innards of the artichoke are exposed. Using a shallow cut, remove the fuzzy center. Now only the heart remains to be cut into pieces and devoured. Serve with mayonnaise or melted butter.

The woman with the watermelon samples was quite pleased. I think she was now prepared for the adventure. Should you choose to try an artichoke, remember that the eating experience is just about as much fun as the wonderful taste of this vegetable. Bon appetit! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Golden Crown

With fingers sticky with sap, we felt like princesses. We grew up with few toys. We grew up with imagination and appreciation for things around us. We grew up wearing dandelion crowns.

This morning I eliminated dandelions from my sister's yard. Their fuzzy heads were ready to spread seed, and I was determined to stop them. I stood holding a stem and memory danced across my mind. Dandelion crowns. Brenda and I would gather the biggest stemmed dandelions we could find then set to the task of crown making. We tossed aside many of the sunny, yellow heads inserting each stem into one that was larger making the circle of the crown, then we twisted golden flowers around the halo. I'm sure we had sticky heads, and, from my point of view, a nice floral scent would have been better instead of the bitter smell of the weed. Farm girls playing with dandelions the same as their grandmothers many times over.

The hollyhocks were out behind the corn crib. So was the outhouse. I remember Dad pinching off the flowers and the buds. With the help of a straight pin, the flower became the skirt and the bud became the head of beautiful, floral dolls. Imagination and delight combined with what we had around us, and we were entertained. To this day, I cannot look at a hollyhock without wishing I had a straight pin.

The bales of hay and straw were our forts. The Lavy boys and I made tunnels and barricades. We played for hours in the barn standing on the bounty collected from the field. The barn became a place of delight for all ages over the years swinging on the rope from end to end landing on those bales; creating our own playground.

Seems Brenda and I also knew how to get into trouble. Popping the buds on the lilies was fun until either Margaret or Mom yelled at us. I enjoyed peeling bark off of Granddad's white birch until he yelled at me. Pop Johnson had a huge weeping willow. My cousin Lee and I would make whips out of young branches. And again, another grandpa yelled at me. I could have used a some positive input praising the ingenuity of their young granddaughter.

We Neff Road kids had fun back then. We didn't have much, but we had each other and a world of intrigue around us. Best of all, I got to wear a golden crown.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sometimes newer isn't better

The planks groaned. A sound very familiar to the people on Neff Road. The old bridge matched another that spanned across  the water of Painter Creek on Byreley Road. The little creek meandered across farms seeking refuge in a larger body of water, always going under one side of the bridge only to come out the other side.

Our little creek ran into the Stillwater River which ran into the Great Miami River watershed. Of course, to those of us who lived around the sweet, little creek, we loved it for the tadpoles, frogs, turtles and crawdads. Ground hogs, raccoon, an occasional dog and other critters enjoyed the clear water of the creek. But none of this has anything to do with the reason for this writing. I'm writing about our bridge.

The bridge was probably erected some time between the late 1870's to 1930's. I had trouble finding much information on this dear bridge. Evidently, it didn't mean as much to historians as it did to those who lived in the neighborhood. From research I find that the bridge was a truss bridge. A truss bridge has metal rails that form triangular units. They are considered one of the oldest types of  modern bridges. Ohio has the largest number of truss bridges in the United States. With this in mind, I'm not sure why the two in our neighborhood were revamped sometime in the 1960's or 70's. Seems to me that the bridges were just perfect the way they were built. I think it had something to do with cars passing and wide loads. Although seems to me that people were much friendlier when they had to stop for a tractor crossing the bridge. A neighbor might even stop and say "hello" to the neighbor waiting. It could save a neighbor a trip back the lane.

I looked up the last inspection in 2010 of the bridge on Neff Road. The average daily traffic is 200 vehicles. Now I lived there for nineteen years, visiting all the years after, and can tell you that in no way has there ever been 200 cars, tractors, buggies, bicycles, dogs, pedestrians, trucks and/or motor cycles on that road on any one day. The bridge is in very good condition and has an operating rating of 40.6 tons. Evidently it will hold all the 200 vehicles that pass over it each day.

I loved that old creaking bridge. It signaled the comings and goings on our road. It gave kids a great place to toss rocks into the creek below. For the Loxley girls, it was a place we stood and with deep affection, looked upon our home.

Sometimes newer isn't better.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Flouroscope

"Was it in Bradford?" I asked my sister who was at my mercy in her hospital bed."I'm sure it was in Bradford," I answered myself.

She laid there concentrating. "I think you're right. It could be Greenville, but I think it was in Bradford."

Now this has nothing to do with what I'm writing about except that this is the way some of my topics surface. A bit of bouncing back and forth rememberings of an older sister and one who came a long seven years later. We were talking about the 1950's and shoes. I was just a little kid, so she should be more the authority; however, I really don't think she was paying much attention to me or shoes back then.

I remembered walking into a shoe store that had a big display on an oval rounder holding two rows of  kids shoes. Mostly Buster Brown....and his faithful dog Tige. Off to the back stood the topic of discussion. We could both describe it but had no idea what it was called.

"Remember that thing you put your feet into?" I inquired.

"Oh, yeah. Later they found out it was dangerous. Something to do with the x-rays. You could see through the shoe and your foot."

A tall box where you put your feet in new shoes in the bottom and looked through a golden scope into your shoes...and feet. I looked it up when I came home. A flouroscope. Seems it should have been called an invisibleshoeoscope or a seeyourtoebonesoscope. Regardless of what scope we were looking through, we were also allowing radiation to play havoc with our feet while sometimes these silly scopes leaked radiation. No wonder I have bunyons. I blame it on the shouldaknownbetteroscopes.

It was the last time I had my feet x-rayed, And, probably the only time shoes were x-rayed as well. I came home with a new pair of shoes. I believe the box said: “That’s my dog, Tige. He lives in a shoe. I’m Buster Brown. Look for me in there too.”

Wonder if it was Bradford or Greenville? Hm. Maybe it was Arcanum.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Just a reminder

The big calendar hung on the wall. It was from the grain elevator on Red River/West Grove Road. Dad had a doctor appointment. Mom was going to something at the Extension Service. One could always check out the phases of the moon. The other source of information was the Farmer's Almanac. With these two items, we could know the day, the appointments on any specific day, the past, the present and the predicted future weather. The cart beneath the TV in the kitchen also held other resources: the current phone book, last year's phone book, Guidepost, Farm Journal and various other media that arrived in the mail. We were never short on resources.

Religious information was also handy in case we had immediate need of inspiration. The Gospel Messengers from the last three years were deposited in various places around the house. Mom's worn out Bible was in the bathroom (good place to focus on the Good Book). The hymnal sat on the piano and a few church programs were always lying around. Our souls were covered no matter what room we were in at any given time.

I remember when as newlyweds we moved into the Lawrence place. Orville had never thrown away anything. Every magazine and newspaper they had received was stacked in the barn and loft. We didn't live there long enough to discover all of the handy information that surrounded us.  It seems the mice had a run at it before we did. Or it could be that we moved to Wisconsin in less than a year from moving into our sweet farm house. A source of history missed.

I don't need a calendar, almanac, dictionary or books. I can get all of it on the internet. I can actually get all of it on my phone. I like the efficiency of the computer. I like that I can sit at an appointment and check out all of the above while I wait. I can even entertain myself with a game or take pictures of other people staring at their phones. It seems that friendly dialogue is replaced by texting. Now a farmer can go online and find out what the weather will be for the next week. All the most recent farming news is easily attained with a few words Googled. I can find the history of farming in Darke County Ohio and read my Daily Advocate. I guess this might be considered progress. Hm. I prefer paper and conversation.

I wonder what Mom and Dad would think of all this. Dad would probably shake his head sure that this too would all pass. Mom would probably surprise me and want to learn all about it. I'm waiting for the day when we can read minds. I hope someone wants to play mental Scrabble.

Oh, just got a reminder on my phone.....my column is due.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fairly Exciting

Excitement that would make a dog's tail wag. The kind of excitement that causes children to be hyper, er, more hyper.  People packing bags and RV's ready for that annual trip to Greenville. What causes such excitement and anticipation? Easy. The Great Darke County Fair.

Although I haven't been back for the fair in at almost thirty years, I still have that yearly anticipation. And why not? I walked that fair from the time I was a little girl holding my parents' hands to the time when I was a mother with teenage children visiting the farm for the month of August. I held quite a few hands at the fairgrounds. Some of them were pretty special. I visited the fair as a child full of awe and wonder. As a teenager full of love and romance. Finally as an adult looking for familiar faces.

We didn't raise animals to show at the fair. But the animal barns were always a first stop. We visited the Elikers and their horses. Then we trotted off to the cow barns and then the pigs. Dad always looked over the sheep probably comparing them to his own. Bunnies, chickens, goats, we loved them all. We were farmers, and this was our fair. It seems that no matter the age I happened to be, I always visited the barns where homemaker's showed the work of their hands. I looked for names I recognized. Those of our neighbors and friends. I wandered through the 4-H barn looking at the amazing things made by my friends and later by their children. I wandered to the Art Barn looking for a painting by my cousin Alma Lea. This was the fair belonging to all who lived in Darke County.

For a girl who has always had a good case of motion sickness, the midway rides were more a threat than a thrill. The ponies were about the right speed for me. Those horses that went around and around and up and down on the merry-go-round were a double threat. I was meant to be a bystander. When I was little, I remember visiting the arcade. I put a coin into a machine and a post card featuring a star came out. Lone Ranger, Danny Kaye, Bogart, Gene Autry, David Niven, June Allison, Ginger Rogers. So many stars....so few coins. I always hoped to get Roy Rogers or Dale Evans. Better yet, one of both Roy and Dale. Today those cards fetch anywhere from $3-10, depending on just how long ago that card popped out of that little machine. Every year kids came home with a trove of treasures: a Cupie doll on a stick (ouch), a brightly colored cane, a rosette fan that when unfolded presented a rainbow of colors, a whip which could serve no other purpose than to inflict pain on a younger sibling, a sparkly topped baton of red, white and blue. So many things to attract a small child. An occasional fair toy was indeed a treat. We were farmers. There wasn't always money to spend on rides and trinkets.

I wish class reunions would happen during Fair Week rather than in the spring. We could all gather in a place that drew us as children. Our vacation time could be spent visiting our roots and this once a year place of memory. I won't make it to the fair this year, but I will dream of cotton candy and candy apples. I will remember the faces of those I passed on the midway and those who were a part of those days long ago.

I miss you, Darke County Fair. Maybe next year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Worth remembering

They sit in a chest along with doilies and other handmade linens. I can't part with them. They are made by the women of my history. They are pieces of art pieces I take out often and remember.

A lump of dough was the first napkin used by the Spartans. These lumps were called apomagdalie and were made into small rolls then kneaded at the table. I'm not sure that these slippery pieces of flour and water were very absorbent, but then I've never tried this method of hands cleansing myself. Not surprisingly, sliced bread followed. I guess you could eat your napkin if you were still hungry. The Romans came along with napkins known as sudaria. These came in small or large sizes. They were smaller fabric used to wipe the brow during mealtime since the climate in Rome was a bit toasty most days. A mappa was spread over the lounging couch to protect it from food. Difficult to eat lying down. Has to be a messy bit of business.

Of course as a child, I often did what they did in the Middle ages. In place of the napkin, mouths and hands were wiped on whatever was easiest at the time: back of the hand, clothing, a sister's sleeve.The twins seem to like this method.

There was a later tradition where the servant presented the guests with a small bowl of water and a towel. I have been to restaurants that now offer the same minus the servant. I remember the first time I a small bowl of water was set before me. Doing what I usually do in such circumstances, I watched everyone else. Wasn't such a good idea. They were watching me! When the small warm towel was delivered, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

You might wonder what has brought on this napkin mania. Last night I was trying to get to sleep and an image of me as a child sitting with my parents came to mind. There I sat at a table while Dad tied a cloth napkin behind my head giving me a bib (grown up bib). I had forgotten about that simple task that was both sweet and practical. If the napkin could not be tied, a corner was tucked inside the top of my shirt or dress. Of course, it came untucked several times. A simple memory but one that makes me smile.

I like this history of the napkin. I like that I can look at those pieces of cloth in the chest and think of the hands that created them. It is those simple things in life that are worth remembering.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The miles

After I married, I always lived away from Ohio and family. All of the Loxley girls had scattered. We followed our husbands and their jobs. We never really considered that we had a choice. So we packed up and left our roots behind. We nested in new territory.

Vacation always meant packing up the family and returning to Neff Road. Our Christmas holiday was spent heading to the farm. If the weather was bad, we still made the trip. If a kid was sick, we still did the same. At first, I was so homesick that the trips were needed. Then it seemed that we never had our own family holidays and vacations. We never really did what we needed to do for us. At that point I began resenting the trips. I had begged my parents to move closer to one of their daughters so they  could enjoy their grandchildren. Our husbands had good jobs so moving closer to my parents was not an option for any of us.

After my dad was gone, I once again asked my mother to come live with me. "Do you really mean it?" she asked. Of course, I did. I had missed her most of my life. But still she would not come.

I learned a lesson from all of this. I learned that I would always live near one or, better yet, both of my children. If I was going to be grandmomming, then I wanted my grandkids close enough to do it. There was and is nothing more important to me.

Going to visit my sister for a month is, as always, a blessing. I find that living away from her leaves a big hole in my heart. Over the many years of traveling to the farm, there were those times when a sister or two was missing. Years and time seemed to separate us more and more. Yet when June and I get together, there is no distance of miles or time. I asked her the same question that I had asked my mother. Her life is full of friends and comfort where she lives. Here family is there.

It is a hard thing we do in this growing up and growing older. There is a missing that happens that can't be filled. There is a loss of time that cannot be recaptured. There are lessons learned that seem to be learned too late.

We spent vacations and holidays traveling to Neff Road all those years ago. I don't regret it for a moment.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A big view of a small town

First were the fire trucks. Red trucks with sirens roaring from all the little towns surrounding Angola. On and on they came. Big trucks shaking the streets as they passed. A caravan of Budget Rentals. A band of motorcycles. A tiny band of about twenty from a nearby school. Little girls twirling batons. Friends and neighbors lining the streets. Small town USA on the 4th of July.

I had never been to a small town parade. This was a new experience. In Oregon, we have the Grand Floral Parade where parade goers must mark off a place to sit at least a day before the parade. We have the Starlight Parade the night before the Grand Floral. Still they do not qualify for a small town parade.

About ten minutes before the parade began, we walked across the backyard and the neighbor's lawn to set up our chairs along the street. Families wandered along chatting with other parade goers. Children ran out to grab candy that was tossed from passing cars and trucks. A nice cool day spent sitting out under a tree, watching a small town celebrate. It was heartwarming.

I guess we did have parades when I was growing up, but I don't remember my parents ever taking us to town to watch one. I marched in the band in a few. Hated marching band thus was not thrilled about parades.

I don't know if small towners realize what beauty surrounds them. The wonderful sweetness of a small town. The old homes that have been restored and kept up, the local businesses which are supported despite big box stores, the friendliness that greets you when you go to town. Those are the things that should be protected and cherished.  They are true Americana and priceless.

Today we went to Coldwater, Michigan. It was a first time for me to visit the beautiful town. The old houses are gorgeous. The old opera house restored to its past splendor. The old brick buildings calling back days when farmers and fishermen came into town for supplies. The same is true for the other small towns around here. This desire to protect the old architecture of the past is one I hope we can pass on to younger generations. I appreciate the past preserved in Greenville and Arcanum. Once the small town beauty is gone, it is gone forever.

Can't think of any place I would rather have been this year on the 4th than parked out along an Angola street,watching a parade and waving at people I do not know....having the time of my life. Just might be back next year for the next one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A strawberry shake to go

Hot summer days. Sweltering days when ice cubes and air conditioning feel mighty good. We all head for ice cream to soothe the spirit and cool the body. A strawberry shake to tame the savage heat.

Angola is a sweet little town surrounded by farms and lakes. I love small towns. Not much happens except for good neighboring and a bit of gossip here and there. However last week something happened that made neighbors nervous enough to start a neighborhood watch. A little town chilled to the bone.

The tinkling bells of the ice cream truck draws children from up and down the street. Parents gather  their change and follow the sound to buy ice cream treats for themselves as well as for the kids. It was the end of a hot day. 9:15pm to be exact. The driver of the ice cream truck stopped when the car behind her flashed its lights. She assumed the driver wanted ice cream: "A man ordered a strawberry milkshake and said, 'I want all of your money.'" He indicated that he had a gun but never showed it. The thief got away with $400. I'm not sure if he got the milkshake.

Who would think to rob an ice cream truck? I just don't get it. Seems that the simple things of safety and trust get further away all the time. The quiet neighborhood where children run across lawns, folks sit on their porches and sound of the ice cream truck are just part of life is changing into a place of mistrust. Was the robber local? No one knows for sure. Another similar incident happened a few days later in Ft. Wayne. During this robbery the ice cream truck driver was assaulted.

We have little carts that are pedaled around our neighborhoods in Portland. The kids run alongside the carts loving the sound and the treats that go with it. Some of our drivers are Hindi and wear a turban. A cultural experience for the children. Again, parents gather their money and head out to buy the neighborhood kids treats. Everyone recognizes the driver and waves as he pedals by. The summer experience is savored as the ice cream is devoured. Summer wouldn't be quite the same if ice cream was delivered in an armored car.

It's hard to believe that someone would actually rob such a delightful thing as an ice cream truck. I can imagine someone might be tempted to ask for a free cone. I never heard if the robber paid for his shake or not. And, obviously, the get away driver in the car was passing on the ice cream and going straight for the money. A simple order of a shake became a shakedown. A strawberry shake to go.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

There are not enough days

There are not enough days. There were not enough days for my time in Ohio. There are not enough days with my sister in Angola. There are not enough days.

I stopped by Newcomer's Cemetery and placed my red and white bobber on Dad's grave. I spent a little time talking to them then a little time thinking of the past. I said, "There were not enough days, Mom and Dad." I was home, but yet I wasn't. Things had changed enough that my old life on Neff Road was no more and remembering the past made my heart ache. I could no longer sit on Victor and Doris's porch. I couldn't run down to Stager's to visit for a spell. Yet I could stand on the bridge and look at a house, a farm that was no longer ours. I was missing the past and my place in it.

I told my sister June that home is really where she is now. She carries those memories of farm, of family. She has been my traveling companion from childhood to these senior years we have come to know. On this trip I increased our family by meeting cousins I did not know. Over the years, I have grown to understand the importance of relationships and the time in which we have to share them. My time with my sister is precious. I told Mom and Dad that I wish I could start over again and listen a bit better, love a bit stronger and hold a closer those I hold dear. I do the best I can, but still it is not nearly enough.

"You just think the best of everyone, don't you?" said my sister. Yea, I guess I do. I think the one thing I learned throughout this process of change is that my faith grew bigger. I found that my church was the world I live in and all of the inhabitants there in. The power of God I carry inside needs to meet the God in others. I will not leave a conversation be it with a friend or a store clerk until they have looked me in the eye. A look can say it all. A look of recognition. We all live in these pods across the world yet our world is rather small. I have so much to learn from others and their way of living. I have so much to give by what I have learned. What I learned on the farm showed me the essence of God. What I find is others is the face of God. This I learned on Neff Road. There are not enough days.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about today. Somehow the hands just seem to tap out the words and my brain follows. Coming home is a blessing. There is a peace that must be similar to the migrant bird returning to the nest. The nest is worn and traveler weary, but the fit is just right. Thank you to my cousins, my friends, my family and my readers for making my few days in Ohio a loving experience. I go home with new avenues to explore and a deeper need to return. And....my world a little bigger.

There are not enough days. But seems to me that we best make the time we have time when we look into one another's eyes and find home.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Worth writing about

I thought today I would write about being grounded in Chicago overnight, sleeping on a cot just a few inches away from strangers. I thought about writing about circling the airport for almost an hour with an hour's worth of fuel before the powers that be decided our plane should fly to Moline to refuel while waiting for an okay from O'Hare for us to land. Ready for a decent into Moline, Chicago opened up a spot for us. so we flew back to the airport where we would spent way too many hours. I thought about it, but I'm not writing about it.

Yesterday I left Angola, Indiana, heading to Furlong Road and my friend Sandy. I was thrilled when I had arrived in Ft. Wayne the day before. I had flown a long way for a sister's hug. But now I was on a trip down to Neff Road. I didn't realize the impact that crossing the Ohio state line would have on me, but a warm stillness accompanied me as I drove past the green fields of corn. I seemed to be driving through my life history. Celina held memories of ice skating and boating. North Star was where Dad once got a speeding ticket. On and on the memories piled into the back the car and followed me to Hogpath Road.

I was excited to get to Sandy's house but knew that I had to go home first. I almost missed Byreley Road. Franklin School was gone. Another piece of my past was missing. Grandad's octagonal barn made my heart soar. Then I turned onto Neff Road. Now you might think it was a sad trip down memory lane. Not so. I called my sister June and had her drive down the road with me. I stopped on the bridge getting out of the car to look at the house back the lane from a viewpoint where we often stood over the years. "June, it looks wonderful!" I said smiling...standing in the middle of the road. Mom and Dad would be pleased to see the place so well loved. I had gone home first for not only myself, but for all of those who no longer live on Neff Road. I needed to say "hi, I'm home" to the neighbors as I always did when I returned to the farm. But I'm not going to write about this either.

Last night I spent the evening with two very dear friends. Judy Neff, Sandy Bridenbaugh and I have been friends since grade school. We lost track of each other over the years of child rearing and living busy lives to return to one another in our sixties. Those girls who were friends have turned into adults who realize that this friendship is precious and one we all want to nurture. We laughed and teased and reminisced and promised to never let go of this thing called friendship. With the loss of so many in our lives, we found that we had gained in finding one another again. We talked into the early morning hours hating to say "good-bye". Facebook had brought us back together and would keep us together. But I'm not going to write about that either.

What I really want to write about is this: I grew up in a beautiful place that will forever be my home. My roots are embedded as deeply in the rich, dark soil as those of the oldest oak. The coo of the mourning dove is sung just for me. I know it. This is my land. This holds my heart and my love. This is well worth writing about.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Red and White Bobber

My eyes were drawn to the big card. The display was hard to miss. Over-sized cards made especially
for the occasion. A man sat in a boat with a fishing pole in hand. One large red and white bobber with a fishing line covered the corner of the picture. A card for a father. A card for Father's Day.

Brenda and I were our daddies' shadows. Where they went, their youngest followed. We rode on the tractor with our daddies. We followed them around as they did the chores on the farm. We sat in a boat fishing with them. We didn't care if we caught anything. We just enjoyed the time with our fathers who seemed to understand their little, curly headed girls. Brenda's daddy was just about as much mine as was my own.

As I have said before, my dad taught me all I know about nature. He always had time to teach a lesson about the wildlife and flora that shared the place where we lived. I knew each crop well because when Dad worked it, I was there. I rode in the grain wagon as it was harvested, sat in the corn crib as the corn climbed the elevator. I sat in the yard watching bales climb into the hay mow. When tobacco raising took over from the day when the beds were steamed to the days when it was stripped, Dad knew I wouldn't be far away. We watched lambs and calves born together. I learned everything about pigs, horses, rabbits, sheep, cows and chickens.

"I walk right past the mushrooms and you pick them up!" Dad would exclaim. "You have a really good eye for finding them." Well, I either had a really good eye, or he was setting me up for success.

Mom rarely was gone during meal time, but when she was, Dad fixed tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Dad and I roasted hot dogs together. We picked beans and peas in the garden. He pulled me around on the sled when the snow was deep. He made piles of leaves for me to play in when fall settled in. Dad taught me to dive, but he could never get me to swim. He taught me to love music, and gave me a gift each time he sang.

These fathers of ours are precious. They teach us little girls what it is to admire a man. They teach us what a father's love is like. They give us a mighty high mark for other men to live up to. Oh, dads have their flaws. Those, too, teach us along the way. We learn about ourselves in the way we are raised. And, we learn to take the good and try to understand the bad when we become adults. The older we get we see life differently. Sometimes we find gems where we thought there were none. Sometimes we find pieces of ourselves in what has gone before. I was blessed with a good man as my father. Daily I saw his love of the earth and his gentleness in tending it and its creatures. I was blessed.

I thought that I should buy the card. I could visit Newcomer's Cemetery and read it to Dad. It would be better than a bouquet. I loving message from daughter. A message for a father on Father's Day. If you happen that way, don't be surprised to find a red and white bobber placed by the name Willard Loxley. Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.

Aunt Alma, Brenda, me, Billy, Mom, Dad
On Friday, June 14th, I will be back in Ohio. There are many people I hope to see but am home such a short time. I will spend some time at the BRC, and hope to have a time meeting up with old and new friends in Greenville on Saturday evening. I would love to see those of you who have been so kind to contact me and those who remember Neff Road. If you are interested in joining me, please email me, and I will let you know the details. Would love to see you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unnaturally Natural

"Grams, what natural disaster scares you the most?" asked Sydney my granddaughter, age fourteen. "I'm afraid of earthquakes and tsunamis." About this time Gabby my granddaughter, age eleven piped up. "I'm afraid of fire and robbers." Hm. Obviously there is a need for dialogue here.

I stood upstairs in my bedroom back the lane on Neff Road. I know it was in the late '60s. No one was home except for me. I was stopped in my tracks as an almost human moan shook our house. I looked out the window as a rain, white as milk, was falling. Dad had just pulled into the lane when the tornado passed over our house. The storm created an uprooted path through my grandfather's woods to the little town of Painters Creek where it wiped out Bud Wyan's auto service garage. I know about the violent side of nature. Its eerie voice stays with me still.

It seems that every week when I have my granddaughters, another disaster has affected the lives of children. I always try to talk to the girls, so they can give voice to their feelings. Grandmas should be a safe place to unload, and I'm about as safe as safe can be. We have talked about safe exit from their home should disaster strike. Newtown opened dialogue that should never need to take place. We watched the tsunami hit Japan. And, now again, we talk of bravery, wisdom and survival. Sydney was quick to point out that Gabby's choices were not natural disasters. Fires were usually manmade, er, womanmade, er, made by the hands of people. As to tsunamis, we have a very high Coastal Range between the Willamette Valley and the blue Pacific. We have only had couple of earthquakes that were hardly felt. The largest fault lies off the coast. I've only heard of two twisters with only one on the ground since before my move here in 1978. We did have a mountain blow. Luckily Mt. St. Helens is a few hours away. Once in awhile we have a mudslide or two. But contrary to belief, we are not even in the top 100 cities for yearly amounts of rainfall and rarely have lightning and thunder. If Mt. Hood goes, we will have air quality issues depending on which way it blows, and our Bull Run water supply will probably be affected. Considering that it has never erupted, we don't really know for sure what would happen. We are not big on natural disasters here.

Still we talk about nature and man living together. We continue to investigate ways that we can do it better. Because of my grandchildren, I try to be informed and let them come to their own conclusions, not mine. Because of what happens in the world, we learn to dialogue and search for not only the solutions, but sometimes we look for the questions.

Maybe next time we will talk about peoplemade disasters. I think we'll start with robbers.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Embracing a past

We stood together one last time. All forty-eight of us. We stood there leaving twelve years behind. Teenagers eager to be on their way to life, standing together one last time. The class of 1965.

Well, we did all leave Franklin Monroe High School heading out our various directions. Some moved away. Some stayed. Some of us had families and grew older. Oh, wait, we all grew older. Those who stayed in the area kept track of one another. Those of us who moved away didn't do quite so well. It seems that now that we are older, those old friendships mean more. Perhaps we just look at life a bit differently realizing that our childhoods' were growing up times with these people. Perhaps it is embracing a past with people who remember.

Gene and Sandy were high school sweethearts. They made a point of trying to get our scattered classmates together at their home. The last time I was home two years ago we gathered around their yard laughing about old times and catching up on news. The men sat at one end of the yard and the women (still giggling girls) sat at the other. The years melted away. Distance and years hadn't changed that bond that tied these students together. Old pictures were passed around as well as the '65 yearbook. We had all gotten older, but the bond that once was seemed to erase the years and pull us together once more.

Once more I am heading to Ohio in a couple of weeks. My plan was to stay with Sandy and Gene. Gene loved the class gatherings and had even personally informed class members that once more the class of '65 would meet. On May 10th we lost Gene. I found myself overcome with memories of high school years and Gene's kindness to everyone. He always had ready laughter and loved his friends. Suddenly the miles were all to many. The class gathering was too late. Time did not hold still.

Sandy and I decided that we needed to continue with the plans for the class to meet. Gene would have wanted to have us all together. And, perhaps, we need each other just a little more now. Many of us will come from some distance to see faces of those we last saw on that day we graduated from FM. We will gather in memory of our good friend Gene Bridenbaugh. We will gather because it is a good thing to embrace those who have passed through our lives. It is good to laugh with those who remember a time when we went from children to adults.

Sometimes reunions and alumni gatherings happen with the local people not realizing how important those events are to those cannot be in attendance. Sometimes we don't get a second chance to see a classmate. And, perhaps, just perhaps, we might renew an old friendship that we grow to cherish even more.

I am going to spend my birthday weekend in Ohio. I can think of no better place to be than in the place of my roots and with friends of my heart. Each trip home is a rebirth. I learn to love deeper, to cherish more and to never say 'good-bye'. Believe me, Gene will be at our class gathering. He wouldn't miss it for the world.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tagalong

We packed into the car as we did many weekends. I was eight when it all started. The Sunday drive to visit relatives had changed. The drive were a bit longer. The trips took us across the border.

Most kids who were raised in the Church of the Brethren had siblings who attended Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, as did my sisters. The college became a big part of my childhood, since my sisters were ten and seven years older the me. I went from little girl to teenager on that campus and when my sisters brought college friends home. I was cursed with motion sickness. Every trip across that border from Ohio to Indiana was dreaded. I knew that once I made it through the first part of the trip, I had the return still to come. I knew that when we got to the college, I would follow everyone around having no playmates to keep me company. It was not an easy time for a little girl. In fact, I think I was so sick of college by the time I graduated feeling that I'd already had five years of campus life.

After my sisters married, they stayed in Indiana. Once more the trips to Indiana continued. At times I wasn't sure which state was really mine. Now, in just a little less than four weeks, I am heading back to Indiana. These trips back to see my sister are indeed some of the best times. I will spend time with her in Angola then head to Ohio. My two growing up states share my heart. Sometimes people who shop in our store mention that they are from Indiana. Of course, my ears immediately perk up, and  I explain that I'm sort of a Hoosier. Their response leads me to believe that if you weren't born a Hoosier you can't be a Hoosier. I believe that I have squatters rights. Indiana owns a piece of me, and that's a fact.

I noticed online that Manchester College is now Manchester University. And, North Manchester has grown a bit since way back when. I have a feeling that their college song "By the Kenopokomoko" has changed. Still I can sing every word by heart. There is little of my childhood that I remember that did not trail my sisters. I grew up as the tagalong. Now I pack my bag hop onto a plane that will take me to my sister in Indiana. Indiana is still hugging Ohio just as I will hug them both on my return in June. It's hard to get rid of a tagalong, you know.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Changing Media

It laid on the sofa with one page turned back where the reader last read before she was called to the phone. The next person came in and picked up the magazine and started at the beginning. Mom usually never made it back to that page. It might even be found turned back in the magazine rack. But, oh, how we loved our magazines.

Magazines had an important place in our lives back the lane on Neff Road. They opened our eyes to new styles. They informed women of topics they didn't have time to think about. Sometimes they even opened their eyes to new ways of thinking. Recipes were torn out and put aside to try at a later time. Television was new in the 50's. There was no other way to find the trends and fashions of a post war era.

It was a good day when we received Life magazine in the mailbox. We all took our time looking through each page. Ads for new products brought advertising into our home. We shopped differently at the grocery store. We started to shop for styles we saw on the movie stars photos. Our world became larger with articles from around the world.

My grandparents took The Saturday Evening Post. As a child, I sat looking at the latest artwork from Norman Rockwell and paged through the magazine looking for the cartoons. They also took National Geographic. I remember looking at the gorgeous pictures of our earth and of people so different from those I knew. Perhaps that was where I first learned the marvels captured by the camera lens. My education with the world had already been in place watching Lowell Thomas on TV. Now I could spend time learning about other countries pouring over the pages.

Movie magazines filled new racks. Photoplay was one I remember well. Faces of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Eddie Fisher, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe all met us at the news stand. It was a time when people looked away from war and into the lives of a more glamorous world. For the guys, the magazines ranged from Popular Mechanics to Playboy. Hm.

I remember staying with my Aunt Bess in Michigan. I was stuck sleeping in the twin bed in her room. Between the beds were stacks of True Confession Magazines. Knowing Aunt Bess, I sorta wondered if her story was in any of them. Needless to say, as a little kid, I was afraid I might get caught if I was found with one in my hands.

We grew up with a changing time in the world of media.....in the world of post war children.  Mom always had her Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day and Family Circle for the rest of her life. I sincerely hope we never see a time when you fail to find a magazine on the news stand.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Makes me Smile

Some things are just not forgotten. Go to a vintage store and find all sorts of memorabilia. When I visit an antique store, I walk around with a silly smile on my face, looking at all of those collectibles. Collectibles, bah! Those are things from my past. A past not so long ago in my mind.

I decided to have a walk down memory lane. This thought started when I had a 'flashback' memory of my dad's coin purse. It was a little rubbery oval that when the ends were pushed, the coin purse opened, so he could extract change. I think he carried it more for me than for himself. I loved squeezing the little coin purse. Anyway, this got me thinking about those things from the past. I decided to go on Ebay and check out some of the items that had accompanied me throughout the fifties.

Cat-eye glasses. My friend Vivian wore a pair of white, cat-eye glasses. The current rage was the 50 yard crinoline. Dresses ran the gambit with the sack dress, the chemise dress, drop waist dress. Pedal pushers were in style. Circle skirts, flared skirts, poodle skirts, pencil skirts and pleated skirts appeared at one time or another. Saddle shoes and skinny heeled shoes were popular as well as white bucks.  And, the fairer sex had to suffer with girdles and garter belts. Nylons came in a pair always requiring a bottle of clear nail polish in case of a run.

We played with paper doll sets. I still have ragged, well-loved sets of the musical Oklahoma, Janet Lennon and Debbie Reynolds. I had a Terri Lee Doll, a Toni Doll, a walking doll and a Tiny Tears doll. We sang along with the Mouseketeers, "M i c (c you real soon) k e y (y? because we like you) M o u s e." All of the girls loved Spin and Marty.

Many of us had our first television. We were entertained by Red Skelton, Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Show of Shows, Alfred Hitchcock and Playhouse 90. Cowboys were at their best: Rifleman, Rin Tin Tin, Bronco, Yancy Derringer, Cheyenne, Maverick, Sugarfoot, Wyatt Earp. "Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb," came along with 77 Sunset Strip. Hawaiian Eye took us to an exotic island. Peter Gunn, Dragnet, The Untouchables and Bourbon Street Beat gave us adventure. I had crush on Zorro, Tim Considine and Tommy Rettig. Lassie had won all of our hearts. We hugged our dogs a little closer and stood a little prouder for we were country kids, too.

Most everyone had a Plaid cooler to take on picnics.  We took it to Stillwater Beach where we picnicked then went for a swim. Conversation was popular back then. The computer/digital age had not yet imposed on what we called visiting. We shared a party line and just dropped by. I was a kid for most of the 50's, which took me from age three to thirteen. From a simple life to one of unsettled times. The 50's. The 50's make me smile.