In the beginning . . .

I grew up in central Indiana farm country. We always lived in the country; mostly around the small town of Pendleton. We moved a couple of times, but stayed pretty close to 'home.' My dad worked at the factory for General Motors for over 30 years. We never moved because of his job. It was more for his avocation, than for his vocation, that we moved. He made a living at the factory, but boy, he loved farming! For many, many years he worked nights at the factory and farmed during the day. Eventually, he moved to third shift at the factory and went on farming during the day. He worked hard at night and worked hard during the day and didn't get a lot of sleep. For a few years he drove several miles from our house to the farm and back. Eventually, circumstances changed and we were able to move to the farm.  That made things a little easier for him; at least he didn't have to drive back and forth.

I think when we moved to the farm, I was in the seventh grade.  We moved to another farm on the other side of Pendleton a couple of years later. Actually, the owners of that farm were remodeling the house at the time we moved (forced) out of the first farm, so we moved to an interim location for about six months before we were able to move into the second farm.

But, the first house I remember living in, up until we moved to the first farm, sticks in my mind a little more than the others. We're talking early fifties to the early sixties. It had four rooms and an enclosed back porch off of the kitchen. The four rooms were the kitchen, a living room, my parents bedroom and the bedroom that my brothers and I slept in. That second bedroom had been two very small rooms that was converted into one.

Now, I don't know if you noticed or not, but I didn't mention a bathroom. That's because this house had two bedrooms and a 'path' instead of two bedrooms and a bath. Yep, that's right. Our facilities were outside. But, we did have a high-class path - a concrete sidewalk. The 'bathroom' was very cold in the winter, so you didn't go until you absolutely had to. It did have electricity, but that was only for the light that my dad installed so he could read.  He like to read while he was taking care of business. Then, during the summer . . . Ah, let's leave that one alone.

We had all of the comforts, though. We even had running water in the house. At first, it was only a hand pump on the back porch, but at least we didn't have to go outside and drop a bucket down the well for water. My dad eventually put in an electric pump (yes, we had electricity!) and piped it into the kitchen.

We took our baths in a washtub on the kitchen floor on Sunday evenings. Getting to be the first one in the tub was very desirable; three brothers used the same bath water. Last was not good! Of course, Pop always got fresh bath water. He weren't no fool.

Another thing I remember about that house was the telephone. It was one of those big wooden ones that hung on the wall with the crank on the right side and the 'receiver' hanging on the other side. We were on a 'party line' which means several households could listen to your conversation, and vice versa. When you got a call, the operator would signal you with your special ring: 'two longs rings and a short ring' - or something like that. Others had their special rings, too. So, every time the phone rang, it wasn't necessarily for you. When you wanted to make a call, you had to pick up the receiver, listen to see if anyone was using the phone, and if there wasn't, turn the crank to alert the operator that you wanted to make a call. Pendleton was a small town and technology was slow to reach out into the sticks. My parents had a party line well into the seventies. As you can imagine, with the wrong neighbors, this can be really inconvenient and a real pain.

We had an ancient barn right across the driveway from the house. It didn't have a single chip of lead paint on it and the wood was gray from age.  It leaned a little, too. It wasn't very pretty and was considered an 'eyesore'. We had a few sheep that made their home in the back end of the barn. The front end of the barn made a good storage space for anything that wouldn't be affected by the elements; it was anything but secure. And, if you went up the ladder, there was a 'hay mow' or 'hay loft'. There was a little hay up there, but I think it had been there for about a century. It was a good place for bumble bees to nest, as I remember. It did make a good playhouse, though. It certainly wasn't the safest place to play; in fact it could be pretty dangerous. Today, neighborhood groups would most certainly petition and protest until it was torn down. But, there weren't any neighborhood groups because there we didn't have any neighbors to form a group. Not close enough for us to see. At first, anyway. After a few years, there were, I think, five or six houses that went up down along the highway from us. I still don't remember any protests, though.

That's back when kids could play without knee and elbow pads and helmets. That's back when your play area wasn't sanitized; you picked up things off the ground, inspected them and maybe put them in your pocket for later on. That's back when you ate real fried chicken on Sunday and drank whole milk and ate butter at every meal. That's back when you rode the school bus over an hour each way and didn't think anything about it. That's back when kids got cuts and scratches and weren't rushed off to the emergency room. Moms put a little merthiolate or mercurochrome on it, pushed the kids back outside and warned them to be a little more careful. Please note that those two antiseptics are no longer approved by the FDA because they both contain mercury. Mercury! Oh my God! How did we survive all of that? No personal protection; just t-shirts, shorts and thin-soled canvas shoes to guard us against all of the dangers. No routine trips to the emergency room; just a little mercury poisoning and a shove back out the door! All of that would be unimaginable today. Unthinkable. Heck, I don't even remember seeing a dentist until I was in my early teens. And, you know what? I still have all of my teeth. Well, except for the two that the navy pulled before I went to Antarctica. And that was because of standard operating procedure, not because they were bad.

Well, that felt pretty good. I'm sure that's not all, and if any more of those old memories bubble to the surface, I may add another page or three.

But, for now, that's all. Thanks for stopping by.

Ken