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.