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."