Saturday, February 19, 2011

A FEBRUARY GIFT

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.
———————     

14 comments:

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

Oh my - such a wonderful tribute to Roger and his life's work and shared wisdom about so much. I loved every word you wrote. :-)

And so too, your picture and words of a February warmth was delightful. It also described our day to a tee. I got outside for a while, a good long while and it was glorious.

We have a water issue going on - all the melting apparently found its way in via the back deck which has sunk four inches. There are huge LOUD fans running down stairs until Monday!!!! Hopefully, now that the deck is cleared of all the snow no more water will seep comes the insurance woes - the water loosened our Pergo floor in the kitchen, and got under the tiles in the down stairs bathroom. So........
Well, I guess that's all for now. Again, I SO Loved your tribute to Roger and it seems like the best of him has found its way in to you :-)

Cicero Sings said...

There is something to be said for the old ways - the knowing how to make something of nothing. The ingenuity that went into every day loving. Truly we are losing great treasures as these folk pass. My own mother is coming 97 in July and talks of driving 12 head if horses on a one way disk. I'm told she was a great driver. Oh and many other things they did to survive on the bald prairie.

-27c when I arose this morning in central BC - not even a glint of spring yet here.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Sorry to hear you have water problems, but maybe you've got them handled now. Winter, and these storms always takes a toll, sometimes well after the fact. Hope the damage wasn't too great or expensive. I know it can be.

Our weather is about to take a downturn—a "wintry mix" tomorrow, meaning snow, sleet, rain, and colder temperatures, though not really below freezing, so the snow shouldn't stick.

Thank you. Always. Take care.

Grizz………… said...

Cicero Sings…

We're to get another round of winter tomorrow. A little one. However, it won't prevail, not now. It will tease and disappoint, show us sun and mild temps one day, gray skies and cold the next, a little snow and sleet, a bit of rain. But it's all to be expected, and we've gotten a foretaste of where we're going. Spring is yonder, over that hill…and our course is set.

You're right about what we lose with the passing of each and every oldster—they are, indeed, our treasures. And when they're gone, treasures lost forever. I used to talk with my mother and hear so much firsthand of a way of life it's almost impossible for us to now imagine. She was 94 when she passed away. And her father—my grandfather—was born in 1874. I got to talk with him, too. Can you imagine what the country was like back then! They knew how to survive, because everything they had they made or grew or hunted.

It's 33˚F here right now, and a bright full moon shining beyond the window.

Tramp said...

In losing those who knew of days long past, it is so easy to lose contact of what is part of what we are. My parents were a lot older than me, they lived through two world wars. I think of it as part of being a parent and grandparent to pass on some of what they told me. I so regret not talking more with them about their early memories.
Have a good week.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog, Grizz, and joining with me in mutual remembrance of our mothers. It seems both our mums shared the same birth month and passed away within six months of each other. The things I have of hers - books, journals, photo albums, pictures, ornaments and various knick-knacks - are priceless to me.

I'm sad for you about your friend Roger. I appreciate where he came from very much - as I think you know, my father was a miller and corn merchant, my aunt kept pigs, hens and dairy cows, and some of my cousins are farmers. I was born too late for horse-drawn ploughs, but I do remeber traction engines powering stationary threshing machines. And some of my sharpest memories are of calves and piglets being born, of collecting freshly-laid eggs, and of picking wild mushrooms.

Joan said...

So sorry for your loss. Deepest Sympathies.

Grizz………… said...

Tramp…

Yes, much as I talked with Mom and Dad, and my maternal grandparents who lived just up the street—I'd give anything to hear again so much that I've now forgotten in detail, or to ask better questions…to let them teach me things I now want to learn or understand.

Youth can be so shallow sometimes; growing older you look for depth. I wish I'd been better at this, and I regret what I've forever lost.

Be well, my friend.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

I treasure my keepsakes of Mom and Day and their families, too. I often come across something of theirs which triggers things—a memory or smell, a sound or feeling…maybe a moment of my own future shaping, now perfectly obvious.:"Ahh, that's why I like that, or do this. That's where I got it!"

I also try to fit myself into their time and place, into the life they lived—and if I'm being honest, I'm not sure I could have done half the job they accomplished on many fronts.

Grizz………… said...

Joan…

I didn't know him as well as I've have liked, but our paths crossed fairly regularly. I'll miss Roger.

Thank you…

deb colarossi said...

spectacular photo.

sorry about your Roger, and I agree with your words. We celebrated my FIL 86th bday yesterday , and it really does boggle the mind to think of the long long full life.

Grizz………… said...

deb colarossi…

Thank you…and you're right, it's almost impossible to really grasp the life reality of someone who's age is nearing the century mark. We see it in terms of a historical view, while they simply lived it in all it myriad details.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Thinking of you, with the loss of your friend. Today is the 4th anniversary of my husbands passing and the world is a poorer place without him in it...same goes without saying about your friend, too.

Grizz………… said...

Teri…

I'm sure four brief years since losing your husband seems like only yesterday in many ways. I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you're doing okay. Times heals, somewhat—but only by degrees, And in many ways the actual void becomes worse. The heart that loved simply cannot cope completely with loss.