Garden Road - January 27, 2015 Many years ago, as my brother Grant and I were driving on a country road somewhere along the Iowa and Missouri border, he lamented the number of abandoned houses small farm families once occupied. Multi-flower rose bushes choked grass where children once played, where grandparents sat under the Linden shade and drank iced tea. Broken windows with clouded glass, roofs greened by moss and molding, gravity and erosion piling bricks from chimneys and fireplaces into mounds. Now the falling beams and sugar maples that grew in those yards get bulldozed, making the countryside appear even more ugly and empty, like a humid desert or the thin air above the tree line of a mountain or the Arctic Circle. There seems to be a concerted effort to make Wayne County look like Nebraska, often by people who do not live here (my apologies to Nancy Hamar and other wonderful Nebraskans—there are certainly beautiful vistas of our western neighbor, but the flat landscape the interstate system follows is not so gracious to weary travelers). Sometimes the rafters and gnarled roots of these pioneer farmsteads get buried, other times they are left aboveground to rot. They are home to nothing. Jan 26, 2015, 09:08
Garden Road - January 20, 2015 In third grade, my best friend was Travis Poston, the grandson of the late Dode Poston. His other grandfather is Bob Ludington, whose son Logan was the last baby that my great-grandfather Doc Ingraham delivered. After Travis moved away, we still got together to play, often at the Ludington farm, where there were rows of old vehicles to explore and mice to send out on ships across a cattle pond. We made up new episodes of Star Wars one snowy weekend, before we knew George Lucas had more movies in mind. As Jennifer and I raise our first child, Wes, we understand why some parents told us you have to run young boys like dogs. All we had to do, when we lived on the farm, was release Wes into the yard and everything was mended, he was free to use all of his energy in a mostly appropriate manner. I imagine, now, our parents setting up these play dates the way they would arrange their dogs to socialize. Jan 19, 2015, 09:01
Garden Road - January 13, 2015 First off, I would like to acknowledge the passing of Bernita Leazer. Among other items, she donated her red toy tractor to Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon last year, and reported its story to me for an April article. Eighty years after the Great Depression, the little tractor’s tale found its way to print thanks to a tip from one of my readers. Small details are important and normally underappreciated, like the chipped paint of a metal toy. Without them, our lives would be blank statistics. It’s the difference between two dimensions and three dimensions, between reading a textbook and visiting the museum, where you can view the tractor under a glass case.
Jan. 3 would have been my grandfather Paul Jackson’s 100th birthday. He passed in 1996. In 1994, our family gathered at the Civic Center in Allerton to celebrate with my grandpa. It was a snowy afternoon. Thick flakes fell peacefully to gather in the street. Northeast of the civic center, in the 1980s, there was once a café with arcade games in the backroom. In ’94, Allerton still had the older Christmas ornaments that I remember as circular and somewhere between orange and red. The weather and the family gathering made it feel like Christmas. I recall the cold seats of the folding chairs that were normally stored behind the coat racks at the front window. For some reason, I remember that, but no snippets of conversation. I don’t remember how my grandpa looked or how he was dressed, or if I told him happy birthday. He might have been wearing one of the ties that my mother sewed into a decorative Christmas stocking after he passed away, the same ties that brushed my face if I hid in his closet during hide-and-seek. Jan 12, 2015, 12:46
Garden Road - January 6, 2015 My daughter Jasmine went to her first funeral last week. I rocked her in her car seat during the service, and she slipped away peacefully to slumber and whatever dreams occupy a five-month-old infant’s mind.
The funeral was for my wife Jennifer’s classmate at Chariton, Sarah Edwards McFarland, who died unexpectedly and tragically on Christmas Eve. She was the mother of three children. She was only 35-years-old. The family placed presents in the casket meant to be opened by Sarah on Christmas day—‘to Mom, from kids.’ As a registered nurse, Sarah also wore her nametag. A caregiver, she worked her last shift that morning. Jennifer was once only a few hours away from earning her CNA while employed with Sarah at the Chariton Manor. The work came effortlessly for Sarah, but not so much for Jennifer. Jennifer knew it was not what she was meant to do with her life; people like Sarah were born to help others selflessly. Jan 5, 2015, 09:53
Garden Road - December 30, 2014 With my second year at the 'Times-Republican' complete, I sit for a moment on a muddy Christmas Eve reflective, pondering the words that came before and will come afterward. After the rain stopped falling, a swath of snow crossed Iowa and made it feel more like the holidays, if only for a few last minutes before the sun returned. It will be a new day soon. The year has worn itself out like an old coat, covered in leaves, flaked bark and dirt. Sometimes it’s better when things are frozen. My parents are tired of their beagles’ soiled paws forming a history of everywhere the dogs have traveled within the house, from kitchen to carpet to sofa. A line of debris is accumulating in our home, where I step onto the linoleum and take off my shoes after work. There are layers of stratus to this mud, like in the Grand Canyon, that scientists are currently studying to see how long it’s been since I’ve cleaned the office. Dec 29, 2014, 09:22