The word, home, has the most comforting sound to it for me, probably because I am a confirmed homebody after living an earlier part of my life in seventeen different places in six different states. Even then, I tried to make a home out of every place I lived. As I like to tell, I surreptitiously planted onions and radishes in the landscaping around my college dorm. But as soon as I could manage it, I came back to the scenes of my childhood. That meant that my wife could not go back to her childhood home and I am forever grateful that she went along with my yearning.
Unlike Carol’s home farm which disappeared under a subdivison, mine remains miraculously somewhat the same as it was a hundred years ago. Carol and I returned to this home area forty years ago, and, except for the fences that had disappeared as small fields of yesterday were turned into the bigger fields of today, the lay of the land was about the same and still is. The fields are occupied and farmed by my siblings and we were able to go together and buy the woodlots and some fields around the farm. So I can go to the place east of the barn where I was disking ground at age 16 and see almost the same landscape of field, stream, pasture, and woodland that so pleasured me that long ago June day. I was singing “How Are Things In Glocca Morra” (still about my favorite song) and thought that I was the luckiest person in the world. I have theorized that maybe I was high on exhaust gases from the tractor muffler that stuck up in my face. But whatever, no view of ocean, mountain, plain or canyon in the whole United States has ever filled me with that much joy. Good old home.
I suppose it can be true of urban places too, but when home is a farm and you are there every day as a child, without the knowledge of any other place to distract you, it takes on a special preciousness that never goes away. That’s why so many of us eventually come home to put down roots. Even when writers and singers and painters go away from their childhood farm homes, they often write, sing and paint those places all the rest of their lives.
Not so long ago, lying in a hospital bed, I decided to recreate the old fence lines of the home farm in my head (I live two miles from it now), walking along each fence boundary in my imagination. I was surprised how well I knew them, how many acres were in each field, and how many details I could remember. Even more vivid were little adventures and happenings that occurred in various places in those fields that I had almost forgotten. I can take you to almost the exact spot where as a child I fell off the plow beam. My father had allowed me to ride there as he held fast to the plow handles while our horses, Bell, Flora and Daisy pulled the one-bottom plow. There was little danger involved but the fall scared me exceedingly which is probably why I remember it.
As I walked across the land mentally, I recalled little incidences of my life all over the place, like specific spots where I had found my best Indian artifacts. Where fields edged up to tree groves, I remembered where I had found morel mushrooms. And right about there in the pasture above the creek was where our dog, Brownie, tried to bury a rabbit that was not quite dead yet, much to my boyhood amazement. And over there in the creek, a raccoon almost drowned Brownie. And just upstream from there was the big elm where Dad hung a hay rope so we could swing across the creek. And there behind where my sister’s house stands now once stood a big strawstack that all the farmers roundabout helped build. I still can see my cousin, Adrian, on top of the stack, shaping it up, a red bandana over his nose to keep from breathing in too much chaff. I imagined him being a cowboy, maybe Tom Mix.
Home places. They turn the mind into the most wondrous scrapbook of historical pictures and stories that seldom get published.