Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going to the Mail Box....

Going to the mail box has always been a big deal for a farm family. I remember the joy of walking to the Goreville mailbox as a child when we spent summers at Mount Airy Farm. Dust would splash up from the road on my bare feet and as high as my knees as I walked the long lane to await our mail carrier D.P. Jones. It was fun to plop and see how high I could make the dust rise.

If he had not already deposited the mail and gone on, there would be a friendly word or two from Mr. Jones. It was a very good break in the day. In addition to the newspaper, sometimes there were letters from my mother’s sisters or from my girl friend Bobbie Jo. Occasionally there were books that Daddy ordered from the state library system for us to read.

Later as a farm wife, I enjoyed getting long letters from former classmates or friends from other places we'd lived. When our kids went off to college and careers, I would look forward to their letters and photos of their new experiences. Now, however, they write us emails. That is good. But it diminishes the importance of the mailbox. With people writing fewer and fewer personal letters these days, it is nice to have a reason to check the mail for something other than bills and junk mail.

One of the good things about being a writer is that you have a reason to look forward to receiving mail. If you have sent out a manuscript, there is always the possibility that the post person will bring you an acceptance. Of course, too often what is brought is one more rejection letter. But the heart always hopes for good news. And the excitement of that daily drama of what the mail will bring is definitely a pleasant plus in the isolated life of writer.

Because Gerald has been serving as treasurer for our college-era Baptist Student Union group, we have been getting lots of letters back saying that people are coming or can’t come to our annual reunion that Helen Gallaway plans for us. That too has been a reason to check the mail box.

Tomorrow evening we will all gather for soup at Herrin First Baptist Church and reminisce and laugh at our college memories as well as laugh at Helen’s rapid repartee. Friends will be coming home with us to spend the night, and we’ll catch up on what is happening in their lives. Then we will go back to Herrin on Friday for more fun and fellowship, beautiful music, worship, and finally after a noon banquet, the sad farewells.

Fortunately, Christmas is coming, and our mailbox will soon be filled once again with greetings from those same old-time friends and many others. And who knows, there might even be a $20 check for a manuscript someday!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Day of Summer and the Beans Are in the Bin

Soybean dust hung over the empty fields like misty fog this evening in cooling air. Barren fields stretching into the horizon are a welcome sight to a farm family.

As Gerald and I drove by Wayside Farm on the way home from Geri Ann’s ball game, we had to appreciate the joy of having a crop safely gathered this early on the last day of summer. (I guess this was the last day of summer--one source said tomorrow is.)

Combines, tractors, trucks, augers, and wagons surrounded the one grain bin that Brian has there. Even the machinery looked pleasantly tired and relaxed to have the job completed as though they were circling round to celebrate a victory.

Gerald was delighted with Phil Anderson’s huge combine with its 30-foot head that contained not an auger but a conveyer belt instead. Beans will be less damaged. He could not resist an invitation for a short ride on the huge beast when Phil moved it out of the way of an incoming smaller combine.

I waited in the car and thought of past harvests that often ended on Thanksgiving Day or beyond. We have known harvests in fields so muddy the combines had to have tracks to keep from sinking. Gerald has harvested in corn fields flattened by icy weather. Brian and Mary Ellen said at the first of this season that they knew this might be the bad year for them--all farmers have them eventually. They were trying to be prepared.

They still know that eventually they will experience that bad weather. Many did this year. Brian had his crops out early, and the right weather breaks came. Today we saw the end of the harvest of the best crops ever grown on our farm. Brian’s hard work and good management paid off again. When that bad year comes and it will, he will be that much more ready for it.

We were already in a celebratory mood after seeing Johnston City Middle School win its regional tourney and earn the right to advance to the downstate “state” tourney at Pinckneyville a week from tomorrow. The skill with which these girls play is so exciting to watch. Almost unbelievable at times. Gerald's brother Ken was seeing Geri Ann pitch for the first time this season. He was amazed and compared her to someone he knew at an Air Force base over 50 years ago--not someone he expected to see at a grade school game.

Each game demonstrates an increase in individual player’s talent as well as an increase in team work. The girls’ hard work and good management of their lives paid off again. If and when a bad time comes, they will be confident in the knowledge that they have worked hard, excelled, and deserve to respect themselves no matter what happens next.

Having Ken with us was a special reason for joy and celebration. His color and energy have returned, and his head that was balded by the chemo now displays generous wavy hair.

Next day: I was wrong that the crops were completely harvested. Mary Ellen showed up down at Woodsong to borrow a tool for Brian this morning. While I did my hair and make-up for an appointment, we had a hurried visit in my bedroom, and I found out that there were still 20 acres of beans to harvest in a back field. That was accomplished early in the day, and the good dry weather let Gerald continue working on his ditch cleaning project.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cooler Weather

T’was loverly to wake up to cool weather this morning. Our lake was clouded with the steam rising from the water. Autumn is on its way.

By the time we got to the Benton softball field at 4:30, however, it was plenty hot with the sun coming straight into our eyes as the visiting fans faced west. It was hot Tuesday at Carterville also--the sun really baked the back of our lawn chairs that day as we faced east. And yesterday at Johnston City was not much better facing north. We hope the conference tourney up at Sesser this weekend will be cooler no matter what direction we face.

I won’t get to go to the tourney on Saturday, for I will be at the Writers Guild table at the Women’s Health Conference with Sharon Robinson, Pat Evans, and others as we sell our Guild’s anthologies and as authors sell their books. As so often happens, I would like to be two or three people. I would love to be able to attend the wonderful sessions at the conference as well as also be at Sesser at the tourney watching Geri Ann pitch.

Today’s game was a bummer. For some reason, the Benton coaches decided to not use their best pitcher. Or at least that is what we were told by our lawn chair neighbors when we arrived a little late. They also told us our other pitcher had been hit and had a bump the size of a softball on her forehead! (We were late because Gerald had been helping his brother figure his corn yields that Garry started harvesting in the Mississippi bottoms today.) Even with Johnston City putting in plenty of substitutes, the score was 20 to 0 in three innings.

I realize that often a fan does not understand why decisions are made as they are. But it was disappointing to drive all the way to Benton and expect to have a team play their best and instead to be embarrassed by such a lopsided score even if it was in our favor. Ah well.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Friends Make the World Go Around

Ever since Gerald and I spent part of our 50th wedding anniversary celebration at the Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown and learned about the Shawnee Queen River Boat Taxi, which operates on the Ohio River, we have wanted to ride it. We’d taken our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy down to the floating river restaurant months ago, but the taxi shuts down in November and wasn’t available. So we talked about going on a ride this summer.

With this summer rapidly drawing to a close, we were afraid to postpone that desired trip much longer. Bill and Mickey could go today and so could we; we made reservations. When we woke up at Woodsong with rain, we called and asked if the taxi would operate. They assured us that only lightning or dangerous winds would shut them down for weather reasons. The Tweedys were not getting rain in Cobden, so we decided they’d come on as planned and we would re-evaluate after they got to Woodsong. We decided a little rain would not hurt us--the taxi has a roof--and the rain was very sporadic.

After enjoying a beautiful drive through the hills, we walked through sprinkles and ate a fish sandwich at the river restaurant right beside one of the docks that the taxi comes to as it makes its scheduled stops at the various Ohio River towns.

As we excitedly boarded the nearly full boat being cautious about the slick floor, a woman asked if she did not know me. We had a quick conversation before I had to sit down when the boat began traveling. We determined that we both occasionally attended the Union County Writers Group in Anna.

Next I looked up and saw a high school classmate of Gerald’s. Mickey saw a friend from Union County also. We settled in for our ride to enjoy the lovely misty atmosphere of the river on a rainy day.

Later we were to learn that all these Union County folks were with a group from Anna Heights Baptist Church. When their tour was completed and they began moving off at Rosiclare (I think it was), yet another woman said she thought she knew me. I did not recognize her and there was no time for guessing games. Tell me who you are, I said.

To my amazement, the woman was Phyllis Farris Boshera, whom I probably had not seen for 50 to 60 years. We had gone to grade school together for eight years, and we’d gone to each other’s houses after school to play.

Every time I used cross the former bridge that went over the railroad track as you left Jonesboro, I would think of Phyllis with some envy and awe. That bridge had a sidewalk beside the highway, and a concrete railing with probably 10 or 12 inches flat top. Brave little Phyllis would walk on top of that concrete railing. (She said today how good it was her parents never found that out!) I was too much of a scaredy-cat for such heroics, but I was impressed with her courage.

I also admired her baseball expertise. I was terrible and no one wanted me on their recess team. They solved the problem by letting Phyllis take my third strike each time I batted. (I never got on before that third strike.) She was well trained in baseball by older brothers. Humiliated that I could not bat for myself, I would run as fast as my short legs would carry me, which was not very fast, and was usually put out before reaching first base despite Phyllis’ hit. The fact that I never resented her taking my third strike despite my embarrassment spoke well of her kindness and generosity as well as her batting ability.

How wonderful to see a friend from so long ago. And how wonderful to spend the day chumming with Bill and Mickey. The icing on the cake was seeing Kathy Phelps’ gift shop-garden sign at her Pankeyville home, and my traveling companions being willing to stop and let me visit her amazing gardens to see the fairy lands, plants, butterflies, fossils, rocks, and multiple wonders for children to come and enjoy. I left with three of Kathy's hand-bound beautiful children’s nature books, an activity packet Kathy gave me, seeds for a plant to attract hummingbirds, and a piece of lovely blue florspar for Mickey.