Change and memories in southern Indiana
August 11, 2012 9:38PM
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:10AM
The bell hangs there in silent retirement, maybe remembering those for whom it tolled when men and horses worked near home, waiting for the signal to come in to drink, eat and rest.
It was called the dinner bell because in the place of my childhood, dinner was at noon and supper was served at night.
Now, as we turn into the driveway of my late brother’s farmhouse, it seems to welcome us. We are home again.
I have claimed irrevocable rights of visitation — maybe, I think, it is more like the rites of visitation because each visit is special.
My niece, who lives a 7-iron shot away down a path through the cornfield, keeps the house ready for family pilgrims. The family link is solid. No credit card is necessary.
A dramatic, perhaps a despoiling change is plowing through southern Indiana, although some may call it progress. Men and machines are digging their way south, building an extension to Indiana 69. Like a glacier, these diggers are moving southward to somewhere near Evansville — a highway that will leave some small places behind and create money-making opportunities for others who will be close to exits and entrances.
I am startled to see, on the eastern edge of Elnora, an overpass, making space for the new road. Some little local roads are closed temporarily while the big project is digging its way south. This invasion of men and machines brings few cheers from folks where I grew up.
The dry weather has scorched some of the corn and other crops, and left rural lawns brown and comatose. Driving anywhere in Indiana reminds us that this season of heat does not play favorites.
I look at the familiar fields where I worked and it strikes me that despite the lengthening years since I called that area home, it still is a familiar scene. Maybe it is like some time-lapse photography, seen over and over. In my memory, time seems to stand still and I can remember the fun places, the sound of the dinner bell, and then the birth of tractors and machines that changed the face of farm work.
Even the road diggers cannot build bypasses that will erase the pictures in my head and heart.
I think, as I watch the sun rise and hear the bleating of the goats that are kept here by the farmer who works the property, that this land will survive much like it is even in the relentless march of time, and the building of a new highway. That is comforting.
The goats? In the fenced barn-meadow area, a dozen or so of those funny animals look me over as I say good morning. After a few bleats, they decide that I am nothing special and they leave to look for food and drink. These guys are not like the mythical billy goats that eat tin cans and do other crazy stuff. These are, well, refined, and each one wears a collar with its name. The kids are cute.
There is money in goats, I hear. A few years back, my brother had sheep, and before that some cattle.
A short hike from the house, a little pond suffers from an awful thirst. A picnic table nearby adds atmosphere, but it cannot bring solace to that suffering pond.
As we leave, I think that many others who grew up on farms have fond memories too, but some may not be old enough to remember the dinner bell. Going home, even if only in memories, can be therapeutic.
My brother left a memorable sign nailed to a tree by the driveway: Parking for Hoosier fans only. And there I was, wearing a Purdue hat, just for fun.