“The earlier I rise, the faster I get to being behind’er,” was a comment I remember my great-Grandpa Charlie saying.
Still, he loved to be the first one up, driving his red Studebaker truck in the wee hours to our place. He loved to make a racket in the old milk house that sat near our home in hopes of waking his grandson, my dad, just to be able to say, “Hey, I beat you up this morning!”
Fifty years later, I think of his silly sayings and the great personality traits that passed down through him to people I have loved. It is often with humor we all find a way to deal with some harsh truths of “just the way it is.”
Not many years after Grandpa Charlie’s death in 1968, I remember sensing the simmering anger in our community. The farm Charlie had worked for years had been sold and re-sold. The woman who owned it decided it was time to sell.
The county was the new owner, and word got out that the farm was to become a landfill. Even though I was still just a kid, I remember getting bits and pieces of conversation filled with seething words from upset people.
One night I asked Dad to tell me his thoughts on it, because, as usual, he was a man of few words. If you didn’t ask, you’d likely never know.
“I know people are upset. I wish it didn’t have to be on that farm, a great place that holds a lot of memories for me. But, the farm was for sale to anyone who wanted to buy it. The county is the buyer. Landfills have to go somewhere, whether we like it or not.”
He went on to explain that neighborhood “dumps” had become a thing of the past almost overnight as society marched toward better regulation of what got pitched, and where.
Fast forward several decades.
The county closed the landfill and developed a plan that would benefit the people of the county in a whole different way. Named “Byers Woods” in honor of Ohio State Rep. Gene Byers, who, along with his wife, long-time Ashland County Commissioner Marilyn Byers, served our county and our state in many noble ways.
The county began transforming the landfill into a nature preserve with wildflowers, bird and wildlife sanctuaries and grassy hiking trails, and though it is now much different than it was in Grandpa Charlie’s day, it is lovely once again.
It is a great place for people to take their children, their dogs and their friends for a nice walk through nature. When I last walked the hiking trails of Byers Woods, I heard the laughter of children and the gleeful bark of their dog.
I thought of Grandpa Charlie once working that land with his horses, his dog always near, and I felt his joyful presence. If we don’t like the way things are, it is up to us to decide whether we fight it, improve it or accept it.
Like many things in life, much is decided for us. And as time unfolds, even events which might seem a terrible turn can evolve into something good. Though he had no way of seeing that at the time, I realize now this is what my dad was trying to say to me. Sometimes things turn out better than we could have ever envisioned.
Keep the faith. The world is revolving just as it should.
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