Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our three dads

Father's Day retrospective.

When my little granddaughter was about two, I had gotten her a darling little bracelet with pearls and tiny hearts. A little girl charm hung off the side. She held the bracelet in her hand then placed it on the deck. In an instant the little bracelet fell through a crack. We could not get it out. The boards were close and there was no access beneath the deck. Well, that was three years ago. Last week Emma and I searched between the boards looking for the lost treasure. We found it. It laid there covered in a bit of mud.

Three fathers were celebrated. My daughter-in-law cooked a wonderful brunch where Emma brought up the fact that her bracelet was beneath the deck. Of course, everyone had to check it out. Three fathers. My son, his father-in-law Joe and my guy Loren. Three fathers vying to look through the crack at the lost bracelet. Three fathers working together showing the twins that we are family.

The bracelet was retrieved. Emma and I scrubbed and soaped the found trinket. The mud washed away and the shine returned a little scratched but still coming back to life. Three fathers. Three who truly represent the best of that word Father. Three men who would go to any length to serve this family well.

As a child, I failed to understand the times when my dad was furious with me. It was usually because he was afraid for me.  He didn't seem to mind too much that I wasn't a boy. He allowed me to always tag along and took time to show me the little things that I just might have missed. Dad.

I had dads on Neff Road who would have done anything for me at a moments notice. Hollie Stager, Victor Lavy, Carl Bucholtz, Warren Wert, Uncle Keith Loxley, Raymond Linder, Gene Johnson, Cyril Welbaum. Fathers who watched over the children on Neff Road. We didn't notice then but are so blessed to understand and embrace now. Dads.

Three men became heroes today. Perhaps for Emma but truly for me. Our three Dads.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A day for Dad

Yep, Mom's Day has come and gone. Father's Day is on the horizon. Neither of these days were celebrated back the lane on Neff Road. It wasn't that we didn't like our parents. In all seriousness, as children we were oblivious to their existence. My feeling is that perhaps my mother thought the days to be expressing pride. She was so against being prideful that we girls didn't know what it was like to have pride. I think she overshot her target.

As adults we realized the importance of our parents and gladly celebrated them. So today this article is for them and all the years we did not or could not celebrate. Well, really it is for my late father since it is his day on Sunday.

In asking June about the reasons we did not have these days in our childhood, she suggested that perhaps Hallmark had not yet come up with this marketing idea. Of course, nudge me a little and I am on the trail seeking the dawn of Father's Day.

Hallmark did not come up with this money-making card day. In fact, it had a difficult time getting started. There were several failed attempts ranging from one fellow trying to make his birthday Father's Day to a celebration for the families of the men killed in a mining disaster. However, the current Father's Day took hold in my beloved Northwest. A Spokane woman named Sonora Dodd who was raised by a widower wanted to establish a day for male parents. She visited churches, the YMCA, store owners and those in government to get support for her Father's Day. She succeeded and June 19, 1910, the state of Washington celebrated the first statewide Dad's Day. 

But here is the reason we probably did not celebrate Father's Day when I was growing up. In 1966 President Johnson issued the first proclamation honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1972 President Nixon signed Father's Day into law as a permanent national holiday.

Sorry, Dad. We certainly missed many years of celebrating you. We had the Father/Son celebration at church. But seeing that we were daughters, he missed out again. In fact, I don't think parents should be singled out to celebrate with the child of the same sex. A parent/child celebration of family would have been more inclusive. The Daddy/Daughter dances out here have turned into Family Dance. A celebration not divided by sex but a celebration of what family means.

Hallmark and other card companies love that we have so many singled-out celebrations. I see people dashing for cards, grabbing and running with the first card they pick out. Often I tell them to write a note to the person instead. Don't let Hallmark do the work for you. Indeed it will mean more as time passes.

Oh, well. Dad, I love you. I was your shadow and you relished the time we spent together. I sat at the table often with the men in our family fascinated by the conversations of farm and old stories of the past. Other fathers raised me as well. Hollie Stager and Victor Lavy were men who influenced this person. They loved me and embraced me as one of their own. Fathers be active in the lives of your family. It is your legacy and our blessing.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

She stood tall

She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us a serenity that I think we failed to notice at the time. She lived a good life before she fell. She was the old mulberry tree that grew in the circle of grass that held the memories of our family. She was my friend.

It is difficult to remember when I first became aware of that old tree. The thick trunk supported the long branches that shaded the grass. Dad tied a swing to one of the branches on the west side of the tree. A rope and a board. A place where little toddlers pushed off with chubby legs and big sisters pushed them when they were a bit older. The leaves provided a canopy that became a place for dress up and make believe weddings. Oh, how I loved that tree.

Old pictures cover decades of family activity. An old picture of my uncle, grandfather and dad playing croquet beneath that old tree. Their old cars parked beneath to keep them cool on a hot summer day. The tree in the background of a picture of my mother and my aunt astride horses. A new barn being built, looking at the old tree which was looking back and welcoming it to the farm. An old tree. A tree we took for granted.

There wasn't a day that the old tree didn't participate in my life. All of our special pictures were taken beneath that tree. We swung on a trapeze that hung on the east side of the tree. We picnicked beneath its shade, and younger generations would pick up the mallets and continue the game playing as the tree stood by.

Sometimes we don't miss something until it is gone. Dad eventually chopped down that sweet tree. Limbs were falling from its weary trunk. After it had fallen, the barnyard seemed bare. A friend, a playmate, a family member had left us. No longer would a small child pick the empty shells of the locust from its bark. No longer would the shade draw us to the yard. A friend had left us.

Perhaps the poetic side of me saw that tree as more than wood and leaves. It was a living, breathing tree that grew new branches as our family grew older years. It was as much a part of our childhoods as were the members of our family. We mourned when the old tree died. We were conservators of the land and had to terminate a dear life.

Trees, flowers, creeks and ponds, fields of grain, dung beetles, barn owls. All of them and more were a richness in my life. Then I appreciated them. Now I know the importance of them. She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us serenity. And, in her passing, she remained in my heart.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Till the cows come home

sook (definition)
  1. A call for calves. (Scotland) 
  2. A call for cattle. (U.S. Dialectal)
  3. A call for cattle or sheep. (Newfoundland)
"Sook, sook, sook". Dad stood in the barnyard calling the cows home.

If you are a farm kid, you knew the sounds of calling the animals to the barn. "Soooooey, soooey", pigs came in. "Shooopeee, shooopeee", sheep found their way to the barn. Farmers all over the world had their own way of calling the animals home.

Dad called the cows, Cyril called the pigs, and I called the dog and cat. Pretty easy to tell what was being called by the sounds used to call the critters. I decided to do some research on calling cows. What I found was that the roots of calling the cows began with sounds similar to yodeling in the Scandinavian countries. When Dad called, it was more like a melody.

In St. Gallen City in Switzerland cows are called by "Ho-ah" repeated in varying pitches. Other areas pronounced it as "Hoyah, Hooyah, or Hooah". Rather like various parts of our country pronounce certain words in different ways. In parts of Norway, herd calling is called kulning. It is indeed similar to yodeling and developed for long-distance sounds that bounce off the mountainsides and echo through the valleys.

Now we cross the ocean. "Bossy" seems to be a common call. Boss is from the eighteenth century and was sometimes pronounced as buss or buss-calf, a name given to an unweaned calf. One theory is that bossy could have come from Latin bos for an ox or cow. Words came over with our immigrant ancestors.

I ran across one lady in my online search who was from West Virginia. Their call was "Come Bossie, come boss". Another was "CuBoooosss! Hup!" Hup!" In Michigan, a call was "Kubas kubas, hup hup" thought to be from Dutch heritage. Another from North Carolina was "waaarden-waaarden um-bashay!"

I loved researching this topic. I found recalled memories from farm kids who grew up with those calls echoing across the fields. We all seemed to have the same thought, "If only I could hear it one more time."

"Sook, sook, sook". Just one more time, Dad. Just one more time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

All my moms

Looking into her face, I said, "Who are you? I don't believe I know you." She didn't answer. Hm.This might take some time. After all, I had known her for months.

The woman waited. She knew I would come, and she waited. On visits home, I could not go by her driveway without stopping. I needed one of her hugs. She watched over me and cared. I loved her more than she knew. Her name was Doris Lavy.

Her laugh brought a smile to my face. Her tears welcomed me into her arms. There were probably more childhood days at her house than at my own. Time with her was priceless and gave me precious memories. Her name was Margaret Stager.

She sat by my bed after my surgery. There was no book in her hand. Her attention was solely on this young woman who was still out of it. She took me into the family with loving arms, and beat the socks off of me at Rum. Her name was Anna Drake.

The names are many. Alma Hollinger, Alma Lea Gilbert, Pauline Aukerman, Betty Johnson, Leah Rhoades, Freeda Anderson, Kate Loxley, Bess Fisher, June Deardorff, Welma Johnson,  Lena Linder, Peggy Graham, Jennie Miller, Susie Miller. Just a few of the many women who helped me through my lifetime. Each hold a place in my heart.

Moms. Those who birth us. Those who watch over us. Those who are part of our lives, so much so that we fail to notice. Then one day we are older and remember with deeper feelings.

She placed a cool hand on my head when I was ill. She made me laugh and sometimes angry. She taught me to love and to care about other people. She held me in her arms when I came to visit. She thought of me every day. She was my mother. Her name was Ruth Loxley.

Moms. They come in all shapes and sizes. They come to us through birth and sometimes through adoption or marriage. They come to us in the form of neighbors and church ladies. They even sometimes come as a dad in the role of a mom. Maybe even a grandma. All of us who are moms and have had that wonderful love given to us know how important it is spread that love around. Mom power.

So who was this familiar face before me? I had her beating on the inside of my body for nine months with a foot in my ribs most of the time. She didn't look like that baby I imagined. She had coal-black hair and lots of it. She was so tiny, and her face turned red when she cried. No matter how we come into a family. There is a time of getting acquainted. I got to know this little girl. Her name is Stacey. When her brother was born, I asked the same question as I tried to acquaint myself with this little guy. After I waited that nine months for another dark haired baby, I was given little blond. Oh, well, never know.

Mother's Day. A day to remember. A day to honor those women who in one way or another created the you that you are today. Those wonderful ladies who hold our hearts. I have lost many of those dear people. I treasure those who I can still hug and love. Happy Mother's Day to you who touch the lives of others. Thank you, to the women who touched mine. Mothers' Day.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cardboard binoculars

They stood at the window, looking at me through their cardboard binoculars. I laughed as I escaped their view. A sweet vision in the rearview mirror.

Dad knew all the birds and their sounds. He could reply to any bird answering their call gliding on the air. The whistle of a robin. The trill of a sparrow. The call of a mockingbird. It was difficult to tell the difference in the sounds between my father and the feathered friend. Perhaps I could call them two birds of a feather. They were indeed nature in song.

Whenever Dad saw a bird, he would immediately point it out. We would watch the bird until it flew away. I would get a lesson on the type of bird, its nest and other characteristics. He would call to the red-winged blackbird as soon as I spotted one. I delighted each time it answered back.

The preschoolers along with their parents hiked through the Cooper Mountain Nature Park. The trails meander over the mountain and through the woods. The warning signs about mountain lions were not alarming. Rarely would one come so close to town. When the children finished their field trip, they became Junior Rangers. Each child made a vest out of a paper grocery sack decorated with feathers and other pieces of nature. They made binoculars out of paper towel rolls. This preschool based on learning about our environment had done its job. In fact their mom informed me that they use the binoculars outside to look at birds then look them up in the bird book. A little imagination goes a long way in learning.

For my grandchildren and all the children in the world, we need to do what we can to preserve the environment for these birds. We just returned from a trek through our forests seeing all of the clear cuts. Forests chopped down. Barren hills. Mud slides. Nature turned upside down. It happens in all parts of the world. I want better for my family.

 Four little eyes spied on me as I drove away from their house. Little pieces of cardboard and a child's imagination. Children believing that they can see clearly. I will do my best to be sure they always do even through cardboard binoculars.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy toe wiggling

Anticipation began to build. It was spring. The Easter mark had passed, and Mother's Day would be next. My feet were aching to be free.

Spring was always special on the farm. Sheep were sheared. Lambs born. Chickens embraced the weather, clucking with more gusto than usual, and the cows seemed to moo at just about anything. Spring was a time of preparation. As with the creatures in our backyard, Dad was busy in the barn getting his equipment field-ready and plowing the garden. Mom had emptied the freezer and canned goodies in the fruit room, filling her daughters with the end of the year remains. She was making room for the new season of food. We prepared for the bounty of our land with the labor of our hands.

So all was well at home, but at school we wiggled in our seats each time the sun came out. Teachers fought a good fight, trying to keep our attention away from those wonderful, big windows in Franklin School. We dashed to the monkey bars and waited for a turn on the swings. Balls and bats littered the field and jump ropes spun around and around. Summer was around the corner.

For the seniors, we anticipated freedom at last. We began to see the present in that rear view mirror.  It was then we realized the leaving. Boys would be going to war and girls to work. Some would go to college, and some would serve humanity. The going was becoming bittersweet. Spring. A time of growing up.

I remember the summer kitchen airing out in preparation for the summer baking and canning activity. I always hoped that mice who wintered there might go to their summer retreats far from the house. It was a time of removing the feather downs and flannel sheets. A time Sunday drives and visiting friends.

There were more trips down the lane to the bridge. More time visiting neighbors who sat outside, waiting for a little girl to pass by. The kids on Neff Road got off the bus at the corner of Byreley and Neff Roads. No longer did we ride that long trip home. Instead we skipped, hopped and meandered our way down the road.

My feet ached to feel that summer grass between my toes. I wanted to get started on toughening them up for the gravel I would one day race across. The freedom of my toes signaled the freedom from school.  And, now, my toes still ache. They ache for the grass back the lane, the lambs in the pasture, Brenda and I sitting on the gate, watching the world pass by and most of all, for those lovely days of childhood. Toe wiggling at its best.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Coming home

Coming home.  How Mom and Dad loved to hear, "I'm coming home." So many thoughts come to mind with those two words. For most of my life, it meant coming home to Neff Road. Driving down the road and back the lane to the arms of my parents, to those of my relatives, to my friends. Coming home.

Over the years those words expanded to embrace more years and more people, more places and dear faces. Walking into my son's home is just like coming home. Sweet arms of my grandchildren wrapped around me is indeed coming home.  Even though I have a home, those coming homes are so much dearer.

For those of us who moved away from Darke County many years ago, coming home has a different connotation. Many of us no longer have the loving arms of parents to hug us. Yet home is still the house back the lane. Doris and Victor, Hollie and Margaret no longer live in their houses I visited so often in my childhood, yet they are places that I still call home. My grandparents homes call me back to their embrace. And, that bridge and sweet creek pull at my heartstrings. Yet it is difficult when we come back, as many people take us in to where we left off, forgetting about our lives we have lived away from Neff Road. We come back to visit, wanting to share our lives, sometimes feeling we have been kept in a niche from long ago. Perhaps that is the way with everyone who returns to their roots. Coming home changes over the years.

Sometimes we find someone in our lives who gives us that coming home feeling. Maybe it is a whisper of something we cannot quite explain that calls us. A walk in the forest. Walking into a room that feels familiar. The smell of cinnamon or fried eggs lures us back home with the pure delight of sense of smell. I find that music takes me back to many homes. They tug at my heart and talk to me with a melodious voice, returning me to a place I have been.

Now I come home to my little nest. I delight in the respite from the day of work or babysitting. A place created from the parts of my life that all have that sweet echo of the past.  It embraces me in the warmth of yesterday and a place of peace before the morrow.

The arms that held me long ago still hold me when I dream of coming home. The smell of the farm, the hug of a child, daily Skyping with June and snuggling in at the end of the day. Yes, I love coming home. Home to many pieces of my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Alumnae of the past, keepers of the future

Many questions have been asked on Facebook about the early towns and schools in Franklin Township. So, today I am turning my column over to Mom. In 1996, about three months before Dad passed, Mom sent a journal to me for my birthday. She wrote of her childhood, of her life. In doing so, she wrote of the history of the times. So, Mom, it is time for your pen to have its way: (I use my mother's words.)

The year before I started to school, Bess (her sister) took me to visit. She had a man Orville Riffell as a teacher. I kept laughing and he told me to be quiet. And I told him I didn't half to. So he took me up to his desk and switched me. Bessie got all excited and run down to her Uncle Dan's (he was on the school board). There was quite a lot of excitement for awhile. And when it came time the next fall for me to go to school, although there was another teacher, I wouldn't go.  Abe Minnich (the owner of Red River Grocery) took me and sit with me every morning for the first week of school before I stayed by myself.

We had a bench in the front of the schoolroom that 5 persons could sit on. The teacher would call on the 8th grade arithmetic class up from their desks in the back of the school. They would work problems on the board. Then the 7th grade would be called on down to the 1st grade. Sometimes I would be asleep as it was boring to listen to all of them recite. After I got in the 3rd grade, I liked school and I liked to go early before the big kids got there, and I'd carry wood from the wood-house in to make the fire. We would have to stay after school and clean up. Sweep the floor, pick up papers. I really liked that part.

I did good in school and hated to miss any, but in the 3rd grade I was riding Edward Young's bicycle home as I always went home at noon from school to eat dinner, and I was going pretty fast and fell off the bicycle and hurt my knee. It got infection in it and I had twenty-three boils on my right leg around my knee and couldn't go to school for three weeks. The teacher boarded with Bob (Mom's brother) and Welma and she come with my lesson every evening.

There is more I will share of my mother's story. This is the way it was in Red River when the school was  just down the road. A place where brothers and sisters were in the same room and all ages learned together. Water in the well and fire wood to be brought in. A time when classes were small and teachers lived-in.

This is the time of year for remembering the alumnae of our schools. A time for looking back at our own pasts and a time for watching the new graduates move forward. Let's hope in our moving forward that we not forget what and who came before.

Read the papers left behind from your loved ones. Hold the diaries and appreciate each word. Close your eyes and step back in time. Smell the wood fire and feel the snow on your cheek as you walk to school.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Little pointed cap

Morel (according to Webster) any of several edible fungi having a conical cap with a highly pitted surface - called also morel mushroom.

Well, for the clueless, this definition sounds like a description of a dunce with bad acne. For those of us who get a hankering this time of year for the wild taste of those clandestine morsels, we drool our way into spring hoping to dine on them once more.

Without stooping down for the mushroom, you cannot put it in your basket. - Russian Proverb. When I was a kid, I found those tricky morels loved to hide beneath leaves and under logs. I seemed to find more than Dad, probably because I was closer to the ground. I learned to stoop down early, and in that bending, I learned that the most delightful morsels could be found, a lesson at an early age. It takes time to seek out what we care about even if it means bending ourselves to find it. That single chance to find a treasure or to pass over it. Observe and be rewarded or look away and miss an opportunity.

Oregon abounds with mushrooms. Yep, we have morels. I have been a bit tentative about hunting them as our forests are dense, and I am not educated in regards to the mushrooms here. So, I am going to take a class on our local fungi, grab a bag and step back in time. I want to learn, so I can take my grandkids hunting the way my dad took me. There are traditions essential to learn as a child. This one was a keeper.

Mushroom time is approaching. Through our forest service I found that my limit is a gallon of them. Indeed if I find a gallon, I will have a backache from bending and probably a stomach ache from the most delicious meal ever. Ah, yes, morels.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Birth of spring

The quiet earth wakes again as the daphne and hellebore bloom. Daffodils and other bulbs pop up bringing a fresh new shade of green to the soil. Activity that makes ready for spring long before it comes to life above the ground. Yes, indeed spring is on the way.

Oregon has had a winter like none before. It was the winter of 'mores'. More snow. More rain. Records on all accounts. Mud slides, pot holes, sink holes. Again, the earth below holds surprises that come to light in the spring. A globe in transition.

I decided to check with my old friend The Farmer's Almanac to see what we should expect for the coming months. Here in Oregon it predicted a rainier than normal winter. (got that right) Temps below normal. Snowfall above normal. (yep, again) April and May will be slightly warmer and drier than normal with summer warmer and rainier than normal. September and October to be cooler than normal. (Hm. Seems to me that 'normal' has disappeared.)

I went on to check what was up with the Ohio Valley. Winter was to be warmer than normal with not as much precipitation as normal. Snowfall was to be below normal. April and May are to be warmer than normal with rainfall above normal for the west side of the state. Summer is to be cooler and slightly drier than normal, and September and October will be rainier than normal. (Hm. We lost the normal again.)

Well, there is a new normal. It is a 'no longer normal'.  We cannot depend on what our usual seasons presented to us, because our world is changing. Flooding is worse, tornadoes and other storms are more violent, and there are more of them. Sea levels are changing with some small island countries actually looking for places to move their populace, before their island is lost to the sea. So what does this mean? What does it mean to the farmer? What does it mean to the world in general?

On AGweb, I found an article from the Farm Journal regarding the views of farmers and scientists. The article is written to explain the views of both sides. Having grown up in a farm community, I understand the tremendous feeling of protection farmers have for their way of life and protecting the very soil they love. And, from learning about what is happening all over the world, I see the immediacy of saving a world for my grandchildren and those who follow. It is a mixed bag of feelings. Feelings that raise anger as well as fear. However, no matter how you look at it our earth is in distress and changing. No one will win.

This lovely state in which I live now has changed. My weather journey began here thirty-nine years ago. We rarely had snow. Rain came in showers not torrents. We loved to boast that we never carried an umbrella. The weather has become more extreme. Tornadoes were rare, yet we see more and more now. Winter temps have dropped, and these homes built for milder winters are cold. We seem to go from drought to flood. Yes, the climate has changed.

Spring is peeking in on us. The path above my home has washed out, and mud greeted me inside my front door last week. There are gullies where once there was none. We struggle here to make a dent in this global changing. On a whole, we recycle everything we possibly can. We drive vehicles that do little to impact our atmosphere. There is little litter in our ditches because of our care of the earth. We protect our wildlife as passionately as we do our environment.

I write this not wanting my own way, because our environment will have its own way. Our lives will mean little in the grand scheme of things, but our grandchildren will reap what indeed we sow. There is no debate in that.

So I ask you to do your part. Whether or not you believe in global warming, our earth asks that you care enough to take care of it, so we all can share it. The air requires you to care enough to keep it clean for our children to breathe. Spring comes with the birth of new growth. Spring comes with the hope for all seasons.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

You might not see me often. You might know me by birth or by becoming family not of the womb but of the heart. You might only be an acquaintance. You might be a stranger who just wandered into my world. Well, you are all loved. When you entered my thoughts, you entered my heart. Today I thank you and give you my love.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The dancing bull

Strange the things come to mind when least expected. A niggle from the past comes creeping in, capturing the sense of smell, of touch, a memory.

I was watching a show about a bull that had lost a hoof. A new prosthetic hoof had been designed for the bovine. A demonstration of its new found dexterity not only tickled my funny bone, but also made me wonder what I had missed with the cows that live behind our house. The bull bound across the field, dancing after an enormous beach ball. It leaped and chased. It nuzzled the owner affectionately. What indeed had I missed.

Of course, in watching the bull's warm nose being stroked by the owner, I was reminded of my sweet horse with a nose as soft as velvet. The smells of the leather saddle, the barn, the damp horse after a fast run all came dashing back to me. And, I lovingly embraced the reminder.

Sometimes I think the barn was more my home than the house. There was never a day without a trip to the barn. A check on the cows. A handful of hay for my horse. In the summer, a daily sitting in the hay mow door. A look across the field to the road. A time of listening to the sounds in the house, in the field, in the pasture and at the neighbor's farms. Sometimes I'd visit the tractors and look at the old horse tack hung by the door. I'd touch the old, burlap feed sacks that Dad piled up over the cow stanchions. Searched for baby kittens. Gazed at some old fish Dad caught and put into the horse trough. Oh, yes, a daily trip to the barn. Hm. All that niggling from a bull dancing across a field with an artificial hoof.

Perhaps that jiggling of memory exposed what I had missed as a kid. I missed having our little herd of cattle as friends. I missed sitting with sheep instead of just ignoring them. I missed having more time with our rabbits, wondering if perhaps they could have been my friends as well. (I did not miss time with the chickens.) Wouldn't my dad laugh to see his cows chasing balls across the creek bottom. Sneaking a peak, I would watch to see if he realized that he had more than just dumb animals. He had critters that could play and enjoy life.

"Daddy, do you think animals have feelings?" I asked at an early age. "No, they don't have feelings. They're just dumb animals," He would reply. I have looked into the eyes of many a pet. "Oh, Daddy, indeed they do."

Dance on, sweet bovine. Dance on.

Monday, February 6, 2017

To be loved

'In the street I met a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat was threadbare- there were holes at his elbows: the water seeped through his shoes and the stars through his soul.' - From Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Back in the late 80's a musical came to the stage. One that rocked box offices and gathered followers. I have seen the stage production at least six times. I would see it as many times again if possible. Yet, the play was not the voice that held me. No, it was a book almost 2" thick. 1,463 page that I have read three times. It is the dearest book to me. Paragraphs are underlined. Notes in the margins. A story of love, war, forgiveness, compassion and most of all God.

 'What a great thing, to be loved! What a greater thing still, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion. It is no longer composed of anything but what is pure: it no longer rests on anything but what is elevated and great. An unworthy thought can no more spring up in it than a nettle on a glacier. The lofty and serene soul, inaccessible to common passions and common emotions, rising above the clouds and shadows of this world, its follies, it falsehoods, it hatred, its vanities, it miseries, inhabits the blue of the skies, and no longer feels anything but the deep subterranean commotions of destiny, as the summit of the  mount feel the quaking of the earth.'

Valentine's Day is coming. It is not just a day for lovers. It is day of loving one another, loving our earth. My grandchildren and I will take our hands full of homemade valentines into the community. We will show our love to those we do not know with hope that they pass on the love. Love unbridled spreading across from one person to another. Could there be anything greater?

The book calls to me again. I think perhaps I should visit my old friend. With each passage, I learn more about myself, about humanity, and humility. We do keep learning, changing, growing. If we do not, we rob the world of the piece that is us, that needs us. We grow and change to lead future generations to even greater discoveries. We capture a new awakening with every person we meet and are the better for it.

'If no one love, the sun would go out.' - Thank you, Victor Hugo.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Revolving door

Ready! On your mark! Whish....whish....whish. I dashed like crazy to get into the space in Rike's revolving door. The big, gold, heavy doors rotated around and around. For a half pint, it was a challenge to get my little legs in gear to hit the mark. Round and round then dash and hope beyond hope that there wasn't a splat. The revolving door.

The Loxley door only had one position. Open. However, anyone who knew my parents was well aware that we had a revolving door. Many times one group of people would be leaving as someone else pulled into the driveway. It was not something that the Loxley girls appreciated since we rarely had Mom and Dad to ourselves, yet we learned a lesson that to this day is probably the greatest lesson we ever learned. My parents did not have much, but what they had they shared. What they had was love.

No one was left out. Friends brought their friends. Relatives brought their friends. Neighbors came and stayed. I think they stayed because our house was a place of entertainment. Always something new and exciting happening in the house back the lane. Laughter and deep conversations. Compassion and peace.

We girls were allowed to have a glimpse of the world beyond the farm. Our world expanded and became richer.  It did not matter the religious belief, country of origin, the way they dressed or even smelled. Mom and Dad invited them all to their kitchen table for wonderful conversation and a piece of pie. They would have shared their last piece of bread with anyone who needed it, shared without complaint or worry. Shared without judgment.

I have said before and will continue to say that my mom, Ruth Johnson Loxley, fought for children's rights before anyone ever acknowledged that they had them. She loved meeting people from other cultures and included her children in every conversation. She read books that broadened her view of the world and always hated that her father had not allow her to go to college. She was an ambassador for all people and would stand with them and for them against anyone.

Yes, we lived with a revolving door. A door that brought truth and wisdom to our house. A door that fed that family back the lane with knowledge and friendship. I am all grown up now. I hope that I am a good example of my parents' love for others. Ready.....on your mark......whish. I make it every time.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Singing owl praises

The small owl sat at the edge of the road. My friend stopped the car. I jumped out and picked up the sweet thing. We took the tiny creature back to the nature center where they informed us that an owl had been hit, and they had not sent anyone out to check on it. They would not accept responsibility. It was up to us. My tiny friend who huddled beneath my jacket was taken to the avian hospital where they said they would look after it. The owl did not make it, but I had to try.

There is no darkness darker than the dark I knew at night on the farm. A darkness that made everything invisible. All except for the sounds. The barn owl that Dad captured time and time again, and that was taken away to another woods would manage to come back to the barn loft and lament the night. Hoo hoo. Hoo hoo. This little girl was always afraid of the dark and that darn hootin' bird just made the night eerier. A lovely white-faced bird that ate rodents and made a mess in the corner of the barn. An owl that Dad despised and I knew only by the nightly sound. For a child terrified of mice, I should have been singing owl praises.

The children and I walked the path of the nature center coming upon some people looking off into the woods. Not far away was a big owl sitting on a branch. The sweet creature looked a little ragged. Knowing that they were night creatures, I wondered if it was well. We looked at it. It looked at us. Hm. Was it thinking what we were thinking? Who were these people looking at it? Didn't they have some place to go during the daylight hours?

Many things went bump in the night in that house back the lane. Mice skittered in the walls. Dogs barked at something unseen in the dark. A chicken would complain or a lamb would protest. Yet nothing was so haunting as the hoot of the owl.

Sometimes I go to sleep remembering those nights long ago. I miss the night sounds that disappeared with the rising sun. Perhaps the lonely tones of that beautiful owl reminded me of the loneliness I sometimes felt or maybe the missing of a lost pet. I cherish the day time song birds that bring each day to life. And miss the wooting that comes in the night. Hoo hoo. Hoo hoo. Yes, I remember.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ask a man who owns one

Time seems to pass slowly on the farm, especially when you are waiting for something or someone to arrive. We girls waited for the mailman hoping that the toy ordered from the cereal box would arrive. For Willard and Ruth, they waited for one of the biggest purchases they would make, and it did not come in the mailbox. It was the end of WWII and factories were gearing up again for better years to come so sometimes you had to wait.
 
I do not know how Mom and Dad did it. Back then starting cost was $2274. A fortune to these farmers. The price of a new Packard 8 four-door sedan. Their family was growing with the addition of baby girl Loxley. I am not sure how big they thought I would grow to, but this car had enough room for several species of animals that took a ride on an ark.  Plus without seat belts, we could comfortably seat 6-7 people.

Packard brothers, James Ward and William Doud, ran Packard Electric Company in Warren, Ohio, where they manufactured wire and electrical equipment. Evidently, James owned a Winton and was extremely dissatisfied with it. So in 1899 the brothers began manufacturing the Packard. In the beginning, it was a car only the wealthy could own. A car that represented prestige and status. After WWII, the need arose for mid-priced cars. So owning a Packard was indeed a big deal.

Sometimes the media called the Packard "bathtub" or "pregnant elephant". Indeed it was a beast of a car. I remember sitting in the backseat in all my shortness unable to see out the windows. Since Mom and Dad loved to go visiting on Sundays, their youngest was often found sleeping in the back window. It was a lovely car. The girls wrestled in the backseat, played on the floor and sang at the top of their lungs. We had that old car for about twelve years.

June and I often talk about that old Packard. It was a mammoth. In retrospect I believe that Dad loved it for the sheer mass of it. He loved to drive trucks and this car could easily have been in competition with one. Also the graceful swan hood ornament might have reminded Dad of the Hollinger family crest bearing a couple of the long-necked beauties.

Confession: That old Packard was one of my favorite cars. Two of the Loxley girls could recline in the backseat after packing their little sis in the back window well. I can still feel the softness of the seats and the heat of a summer day. The car came to us after the farmer had lost his cattle herd. A time when a little girl was no longer bedridden. The one time when my parents decided to splurge on themselves. A rare event indeed.

Packard was the best-selling car during those years of 1948-49. The automobile catch phrase was repeated by kids and adults alike. "Ask the man who owns one." Ah, just as a kid who rode in one.