Saturday, December 31, 2016

Down a dusty lane

Like Pig Pen in Charlie Brown's world, dust followed me as I walked down the back lane. An old lane that was dusty and dotted with hazards as the cows used the lane to go to the creek bottom. Dung beetles worked feverishly. Most would have seen nothing but crops and dirt. I saw a world of possibilities.

My early education from my father about the nature that we so richly possessed never left me wanting for entertainment. Learning seemed to be an everyday activity. I loved that old back lane. The walk to the creek was often the best part of the trek. Crops surrounded me. When the corn was high, the lane was toasty hot. Creeping from the field to the lane took me on a perilous journey beneath the electric fence. Lacking a bit of coordination, I often found the experience shocking. Yet I belly crawled beneath that fence time and time again.

That old lane saw my father's Belgian horses pull lumber cut and planed in the creek bottom to the site of the new barn. We trekked down the lane with fishing poles, and ran down to watch baby lambs romp and play. June and our neighbor Donna would camp in the creek bottom, dragging their gear down that lane. My horse took me on many a fast journey when heading to the barn. For a mare that had plodded down the lane, she seemed to find extra energy on the return.

The fences came down when I was older. There was more land to till.  And no fences to separate neighbors. My nemesis, the electric fence, disappeared as did my days of adventuring. The fields were lovely no longer separated by wire and post. Another lesson. Lessons for an older child. One who saw poetry in expanses of green and gold.  The correlation between this beautiful blending of nature with that of humankind.

I walked that lane a last time when we left the farm. Truly it was a heartfelt journey. No cattle. No beetles. No horse. No fences. As a child in mourning, I felt the earth and loved it even more deeply. I felt the sting of the fence and was glad it was gone. I absorbed the earth, and it would hold me forever.

Fences. My horse had tried to rub me off on those nasty wires. The sheep lost wool on the nasty barbs. My world down that dusty lane was full but restricted. Those fences had separated fields as I sat looking at the view from the hill. Then progressive thinking removed the barriers and created and flawless landscape. A landscape of unity that has accompanied me all these years. Oh, how I would love to be walking that dusty lane once more.

Monday, December 26, 2016

One gift at a time

At Christmas when my granddaughters were little tykes, we made ornaments to give to random people. Wonderful things happened with this experience, hence it became a tradition I wanted to continue with the twins.

The twins at age four are not accomplished artists, so this year we made cards with stencils and stickers. The little ones put love into each card they made. They licked each envelope and stamped the corners with a reindeer. The cards were handed out with Mommy and Daddy. A great family experience.

I had the kids last Thursday. We were making cookies to take to the local firehouse. The firemen know us well as we have visited them since the kids were toddlers. After we picked up one of my older granddaughters, Gabby, we bought a box of ornaments and were off to the mall to hand out gifts.

Gabby picked the people who would receive the ornaments and the twins would take turns handing them out with a "Merry Christmas" greeting. They handed them to all ages and nationalities. They learned not to be afraid to greet others as long as they were with a family adult. They had twenty-four to give and never once complained of being tired.

We were approached by a lady who earlier received a Nolan ornament. She was sitting alone on the bench where we supposed she was waiting for someone. When she reached us she said, "You saved me. I was feeling sad and alone when you came by. Thank you." The kids hung on every word understanding what a special thing they were doing. I hugged the woman, "You have just given us a gift in return."

My grandchildren and I will go into the new year ready to begin our project for next Christmas. We are making ornaments out of nature. Gifts from the earth. I hope that my grandchildren are learning to care about people, one person at a time. It the best we can do in this new year of 2017. Happy New Year, friends.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Snapshot memories

Hurry, grab the camera! Snapshot! Snapshot of yesterday. Snapshot for the future. Snapshot of moment, memories, dreams. Snapshot!

We sat on the floor next to the old trunk. Sydney, the oldest of my grandchildren, took out the pictures one by one. Boxes of glossy snapshots. People looking back at her. People she will never know. Snapshots of the past. Sepia, black and white, colors fading with time. Not just a history of a family but also the history of photography.

Our brains of full of snapshots. The memories that come in a glimpse seemingly held there like a picture on a piece of paper. Pictures of people who were part of our dreams for the future. Snapshots of people we do not know but give us that instant glance into the past that was our parents. My grandmother lifting me from a high chair. My grandfather giving me the one and only hug I would ever receive from him. A glimpse that is held like a snapshot in my brain.

It is the season of pictures. We each want those special moments captured forever. However, the digital day and age keeps most of our pictures stored on our computers or in our phone. I save all of my digital photos on a flash drive, hopefully protecting them from loss. The twins are awed by paper photos. (They would be even more awed at the outhouse and the party-line phone, but those are other stories.) A new way of looking at our past. We can even change the color of eyes or crop out faces we do not care to see again.

This is all great, but there is something to be said for sitting next to a family member relating the past as each pictures is pulled from the trunk. Questions are asked and answers given from the depth of a loving heart. Sure, I have gotten rid of all of the scenery photos of trips that will mean nothing to my family. Why should they have to go through them someday? I have those pictures in my own memory, snapshots in my mind. What remains in this trunk are the true treasures.

Mom kept many of our photos in the piano bench. They were taken out and appreciated time after time. My grandfather had a pictures basket. And, I have the trunk. Each generation keeping their pictures close enough to peek in at a lost loved one whenever the heart calls.

For we parents and grandparents, the greatest gifts we can receive at Christmas are pictures of our children and grandchildren. For my son, I put all of the digital pictures I have taken throughout the year and put them on a flash drive, giving it to him at Christmas. On my Christmas tree is a sweet picture of my parents with their young daughters.

It is the holidays so hurry, grab the camera! Snapshot memories.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Musical Christmas Diary

A little tap on the door. I knew who it was, but the excitement of opening the door never seems to dull. On the other side of the door was my granddaughter Emma. Full of smiles and excitement, she flew into my arms. "We brought you a Christmas tree, MeMe!" She exclaimed. The smell of pine and the giggles of a little girl. Things just don't get any better.

While I was waiting for this knock on the door, I decided to put on some Christmas records. As I was doing so, I thought of the days when I sat listening for hours to music rather than watching TV. Listening to records and daydreaming. I sang along with them. I danced to them. And, sweet memories were associated with them. Christmas was better with records.

As Daddy was cutting the end off of my new tree, Emma and I danced to old tunes. She twirled and sometimes jumped into the air. Not a lot of grace, but a great deal of effort. We danced in circles with my sixty-nine years and her four.

When this delightful duo left, the house seemed a bit emptier. I didn't have the heart to decorate the tree. That needs to be saved for little people. Emma wants to put all the red balls in one spot as she did last year. Emma had turned off the record player and closed the lid. She is quite a helper. I put the records back into their sleeves. Then it hit me. Some of these records were over sixty years old. Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Firestone records, Goodyear records. Records that Mom and Dad gave to me. And, those I bought with my own money after I moved away from home.

My children grew up with these records. Now my grandchildren will enjoy them as well. What they will not know is the joy they bring me in the remembering of special people and special times in my life that come to visit when I play these songs. I am catapulted back that lane where I was first introduced to a record player. It kept me company all through my childhood and during those teenage days of love and romance. The sleeves protect sweet memories that I took along with me into adulthood. Those dear vinyl records are a musical diary of my past. So today when I held them and played them, I opened the door to yesterday and savored the moments.

Next week my grandchildren and I will open boxes of yesterdays. Old friends, the decorations, will come out to greet me. It is that time of the year. For now, I think I just might put on a record and do a little twirling.

Monday, November 21, 2016

More than turkey

This should be an easy column to write this week. However, I found it extremely difficult. I am a firm believer as a journalist and as an honest person that I not write anything that is not true. I owe it to you and to me. Perhaps I owe it to the past.

I had decided to look for fun facts about Thanksgiving, and sometimes research hits you right between the eyes. You find things that you never knew and those that cause you to pause and reassess. Did you know that our current Thanksgiving came into being after WWI? It was promoted through text books and in elementary schools to nationally inspire. Hm. I certainly thought that it was Pilgrims and Native Americans. Hm, again.

The Thanksgiving that we currently celebrate was on a day that defies celebration. It was a day of slaughter of an entire tribe of Pequot Indians. There was an earlier meal with Squanto and the Puritans. Squanto was the only Patuxet to survive smallpox left behind by white men when their ships came in to steal slaves from the tribe. He did teach the Puritans to raise corn and to fish. He also caused many problems. Problems that lead to the entire Pequot tribe being wiped out on our Thanksgiving Day. A day when women, children, the entire tribe died at the hands of people who took their land. A day when that tribe would have celebrated their Green Corn Festival.

You can check the facts. They are there for the reading, the tears, and the sorrow we should all feel. In reading about this tragedy, I found myself thinking of the hate we see today. A hate that has brooded for centuries. A hate against race, a hate against religious belief, a hate against sexual orientation. Hate that is based in ignorance. The same type of hate and ignorance that took the lives of a tribe. The same hate that people hold on to so they can feel justified.

No, we don't want our Thanksgiving spoiled by remembering its roots. We want it to be about turkey, family, all the things we feel we deserve to embrace this one time a year. Things that make us thankful. Perhaps we are thinking that we are now civilized and have moved on from that place in 1637. I am wondering if we have learned much.

My new Thanksgiving creed changes this year. I am thankful for the many colors of humanity, for the many voices that in different tones that reach the ear of the same God, for the differences in people that I am asked to embrace and not condemn. I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. It is a time of thanks and of giving.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The moon is full

Question: What does the supermoon have in common with me?
Answer:  The current supermoon is the closest to the earth than it has been in 69 years. I am 69.

Back then I was only about six months old. Hardly old enough to care, right? However, I think it is important to point out that these two incredible events happened that year.

I could cover all of the ins and outs of the supermoon, but I will leave that to the astronomers. My Uncle Phil Barnhart was married to my Aunt Esther Loxley Barnhart. At a very early age, I was introduced to the stars through the huge telescope at my uncle's university. Uncle Phil was full of technical talk, but he opened up the skies to me.

My dad set great store in the power of the moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac:
  • Moonrise occurring in the evening brings fair weather, says one proverb, harking back to the belief that the waning Moon (full and last quarter, which rise in the evening) is dry.
  • The New Moon and first quarter, or waxing phases, are considered fertile and wet.
  • The new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.
  • From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.
  • The time just before the full Moon is considered particularly wet, and is best for planting during drought conditions.
  • I added this one. The moon had an effect on Dad's three daughters. We didn't turn into werewolves, but he thought we were a bit more tempermental. 
  • Rail fences cut during the dry, waning Moon will stay straighter.
  • Wooden shingles and shakes will lie flatter if cut during the dark of the Moon.
  • Fence posts should be set in the dark of the Moon to resist rotting. Ozark lore says that fence posts should always be set as the tree grew. To set the root end upward makes a short-lived fence.
  • Don't begin weaning when the Moon is waning.
  • Castrate and dehorn animals when the Moon is waning for less bleeding.
  • Slaughter when the Moon is waxing for juicier meat.
  • Crabbing, shrimping, and clamming are best when the Moon is full.
  • Best days for fishing are between the new and full Moon.
  • Dig your horseradish in the full Moon for the best flavor.
  • Set eggs to hatch on the Moon's increase, but not if a south wind blows.
Amazing what you can learn from the Almanac.

My sister June and I had a conversation about the effect of the moon on the tides. She is in Key West for the winter. Streets ten blocks along the ocean have been blocked off due to moon's affect on the tides. One can't help but think that perhaps this will be the way of life as the glaciers continue to melt. ten blocks in might will eventually be beachfront.

In January 1948, the moon was actually twenty-nine miles closer to earth. This was also the same year the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. In 2034, the moon will come even closer, within 221,485 miles. Another supermoon.

As a child I learned to look up in awe and wonder. I learned to ask questions and to seek my own answers. Teaching my grandchildren what I have learned about our earth and universe is giving them tools they will need for the future. A vision of possibilities, of a universe bigger than imagination, of all the things they can become. Supermoon.....inspiration.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Like any other day

November 9. Just another day. Day after election, but nothing significant about it. Just another day. Yet.......

On this day in 1972, the Great Boston Fire took place. It began in a dry-goods warehouse. I remember my Mom and Aunt Welma referring to a dry-goods store. (Called dry goods because they carried nothing that needed refrigeration. Oh, wait! There was no refrigeration. But I stray.) It was a windy day when the fire started and destroyed nearly 800 buildings. Not a good day in Boston on that November 9th.

In 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated as WWI came to an end. He fled then to Holland. He retired a country gentleman, although he was not in his country.

This night in 1938 was one of the most horrid nights in the history of the world. A night we need to remember, so we do not let it happen again. It was Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). The German Nazi mobs burned synagogues, vandalizing Jewish shops. Homes were invaded. A night of sheer terror, of shattering glass. A night a ex-boss of mine remembered well. He was one of the Jewish children who was evacuated from Germany to England away from his parents, hoping to return in a few months. His aunt was the only survivor of his family who were interred in the camps.

At 5:16pm in 1965 (the year I graduated from Franklin Monroe) the Great Blackout hit the Northeast. A tripped circuit breaker at a power plant on the Niagara River caused power surges, affecting interconnected power companies along the East Coast. Over 30 million people were affected by the blackout. It is said that the birthrate rose dramatically nine months later.

It was a memorable day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was opened after 28 years. The wall was constructed when I was in high school in 1961 and came down a year before my daughter graduated from high school. So many lives were disrupted and families torn apart in that time. A war. A cold war.

Meanwhile back a lane on Neff Road, we were probably eating leftover Election Day donuts made by the church women. Those sugary delights were deep fried and covered with sugar. Oh, be still my cholesterol level. I loved eating those donuts freshly made at the church and adored the women who made them. 

This November 9th, I will be  spending time with my grand  twins as their parents fly off to New Zealand. We just might have a donut, and just perhaps we will set up our own November 9th traditions. Seems to me that every day we have in this life of ours that is spent doing good and being with those we love is a red letter day. So to you, my friends, Happy November 9th!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Huntsman of Neff Road

A favorite story. A story for hunting season. A story of a man and a dog. I hope you enjoy it.

Many of our neighbors loved to hunt. One neighbor had an old junker in the back corner of a field where he and his son would sit, waiting for innocent bunnies to pass by. Back then, deer were rarely seen in the neighborhood, so a lot of farmers headed to Michigan and Wisconsin for the hunting season. The killing season.

I only remember Dad going hunting twice. Now before I get too far into this story, I must relate that my father gave me the love of nature, protecting plants and wildlife, and never taking for granted the awe and beauty that God gave me. So here was this same man picking up a gun to go kill one of those soft little bunnies similar to those I had seen covered with fur in a nest. A bit much for a little girl. Perhaps the catalyst that set off my need to question.

It was not as though we needed food on the table (or at least rabbit). My sisters and I raised rabbits. The rabbit hutches were along the side of the chicken pen just across the yard. Hasenpfeffer was readily available. My point here is that I could not get past the loving of little bunnies to understanding the sport in killing one.

So, back to my story, Dad decided to let me go along on one of his local hunting trips. He searched for bunnies; I walked a little behind him talking a mile a minute and tromping as loudly as I could. Thus Dad came home empty handed, but we had a great father/daughter walk. Hm. He was a little grumpy. Maybe I had a great father/daughter walk.

Animal killing trip two. Dad and his faithful cocker spaniel, Whitey, were up early and off to hunt the vicious, cottontailed beasts. I knew that if Whitey saw a rabbit, he would take off after it. Obviously, Dad did not expect much action. A harmless bunny was taking a morning hop when along came the deadly duo. Whitey was soooooo excited that he immediately had a heart attack. Thus Dad came home empty handed....again. Oh, wait. Dad came home carrying the dog. Whitey had a heart condition, so it was big no shock. And, he survived. Dad was grumpy.

Poor Dad. He didn't have boys to join him in the hunt and had the unfortunate luck to have a dog with a weak heart. Personally, I think God answered the prayers of a little girl. God save the bunnies.
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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trick or treat

Trick or treat! I remember yelling it; how about you? Candy and costumes. The parade around the classrooms. Stopping by homes of friends and family where they tried to guess who was behind the mask. Excitement that came around each October. When did all of this begin? Why do we do the things we do on Halloween? I decided to do a little research.

Halloween dates back about 2,000 years to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. It was celebrated on their new year which fell on November 1st. It came at the time when winter crept through the door. Ah, they had doors, right?  Of course, back then evil spirits were common. If the sky was cloudy, the spirits evidently were creeping across the land. If an animal died, the spirits required another animal to die. Not the safest time to be around for man/woman or beast. Anyway, in order to make a long story short, this celebration over the next few hundreds of years was tweaked by the Roman Empire and then several popes until it ended up as All Hallows Eve.....Halloween.

Halloween was brought to American by Scottish and Irish immigrants. It wasn't until the 1900's that it became commercialized. By the 30's you could go to the store and purchase a costume. In the 50's trick or treat as we now know it now came onto the scene.

Perhaps there are a few things you do not know about Halloween. Carving pumpkins had its roots in Ireland where people were placing candles in carved-out turnips during Samhain to keep away those nasty spirits and visiting ghosts. Masks and costumes were worn so spirits would not recognize humans. Obviously, the spirits were not very smart. Bobbing for apples is thought to have come from the Roman's celebrating the goddess of fruit trees, Pamona. Hard to visualize people in togas bobbing for apples. Hm.

Please listen up. This is important. Werewolves are known to have a unibrow, hairy palms, and tattoos. Might be a good time to do some plucking and to wear long sleeves. Note: Gargoyles were created to ward off those nasty, evil spirits. Might want to add one or two to your house.  If, perhaps, you see a spider on Halloween, it is the sign of a good spirit watching over you. I would suggest that you treat it with respect.

Tipping cows. Pushing over outhouses. Knocking over corn shocks. These things I heard Dad talk about happening when he was young. Mischief that the farmers did not find funny. Bad boys. A dark side does indeed seem to come out on Halloween. We are afraid to allow our children to go out alone for trick or treat. We check the candy. We are hesitant to open the door when teenagers come asking. We are afraid. Afraid of things that go bump in the night.

Make this Halloween a special time for children. Take time to look at your community and stand against evil. I would love to see the Police Log empty. It is not just up to them. It is up to each of us.  Let's make this a great time for children to feel safe, to dodge vampires and to find their candy bag full of yummy delights. Make mine chocolate! Trick or treat!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Town kids gone country

"So what do you say we go to a farm today?" A farm. Emma and Nolan really have no concept of farm. They have seen them along the road. They have visited petting farms. So now a year older, I packed them into the car and headed to a little farm where they found their pumpkins the previous fall. The sweet simple farm now included pony rides, barrel rides and a hayride for a healthy price. I decided that we would be richer for the experience by not adding on the bells and whistles. Farms = simplicity.

Last year the farm had two porta potties. This year they were up to ten. Seems that last season was so profitable that they increased not only the price and activities but also the 'facilities'. The farm was busy with several preschool classes in attendance. Evidently, this would be a good season as well.

The kids and I took the path less traveled and found that we were alone with the animals. Emma went directly to the horses. "MeMe, can we touch them?" Well, we certainly could. I grabbed a handful of hay and the beasts raised their lovely heads, and noses were rubbed. "MeMe, they smell bad." How do you tell them that the smell is wonderful. I grew up surrounded by the smell of the barnyard. What they smelled was the smell of home.

We talked to the calf and donkey then visited with three bunnies who did not take time to stop nibbling in order to give any notice of us. We chatted with three of the biggest turkeys I have ever seen. None of us could take our eyes of their colorful heads. The pig did stink, so we didn't hang around long. When the duo saw a baby goat nursing, we had the conversation regarding milk and the udder. I seem to have destroyed their belief that milk came from a box. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

We ate lunch sitting by an old John Deere tractor surrounded by pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. We talked about the farm equipment in the field. They ran through a maze and slide down a huge slide. They did it all for free. We went into the store and paid for my lumpy pumpkin. On a shelf I spied a bag of freshly made donuts just like the kind they made at Painter Creek Church on voting day. I took home the donuts, the pumpkin, two honey sticks and the kids after a day of adventure and only one porta potty stop.

Emma: MeMe, was that a farm?
MeMe: Yes. I grew up on a farm.
Emma: What! Did you have a horse?
MeMe: Yes, I did.
Emma: Did they let you touch it?

Hm. We came a long way that day on the farm. Seems we still have a long way to go. We talked to animals. We learned about milk and udders. We found the head of the turkey frightening as well as fascinating. We discussed the smells with their pros and cons. And, best of all, we sat on a bale of straw eating sugary donuts.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Harvest gold

Harvest gold. Wagons full of gold. When the leaves began to turn, the tractors pulled wagon after wagon down Neff Road. Golden ears of corn filled each one. Corn that was planted in early spring, that pushed through the earth and reached to the sky. It grew by the grace of God, a hard working farmer and the rich Darke County soil. The farm family would have a good winter with a hearty bounty from the field, or they would suffer from a summer of poor growing weather. The answer would come with the fall harvest.

Cousin Gene Johnson readied the corn picker for the harvest. Gene pulled the red beast behind the tractor, and Dad drove the full wagons to the barnyard where the corn was dumped onto an elevator that lifted the ears skyward into the top of the corn crib. Brenda and I played in the corn crib in the summer, making it our playhouse. In the fall, I sat high up in the top of the crib, watching our little nest fill with corn. Of course, I knew that mice lurked nearby just waiting for their winter coffers to be filled. They could just move on when summer rolled around again.

All the farmers were working feverishly to get the corn in before the weather deteriorated. The air vibrated with the recognizable, autumn sound and the bridge creaked as each load passed over it. The wagons were heading to the S & L Elevator on Red River-West Grove Road where the corn was shelled.  If the grain contained too much moisture, it passed through the grain drier fired by a big fan blower with hot air passing through it in order to maintain a proper temperature for proper handling and storage. Corn might be ground for animal food, stored or sold. The corn destined for animal food was ground and mixed all year round. The family bank account would be a little healthier, and the animals would be a little fatter if the corn crop was good.

I asked my friend Ron Scammahorn to help me out on this subject. His dad was the S in S & L. As often as I saw the tractors go up and down the road, I found that I knew little of the process that took place at the elevator. Yes, I knew where to find the right info. I always thought Ron was lucky to be where all the activity happened....and the gossip. But Ron informed me that what was said at the elevator stayed at the elevator. Hm. Thanks, Ron, for your help.

After the corn was shelled and dried, it was put into bins for later use or was sold to processors. When that happened, it was shipped to the end source by train. Trucks transported the grain in bulk to Bradford where it was then loaded loose onto the train cars. Franklin Township corn heading out into the world.

In my possession is a picture of me as a small toddler, clamoring my way up the elevator. In the next picture, Dad has his escaping child in his grasp, lifting her from said elevator. Each season brought a new adventure and more ways for me to get into trouble. I might be old, but I would give anything to climb that elevator one more time.

Harvest. Corn pickers. Wagons full of harvest gold.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The smell of fall

Fall. The morning air is fresher, crisper somehow. Leaves are turning (very slowly here) and pear and apple trees are just about finished for the season. Screens come down and storm door windows go up. Farmers are harvesting while the women are pulling the blankets and winter clothing from storage. Fall.

Corn mazes and petting farms were not part of our growing up. There were no pumpkin patches or petting farms. We could walk into the corn field, get lost and find our own way home. We grew our own pumpkins. And, we could walk across the yard to pet a farm animal. No autumn bells and whistles for the farm kids. My favorite fall recreation belonged to trees and leaves.

Emma and Nolan attend preK on a nature reserve which is part of our Tualatin Park and Recreation District (THPRD). Every day, rain or shine, they hike in the woods. Nolan saw a deer on the first day and was quite happy with his new school. Ecology is used in all aspects of the teaching. Fall. A perfect time and place to learn.

THPRD covers 50 square miles and serves 240,000 people. 2,500 acres of parks are owned/maintained. This is in Washington County where I live west of Portland which is in Multnomah County. There are 51 paved trails and 17 unpaved. There are 27 miles of streams/waterways and three lakes. The area contains 162 natural areas covering 1,491 acres.  Fall turns this area into a colorful wonderland where migrating birds rest and hikers enjoy the cool weather. My dad would have loved it. This would have been his fall retreat.

Dad was between crop-seasons in the fall. Tobacco was drying out in the shed. Grain and corn had been brought in. Hay and straw was baled. Barns were cleaned and fresh bedding put down for the livestock. Dad had more time on his hands. More times for a little girl.

This was quality time for us. A last fishing trip by the pond. Walks through the woods. Small animals skittered or slowed down with the cooling weather, giving a father a chance to show his daughter more mysteries of nature. Firewood was in place and anticipation was high knowing that soon the fireplace would be blazing and hot dogs roasting once more. Mom made hot chocolate and filled the freezer with pies. She rolled out dough, cutting it into thin noodles to add to our winter favorites. It was fall.

My parents have been gone for many years, yet fall brings them to mind more and more often. Perhaps it is because that was the time of year that we all interacted more. No one was exhausted at the end of the day. We looked at the stars and listened for migrating geese. We lingered by the window with coffee in hand, watching the birds at the feeder. Neighbors dropped in and stayed longer. We all had more time....more time for each other.

It is fall. I do not need the calendar to show me. I can smell it in the air. It is the smell of nature, the smell of clean, the smell of home.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Just bobbing along

The round red and white bobber just sat there. It rolled with the ripples and the wind. Occasionally, a dragon fly would use it for a resting spot. It rarely had any activity so just sat there doing what it was named for. It bobbed. If fishing was slow, Dad replaced the red and white bobber with an elongated white and yellow bobber. They bobbed the same. The dragon fly had little sit on. And, usually the fishing was no better than before.

I grew up with a fishing pole in my hands. Initially, I just sat holding the pole and looking at the water, the trees, the bugs and most everything else. My bobber just sat there....bobbing. I grew a little older and was allowed to get the worm out of the bait bucket. The slimy thing twisted and curled, and in all my little girlness, I said 'yuk'. With age came more freedom. I graduated to putting the worm onto the hook. I found that if I whapped it with my shoe first, I could stun it then put it onto the hook with absolutely no resistance. Once I was adept at this task, my father allowed me to remove the hook from the fish. Yes, I grew up with a fishing pole in my hands, watching the red and white bobber.

I watched the bobber. It was on the end of the line hooked to my old cane pole. When we sold the farm, I saw my pole in the corner of the barn. I really wanted it, but what was I to do with? I hadn't fished since I was a child. Then I realized that this pole represented so much more. It held memories of a little girl getting attention from her dad who seemed to work most of the time and never played with his daughters. Dad and I had something in common as I watched that red and white bobber. We talked and laughed. With each fish I caught, I gained his praise. When I caught none, I received his support. We relived the day of fishing as we dined on that same fish at dinner. It was in those times that I learned old stories of when as a boy Dad fished in the same fishing holes. That old pole beaconed to me that day in the barn....not to take it home. No. It called to me to remember.

As I watched that red and white bobber, I learned about nature. I learned patience. I learned the excitement of the tug on the line and of landing the fish. I learned what it was to be quiet. I learned to listen to the earth. Most of all, I learned to know my father.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Putting on the feedsack

On the kitchen wall, just inside the door, was a row of hooks. Coats, hats and colorful aprons and bonnets hung there just waiting. A vivid memory of Mom and Pop Johnson's kitchen. Mom put a little blue flowered bonnet on my head, tying it beneath my tiny chin. We were off to the chicken house where I looked for the glass egg that supposedly encouraged the chickens to lay. But this is not about eggs or chickens. Nope, it is about the fabric in that little bonnet that resided in readiness on the hook in the kitchen.

That sweet bonnet was made out of feedsack cloth. Quilts sewn by that older generation are made from that same type of cloth. Small prints, floral pieces, pieces of children's clothes, old aprons, men's shirts and mother's dresses. Pieces of history that came from feedsacks.

My children and grandchildren will have trouble understanding how people could use these pieces of cloth for clothing, but times were hard and store-bought fabric was a luxury. Buying clothing in stores was impossible for the farmer. Articles of clothing were handed down until they were frayed. It was a generation of recycling, before we even had the word in our vocabulary. Nothing went to waste. Creativity and invention were used in a time when life was simple, when necessity required ingenuity.

In the time of my great great grandparents, farm and food products were shipped in barrels and tins. Eventually, food products were shipped in bags. In 1846 Elias Howe patented the lockstitch sewing machine and made cloth bags that could be reused. The bags were white with the company name stamped on them or the farmer's name was placed on the bag, so it could be refilled. Women removed the stamp with a mixture of lard and lye soap. Even with over the counter products the labels were difficult to completely remove from the white fabric.

Eventually flour and feedsack manufacturers realized that they could make these bags more attractive and appealing. Stamped labels were replaced with paper labels. Patterns were designed to appeal to the womenfolk. By the 1930's manufacturers were competing to design attractive patterns. The fabric weight was determined by the contents of the bag. Flour required a tight weave, while animal feed used a looser weave. Sometimes a farmer might find that he had more bags then he used, hence he sold them back to the store. Peddlers even began peddling empty bags. Women went to the store with their men to pick out the design of the bags he purchased, looking for a new dress on the shelves of the grocery store.

During WWII, it became patriotic to use feedsacks for clothing, bedding, just about anything that required fabric. Manufacturers began producing yardage of the cloth. I was surprised to discover that feedsack material was still partially in use in the early 1960's.

My sister June and I were having one of our daily conversations. The subject of quilts came up. Each of the Loxley girls have a quilt made by Great Grandmother Hollinger. We have treasured these since we were little girls. I was probably about two or three when she died. Still that quilt means the world to me. "You know that some of that fabric is probably from the feedsack clothes were wore," June said. Suddenly I was not only looking at a quilt made by a great grandmother's hands, but I was looking at my past in the clothing my family wore. A fabric that had a rich history in the life of a farmer and his wife.

This last thought is for my children: It is not the riches we leave behind. It is not the tangible dishes, furniture, other items that have been with you throughout your lives. The wealth of our family has been in the simplicity of the times in which our ancestors made do. In the work of their hands, in the love by which they created. It lies in the struggles they suffered to make our lives better. I am able to give you more because those before me they gave their best.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Letter from home

July 15, 1987. What? I looked at the seal on the envelope. It had never been broken. The stamp was 22 cents. Mother's writing was scrawled across the front in her beautiful cursive writing. A letter from home.

When moving, I tossed papers into boxes determined to toss most of it when I got settled. Well, that was almost a year ago. Now that my hand is back in action, I decided to tackle the job. Memories. I saved memories. Special letters, tickets stubs to my son's shows, programs, scribbles from a child's hand, even letters from my second grade class when I had German measles. Yes, I had it all.

It is an emotional thing when you touch these memories from your childhood, from the lives of your children. Sweet memories of those who are now gone and of days when you were young and silly. My first book when I was four scribbled on several little pages. A story of a clown and the firemen who saved him. Old yellowed clippings from the Advocate telling of births and deaths. A story about my mother with her smiling face looking at me. A letter. A letter from home.

Yes, a letter from my mother was buried in the pile. "Mom?" I said out loud. I feel her presence often but never so much as in that moment. At that moment I wanted to have my mother's arms embracing me as I held this unopened letter. A letter written when my children were kids, and I was married. A whole lifetime away. I felt a bit tentative opening it. And, why had I not opened it when it came? What would I find inside? Was it a message from the great beyond? Well, just open the letter, Pam, and get it over with.

Mom wrote every week even though she called every week as well. Her letters were full of news of the neighborhood and of the church. I was caught up on family comings and goings and the health of all. This letter was like receiving one of the same many years ago. A letter from Mom.

Her first words: Surprise! (Well, indeed it was.) I thought maybe if I wrote you a letter I could forget how hot it is and maybe the heat will go away. (For a brief moment I thought maybe Heaven was having a hot spell. Better than the alternative.) She went on to tell the weather forecast and told me she had just talked to Peg. The letter was written soon after my sisters had come to visit. Evidently they loved Oregon. Community news: Doris Wert was not doing well. Margaret Stager was having pain. Doris Lavy was having a rapid heart beat. Neff Road was not healthy on this particular day. She was dreading the church picnic in the heat. And, Gene and Betty Johnson, my cousins, were preparing to visit me. Uncle Bob stopped smoking and Aunt Welma was playing cards. She finished with Dad going out to pick zucchini. Nothing earthshaking. Just her usual filling me in. The normalcy of it was more touching than had it contained a message from the great beyond. It was another normal day in the house back the lane. I was homesick.

"Just think, in a couple of weeks I'll be 75. The years are going faster all the time. Love you much, Mother." More a treasure now then it would have been all those years ago. A message from Mom just to tell me she thought of me and loved me. I got a letter from home.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Thrill of the Darke County Fair

Forty-two years gone by and 2300 miles away, the Great Darke County Fair still gives me a thrill. From the days when Mom and Dad held my hand to the time when I took my own children to the fair, the same excitement waited for me each August.

Last week my grandchildren and I attended our Washington County Fair. In comparison, this is fair is about a third the size of Darke County. When visiting my sister in Angola, Indiana, I was shocked that their fair was basically only animals. I am not sure we who lived in Darke County realized just how good we had it. One thing our fair has that neither of the others have is the rodeo. Those scarred animals are all in a pen outside the animal barns. County fairs with different meanings in different counties.

This was the first year that the little ones could interact with everything around them. Emma was excited to touch a horse; however, when we walked into the horse barn full of towering Belgian and Clydesdale horses, she wanted nothing to do with them. Nolan rubbed their noses and planted a kiss on one. For me, walking by theses giants reminded me that our big barn had been built by Dad and his Belgian team. Emma asked, "How do you get on it?" Good question. I could not even imagine how Dad put the hulling harnesses on his giants. MeMe's are supposed to know everything. "Well, maybe they get on from the top of a fence or a big ladder....very big ladder." I have found that if you don't know, then make up a reasonable answer. Works well with four-year-olds. Gabby, my fifteen year old, gave me 'the look'.

We visited the cows. We visited the sheep and goats. We visited the pig barn where we were chased by a runaway pig. Then we found the best part of the fair for this little duo. My father would be proud. These two climbed up on every tractor, backhoe and piece of equipment that was there. I smiled. The life I lead as a child will be foreign to them, but for a few minutes at the fair, I could share with them shades of the past.

Fair time means missing. I was never much on the rides. No, it was about the people, and, of course, all of that unhealthy food. A once a year feast. Old friends sat by the race track watching the comings and goings. Seeing friends I had not seen in years passing by. The smells, the taste, the feelings that are all captured once a year, even if you live in Oregon.

There is something that calls to me each August. It takes back to the fair, looking for familiar faces. It calls as naturally as does my farm home. The Great Darke County Fair. Enjoy, my friends. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Old screen door

According to Wikipedia: A screen door can refer to a hinged storm door in cold climates or hinged screen door in warm climates covering an exterior door; or a screened sliding door used with sliding glass doors. (Wow! Lots of screen options.) In any case, the screen door incorporates screen mesh to block flying insects or airborne debris such as seeds or leaves (frogs, snakes, mice, my list goes on and on) from entering, and pets and small children from exiting interior spaces, while allowing for air, light, and views.

When I told Mom that we would be moving to Oregon, she was worried about the wild west. In her mind, she still saw a land of cowboys and untamed countryside. And, all that rain!!!! After our first visit here, I assured her that it was a very civilized place with less yearly rainfall than Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I saw no wild Indians or cowboys. Oregon actually has highways and not trails. 

Ohio was always my standard for state comparisons. After seven years of living in Appleton, she had exposed all of her weaknesses. I was happy to leave the snow up to the top of the car, minus degree temps causing the house to stay below 65 degrees in the winter, mosquitoes the size of birds and humidity that you could cut with a knife. No, I slammed the old screen door on that state when we moved with no regret. We had moved to paradise.

In September we arrived in our new state. The weather was lovely and the countryside green, noteworthy especially since we had moved from Wisconsin where it was already getting very cold and trees were dropping leaves like crazy. Life was chaotic as we settled into our new life. Little by little we began to observe the differences in this place. Fall lasted until mid November. Winter was grey but mild. We got rid of the snow shovel and our heavy winter wear. Spring came at the end of February along with flowers. And, it was in the spring that I noticed the screen door....or rather, lack of.

Front doors did not have screen doors. There was no call for a storm door. And, with the lack of flies and mosquitoes, there was no need for a screen door. What's not to love! My apartment lacks a lot of windows. The skylight helps, but I miss having that natural brightness. So, I quite often leave the front door open with a portable gate across so the landlord's dog Moosie does not come to visit. My landlord informed me that he is going to put a screen door on my door. A screen door! The old screen door.

The slam of the old screen door. We grew up with that sound. It was the sound that meant that Dad was in from the field, a Loxley girl had come home, a neighbor had come to visit. And always, "Don't slam the door!" It was the sound of home, of comfort, of return, of family.

"How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it....." - Shel Silverstein

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day of Rest

Seventh day. A day of rest. Chicken was in the oven slowly baking, while we were in church pews singing "This is My Father's World". It was Sunday. The seventh day of the week.

Monday was a day of laundry and gathering eggs. The old wringer washer sloshed the clothes and the Loxley girls hung them on the line.  Mom began her week of cooking and cleaning. It always seemed to me that the cleaning took place mostly when the daughters were home (or in my case after my sisters left, when I was home). Spring meant spring cleaning. Summer meant beating rugs and cleaning floors. Fall meant that everything that was dragged out for summer had to be put away and the winter things pulled out to air. Winter meant that the house was on a downturn from our cold weather hibernation indoors and would definitely need to be cleaned and aired in the spring. It never ended. And it all seemed to start on Monday.

Tuesday through Thursday consisted of outside activity. Spring meant tobacco. Summer meant tobacco. Fall meant tobacco. Winter meant tobacco. Hm. Seems to be a commonality here. There was also garden to put out. Garden to take in. Garden to preserve for cold weather. Lawn to mow so we could watch it grow and mow it again. Hauling manure, baling hay, driving the tractor, picking up rocks. (Yep, they needed a couple of sons.) We gathered eggs, feed sheep, raised rabbits and chased cows, chickens (whose eggs we gathered) and sheep that got loose. Tuesday through Thursday could be very busy days. Oh, and on Tuesday we dampened down the clothes and ironed.

Usually by the time Thursday and Friday arrived, Mom was up to her elbows in pie dough. We girls were shelling peas or snapping beans on the porch, spreading noodles to dry and peeling potatoes. Chickens were killed and cleaned. Pluck, pluck, pluck. (I hate cleaning chickens.) Then we began the task of cleaning the house. Dusting, mopping, washing dishes, taking potato peels to the stock yard and gathering eggs. (Some things we just did every day.)

Mom and her trio of daughters went to town every Saturday. We went to Arcanum to the bank and to load up on groceries and to Greenville for piano lessons and enough meat from the locker to see us through the week. Sometimes Dad went to Gettysburg for a haircut, and we visited with relatives. Saturday was the day to say farewell to the week behind and prepare for the week ahead....just after we gathered the eggs.

Sunday was indeed a day of rest. Mom's well-plucked chicken was in the oven baking. The potatoes peeled by her daughters were swimming in water ready to boil. The house smelled too delicious to leave, but off to church we would go. It was this day of rest, the Lord's Day, yet often seemed to be the busiest of all. Visitors always came around. I think it was Mom's chicken they came for, but they stayed all afternoon. Kids played in the barn. In winter, hot dog roasting in the basement. Mom and Dad were finally enjoying a day of the week together doing nothing. We gathered eggs and animals were fed, but I think even they knew it was a quiet day on the farm.

Sunday was a day that my family gave to others. And, well, you know about the eggs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Present Past

There is only so much you can write about the past. Well, in truth, there is only so much you can remember about the past. A touch. A smell. For a brief moment, something passes by and you try to grab hold, to cling to a memory that is ever so illusive.

Some of you have mentioned that I bring back a glimpse of something you have forgotten. In the remembering, it seems that more comes along with it. That tender touch was from a grandmother gone when the child was three. All that remained of her was the tender touch, a suffering grandmother in bed by the window and a father's arms holding the child at a casket. A touch. A brief but warm reminder.

Little things from long ago create smiles. I look at a bowl of Cheerio's and say, "I remember you when you were just grain." Okay, so you do not talk to your cereal. Perhaps I do march to a different drummer. I cannot eat lamb chops because they smell like the baby lambs in the barn. The twins pluck off dandelion heads, and I once again see Brenda and I stringing them together. Hollyhocks made into little dolls and honeysuckle by the stoop outside of Mom Johnson's back door.

I sit next to my old saddle in the twin's playroom and smell the lingering scent of my horse and the barn. We are surrounded by the past. And, we are making the past.

Sometimes I wonder what will be carried on from this past. Hopefully, the memories will come with feelings of love. Mine will definitely be preserved in my writing. But what will be passed on?

Nolan is just the guy to say "MeMe? You remember?" Only four years old and collecting memories already. We made a new one yesterday. While the twins were playing with the little chihuahua that lives next door, I happened upon a little snake. Snake!!!! Obviously, I am not a fan. So I decided to make this a learning experience. I called the children over to observe this little creature. Nolan wanted to hold it and Emma, who was more tentative at first, concluded that it was cute. I stood my ground. The snake survived the encounter as did I. It wasn't much, but maybe it would qualify as a memory for the twins for one day.

We can open any page and find it written upon with our past. From Cheerio's to first kiss. From bird song to croaking frog. Our senses are full. I cannot write all of your memories for you. But I can rattle the door and ask you to enter your past. Just do me a favor. Do not forget that this is the present past.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ingenuity gone amok

When I received the email from my son, I knew that I needed to take action. "Mom, it looks like it might be too cool for the twin's Slip 'n Slide birthday party. Do you have any ideas what we can do with the kids?" Of course, when your child asks you for assistance, you really want to shine. So the twins and I went into action. What games did I remember my children playing or for that fact, what did we play?

I needed to determine what capabilities the twins possessed at the newly reached age of 4. We could not Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Nolan would be trying to pin the tail on the dog and Emma trying to pin the tail on Nolan. The orange under the chin was out, because the space between chin and chest would not accommodate said fruit.

I decided to go to my source of information, my sister June. "I don't know," she said. "I never played those games. How about Drop the Hankie." Wow!!! That was a game I hadn't thought about in years! It was my favorite.  But then I tried to envision a group of four-year-old children looking at me as I held out a handkerchief as I explained the game. Hankies are for nose blowing not game playing. I envisioned one of the kids actually blowing a nose on the hankie before handing it off to the next person. Hm. Maybe not such a good idea.

So I decided to see what the kids could handle at age four. We gathered balls from all over the house. Balls that they kick. Balls that light up. Small rubber balls and plastic baseballs. Balls, balls, balls. Next we got three buckets from the garage. The kids tossed the balls around the yard as I placed buckets strategically among the balls. I picked up the first medium-sized ball and placed it between my knees. I then started shuffling along (much easier when I was a kid).  The kids looked on with great enthusiasm and began to copy me. Soon we were laughing as none of us could manage to get the balls into the buckets. We tried balls toss into the buckets never landing a single one. We tried rolling the balls into the buckets. Hm. Well, this ball thing was just not working.

Finally I went online and copied pages of ideas for my son. Yes, I had lots of other ideas of games we had played years ago but decided that we just might need one more year before they could tackle them. Then again, it gives me one more year to practice on my own. And for my next trick, I will attempt to carry a ping pong ball on a spoon!!!!

Oh, wait....I have an email. "Mom, it looks like the weather is going to be great!" Hm.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I will be light

The gulls call overhead as I sit watching the blue Pacific kiss the sandy shores. The immensity of it, the roar, the wind, the smells fill my heart with longing and love. It calls to me from a primitive place that I have yet to discover. It takes me to a place I have no words for and leaves me there with every sense alive.

I was a teenager when I first saw the Atlantic Ocean. I was the only one of the Loxley girls to travel alone with our parents. It was dark by the time were arrived at the ocean's side in Pompano Beach, Florida. Dad took my hand and lead me to the water. I was afraid. The roar sounded like a giant monster coming at us from the unknown. I wanted to leave, but Dad made me stay to listen. I could not comprehend the vastness that I could not see. I could only feel the depths of it in my heart.

We grow and learn. We learn to face fears and to overcome anxiety. We learn to understand monsters in the night. We learn to listen with our hearts. We learn and grow if we are wise.

Dad taught me to love beach combing. Of course, that beach was in Michigan on Lake Hamlin. This is where I discovered what would be my favorite fishing pole washed upon the shore. Driftwood, rocks, a feather or maybe dead fish crossed our path. He taught me to be surprised and awed. He taught me to be curious. In Florida, he showed me a new beach. Shells I had never seen before. Sand that whispered when my feet skimmed the glistening surface. Waves that the giant ocean cast around my feet.

The world is full of rumblings, revenge, guns, hate, most of all fear. A roaring body in the night. A darkness that falls completely. I was taught to look beyond that roar for what is beautiful and am still surprised and awed by what I find. I have learned that looking for good in all allows more good to flow in all directions. Beautiful pearls of hope that wash upon my heart. I would never pick up a weapon or write about hate. It is not my belief and would only feed the darkness that already prevails.

I sit upon the shore. The gulls call to me looking for a scrap of bread. The ocean calls to me asking me to keep it safe and clean. The earth beneath my feet cries for love among all with hate dissipating as each wave retreats. I stand in the night before a roaring ocean and say, "I will not be darkness. I will be a light."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

These are the days

Standing on the bridge, the past come roaring by. Once more I am a child sitting on the tractor pulling the plow. My dog sits on the platform next to me. Dad sings as he drives the tractor. A moment captured in time. A house holding memories of shoe-fly pie and hot dogs roasting over the fire. A corn crib where two little girls played house every summer. The old barn where I saw the birth of sheep. A mere house back a lane, but so much more. A lane that took us home for years long after we were gone. A lane that took us to those who loved us. A place I called home.

The old pump sat outside next to the sign that read Painter Creek Church of the Brethren. A sandbox,  Bible School, choir and playing church. A place where friends were made on the cradle roll to the days when they moved on with their lives. A family created by the mere walking into that church each Sunday. A family that would help create the you you would become.

The lot is empty. The place where my family members all attended school. The big, brick building where early on the kitchen cooks became those who gave us newcomers a sense of security. Halls that echoed the past where high school kids played basketball and young teens danced at sock hops.  An old school where we played beneath the pictures of past classes. Where we became archers and learned to raise and lower the flag. A place where our neighbors were our teachers, cooks and custodians. A place where we grew in all ways.

We drove down a street much changed from the past yet echoes remained of the past. Ballet, piano lessons, dresses at the Palace, soda in the drug store. Days of driving the loop downtown to the Big Boy and back again. Dances in the park and at the Armory. Days in the public swimming pool and walking the midway at the fair. The place where we shopped and played. A place we knew as "going to town".

Grand Lake, Wayne Lakes, Crystal Ballroom, rollerskating. Poultry Days and Pumpkin Show. Annie Oakley, Lowell Thomas. Lick Skillet, Rip Town, Red River, little towns gone from the map. Little towns with funny names. History in all directions. Our history.

These are just a few of my days gone by. Then again, they belong to you, too. This is a history of the past and the present. A gathering of days that we recall, we live and we take to us into the future. This is the place and these are the day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ties and screwdrivers

Men. What to do. What to do. A tie? A screwdriver? Golf balls? Maybe a new plow! What do you buy Dad?

When working at Hallmark, I was very aware of the lack of gift ideas for Dad's Day versus Mom's Day. Gag gifts. Signs with stupid sayings on them that would eventually find their way to the closet or garage sale. Dads. Men, you are impossible.

Gifts for my dad were impossible. June always got Dad a new tie for dad occasions. Peg went for the shirts.  I honestly think I probably bought hankies. He had tools. His hobby was farming. His job was farming. I certainly couldn't buy him a new tractor or other implement. Argh! Men.

Father's Day is spendy. The golfer, the photographer, the sportsman, the sports groupy. Tickets for events, gift cards, ways to spoil our men comes with a healthy price tag....that is unless you are me.

Years ago I decided to write letters to those I love. I figured that words and feelings were the best (and cheapest) gift I could give. The idea came to me through a letter I received, a letter from my father. Never had my dad written to me. His handwriting was terrible, and so he did not write to his children. The letter came at a time when life was difficult for me. I was stunned when it came. It was a letter from a father telling his daughter how much he loved her and wishing he could be nearer to help her. A letter tucked away in a special place. Well, two places. The most important is the place in my heart.

I never wrote a letter to Hollie Stager or Victor Lavy. I did write to the men in my family and to Junior Shuff who was like a brother. I did not give something money could buy or something that just filled the space in gift giving. The older I get, the more I realize the power of words, the sharing of feelings. Yes, I am a hugger. I cannot give a deeper gift than that of myself.

Father's Day love can heal and perhaps open new doors. I find that when men reach an older age, they often want to have that love but by then are not sure how to process it. I have hugged many an old farmer to find that he had no idea that I cared, that I carried memories of him from the child I was.

Happy Father's Day, my friends. May you receive many gifts of love. Add mine as well.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A place in the heart

The car may not know where it is going, but certainly the women in the car knew the way. Time may pass, still the path does not. We cross the state line and something changes. Anticipation? Dread? What are the feelings for they are many. The dread of coming back with our home gone as well as our parents? Anticipation of seeing loved ones again? The missing of a childhood?

It had been 16 years since we had been in Darke County together. So what drew us back? First and foremost we wanted to spend time with our dear cousin Alma Lea Gilbert. Some people bring a smile just thinking of them. Such was our time with Alma Lea.

Walking into the BRC felt very strange. Doris and Victor Lavy are gone. Margaret Stager is gone. No longer could I give them hugs and tell them how much they meant to me. Those from Neff Road are gone. Time may have robbed me, but memories embrace me.

After we said our good-byes to Alma Lea and Duane, we made another stop. A knock on the door. Popping my head into the room. "Pauline, it's the Loxley girls." There are moments in your life that are forever captured and held in your heart. Pauline Aukerman's loving embrace of two girls she had not seen in decades was one of those moments. Pauline is one of my church moms. One of my favorites.

I have thought a lot about those visits over the years to the BRC. Yes, I stopped in to touch base with those people I love, but it is much, much more. It is not what we give to them. It is what they give to us. I am given tenfold of what I give. I am blessed beyond words with the loving affection I receive. We are not placed on this world without purpose. Our blessings are not in what we gain for ourselves. It is not necessarily what we give to others. I truly believe it is that reaching beyond what is earthly to a place that is sheer love.

My heart is fuller for this visit with those who found a space in their time to see me. It truly is something to pass on.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Chapter

Should I write? What will I write? Who wants to read what comes out of my empty head anyway? Questions I have asked myself over the last seven years. Thanks to Carol DeMaio and dear friends and readers, my questions have been answered.

Last Friday Carol set up a meet and greet for me, so I could catch up with friends and meet some of you I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Only coming in for one full day did not make for a variety of times to choose from. I told Carol that she and I would probably be the only people there drinking coffee for three hours. Much to my surprise we had people waiting for us to arrive. To each of you who made the effort to come visit with me, thank you. Your lovely faces mean the world to me. I only wish I had more time to visit with each of you. And for those of you who just stopped in to thank me for the column, you are a blessing.

I had the honor of hugging old friends and renewing old acquaintances. The past flew to the present. Those of us who grew up on or around Neff Road are once more given a chance to begin again. Those of you who traveled a distance thrilled my heart. Aren't we lucky? All we have to do is reach out to others and find that they are just waiting to reach out to you in return. It is a fine place where I spent my childhood days.

Per requests. we will do this again in the not so distant future. You have convinced me to continue to write Neff Road. And, even more exciting for me, I have decided to finish two books I have been sitting on. Of course, one is the writings from Neff Road and the other is A Grandparent's Voice. Soon I should be out of a cast with my newly renovated thumb ready to type up a storm.

Yes, I feel this is another chapter. Readers, you are my inspiration, my history, my future. You are the ones making memories for your families. A history written every day. Again, thank you for embracing me so warmly. I am not worthy and so very humbled. Please do email me. I love hearing from home.


Monday, May 30, 2016

A small world

Birds cannot fly with one wing, but give a Drake one arm, and she can soar. Back home again in Indiana with my sister June and her family is a destination worth the effort.

After the surgery on my thumb, I was uneasy about the upcoming trip. With a wheelchair waiting for me at check in, I began a rather laid back adventure filled with kind people. After hugging the sweet man who delivered me at my gate after patiently waiting for me as they checked my cast for drugs and weapons, I was given the chance to get onto the plane first. I sat with my arm in the air in my aisle seat seeming to wave at every passenger who entered. I was in turn greeted with kind words as people passed by.

After take off, I decided to tackle the sandwich I picked up in the airport. How one little box can be so cantankerous is beyond me. I looked at the box. It looked at me. I looked at my neighbor in the seat next to me. She looked at me. After helping me gain a sturdy grasp on the sandwich and seeing that I had accomplished eating it, this woman and I became fast friends. She is a Methodist minister who was at a conference in Portland. Of course, one thing lead to another down to the fine point that she went to college at Otterbein. Having taken a course in Astronomy from my Uncle Phil Barnhart, she gave up her dream of becoming an archaeologist to become a minister.

The next leg of the trip was with a young man who had been in Portland to interview for jobs.  He  was heading home to tell his mother who had just had her two daughters move to other states that he, too, was moving. We talked of ways he could handle the conversation and again became friends in the meantime.

Every time I fly, I find new ways to connect to people. This time I discovered great kindness. It is truly a small world. A world I get to love a little bit at a time.

I will be in Darke County for a short time this week. My friend Carol DeMaio has set up a time for me to meet up with old friends and those of you who visit me weekly on Neff Road. I will be at the Coffee Pot in Greenville from 10-1 this coming Friday, June 3. Please stop by. I would love to see you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The balancing act

It was an old blue bike. We didn't get new bikes on the farm. Nope. Handed down from sibling to sibling, the old bike knew the path down the lane to the bridge. Luckily we were far enough apart in age that by the time I was ready to ride a bike, no one else wanted it. They were into cars, so the old blue bike was mine.

"MeMe, watch me!" Emma cried. She raced around the circle and came to a halting stop in front of me. "I can stop now!"

Now this might not seem like much of an achievement unless you consider the fact that she is three. She and Nolan never had a pedal riding toy. They went directly from little riding toys manned by foot power to balance bikes. Balance bikes, in case you have not heard of them, have no pedals. They look exactly like big bicycles and are made incredibly well. Footrests are placed on both sides of the bike at the back wheel. These little tykes have ridden these bikes since last summer when they were two. They push off and get a running start then pick up their feet and glide. Needless to say, as they grew, they increased their power and speed with incredible balance.

Santa had informed the kids at Christmas that their new bikes were not yet ready. He would be sending them along with the Easter Bunny. Now I was amazed that those two are buddies, but now I believe. (personally I think Santa wanted them delivered in warm weather) A blue bike showed up next to the eggs for Nolan and a purple and pink one for Emma.  Nolan refused to give up his little bike. Emma relished the challenge. Training wheels would never be part of their bike experience.. Emma at age three is completely competent on her bike. Nolan is almost there.

Back to my old blue bike. I was probably around eight when it came my way. Of course, in the summer I was always barefoot, and we had a gravel driveway. I still have some of those scars on my knees and probably a bit of gravel roaming around inside of me. The sloping road was great fun as we coasted from the bridge to the lane. Hot tar popped as bikes flew down Neff Road.

I do not think a coaster bike would have worked well on the gravel, yet I did not have training wheels. So maybe these two little kids are taking after their old grandma. Maybe not so much difference between then and now. As with life, once we find balance the rest comes naturally.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Here's the church


MeMe:  Stop flapping.
Emma:  I can do it, MeMe.
Nolan:  Where are my people, MeMe!!
"Let's try it again," I said as I dodged flapping hands. "Now watch me." I interlocked my fingers, "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and where are the people?"

Okay, I learned this as a kid. In fact, it was one of the ways that Mom and Dad entertained me during church. Make a little church. Open the fingers. No people. Do it again with fingers interlaced towards the palm of the hands then open the door and the church is full of people. Twins, age three, just cannot quite get the people into church.

Sadly, I see those old games fading away. Churches supply toys and coloring books. Or, the kids go to the nursery. The days of finding adventure in Mom's purse are gone. Dad and I would play a game where we stacked hands trying to trap the hand on the bottom, so it could not be moved to the top. He loved to tease me. Sometimes when he came into the house, he would have both hands behind his back and tell me to chose one. Of course, he loved to transfer whatever he was hiding from one hand to the other until I got so frustrated that he had to let me chose a hand while watching them. Sometimes it was a penny. Best of all was discovering an arrowhead.

One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more. When a hand was tapped on 'more', the hand had to be put behind your back. The person who had the most hands showing at the end was the winner. Plain old fun. We did not need to spend money on toys to be entertained. Interactive playing.

Thumbs wrestled. Slapped hands until they were scarlet, and one of us painfully relented.  We made Cats in the Cradle and, best of all, we played Peas, Porridge Hot. The earliest recording of this rhyme was in 1760. Games passed on generation after generation.

Hand games. Games that parents play with little ones. Games that involve touch and laughter. Dad loved to play mousetrap with me. He made a trap of his fingers with my little finger being the mouse. I learned early on that I had to be fast, so he could not trap my finger. Time spent with a man who worked hard and did not have a lot of one on one with his daughter. These old games will fade away, but hopefully, not in my family.

Okay, once more: Here's the church, here's the steeple......