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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Silent little Christmas

It was our first Christmas at my father's new  pastorate, the First Christian Church in Aurora.  We had moved in the late summer and I had started first grade at the two story school that housed grades one through 12 in this little town.
The weather had turned suddenly cold and sniffles spread like the vicious little monster muggers they really are. Me, I felt fine! The church pageant and celebration would start at 6 p.m. so all good little children could be put to bed nice and early. And wonder of wonders, Santa was going to appear at OUR CHURCH this very night before leaving on his big round the world tour. The excitement was deafening.  I skipped, I sang every Christmas song I knew, I danced and I giggled the whole day long. I am sure my mom was going stark raving mad! Daddy was at the church organizing and I wasn't allowed to help. I really liked to help, but Daddy said it tried his patience.
At last it was time to go. We crossed the street and climbed the broad stairs. The heavy wooden doors were festooned with evergreen swags, holly and big red bows. Joy and sorrow flowed and ebbed side by side. This was the first full year after the end of the war and everyone wanted to make a whole new start. Forget the bad, remember the good was the byword of the year.
The choir sang gloriously, the tree sparkled and spangled, winked and blinked while we listened to the story of the very first Christmas gift.
Suddenly Santa appeared and sat himself in the big old throne chair beside the tree. His huge bag bulged mysteriously. Corners poking here, things curving there, with bright ribbons and colorful wrappings spilling out the top.
Santa had a list of names, and one by one he called us to the front to sit on his lap and listened to our requests and handed us a candy cane and a gift from his bag. I bounced and twitched awaiting my turn to tell Santa my Christmas list...the usual, a pony, some paper dolls...I liked to punch them out but was totally uninterested in playing with them, cowboy boots and a holster with a pistol that would shoot.
At last he called my name. I ran down the aisle and climbed on Santa's lap.
I could not utter a word. I was struck dumb. Nothing, not a whisper of a whisper came out.  My face flamed and I put on my strongest grin and trotted back up the aisle to my mother. I could not even tell her what was wrong, but my silence had her wrapping me up and whisking me back across the street to my big tall bed.
It was the quietest Christmas ever. I had Vick's spread from ear to ear and down my chest, Daddy's sock was wrapped around my neck and pinned securely. Tea and toast were my Christmas eve snack. I did sleep silently through the night, and silently opened my gifts in the morning.  I got paper dolls to punch out, a baby doll, and a cap pistol and holster.
I'll bet if I could have talked to Santa I would have gotten the boots and the pony.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Doc Martin's Sandals

Dreams, good or bad, do not stick with me on waking, but I an oddly memorable one not long ago.
I was in Doc Martin's car which was parked in front of Auntie Joan's barn. Excuse that the TV show never showed any barn, I was there, sitting in the driver's seat.
Aware that I had to change into sturdier shoes or wellies so I could enter the barn, I reached under the passenger seat.
The most gorgeous sandals came cascading out. Leather, suede, silver, gold, pastels, rainbows and technicolor.  Some had jewels, some had precious metals, delicate, elegant, all were my size, and all were for the right foot only. Out and out they spilled, each more lovely than the last, but no wellies to be seen and no shoe for the left foot.
I never got into Auntie Joan's barn, but my memory sees those sandals in glorious detail, and I wish I owned them all. Preferably for both feet.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Most stories about the Orphan Trains seem to have pleasant endings with children finding forever families and living happily ever after. Our story did not go so well.

In the early part of the 20th century my grandfather's Uncle John Campbell and his wife, Aunt Henrietta, moved from Franklin County half way across the state to the small lead mining town of Aurora, MO. Uncle Johnney was a foreman at the mine and made decent money. He and Aunt Etta had a small acreage, a decent house and in the way of things at that time, they raised chickens, gardened, had a cow for milk and a sow with piglets to sell and/or slaughter in the fall.

They were hard working people and if Uncle Johnney drank a bit too much, well, it was a palliative for the lead mine's side effects. Aunt Etta was downright upright, working from dawn to dusk, never letting up. She was a founding member and chief fund raiser for Aurora's First Christian Church. The imposing brick building was and is located a block down from the Court House on Pleasant Ave. Following WWII my father became pastor there. I have no idea if the lingering memory of the Campbells influenced this, but it might be.

John & Etta had no children, whether God's decision, a side effect of the drinking or the lead mine is hard to know, but when the Orphan trains began to run they decided to get themselves a son to care for them in their old age. They would set a good Christian example for the world. A bit of help around the farm wouldn't hurt either.

They adopted a young boy and began training him up in the right way. The rod was not spared. My mother's family met him once, I believe. Was he blonde and blue eyed? She thought maybe so, but wasn't certain. He was thin to the point of emaciation and seemed cowed and dodged when anyone moved a bit too quick. Not long afterward he ran off.

Many years later Aunt Hazel traced him to Texas and she and my mother placed a phone call to his family home. He refused to speak to them. How could he know they came from the good and gentle side of the family?

I do not even know his name. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


      We are downsizing. The house will remain the same but the extraneous stuff has got to go.  My favorite Cuban whirlwind came over for a couple of hours on a weekend and accomplished more than I had in a month. It may be an energy level thing, but I'm guessing  it's a talent for organization, which I do not possess. She pointed, Geoff moved, I sorted, then she tidied behind us.
     Sale treasures went against the left hand wall. Keepables were sorted into plastic bins for storage. Five underbed boxes now live under my bed. There's not much room left for Bob the cat to hide when Chuchi the weiner dog comes to visit. Then again, he may be safer as chubby Chuchi cannot get over or around the boxes.
     Giant tables entered the garage. The day of the sale they would be filled with items that someone else surely longs to possess. Games with pieces missing. Games that have never been opened. Art works that have seen their day come and go. Clothing, some with tags still attached. Sheets, towels, lamps, curtains, pots, pans, dishes, kitchen pieces and parts.  Books, lamp shades, art, sewing, & craft supplies, things surely needed by someone else.  Debris and detritus, somewhat past the USE BY date.
     When Jenni came we cleaned the tops of the cupboards and sorted through my mom's grandmothers' remnant dishes. The blue gray bone china tea cup that only ever held gin belonged to my great grandfather Jerry's brother John. Grandpa Campbell's wooden shoe forms from the repair shop and a lidded withy basket woven by his grandfather were washed and returned to the shelf. Grandma Nettle's brass cherub got polished and is once more poised proudly on one toe, arm outstretched awaiting his gas lamp. Aunt Hazel's brightly painted Christmas cookie tray is sitting cornerwise waiting for it's place on the holiday table, Grandma Grethel's Franciscanware platter and bowls again lean bright and proud against the wall. Memories and family history washed clean, refreshed, relabeled and stowed carefully away again. Almost nothing up there, except the pitchers I bought for color, went into the sale. Even the rooster purchased to match the cutsie French chef d├ęcor got a stay of execution. I just like it. What can I say?
     Black and white checked curtains with red trim, ice cream chairs cushioned in toile,  a yellow wrought iron table and an old red toaster, faded to flamingo pink, went to the sale side.  Holes dot the house where too much used to be.  The feeling of accomplishment is wondrous.
     Even emptying waste baskets accomplished something. Files, folders, a 15 years of real estate research and such got pitched. Eight years of newspaper info and regs got tossed.
     Recycle those ancient phone books! Toss the tattered Real Estate study books! Pitch the old maps! Out with all the 'dexes (rolo, filo, etc.) We're retired and they're out of date! Into the fire pit with it all! Toast them 'shmallows! Build them s'mores! Get a little fatter, but the papers are burnt!
     On sale day, in the dark of the morning we set up the tables in the driveway and arranged our glorious array. The coffee was on and we sat in the chilly garage, waiting, but it was a sunny 8 a.m. before a steady stream of older male schmoozers came and asked if we have any tools for sale. No, we didn't.  Fishing equipment? Just an old rod and reel. Eventually a guy bought those for his grandson. A box of random electronic wiring I meant to toss got sold for $1. Wow. Who knew? How much for this? What do you want for that? Will you take $X?  The extremely heavy Creuset enamelware went in the 10 a.m. wave of older couples. We'd bought it at the Thrift Shop and used it for nearly 10 years. Towel sets from the closing up of multiple relatives' homes sold, along with sheet sets and random kitchen thingies.
     About 1 p.m. women in pairs and singularly began to show up. By 4 we were staring glassy eyed at one another. At 5 p.m. we dragged the tables into the garage and closed down.
     By 7 a.m. Sunday morning we were ready and rarin' to go. Unfortunately our first customer showed up at 11 a.m.
     The day dribbled on. $1 here, 50 cents there. A book, a plate, a tray.  In the late afternoon a lovely lady finally bought the wrought iron garden table with the ice cream chairs. She had a rather small car, but we slotted  and puzzled it all in and tied it down with ropes. We waved her off and carted the leftovers back into the garage. Boxes, books, bags, and things were once more stacked high around the walls. That was not part of the plan.
    It felt a bit better after counting the intake. We covered expenses plus a bit that we didn't have before. It went in the bank until the next time, because we WILL have a clean garage. We are determined! Sort of.