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There was a concrete block chicken house my father helped build after returning home from WWII. A time or two I walked through that low roofed structure to collect eggs with my grandmother. It was stiflingly warm. We stepped through a layer of feathers and feed while the chickens squawked all the time we were there. I felt I was invading their privacy, reaching into their nests to gather up the eggs. Were they happy we were cleaning out their laying box so they had room for more the next day, I wondered, or were they angry we were stealing a product of their bodies? I was always just curious to know. There also were two corn cribs, one long and narrow made mostly of wood with wire mesh sides for ventilation which could also hold chickens and there was a single - at least two story tall cylindrical cage. When I was younger that see through, cage-like rotunda was piled high with thousands of bright yellow ears of corn, each embedded with dry rock-hard kernels waiting to be shelled. We, my brother Jim and our cousins, would each take a turn at the hand cranked sheller, though, Jimmy and I were more enamored with the primitive machinery than my cousins who lived on the farm and really thought nothing of it.
When empty, these structures became places for us to play and hide while imagining other worlds. I remember thinking those units were like an abandoned village where we could decide what we wanted them to be. Then there were the open fields, acres of plowed ground where we could play war. A well-thrown clod of dirt would seem to explode like a bomb when it hit the ground, dust clouds everywhere. Then we could jump in between the plowed furrows and pretend they were foxholes. I remember in one field of corn I ran top speed through it to get to the house for something. After arriving my face was burning and my ears had tiny cuts on them. I was just fine minutes before and didn’t understand why I was in such pain now. Then someone told me about the damage that can be done running through a field of corn stalks. It amazed me that while I felt nothing while running, I was actuality being cut to pieces. I never ran like that again.
As one of those aforementioned “children”, I can honestly say I did not carry the latent agriculture gene in my DNA. This I would come to learn was also the case with my father, who was first generation American. It all came together for me one summer when we were enlisted by my parents and an aunt to bring life to a small fertile plot known as “the buckeye ground“. It was a small parcel of real estate near a grove of locust trees off Groveport Pike. This was land owned by Buckeye Steel which they permitted to be farmed by my Uncle Jim. Other than a weekend experience of bailing hay a few years later, this was my only contact with the labors with which some of my immediate ancestors identified themselves. We grew potatoes that summer and only that summer. The job of hoeing clods of dry dirt for weeds and caring for the plants was laborious. Bending down under the relentless heat of the mid-summer sun and pulling weeds that would just grow back by next week was an experience which drove me to unceremoniously delete “farmer” from my list of possible career choices.
It was also on the farm that I finally took the time to successfully learn to tie my own shoes. I can’t recall how old I was but I do remember the feeling of personal freedom I bestowed on myself with that knowledge. It was out of personal necessity that I practiced over and over again. I could never have imagined a future when my speedy fingers would be a blur creating loops and wraps and knots with my laces. It was all so robotic. No more running through the fields or the farm yard back to my mother to have her execute that task for me. It was thoroughly liberating! I had now risen to a level of personal independence I had not known existed in the world. Something of an achievement, before I had ever experienced that feeling or knew what it meant. It was the result of my own perseverance and determination.