What has happened to my country over the past few decades?
(Note: See the links posted at the end of this article.)
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.
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 Stiner) 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 Stiner, 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 lead 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, like 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, like 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 government raid 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?
If things get really bad financially will people learn to build chicken coops, raise crops, and discover that really fresh eggs can be obtained? By reigning in a government complicit in corporate greed and thereby recreating community, no matter how large, will neighbors regain trust in themselves and in one another instead of looking to government for solutions?
Related link posted Jan. 10, 2009:
Posted Mar. 15, 2009:
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