|Yesterday's warm late-afternoon sun bathes the upper half of the big |
sycamore near my drive. And just look at that gorgeous blue sky!
You couldn't have asked for a nicer afternoon yesterday. Certainly not in Ohio in mid-February! This is, after all, barely past the midpoint of winter. Yes, we're over the hump and now on the downhill slide towards spring, picking up speed every day; but we've still got more than month to go until we reach official spring—that is, spring according to the calendar. Any Buckeye with a lick of sense or experience knows better than to think such man-made devices have the slightest influence whatsoever on our seasons…especially that demarcation between winter and spring.
Which is why yesterday's latter half was all the more appreciated. Though the morning was unseasonably warm, the sky was thickly overcast. But by mid-afternoon, gray skies had given way to clear blue—a rich, deep, saturated blue, with nary a cloud to be seen. A sky which might have come straight from mid-October. Along with the 58˚F temperature, a sky that had me out scanning the wooded banks for any green hint of an early wildflower.
I didn't find much—a few green shoots, the occasional tiny leaf. Maybe the precursor to a bloom, maybe not. No matter. I had the afternoon and the sunlight varnishing the big sycamore in the yard, the gabble of geese on the river, the fecund smell of warming earth and rotting leaves and vernal awakenings. And later that evening when I took Moon-the-Dog out for her final mosey before heading to bed, a glittering treasure of stars in the crisp night sky and a big full moon in gleaming platinum watching me and the dog, its scintillating highlights catching and shimmering in the river.
* * *
A fellow I've known and occasionally worked with for more than thirty years passed away at his home last Saturday and was buried yesterday. Roger was a lifelong farmer for all his 87 years, a man of the tilled land who could tell you everything you'd ever want to know about growing corn and soybeans, winter wheat, raising cattle or hogs. He knew the intricacies of plowing and planting, fertilizing, harvesting, storing—even selling your produce and livestock. He could talk about grass waterways and wire fences, barns and tractors and all the fancy high-tech machinery modern farmers employ to work their vast fields. But Roger's depth of rural skills stretched all the way back to the days when men worked their fields with teams of horses, and later to steam-powered implements. He'd been there when farmers shocked their cut corn, cut their long rows of golden hay with a scythe, and butchered their own meat. And for many years, working for the county Soil & Water Conservation District, he passed this valuable store of knowledge along to countless others.
He was "one of the old boys," as my dearly departed friend Frank—an old boy, himself—would have put it. Frank knew Roger, too. By their standards I'll have to live a few more decades before I'm entitled to be an "old boy." But I'll never live long enough to know all they knew. Men like Frank and Roger, whose experience stretches from today's world of digital all the way back to the horse and buggy days, were historical bridges, the closest thing we'll ever have to time travel. It's one thing to read about a bygone era—and quite another to talk with those who lived in it.
Sadly, with each passing year, fewer and fewer of these wonderful and valuable "old boys" remain.