November Saturday

Coffee’s  gone cold.  It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning.   Because of that–and expecting to get treats when they come in–the dogs keep going in and out the back door.

The Holidays are rapidly approaching.  My annual Thanksgiving trek northward begins this next week.  Where has this year gone?  Although, last week seemed to drag on and on.

“Nothing but the dead and dying in my little town,” Said the Paul Simon lyrics.  I grew up in a tiny Midwestern town.  It has decreased in importance as the years have gone by.  Descendants of the people, I knew growing up, still live there.

A white, two-story, frame house still stands.  It used to be grandma’s house.  My sister and brother-in-law are the present occupants.  They’ve kept up many of the old traditions–gardening, canning vegetables, raising chickens.

My hometown may not, now, look like much, but it holds many good memories.

Ward Cleaver Didn’t Live Here

Clyde & his boys 1954 (2)A black and white picture depicted a visit to Grandfather’s farm.  The year, was 1954, or possibly earlier–earlier, because my younger brother, Jerry (on the left), appeared to be very young.  He was born in 1951, and I dare say, he couldn’t have been older than two.  My sister, wasn’t born until 1954.  I’m posed in the middle, appropriately, since I was the middle child.  My precocious big brother, George, went through a patriotic phase.  In pictures, he either saluted military style, or held his hand over his heart.  I was impatient, couldn’t stand still–wanted the picture-taking nonsense to cease.

Dad was a WWII veteran, a member of the “greatest generation.”  …Toughened by hardships of the great depression.  He was a man of principle with firm religious convictions–a born-again Christian.  We attended church regularly mid-week and on Sundays.  Dad was a strict disciplinarian based upon, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”  The “rod of correction” was applied liberally to my backside during childhood.  My father’s conservative republican political leanings contrasted with my grandfather’s being a staunch democrat.

In the early fifties, dad felt called to the ministry.  We moved first, to Greenville, Illinois and then to Canton, Ohio.  Father took classes at nearby Greenville College in preparation for work at the “Volunteers of America” in Ohio.  Later, we moved back to Illinois where Dad resumed farming with my Grandfather.  There were several overnight trips taken, back to Illinois from Ohio, in our blue, ’54 Ford four-door sedan.  Dad drove the entire trip, my baby sister, Marsha slept in mother’s arms in the front seat; I slept on the floor behind the front seat; my brother George slept on the back seat; Jerry slept on the rear window ledge.  A service station attendant got a big kick out of this.  This, I realize, would be frowned upon today.

Clyde Planting corn in field just north of Hicks House.

Father seemed happiest when farming.  There was always an ever-present smile of satisfaction across his face.  During the years, he had several second jobs to make ends meet.  Mom resumed her teaching career shortly after we moved back to Illinois.  Dad, like others of his generation, was self-sufficient.  Mom, wasn’t always pleased with his utilitarian home repairs–form always followed function.  Our first decent place of residence, wasn’t realized, until we moved into Grandfather’s farmhouse.  It had indoor plumbing–unlike our previous three places of residence.  This seemed to especially please my mother.

Clyde & Dorothy Adam Family 1955

In this 1955 family portrait, my sister Marsha was just a toddler.  I’m on the front row, left, Jerry is to the far right, George is on the back row, center.  Our family life wasn’t anything like TV sitcom portrayals.  Mom didn’t putter around the kitchen in a starched white apron, while Dad relaxed in the living room with his feet propped up, waiting for the evening meal.  Mom and Dad’s responsibilities weren’t nine-to-five, Monday through Friday.  During the long days of summer, Dad didn’t get in from the fields, till sometimes eight or nine.  Mom balanced duties as a teacher, farm wife, household manager, and was mother to four children.  Everybody pitched in to help.  George filled in as substitute chef when mom attended night classes.  I doubt if the “Brady Bunch” could have kept up.  It was no wonder my parents were always tired.

On a cold January night in 1986, my phone rang in the early morning hours.  It was Dad, his voice quivered with emotion–as he searched for meaning.  Our mother, his lifetime companion, had been suddenly taken away.  The sense of loss overwhelmed, like a tidal wave.  Mom was a stabilizing force that held the family together.  Mom balanced dad’s rigidity–she was always the mediator.  Dad carried on as family patriarch, but never again found the same love and companionship.

My parents hadn’t always agreed on family issues.  Decisions made, whether popular or not, were always made in our best interest.  One fatherly admonition, “If I broke the law and landed in jail, I could stay there.”  The neighbors were alerted to watch for indiscretions behind the wheel–or anywhere else.  I was afraid of the consequences, should I get caught.  In the end, I knew that I was loved.  The years passed too quickly.  Dad contracted a terminal illness and passed away at home on October 27, 1995.  I’d, beforehand, had the privilege of telling him how much he meant to me.  His life was an example of strong Christian faith–as was my mother’s.

One of my favorite memories, is of him driving the family to church, sporting a gray fedora hat.  He never drove over fifty.  I guess he figured that God knew his intentions and would wait.  He was a strict disciplinarian, but had a softer side, observed on quiet mornings, when no one was around.  There he sat, gently stroking the fur of one of our many pet cats and kittens.  He stayed true to his beliefs, through thick and thin, right through to the end.

Perhaps Dad had been too strict–didn’t show enough affection?  Perhaps, this, or perhaps that, should have been different?  Heaven’s the only final authority that matters.  I wish he were still here, in good health, telling corny jokes and making horrible puns.  I’ve passed on the tradition.  His spirit lives on, within me–something reminds me of him everyday.

THE OLD BARN

DSCN0270The old barn stood strong.  A tornado in 1956 destroyed the larger barn–leaving the concrete silo as a monument.  It smelled the same–like grain, hay, dirt and cattle.  Growing up, it was a place of adventure.  Inside was a menagerie of barn cats, kittens, cows, calves, raccoons, and an occasional possum.  Nesting barn swallows dive-bombed intruders.   Other avian inhabitants were pigeons, sparrows, and owls.  The barn loft served as playhouse.  Stored bales of hay were perfect for jumping.  Ropes that formerly brought in hay served as rigging for imaginary pirate ships.  A curious white, dust-covered sign, inscribed with the letters “P-W-A” leaned against the wall.

Mostly, the old barn reminded me of Grandpa.  I pictured him driving his red Massey-Harris tractor.  Typically, he wore his favorite brown leather cap and a denim jacket.  There was always hard work to be done–harvesting , cultivating crops, tending garden.  Even in summer heat, Grandpa took his sharpened scythe and cut weeds.  The sweat mopped with a red bandana.  His wet shirts hung on the clothesline to dry.

Years of farming took a toll on his hearing.  I wondered why Grandma always yelled at Grandpa.  Grandpa always had a kind word.  He was master of the quick retort.   After sitting down on a light bulb, left absent-mindedly in the back pocket of his bib overalls, he just laughed.  Tasty bits of fresh peaches or apples, cut with his pocketknife, were offered freely. There was never any doubt where you stood with him.  His colorful description of the town lecher evoked my Mother’s wrath.  “Blinking like a toad in a hailstorm, ” dubiously described an insincere person.

My memories are of Grandpa and Grandma in their twilight years.  Grandpa survived serious injury twice.  Neighbors pitched in to help with the corn harvest.  My Grandparents were active in the community.  My Grandfather supervised a PWA (Public Works Administration) crew during the Great Depression.  He also served as mayor.  Grandma was a member of the church Ladies Aid Society and Eastern Star.  I have many fond childhood memories.  When Grandma passed away, some of the twinkle left Grandpa’s eyes.My Grandpa

Barns provided more than housing for livestock and grain storage.  They were centers of social activity.  There were local barn dances.  My Grandparents were regular attendees.  Grandma played Spanish guitar in accompaniment to fiddlers.  Barns represented the spirit of cooperation.  Farmers helped each other–traded labor during the harvest.  There was great camaraderie.  Farm wives provided huge noon meals–yet nobody gained an ounce.

Many of the local barns are gone.  It was hard watching Grandpa’s health decline.  When Grandpa went to the retirement home, I knew It meant the  end of life.  He passed away when I was overseas on military duty.  My Grandparent’s lives embodied the good things of their generation–hard work, honesty, generosity, volunteerism.  A sense of humor made drudgery bearable.  By giving of yourself, you got much more in return.  Just like the old barn, Grandpa stood tall in the community.  He left a large legacy to follow.

Dotted Blue Lines

It seems strange to think about, but gas station roadmaps are a thing of the past.  Personal GPS devices have done them in.  Maps will take their places on dusty museum shelves alongside incandescent light bulbs.  Somehow, it seems to me, that a little piece of self-sufficiency has slipped away.  Skillfully folding a paper roadmap was an art.  In the early years of our marriage roadmaps took us on many adventures.  We selected our vacation destinations.  Itineraries were discussed and carefully planned.  All of our trips were made by car.  The majority, when our children were younger, involved camping.  We started out camping in tents and graduated to camping trailers.

Map interpretation was an important skill.  The symbols in the small box, usually on the left side, were the keys to understanding.  Misinterpretation of these symbols by my navigator  took us on some interesting adventures.  On a day trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my spouse and two daughters, we set out to explore the “Pictured Rocks National Seashore.” We pulled out of the state park campground on to the state highway.  My bride sat beside me perusing the map.  “Look for a place to turn off the highway that will take us to our destination.” I said.  “All right” she replied as she adjusted the map for a better view.  “It would be better if you told me before I have to turn off.”  “Don’t get crabby with me, Honey, I’m doing the best I can.” “Three miles ahead there’s a road that will take us directly there.”  “It should be a right turn.”

Just as described a county road appeared going off to the right.  I steered the white Datsun King Cab pickup off the main highway.  This was great, a two-lane asphalt road, things were looking good.  “Do you know how far it is?” I asked.  “It’s about that far on the map.” She said holding her thumb and forefinger two inches apart to measure the distance.  “How many miles is that?” “Maybe forty to fifty miles.”  She answered.  That didn’t seem too bad.  Even if we got behind slow-moving vehicles maybe an hour to our destination.   We drove past some small farms and houses for the first fifteen miles.  It was a nice area.  There were patches of forest interspersed with pasture.  The pavement suddenly ended and changed to a gravel road.

I could still safely maintain a safe forty-five mile per hour pace.  This continued for another twenty miles.  Soon we entered a state forest area and left civilization.  The gravel road started to narrow and wind around.  It was nothing like the switch back turns of mountain roads.  Another hour passed and I began to wonder.  Did this road have an end?  Adding to the suspense, trees were so close to the road that the ends of branches scraped against the truck mirrors.   Now we were only travelling thirty miles per hour.  Forty minutes later we were greeted with sunshine and pavement.  Hooray! Apparently we’d traversed seventy-two miles on a road, part of which, had been an old logging road.   Pictured Rocks National Seashore was beautiful with some of the clearest deep blue waters I’d ever seen.  We also visited some nearby waterfalls.

On a different vacation trip, this time to Southeastern Kentucky, we had a similar experience.  We’d routed ourselves on a twisty road that took us through a strip mine.  Some of our passengers experienced carsickness.  My Datsun pickup was dwarfed by huge strip mine trucks and earth movers.  The most important thing was that we reached our destination safely.  We got to visit the Cumberland Gap historical site.  Our, off the beaten path, adventures are still talked about.  With navigation aids of today mistakes like this are less likely to happen.   These devices will never take the place of common sense, however.  Just because everybody else followed their GPS devices and drove off a bridge, would you do it too?