My family gathered around Dad’s dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner. After lingering over the trimmings, we talked about walking off some of our over-indulgence. Before I left home, I tucked my old walking shoes in a plastic grocery bag and stuck them in the back of the car with high hopes for a hike.
November is often too chilly and damp for a walk outside, but the weather proved to be a pleasant change this Thanksgiving. By the time we’d finished our mid-afternoon meal, the sun was dropping and so was the temperature, but the unseasonably warm day still beckoned.
Stepping off the yards between house and barn, my nose told me that Mark had lit a pipe, something he seldom does (at least around me). I was ready to turn around and go back in the house. After all, I’d come outside to enjoy fresh air.
I tried to remember all the passages I’d read in books about the pleasure of a smoke after a good meal, hoping they would help me rationalize away my distaste for the prospect of a smoke-filled stroll, but they didn’t. When Mark asked casually which direction we should go, I wasted no time in snapping that I didn’t care as long as I was upwind and nowhere near him.
Tobacco enthusiasts, here’s where you need to sympathize with my husband. Though smoke is bad for my asthma, I concede that if I’m permitted to savor a chocolate treat most nights, Mark certainly should be allowed to enjoy an occasional bowl of tobacco.
We set out across barren corn fields. Picked, cleared, and ready to plow next spring, neighbors from a few miles away rent the fields. It’s disheartening to see the old farm less productive than it once was. Ground that was planted with my great grandpa’s apple orchard is now scrubby and overgrown. The old apple trees we played on as kids are rotten and mostly gone.
After the orchard was let go, part of the land was fenced for pasture and Uncle Byron, who lived not far up “our” Morris Road, brought part of his cattle over from his farm. I watched his cows come in for feed and water from our supper table as I grew up. Now, the fences are gone; no cows to keep and no one who will keep them.
Both farms, my uncle’s and ours, were part of an official section of Ohio that Thomas Jefferson signed to the Morris family in the 1800s. I’m guessing all of it has been sold outside the family now except for these 50-some acres where I grew up.Although I usually try to be open minded to change, it makes me sad and a little scared.
I think of all the barns I drive past that are in disrepair, some falling in. I know it has been costly for my Dad to maintain our old barn, and though it is his garage, stores his firewood, and sheltered his motor home for a time, it is no longer an efficient building for the purposes it serves.
I looked back at the beautiful old barn from the field. Always a part of my life, it carries a special majesty for me. Its hand-hewed strength represents an agricultural way of life for my family that has broken down over time, much like the barn itself. I don’t imagine my girls will remain connected to this place years from now. Should I be playing a more active part in closing this chapter of history gracefully?
One thing I’m truly sure of is feeling I’m home when I’m here. On this farm, I find a sense of security and peace like no other place. Added to the many other blessings I noted on the holiday, what a marvelous thing to be thankful for.
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