What has happened to my country over the past few decades?
(Note: See the links posted at the end
of this blog.)
Father Time has deposited me into the Senior set. It happened much too fast. Other things
have happened too - things that baffle me. I am not speaking of computers and technology.
These are changes one can adapt to and use constructively if one has a mind to. There are
other things that baffle me. I will speak of them later.
The landscape of my adolescence remained recognizable until 1980. From 1980 to
2000 it became unrecognizable.
The Ogilby Farm, 1960 - N.E. corner of Ohio Rt. #91 & Barlow Rd., Hudson, Ohio
I frequently think of the pretty brick home in which I grew up.
One day in the 1960's a salesman visited and sold my mother a painted and framed aerial
photograph of the house and out-buildings. My mother uncharacteristically spent part of
her grocery money to buy it. Today this cherished picture hangs in the front room of my
modest Florida condominium. The second story dormer on the front of the house is clearly visible
on the photograph. Consisting of three small panes that swung open in the summer, these
windows provided my own bedroom's view of the world. From them I could see the main road
beyond maple trees grown taller than the house. How many summer days I mowed that front lawn!
It was behind those windows, after the sun went down and chores were completed, that I did
homework throughout high-school. I recall working on homework between two to four hours every
evening of the week during the school year. Each day there were definitions of new vocabulary
words to memorize from "Word Wealth", usually a writing assignment, algebra, geometry and then
trigonometry problems, an ongoing book to read, and other assignments that I scarcely remember.
Ours was an attractive brick house with a red tile roof and a small cement front porch. Ivy
covered much of the house's north side. We used neither the front porch nor its door
that opened directly into the living-room. The house was always accessed from a lattice-enclosed
back porch. Beneath this porch was a cistern into which rain water drained from the roof's
gutters and downspouts. There was a white porcelain sink and red painted hand-pump near the door
which opened into the home's kitchen. In the middle of the kitchen there stood a rectangular
table and four wooden chairs. The kitchen table was covered by a colorfully patterned
oilcloth. My parents had installed a wood-burning stove in addition to the modern electric one.
During the bitterest winter weather ice sometimes formed in the upstairs bathroom. However, the
kitchen, the home's epicenter and my mother's domain, remained warm and cozy.
Beyond the back of the house was a one-story high pump-house built of matching
brick and red tile roof. There was a door at each end. In half of that small structure we
stored garden equipment and a walking lawn mower powered by a Briggs and Stratton engine. The other
half of the small building housed a large cement tub. The old farmer (his name was Steiner) who
had sold his beloved farm in 1946 to my parents had stored his tall milk cans there. In the summer
the cans were kept cool, placed in that tub with water and ice until picked up by the dairy.
I wonder if that would be legal today.
One third of our barn's ground floor consisted of the cattle area and contained stanchions
at which Steiner had toiled, milking his cows twice a day. I don't know how
many years he labored. We never owned even a single cow. Yet the stanchions remained.
Our beautiful red barn with red tile roof, capped by the traditional aluminum air-vent
and weathervane, was one of the finest in Summit County, Ohio. At the other end of the
barn were three horse stalls. We kept a couple of horses, including a thoroughbred
named HoneyGirl that had been retired from a local race track. How she could run! Of
course, there was a corn crib (painted red) with an attached shelter under which farm
equipment was stored, protected from most rain and snow. Ours was a small farm. Most
of its fifty acres were under cultivation. There was a small farm pond that dried nearly
completely in the heat of the summer. In the summertime tall grasses grew in the useless
cattle run that led to the barn from the old cow pasture.
Our crops were winter wheat, oats, field corn, soy beans, and timothy alfalfa hay.
Among my regular chores were plowing and disking the fields (my dad's pride and joy was a
gray Ford tractor with hydraulic lift and a power take-off), cultivating corn, mowing,
loading hay bales on a wagon, then onto a rented elevator hoist, and stacking them in
the barn's hayloft. Every fall we attached sides to the wagon and pitched apples from our
small orchard into it. We towed the load down the road behind the tractor. I wonder if
that would be legal today. From the local cider press we brought home the juice in a
large wooden keg that we stored in basement. I wonder if that would be legal today. The
cider tasted sweet at Halloween and had a tang to it by Christmas. Eventually it tasted
too much like vinegar to enjoy.
Those good days are long gone and so is the farm and its buildings. Of the family of four,
mother, father, and two sons, I alone, as Ishmael, survive to tell this tale. These changes
can be reasonably understood. They are not the changes that baffle me. Before I tell you the ones
that baffle me, I must say a little more about that semi-rural home located a mile and a half
south of town at the northeast corner of Darrow (Ohio State Rt. #91) and Barlow Roads. Running
north and south, Route #91 is the Main Street of Hudson, Ohio.
There is an out-building involved in this story that I failed to mention earlier. It is the
chicken coop. We built a large addition to the original small coop, constructed a dozen
or so nest boxes, a couple of roosts, and tripled the area of the outside run. We raised chickens
for food and for the eggs. On those rare weekends that I could take a trip back home from college
in Columbus, my parents served an extra roast chicken for Sunday dinner. My Dad said it was the
equivalent of "killing the fatted calf". How I looked forward to that home-cooked meal!
When Dad was not farming, he worked in Akron as a research chemist. As a farmer, he
experimented at length with various chicken feed mixtures until he created one that
produced the largest and best tasting chicken eggs known to man. He loved his fried eggs
in the morning. As far back as I can remember, my day began by awakening to the smell of
frying eggs and bacon. Halfway through cooking breakfast Dad would awaken my mother, my brother,
and me by calling our names, exhorting us to "get up and at 'em" and to "get rolling". The
chickens laid many more eggs than we could use ourselves.
A couple of huge sunflowers grew next to the backporch steps. My mother also arranged and
cultivated flowers in a rock-garden. Beside the barn there was a large vegetable garden.
My mother (and her friends) took a great deal of pride in this plot in which they grew much of
the food that found its way to our table throughout the year. Canning and preserving
produce was one of Mother's talents. Sweet corn, beans, tomatos, onions, radishes,
cucumbers, potatos, carrots, beets, grapes and other growing crops required protection
from rabbits. My dad built an ingenious miniature electic fence that discouraged most
of the rabbits and other foraging varmints. Considerably more food came from the garden
than we could use ourselves. When harvested, some of the produce was given to friends who
helped plant and cultivate. Some garden produce, sweet corn for example, was sold. Extra
eggs were sold throughout the year. I wonder if that would be legal today.
News of Dad's delicious chicken eggs spread rapidly. The back door of our house was never
locked during the day. My mother washed the eggs my brother and I collected and placed them in
cartons, a dozen at a time. She stacked the egg cartons on a shelf in the large white two-door
refrigerator with cooling coils on its top. During the day customers would drop in. They
saved empty egg cartons for my mother. If she left home during the day mother would leave a
large bowl on the kitchen table along with a notepad and a pencil. Customers would come in,
take as many dozen eggs as they needed from the refrigerator and leave their emply
cartons on the table. They always wrote my mother a note, letting her know how many dozen eggs
they had taken (plus a personal line or two). They simply placed the money in the bowl and,
when necessary, took change from coins left in the bowl. My mother always put coins into
the bowl for customers to make change if she left the house during the day. Often the
written notes were amusing and asked my mother to phone when she got home. The egg
business constituted an important source of family income for many years.
The town of LaGrange, Ohio is nearly directly west of Hudson. Today the fastest driving
route is via the Ohio turnpike. The more direct, and shorter route by mileage is via the
roads I knew before the TP opened. In Hudson, Streetsboro Road (Ohio Route #303) runs east
and west. It crosses Darrow Road a little more than a mile north of Barlow Road where our
house was located. There is now a large chain pharmacy store where our house was. It is
far less pretty. The vanished farm is a development of upscale single-family homes. If one
takes Streetsboro Road from Hudson, in less than fifty miles Route #303 becomes East Main
Street of LaGrange, Ohio.
Located, as Hudson, on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio,
LaGrange is far from being a "backwater" community. Hudson and LaGrange, in my opinion
and based on personal experience, include honest, hard working people who are closer to
the land than my friends here in a culturally desirable small Florida city. There are
traditions and a history of neighborly integrity there. I wonder if people there can still
leave their houses unlocked during the day.
I am now getting to the matter that truly baffles me. What most baffles me is the recent
in little LaGrange, Ohio. I have several questions: Why did it take place? How could it happen
right here in America? Where in America do they find young men willing to execute such orders?
What is happening now? Who is coming to the aid of these persecuted people? What has happened
to my country over the past few decades?
Hopeful of getting some answers to these questions, I used Google and was pleased to discover
considerable indignation expressed in online comments at the news release (read them). In
addition, there has been
legal suit filed in the matter. To me, it is both inconceivable and appalling that our
government should be involved in preventing farmers from selling their products to people. The
resulting processing of the public's foodstuffs is a closely related subject. What is really
going on here?
Is my country now totally controlled by corporations, drug companies, pharmacy chains,
corporate farms, supermarket chains, and housing financiers? Have financial manipulators
unwittingly done my country a big favor by obliging city folk to soon learn a few things
about the basics of human existence?