I have an old iron bell from my folks' farm where I grew up, and where my paternal grandparents lived before that. There's no reason I would need a farm bell. There are no men in the field awaiting its ring to dinner 'round the threshing table.
But I like it because it reminds me of such scenes from farms of old.
For years after it left Dad's barn, it sat in first one garage, then another, until finally I asked our friend Monty Foust to post it in our backyard. I like it there and wonder why we didn't raise it sooner. It does require a bit of maintenance. It had been painted silver once, for what reason I can't guess, and I painted it black. Now it needs a good touching up a couple times a year, most notably, after the winter months. Most notably, now.
But its fresh coat will have to wait a while. Things are pretty busy inside that bell. A few weeks ago I noticed that a family called Robin had claimed squatters' rights by building a nice little home there, sheltered sweetly by the protective shell of iron. I've stayed out of Mrs. Robin's way, observing from the window that she's been spending a lot of time maintaining her new digs which she decorated beautifully with found bits of dried grass and straw.
Some years robins nest in ferns on our back porch, but I don't have the plants up yet. One year a front-door wreath hosted a family. When the family sets up housekeeping in an eye-level fern or on my front door, I take the liberty of carefully peeking into the nest. Never touching, mind you.
Sometimes the tiny birds mistook me for their mother and opened their mouths wide, only to be briefly disappointed that I couldn't deliver a juicy worm. But soon, their mother swooped in and picked up the tab for lunch.
This bell is too high and I might do great damage to the family dynamic if I got out a ladder. So I watch from afar and was rewarded while ago when I saw a tiny head lift toward the heavens and a mouth eagerly await a to-go order.
Soon enough, the cozy nest will no longer suffice, and the birds will wing away, as birds and boys do, and their mother will do something else with her time besides deliver lunch and cuddle with them.
Meanwhile, here's to you, Mrs. Robin. Enjoy your family. Stop by again next year if you want.
It’s a treat whenever my friend Sandy, a farmer's wife, can get away from the joys of retirement long enough to squeeze me in for lunch at Café Royal in New Castle.
I love to hear about her life on the farm, about her horses, her granddaughter Carly, about Mike, her farmer husband, a retired school-bus-driver.
Even though unlike me, Sandy is tall and blond, beautiful and inspiring, sometimes I think in other ways we were separated at birth. We can talk for an hour without taking a breath and it feels like five minutes.
Yesterday she brought me a treat: a bag brimming with a dozen beautiful ears of yellow sweet corn, crisp and tender, delicious and perfect. Once we finished lunch, I rushed off toward work while she got an iced-tea refill. I had forgotten her request: Remind her not to forget to get the corn out of her vehicle.
Back at the newspaper office, I noticed someone pulled in beside me at about the same moment I did. It was Sandy with the forgotten sweet corn! I put the cobs in the seat beside me so that I didn’t forget them again once I got home.
The funny thing was, I couldn’t forget about that corn. Instead, I thought of little else.
Corn reminds me of my dad. Some joke about Indiana corn with a slogan that cajoles, “There’s more than corn in Indiana.” Or people say they live in the middle of a cornfield as though that’s a bad or boring thing.
When I told Brian last night I planned to devote my next blog to corn, he groaned, adding that only I would write about something as corny as, well, corn. He suggested a two-part series: Corn and Beans.
This morning on the way to work, I stopped along the road near Shenandoah High School for some photos of corn growing in the field. I looked closely at that healthy stand of Hoosier gold and I saw, in my mind's eye, my dad. So many things change but corn and my dad take me back. Back home. OK, back home again.
I think of that particular gold color, ears of field corn in the fall that are the exact shade of a school bus. And how the buses are back in action and that too, reminds me of him as much as do the corn stalks standing so straight and uniform in the morning sun and dew.
Then I realized with a start that my father has been gone for 25 years this summer. How can that be? He’d had advanced Alzheimer’s disease for a while but still, the July he passed, his death came as a shock, as death always does.
His natural habitat was our big, old barn. He was many things: A beef, corn and soybean farmer, a school-bus driver for 32 years, an artist, an inventor, a guy who could figure out how to fix anything, a seller of Lincoln Arc Welders on the side, and a repairman for dairy refrigeration operations besides. He could play a violin, roller skate with the best of them, shoot a basketball, kill you at croquet. He could, in my mind, do anything. He was king of his little slice of rural kingdom.
But for today, I think of my father the farmer and how we would drive around the country roads to check on the crops, and in those moments, and many others, how I knew to my core how much I loved our farm, and how lucky I was to be that farmer’s daughter.
So Sandy and Mike Moore: thanks for the beautiful ears of corn. And Dad: thanks for the memories.
I’ll be passing through Union County tomorrow. I may have to leave the house early. I may have to take the back roads to get there. Just so I can watch the corn grow.
I guess you know you are a farm girl at heart when you look forward to a barn festival and tour of southern-Indiana barns. And all the better when you get to take the tour with a van load of like-minded gal pals.
That's the plan for Saturday, Oct. 3, and I thought if you are a farm-geek like me, you might want to know about the doings. A bunch of interesting barns are on tour in Madison and Switzerland counties from 9-5 tomorrow. Some are drive bys, and others, I think you can go inside. Then at 5, just outside of Madison, there's the grand finale, farm style, it's a Barn Fest, with food, music and more. I wonder what they mean by "and more?" A hoe-down? A shindig? Guess we'll find out. Yee-haw.
Check out the Indiana Barn Foundation on Facebook for details about the festival. (Scroll down; they curiously don't have it as the lead post). Basically, you'll need to slip by the Switzerland County or Madison (city, not county) tourism bureaus to pay a small fee for directions and addresses and you are off.
As for the photo with this post, it's my late grandfather, Roscoe Jobe, with his draft horses. This is one of, if not my very favorite old family photo. For one thing, Roscoe looks exactly like my own father, and for another, the photo is taken in front of the barn that was on our farm all of my growing up years. It's still there today.
I never knew Roscoe -- he passed on before I was born -- but Dad spent countless hours in that barn. It was, I suppose, his office, so to speak. I always found something comforting about seeing the barn lights aglow at night, spreading yellow light across the barnyard evenings when he was working late welding something that broke or doing whatever it was he did in his special domain.
When I think of Dad, I see him in his barn. In this barn.
I came along when we had tractors, not work horses. I would have loved to have seen and known them. But now, it's all part of Indiana farm history, not the way things are today.
But tomorrow, we'll take a tour of the way things were. Can't think of a better way to spend an October Saturday. Maybe if you don't have anything else on your plate, you'll join us; we'll offer up a friendly howdy-do wave as we pass you on the back roads.
It's a rural thing, you know.