Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Still Love Going to The Farm

My Dad’s family always called the place simply “The Farm.”

Grandpa went there in his red truck each evening after putting in a day’s work as a police officer in Indiana. Sometimes Grandma would follow in her blue Oldsmobile at the end of her day. She worked as a buyer of china and glass for Troutman’s Department Store. They were an unlikely couple to own a farm. Still they tended the cows, one bull, chickens, geese, pigs, and a field of sheep.

Grandpa and Grandma did all the work at The Farm; our family enjoyed all the benefits. I was just a little kid back then so the 200-plus acres became a giant place to roam, huge compared to our suburban lot in Johnstown, and later Greensburg, where I lived with my parents.

At The Farm, I could chase kittens under the wooded porch, play the old Victrola in the second floor bedroom of the house, and eat grapes off the vine. In the spring, I watched Grandpa sheer the sheep. When it was bailing time, I looked forward to a hayride. In the fall, I would gather so many walnuts in metal bucket that my fingers turned black and I could barely manage the weight.

Grandma’s brothers – The Bobinets – would bring their families out to The Farm for bacon roasts, a tradition I fondly remember. My cousins and I could walk to Crooked Creek and Thomas Covered Bridge or take turns riding the swing attached to the big tree in the front yard.

No one lived at The Farm except for a short time when Grandma let her sister Helen have the run of the place until she and her husband could get back of their feet.

My Mom once said that The Farm killed Grandpa. Those are strong words. He did have a stroke one evening out there alone and the tractor toppled over. Grandma found him and got help. I’m not sure how long he waited for a rescue. And, I guess he was lucky that she found him. Very few cars went down Jamison Road back in those days. After Grandpa passed away, Grandma sold The Farm. It passed to the Fyock Family in 1969. They still own it today.

Last August, I tried to find The Farm but I ended up at a place that looked like what I remembered it to be. Neighbors confirmed that I was of course wrong. This time – May 2008 – I had directions from my cousin Bobby. Ed and I successfully found The Farm.

We were fortunate that Ben Fyock happened to be visiting his Mom when we arrived. He enjoyed showing us around and even pulled out some old family movies to show me the farm as it stood in 1969 when his family bought the farm from Grandma.

Much has changed. The house was renovated for the Fyock Family saving only the frame. Inside, it’s modernized. They preserved the original stairway banister keeping it polished to a high sheen. The wide wooden door frames remain upstairs. Ben told us his Dad used the bricks from the two interior fireplaces for the outside chimney. There’s a new single-car garage behind the house. The spring house is in bad shape inside, but still standing. A flower garden surrounds it. All the other out buildings are gone – chicken coop, pig pen, and sheep shed. The stones leading up to the house from the road and under the big tree still wobble. The grape arbors are gone and there are no farm animals in the fields. The barbed wire fencing Dad and his brothers strung on the railroad ties they dug into the ground came down a long time ago. The barn has a new roof, no longer slate – and is painted white. The interior of the barn is very much like I remember it…stalls for cattle, hay loft, huge wooden ceiling beams, and rickety stairs. Some of the original property has been sold. The new neighboring landowner has a few horses, a new house and a red barn on the acreage. They added a pond too.

We had to step carefully around in the barn to get to an old wooden chest. Ben remembered that it had been on the property at the time when his family bought the property. We opened it carefully. Inside were old canning jars and a collection of empty baby food jars. Maybe Grandma left this behind. Who knows?

Ben called our attention to some of the things I would have never noticed as a kid or maybe even missed as an adult. He pointed out the stone foundation supporting the barn. We marveled at the massive size of some of the interior stones set along the barn door and as a base for some of the swinging wooden doors of the cattle stalls. Some of the ceiling beams were 18-feet long and still showed traces of bark from the original tree on the sides. He asked me about the history of the barn of which I knew nothing. We both agreed that barn construction was a marvel and could merit historic preservation.

When Ed and I set out to visit The Farm, I expected to simply shoot a few pictures and be on our way. But the experience turned into more. Ben, his Mom – Mrs. Fyock, and his little girl made our trip memorable. I sense they love The Farm just like I still do.

May 17, 2008

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