03/31/12

A Stormy Friday Evening

The freakish warm weather that has wiped out Southern Indiana’s late winter and early spring is still here.  Today it was almost eighty degrees by late afternoon, and by contrast S___ in Grawn, MI told me over the phone that he’d been watching snow fall all day.

For those of us addicted to working the ground, living with this weather is like waking up each morning with a sweating fever.  Two weeks ago I transplanted my grandmother’s old rhubarb patch to a new, sunny plot.  Today as I stopped by my favorite hardware store to purchase two calculator batteries,  I paused in front of the building to admire the garden plants already on display.

“They’re ‘Honeoyes’,” the gal at the hardware store said when she saw me eying a container of dark green strawberry plants.  “They come bunched up in that pot, then you separate them and plant them in your rows or hills.”  The name “Honeoye”  meant nothing to me, but it sounded impressive (the word is Native American.)  I decided they’d fit in right next to the rhubarb, and so when I left the the store I held the batteries in one hand and the pot of strawberry plants in the other.

It was 6:15 when I made it home and told Wendy about the Honeoyes.  The air was hazy with a stiff southern breeze, but when I turned on the radio I heard “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” for our county until 7pm.  By 6:30 the sky north of our house was dark.

“You’d better hurry,” Wendy said, but the air was still warm and strong from the south.

“I think it’ll pass,” I said over my shoulder as I hurried to get a turning spade from the barn.  “It’s moving off to the northeast.”

It did pass – for another ten minutes – but this storm was a slow sidewinder that from a distance was reminding me of the one that took  the roof off of Flat Rock Methodist Church one week after Good Friday in 2006. By 6:45 the air was dead calm.  Five minutes later the sky was even darker and the first cool scent of rain wafted in from the north.

There were 16 starts in the pot – maybe enough to produce a quart or two of berries once the runners spread out.  I set the last plant with the storm kicking dust up into my eyes, and as I put the spade away I heard the first drops of rain splatter hard against the barn’s metal roof.

It wasn’t a violent storm.  The lightning was constant but not close – most of it seemed to stay in the clouds.  The wind slacked off once the rain arrived.

But I’ll say this – when the rain arrived, it was full-dress.   Big, heavy drops rushing to hit the ground in a downpour that whited out the fields like a fog.  Twice we heard the telltale “peck..peck” that always makes me hold my breath…hail…but each time the hail tapered off after a minute or so, and the hailstones were too small to ruin the Honeoyes, the rhubarb or anything else exposed to the storm.

A final tally: 1 storm.  1.8+ inches of rain.  The forecast for April 1 – April Fool’s Day – is a high temperature of 84 degrees.

 

03/22/12

Sociability

Farm Bureau Song Book

Farm Bureau Song Book

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker; a working class trio that might have defined the Everyman through a century or more of British villages and early Americana.  I tried to think of an appropriate Rockcreek trio – maybe “the farmer, the painter, the grain elevator?”

That’s not good poetry, but from my adolescence through my early salad years I knew a lot of Rockcreek Everymen and women – a well driller, a mechanic, the drunk who would drive off the road and through my father’s fence every few years.  The man in the ’62 Chevy pickup who dug graves by hand.  The owners and their wives at the grain elevator/ feed stores at Grammer and Elizabethtown and the general stores in Grammer and Burnsville.  Grammer had a post office in the store.

These Everymen and women populated the general stores, the grain elevators, the churches and the roads.

And then there were the fraternal organizations.  The Freemasons in E’town and Alert.  The Odd Fellows Lodge in E’town.  The Red Man’s Lodge in Grammer.  They each had their own hall, and in every hall was a piano, and at every meeting of lodge or church or Farm Bureau someone would play the piano and lead the assembled Everymen and women through a song or two.

I knew these people.  Some of them I only knew as a boy knows the adults in his life, but I knew them, and they knew each other.  They knew each other’s cars and and trucks and what was sitting in each other’s back yards.

I knew them, but I didn’t like all of them.  They weren’t always nice.  They knew each other without everyone liking one another, and yet they would come together in meetings and sing.  No American Idols here, no solos or karaokes.  When they sang, they sang together.

One year my grandfather’s old Grammer Greys baseball team held a reunion.  Over three hundred people came, and my grandfather lead them through the song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”  I think of that now and I’m amazed; three hundred people gathered in a little grassy ex-schoolyard with really nothing in common except a loose association with a local baseball team forty years gone.

Today’s society encourages us to “like” one another.  We don’t know each other, but we’re urged to like each other.  We “like” our friends on facebook.  If our “friends” do something we don’t like, we “unfriend” them, it’s as simple as a tap of the keys.

Let me say this; “Like” is overrated.  A community stitched together with “likes” will blow apart in a light breeze  because “like” is so ephemeral.  It’s better to know someone, even if in knowing them you learn they have certain traits you don’t like.  Even if the people you know aren’t always nice.  The fabric of a community is woven together by knowing people, and that’s a difficult task in this day and age.  The general stores have been replaced with convenience stores where gas is “pay at the pump.”  The lodge halls and churches with their pianos are almost all gone.  Where can we go to meet and sing?