Saturday, October 25, 2014

Who was the rump?

"So who was the rump?" I asked my sister June.

"Carol, of course," she replied. "I made it." Hard to argue that fact.

I was a little girl when my sister pulled out some empty burlap bags and went to work creating an elephant costume. Two people were required for the two-piece costume. June had created the large head with a trunk that would swing side to side. Carol Stager must have drawn the short straw to get the rump of the pachyderm. June often came up with some interesting ideas. This was indeed her grand champion. The costume was worn only once a party at Welbaum's house just on the other side of the bridge.

Halloween was not a big event back the lane. My sisters did not trick or treat as Mom thought it was begging, and she would have none of that. I was fortunate enough to experience a change in attitude when I came along. Dad drove me to the homes I visited every year. We stopped at Grandpa Force's house. "Why that's got to be Willard's girl," he would say each year. Yes, the clef in my chin that matched my Dad's always gave me away. We went to Jimmy Hartle's house. I had a crush on him in fourth grade. The relatives got a knock on the door as did all the neighbors. Dad seemed to know which homes would welcome a night visitor and those who would not. Just Dad and I and a growing bag of candy.

Mrs. Delaplaine and Miss Ditmer's first graders lined up around their home rooms. On signal, we followed the teachers out of the rooms and passed through all of the other classes. We paraded our costumes, those elaborate and those designed from the clothes in the dress-up bin. Back to our room to watch all other classes do the same and for the snack that followed. Children who could not trick or treat were given a chance to wear a costume and be seen. For those who had no costume, my teachers gave a hat or mask so they could participate. Some children came from families who did not believe in Halloween festivities. They stayed in the room waiting to see the parade pass by. No child was forgotten.

A Halloween party was held at Deo Moore's house back that lane down from Franklin School. I believe it was a church party. We bobbed for apples, passed a potato, carried a marshmallow on a spoon, playing Halloween games. Food, friends and harvest time in Franklin Township. All ages joined together as often was the norm on those farm days of the 1950's.

Halloween brings along with it memories that many of us share. We might not have lived in the same neighborhood, but still we lived in a time when life was simple and traditions strong. Until the farm sale, the old burlap elephant hung in the barn....decades after that elephant had made it way down the lane.  Why Dad kept it those many years is a mystery. Perhaps it was because his daughter designed and created it. Maybe it had to do with the silliness and joy it brought to our neighborhood for a few day. I think it was the memory of the two girls who went from cooperative elephant walking to becoming teachers one day. The pride of a father. A fond recall for the rest of us.

Happy Halloween, my friends. From a girl with a clef in her chin. Sister of the front half of an elephant.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Outside In

Wet laundry no longer hung on the line. Mom hung it instead on the clothes line in the basement. The clothing took a long time to dry with the basement feeling as damp as the fall weather outside. The season changed as did life back that lane on Neff Road.

From the days of playing outside, we now built forts and flew across the barn on the swing. It was not sunny and dry enough to play in the creek bottom, and it was too early to anticipate winter snow. An in-between time when life in the house changed. Dad was in the house more often or in the barn repairing equipment and storing tools. The old lawnmower was pushed to the back of the barn and the bushel baskets and rakes brought to the front.

The screens had been cleaned and stored. Feather beds aired and fluffed. "Did we sleep with the feather bed on top of us or on the bottom?" I asked June. The feather beds were old. I am pretty sure that our pillows and feather beds were part of Mom's dowry she brought with her when she married Dad.

"I think we might have had one on top and one on the bottom," she replied. The casing held the feathers of chickens long gone. The way they smelled and looked, I think perhaps they might have been passed down from my great grandmother to my grandma to my mom.

"They weren't down filled," June continued. Well, that was an understatement. I well remember the feathers with their poking spines jabbing at me when I rolled over at night. Still I loved it when Mom tossed the throw across our bed.

"Remember the flannel sheets?" June asked. How could I forget!? Sleeping next to my sister in a frigid upstairs bedroom far from the one radiator, we relished anything to keep us warm. I am seven years younger than my sister who, on more than hundred occasions, told me to move over. There was a bit of a problem with her request. I was a little tyke and she was a preteen. I automatically rolled to her side of the bed! Still in retrospect, I do not blame her. She was stuck with the baby of the family. Oh, yes, I remember the flannel sheets. I did not slide so easily to the other side of the bed when the leaves on the trees turned red and gold.

On our weekly trips to Greenville, Mom looked for 'entertainment' for her daughters. A new piece of sheet music. A new comic book. And, for me, an activity book. I loved the ones that had a sheer piece of velum between the pages. With a sharp pencil and a little less wiggling, I could be an artist copying the picture on the page beneath the sheer sheet. I could dot-to-dot and color to my hearts content. Puzzles came out of the closet and dress up was a daily activity. Summer was put away for a few months.

October seemed to change us all. We each had our own things to do. The kitchen saw more of us since we were drawn inside. Conversations were longer and relatives and neighbors showed up more often. It was a time of visiting. Coffee and pie. Stories from the past.

I stood looking at my big, fluffy comforter. Hm. Did not look nearly as exciting as that old feather bed. I missed the barn and the smell of fall that permeated it. I missed the neighbors who claimed me as their own my entire life. I threw a few damp clothes over the curtain rod and remembered the laundry in the basement. Fall. Ah, yes, I remember.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The season of fall

Fall has yet to come to Oregon. Our seasons are very moderate and fall often lasts until Thanksgiving. The leaves still hold their summer green and cling to the trees. Attire runs from shorts to jeans. (Those not eager to give up summer and those ready for fall.) This is a time of the year that I truly miss Neff Road, the sights, the smells, the flavor of the season.

The Pumpkin Show herald in the coming of fall as we tossed confetti and walked the streets of Bradford all night long, looking for likely targets. The parade, the bands playing, the chicken grilled at the end of the street. Huge pumpkins lined up for judging. Yes, indeed, fall had arrived with the Pumpkin Show. The entrance of fall.

We didn't raise pumpkins. In fact, I don't ever remember having a pumpkin on the farm let alone one that was carved. Mom usually made lots of pumpkin pies, but as far as I was concerned when I was a kid, pumpkin always came from a can....a can named Libby. Fresh eggs from the hen house and a can of evaporated milk that always sat on the shelf in the fruit room. Hm. Wonder if it had an expiration date? Mom rolled out the crust and made her girls little cinnamon roll ups out of the left over dough. Nope. Never saw a pumpkin back that lane on Neff Road, but sure did put away the fresh baked pumpkin pie brought to us by Libby's and Mom. The taste of fall.

The old mulberry tree in the circle of our yard dropped a cajillion leaves. Dad raked them, and I loaded them into the bushel basket. From there they were carried to the lane where Dad lined them up then burned them. The smell of fall.

Fall was the quiet time on the farm. Corn was on its way to the crib. Tobacco was ripening in the shed. The sheep were woolier, and the cows were ready for a change in diet from grass to hay. A season of change. We didn't have corn mazes back then. Dad would cringe at the thought of losing any of his corn for such frivolity. In fact, he often talked about kids knocking over the corn shocks that the farmers had worked so hard to pull together. Crops were a farmer's life and livelihood. Fall. The silence of fall.

My sisters were off to college in the Fall. The house was quieter. I was lonelier. The mulberry tree was cut down, so leaf raking was really boring. Mom and Dad didn't have the youth group, so there were no more hayrides. Fall was a time of change. Sometimes for the better. With two sisters gone, I got more pie. The season of fall.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Neff Road/Neff Road

"I remember riding my bike on the gravel road," my sister June told me after I asked a few questions about Neff Road. Hm. I was trying to figure out if I remembered the road before the black tar was poured. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I seemed to remember the disappearance of the gravel and the new surfaced road.

"Remember the floor boards of the bridge before it was tarred?" she asked.

Well, I find that the older I get the more "hm's" I seem to express. What do I really remember and how old was I if I do truly remember? Pros and cons of aging.Yes, I seemed to remember the wooden floor of the bridge.

"I think our road was one of the last roads to be paved since Neff Road really didn't go any place." June continued.

She is a genius. I have always believed anything she has ever told me. God help me if I am just gullible. Hm. It was true. Pitsburg/Gettysburg, Red River/West Grove. I guess that if you got onto one of these roads, you need not worry about where it was going because the road name told you where you would end up. On Neff Road you just ended up on the other end of Neff Road.

"I remember when Stager's moved there," she continued. (I was getting a little tired of her 'continuing' since I couldn't remember things I never knew).

"You mean they didn't always live there?" I rather naively asked. "Of course, they didn't always live there! They lived down from Dave and Mary (Hollie Stager's parents)."

Well, you learn something new every day. Hm. "Was Brenda born then?" I asked.

"I don't know!" she replied. Seems to me she was getting a little testy by then.

"Hm. I wonder if the road was paved."

We always wanted Dad to pave the lane. In reflection there is a little voice in me that says that they considered it when the road was tarred. But by now I'm afraid to ask my sister. I think she is long past caring about the condition of the road, where it came from or where it went, and who lived there when. Sometimes my best resource is out of sorts.

I'm glad that road was paved when I was riding my bike around selling magazines and potato chips for my class project. It gave Brenda and I hours of fun popping the tar bubbles caused by the hot weather. The clip clop of the horses passing by the house echoed on that paved road. Yep, Neff Road didn't need to go anywhere for me. I liked it just fine. Neff Road/Neff Road.