“My father was born in the small Midwestern town of Mansfield, Ohio, just at the turn of the century when the great industrial revolution had begun to sweep ponderously, but with deadly certainty, over the land, changing everything forever. Yet he never loved the town. It was the Ohio wild country, still lush and green and a little untamed, that he loved; the country into which his ancestors had walked from beyond the Alleghenies a century before to lay claim to what was then the new land.”
— Ellen Bromfield Geld, The Heritage
When our daughter Caroline was young, she often told us how she wished we could live in the city. I wondered many times if this is where she was drawn, and if her adult life would place her in Chicago or Tampa or San Diego, requiring a plane ticket to visit. At 26, she now lives in a busy part of a nearby town, often awakened by a helicopter landing on the roof of a nearby hospital, or ambulance sirens and the general sounds that never stop. She now has a desire to be back in the country.
Perhaps the love of a quiet place is born in to our soul, and keeps us tranquil even in a crazy world.
Hollywood helped to make writer Louis Bromfield a rich man, but his childhood homeland on the sweeping hills of Richland County’s Malabar Farm is where he longed to be.
“Then I pushed open the door and walked into the smell of cattle and horses and hay and silage and I knew that I had come home and that never again would I be long separated from the smell because it meant security and stability and because in the end, after years of excitement and wandering and adventure, it had reclaimed me. It was in the blood and could not be denied,” Louis Bromfield writes.
For me, I learned to enjoy the sights and the scents of the farm world as a kid, while spending a childhood working on a family farm. Dad made it clear we all were in it together, and we all would reap the rewards of sweat equity.
I remember very early one morning in the dairy barn watching the sun rise, when the surprising sight of a doe deer and a baby fawn caught my eye. I quietly motioned to my dad, and we stood and watched the two until a sound startled the doe in to a sprint, the fawn trailing on wobbly legs.
“See, if we were still in bed like most people, we would have missed it!” Dad said, his excitement contagious.
Though deer sightings became much more common later, this was a rare thing at that time.
I never stopped thinking of it as a gift, and working alongside my Dad brought many such things: finding an arrowhead in a newly-worked field, rescuing baby bunnies from a certain demise, spotting bubbling quicksand in a deep water ditch so far off the beaten path it felt other-worldly.
He said there was no greater gift than his children and their children, and raising them on a farm provides the great opportunity to raise children right, with respect and responsibility and a joy in work from an early age.
Today, this early morning hour, I think of my Dad on his birthdate, gone from us but always close in our thoughts. He was a good steward of the land, teaching us lessons we did not even know we were learning.
We are learning, still. How different life would be if he were still here with us; how important it is to carry on in a way that would make him smile with pride, as we proudly build a farm of our own.
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