STILL A FARM BOY

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Most people who live in California come from somewhere else. That includes me. It is an automatic assumption that you are not from here.

It’s not like that where I actually do come from. I think most people who live in Perry County, Pennsylvania started out there and are still there—or not far away. I seem to be the exception.

Careers sometimes send you to places you would not have chosen on your own. The weather is often a factor that drives people south. Itchy feet is a common cause among the young.

When people ask me where I’m from, even though I have lived in a lot of places and been all over the world, it’s an easy answer; I claim a little green hunk of paradise among rolling Pennsylvania hills and sparkling streams. It has a rich history that goes back well before we were the United States of America—and has a population that appreciates it.

I’m sure many who still live there don’t see my ancestral home as I do. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I looked over that fence in 1958 and set off for what I thought were greener pastures. In fact, it turned out to be many years of bumpy roads and stormy skies. It is true that times would not always have been ideal if I had stayed closer to my roots, but in all the other places I’ve lived, I never felt truly connected. If you are going to have troubles anyway, it is more comforting to suffer them among those you grew up with. They forgive you your shortcomings because they were standing right next to you when you acquired them.

Thomas Wolfe wrote that “You can’t go home again.” It’s true. Not because where you came from has changed. It is because you have changed.

Still, there will always be enough of Home that stays with you to keep you warm when life gets cold.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

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GRANDMA: THE HUMAN CALCULATOR

My Grandmother, (Mrs. Harry R.) Erma Pricilla (Carpenter) Kiner was an amazing woman. She fed and clothed five children through the darkest days of the Great Depression on the $11.00 a week my grandfather, Harry Kiner, earned as a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Admirable, of course. But one of the things I most admired about her was her mastery of arithmetic. She could do mental calculations much faster than I can do them with the most sophisticated calculator today.

While most farm kids of Grandma’s rural Pennsylvania elementary school years never got past the eighth grade, check out just one test given students of that era:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/12/1912-eighth-grade-exam_n_3744163.html

The next time you hear of someone in those days who only got an eighth grade education, don’t feel sorry for them. You can be sure they had acquired more scholastic skills in elementary school than a lot of today’s students have after four years of college.

Nineteenth century arithmetic was a tough test. History was hard, too, although there was a lot less history way back then than there is now. Not to take anything away from Grandma for that.

The “Good Old Days” were tougher than we think.

It was kind of comical to watch Grandma doing the numbers in her head. She would close her eyes and flutter her eyelashes, bob her head around, mutter the calculations process as she went along, and then rattle off the answer. All this at warp speed.

As I said, she was an amazing woman.

She made a great rhubarb pie, too.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

JIGGS CLOUSER: MECHANICAL GENIUS

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

I once worked with an extraordinary man named Jiggs Clouser. He was in charge of the print shop at the Perry County Times, a weekly newspaper where I was an editor for a couple of years. Jiggs could fix anything. He’d take a look at the problem, figure out how it worked—or stopped working—and, before you could say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, he’d have it diagnosed and back in service. Since he was often working with century-old printing equipment, parts were rarely available and he would have to improvise.

“If all the paper clips I’ve used to fix things were to disappear,” he said, “this whole place would collapse.”

Jiggs passed away a few years ago and I have often wondered how his fixit-skills would survive in this age of plastic. Even Gorilla Glue can’t do much for a material that deteriorates in the hot summer sunshine.

We recently bought a wireless weather station. It is mounted high on a pole in our back yard and transmits information to a screen in the kitchen of our house about the windspeed and direction, the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and rainfall amount. It even shows when rain is forecast. It is a truly amazing instrument. But it is made of—you guessed it—plastic. Being a weather device, it is out in—you guessed it again—the weather. Extreme climate conditions and PVC do not get along well, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will last.

I just know that Jiggs Clouser is out there somewhere, looking down at a world largely made of plastic.

I wonder if they have paper clips in Heaven.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

TERROR ON ORE BANK HILL

My first car was a 1931 Model A Ford sedan. I don’t think Ford called it a sedan. Probably some snooty name like “touring car.”

It cost $50.00 and took me all summer working at a gas station to pay for it. I recently paid $75.00 just to fill up the gas tank on my Chevy pickup truck. For that kind of money I could have bought one-and-a-half Model A Fords. Unfortunately, it’s not 1953 anymore.

I loved that car. But, of course, everyone loves his first car. Having a four-wheeled escape pod meant there was now a whole reachable world out there to explore. Prior to that, I couldn’t get any farther away from home than my bicycle would take me.

As kindly as I felt toward that car, it was also the cause of one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

I was driving on a road that took me over Ore Bank Hill, on the curviest road in the county. Once you reached the top, it was a steep downhill run for several miles, with nasty switch-backs and curves not banked to accommodate speeding vehicles and centrifugal force.

As I chugged to the top of the hill and started down the other side, I came to the first curve. I was picking up more speed than I was comfortable with, so I slammed on the brake. Teenagers do that a lot. Nothing subtle about most anything they do. A gentle pressing of the brake is not in a teen’s playbook.

Well, the Model A had a rod that connected the foot pedal to the mechanical braking system under the car. The problem was, the rod was made of cast iron. Cast iron does not handle slamming very well and it snapped, leaving me in near free-fall. Those old cars had no compression to help hold the speed down and it was impossible to down-shift in those pre-synchromesh transmission days.

So there I was, on the scariest road imaginable, careening downhill in a top-heavy vehicle with no brakes. I was seventeen years old and certain I would never see eighteen, whipping this way and that, wrestling the non-power steering wheel, skinny 21-inch tires squealing at every curve, picking up speed for several hair-raising miles.

Finally, I got to the bottom of the hill and was able to coast to a stop. Thinking back to that experience I wonder once more how I managed to survive my youth.

Anyone who doesn’t believe in God has never ridden a Model A Ford with no brakes down Ore Bank Hill.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”