Monday, July 7, 2008

Saying Goodbye

We moved to the farmhouse on Bluegrass Rd. in the Winter of early 1984. I don't remember much about the circumstances at the time, but over the years I've come up with theories. The most exciting part about the move to the farm for me was that I would be able to ride the bus to and from school. I had always been jealous of friends who lived in the country, and never passed up an opportunity to ride their bus for a sleepover, or a birthday party. The novelty of the school bus wore off in time, but that was my first memory of living at the farm.

I spent the rest of my formative years in that house. We never farmed, it's working years had ceased after Uncle Ralph passed away in 1982. We were essentially the keepers of the property. Mom & dad never purchased the home, and until Aunt Bernice passed away earlier this year, it was never really offered. But by then, it was time for them to move on. I guess it was time for the whole family to move on.

There had been a working farm on this location since the late 1800's. This was the 3rd house to be built on the farm, I believe. The first two homes, beautiful and ornate two-story places, were both lost in fires. Ralph and Bernice Bower bought the farm and some land, one mile easat of Malvern on Bluegrass Rd., and built their home in the realy 1940's. They raised two children here, Barbara and LeRoy. In time, their families grew to include 5 grandchildren, all of them spending many Summers and holidays on the farm creating memories. It's a simple, modest home, with no real oustanding features. It was a home for raising a family, and for work. as years went on, they added on an eating area and entryway to the south. The eating area has large windows facing south and east, overlooking a sweeping expanse of the East Nishnabotna River valley. Cool evening breezes were welcomed in the house from these great windows. This was a gathering point for friends, family, card games, cookouts, bird watching, and farm business. It was a home and garden that Aunt Bernice took great pride in, and it was always abloom with flowers.

We did the best we could to keep things in order out there. Of course, raising two sons with little to no experience on a large farm with many buildings was asking a lot for us to keep it the way it should've been. With both parents working, it wasn't my first inclination to hop on the mower, or to cut down volunteer trees growing up through fences. There was a lot of work to be done on simply managing what was left, and I had zero appreciation for any of it at the time. The farm buildings were in varying stages of decay. The most utilized building was the machine shed, which was home base for many of the farm's workings. The Farmall tractor was still there, not sold off until later at a relative's farm sale. An Allis-Chalmers lawn tractor was the mower for over two decades, when it finally gave out after a long life. I can smell that shed. The spilled and used oil, the powder dirt floor, greasy coffee cans full of washers, nuts, and bolts. A wall of small nooks & crannies full of parts and pieces long since forgotten about.

We lost at least 7 dogs and too many cats to count while living on the farm. The results of being located on a blacktop road at the crest of a hill. Speeding cars and farm trucks could do little to avoid an unweary wandering animal. The ones who avoided their predictable fate the longest were the ones that still mean the most to us today. It was a full-time job to try and teach the dogs to be aware of the danger of the road. It was exciting to get a new dog, but in the back of our minds we knew that their time was likely short. The road seemed to get them all at some point.

I never had a true appreciation for this place until I left. Trips back home from college were not seen as a nuisance like so many of my friends in college treated theirs. It was a time to get back together with the fellas, drink cheap canadian whisky, play Asshole or Circle of Death, and feel like the brothers we felt we all were to one another. It was a time to come home to the smell of mom's cooking, as it simmered patiently, waiting for my arrival. It was coming home to the most amazing sunrises over the river valley, still unrivaled by any I've seen. It was home.

I walked out of the farmhouse for the last time yesterday. Dad and I carried out totes of Christmas decorations that were upstairs in an attic. Trevor and I decided to come help finish the move for the weekend. Dad was downstairs as I stood south of the house, giving it one long last look. It's not looking so good these days. Its weather-beaten exterior has faced many strong south winds high on that hill. The messy Chinese Elms have battered it relentlessly for the past two decades with fallen, wind-driven branches and limbs.

I swallowed hard, and I walked to my truck. The driveway shook me left and right like it normally does as I pulled out onto Bluegrass Road heading west towards town.


C.T. said...

I remember the first time I got out to the family casa and remarked how much it reminded me of where I grew up (before the sprawl) and I asked JB, "get many snakes out here" and he was like "no not really, can't think if I ever really saw one...." as a snake goes slithering by. But no matter there was always some more of Ma's mashed potatoes to be had :)

Dante said...

I also have memories of a couple of trips to the Dixon homestead. Beef stew I believe. My only real experiences in that area were at the Dixon house. Sorry to see your family has moved on, but glad to see that they have, also. You can only move on, not back. Thank you for those memories, JB!

Dixon said...

Ah yes! Ma Dixon's famous roast beast and mashed taters! We ate plenty of pounds that day after Troll's wedding. She still talks about that Sunday dinner. I've got pictures of all of us passed out napping in a heap on the living room floor somewhere.

Anonymous said...


Amazing write-up, bro. You got a tear started in my eye.

I have so many memories of that place and will miss it dearly. You don't know what you've got till it's gone!


Crosseyed Psyclops said...

Wish I knew you back when. Sounds like a great place. Sometime I'll tell you about the closet that I grew up in. Mom said she locked me in because she loved me. Anyway,thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Awesome pics J.B.!!
The farm reminds me of all the cats ;) Dad never let us take one home...shocking, I know. Like we didn't have 10 house pets on any given Sunday...
~Hilary Asman

Anonymous said...

You can't buy memories like that, and rarely can one produce the imagery.

Is the Yamaha enduro still in the shed (that was described to perfection)?


D-Lovely said...

This was a great piece. My parents are in the process of moving out of the house I grew up in, so you've got me all sentimental. Also, Zac talks about those post-Troll-wedding mashed potatoes every time I make mashed potatoes, and I mean EVERY time. Something like, "I think JB's mom put cream cheese in her potatoes. They were soooo good." Well, at least it's not HIS mother's cooking I'm not living up to.