Sunday Prose: The Farm

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The Farm will be random posting of a
little storytelling, oral history and updates
on the renovation of our family farm.
Silver Dollars
The sun finally slipped behind the ten foot leafy corn tops, our first full day at our family farm almost complete at eight forty, the entire western sky a warm tangerine. It is serenity still here on this late summer night, no breeze brushing across the grass, not a single leaf in transit, only the fireflies momentarily dotting the darkness silently leaving their slow motion, crisscrossing phosphorescent trails.

It is quiet enough to hear my own breathing sitting on the small steps to the 130 year old farm house, white and wood framed that sits on 3 tidy acres, an almost square parcel, a postage stamp carved into a 100 acre plot, surrounded, fort like by an impenetrable closely planted wall of crops on all four sides.

From these well worn concrete steps through the densely planted century old trees you can spy the gravel road, a quarter mile long canal like passage through a double sided wall of corn plants standing sentry to the county road, our entry is unmarked except for the house directly across the road.

There is one landline phone, no internet service
and an old t.v. and all of us consider this place
our private slice of the universe.
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There is a quiet and humble history on this property, in the trees that were climbed by the children who grew up on this farm, in the still visible foundation outline of the once huge barn, in every dented and gouged pine door casing, the ancestry of Scout’s family is explained in these details and always further illuminated in our post dinner conversations. Country folk love telling stories and with very little fanfare and a matter of fact manner that belies the profound humanity, the empathy like a ribbon that runs through this family, tales were told tonight too.

Scout and her younger brother spent their summers on this farm, it was a working farm then with a huge pasture for the steer that her granpa Pap butchered, chickens and horses, the crops were soybeans, corn, hay and peony plants. The multistory post and beam constructed barn was enormous by all accounts, the heart of any farm and this barn served as the center of activity and endless hours of discovery for the kids too.

The horses and ponies were a favorite, Sccout spent her time learning to care, feed, walk and eventually ride these horses so much so that Gram ordered Pap to build her a racetrack behind the barn. This was no small affair, the size of this track would take out a significant portion of the pasture and there were conversations between Gram and Pap about the wisdom of this idea but as so many of the stories are indicative of the strength and conviction of the women in this family, Gram prevailed.

She always did.

Gram and Pap grew up during the Great Depression and talked often about being ‘dirt poor’, their families barely survived, scratching out a living however they could in this farming town in southern Indiana just outside Evansville and it’s doubtful that they would have described this same piece of land as a slice of the universe then, as we do now. She learned to cook at a very early age, her scribbled recipes, a shaky penciled script written on stained and wrinkled, blue lined loose leaf pages are coveted by the women in this family, every family had but a few until Scout compiled them into a book and each family then received their own copy one Christmas.

Gram set aside her Avon side business in 1970, took her cooking talents and became the head lunchroom cook at the local elementary school, always adding an extra helping of whatever was on the menu that day to the plates of the very poor among the students. There were four kids in particular, 2 brothers and 2 sisters whose family was considered ‘poorer than dirt poor’ even then, lunch was their only nutritious meal of the day.

Gram invited these children to the farm every day on the pretense of playing in the barn with my wife and her brother and play they did. The boys built an enclosed fort from the hay bales behind the barn and when they all felt very adventurous and were sure no adults were looking, climbed to the second story rafters of the barn and jumped, one by one into the huge 12’ high pile of shelled feed corn below.

Actually, this story was just revealed to Scout’s parents tonight, to their rolled eyes and ‘Oh, no you didn’ts!’, and we all had a great big laugh at the secrets kids can keep.

But the real reason Gram brought those 4 hungry kids to their farm after school was to feed them, they all shared dinner together and whenever she could, unbeknownst to Pap or anyone else, she would slip them each a silver dollar and send them back home.

Decades later when Gram died, the 4 grown adults who all still lived in the area, all successful now, came to Gram’s funeral and told the whole family this story, the story the they were all learning about as they listened, the tale of a woman quietly sharing what she had with those less fortunate. The 2 sisters and 2 brothers then asked if they could place a small suede pouch they had brought with them, into Grams casket to honor her memory.

The small, hand stitched suede pouch cinched
tight with thin leather roping the family learned,
was filled with silver dollars.
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dear friends
another reblog of a poem and subject
that have been on my mind these past
few weeks. hope you enjoy it.

there is a moment
in the darkness which is my waking hour,
that i realize these bones are older than i remember
shallow muscles ache more than they should…still,
i rise to the occasion. i get up

because that’s what i do,
there is work to be done and coffee to brew.
because work is what i know.
i was taught early lessons in sweat, and
the value of honest labor.

and i thought only i’d heard the
rooster’s faint crow from a distant farm,
but there is rustling in the bedrooms.
the rest of US are rising to an occasion too,
it’s what they’ve known…so we sip

our fresh brewed, congratulate Scout’s parents
on their anniversary yet they choose to celebrate
this moment, their long and loving history
talking of work that needs completion, during breakfast.
‘so, you’ve been married three years less than i’ve lived?’,

and i’m 58 now….so yes, we’ve all brought our considerable
history and collection of tools here to our farm, an old house
certainly deserves repair. because all of US hear the
fading echoes of those who’ve walked these creaky floors.
THEY, who gave life

and love and their sweat of honest labor.
that even during the Great Depression somehow
scratched out a living doing whatever was needed to
keep this farm, this family alive, because day after weary day
they got up, and rose to their occasion.