Monday, May 27, 2013

1 Turn, 2 People, 3 Stories

Leaving Greenville felt like I found the items I wished for but I wasn't feeling complete. Something was missing so my hopes hung on my going north a bit more to the Ohio and Pennsylvania border.

Main Street Linesville PA
The evening and early morning brought a solid rain but I was comfortable and dry inside Big Agnus (the tent) but the rain creates extra work in the morning trying to dry the tent before packing it into it's stuff sack. I made some coffee and ate cearal to reduce cooking and clean up. The morning began sunny interspersed with big clouds so I quickly assembled everything, packed, and drove east about 3 miles on to Main St. I saw the post office and remembered Sharon had left a book on tape for the Bisbee Library in one of provision boxes. The tape would be way overdue if I didn't send it so I walked up and down Main Street until 9AM when the Post Office opened. Besides if I got to my Grandparents farm too early it would be a bit rude of me knocking on the door asking for permission to poke around.

I got some ice at the small market, bought some lubricating oil and a "hide a key" at the hardware store, mailed the package, and drove north about 15 miles when I came to a "Road Closed" sign just before my Grandparents farm, or the best that I could remember where it was.  I took the detour  routing me to the Ohio border. This time I ignored the detour sign and doubled back slowly looked for the farm.  The distance from the farm to the border was the only clue I had in my mind. As I slowly drifted down the pavement, a dirt road that looked kind of familiar on the right side of the road caught my eye, I turned and began driving on it, first passing a farmer on a tractor, we both nodded giving each other mutual recognition as I continued up the road. Next about a 100 yards further a good sized man was working in a newly planted garden. I spied the buildings behind him and the garden but none of the structures were my grandfathers.

Bill and Jean new cousins.
You see, my grandfather, Paul Batory was a tall strong craftsman and construction foreman for large projects such as dams and road building so when the original two story farm house caught fire in the 1940's, my Grandpap built the new house himself around the damaged one while they still lived in it. When it came time to remove the old house, Grandpap had everything ready to complete the interior in a couple weeks.

The farmer turned and stared at me from the middle of his garden wondering who I was stopping at his property. I got out of Cheeky, smiled and introduced myself and then explained that I believe this property was my grandparents one time. He asked their names and said the Batory's farm is about a half mile further towards Ohio and believes the renters moved out quite some time ago so the place may be empty. He seemed very comfortable and relaxed then continued on about his property at one time belonged to Billy Gilroy. He began Story One..."Billy was quite a character. He had a 600lb. razor hog and he would slip an ear of corn in his back pocket and that hog would sniff that ear of corn following Billy around the perimeter of his property. That's how he walked his hog." Story Two..."He had a brother Jimmy that wanted to buy a farm about a couple miles down from here. Now this was in the 1930's...He worked for Ferguson Tractor and had saved up $2,000.00 for the down payment for the farm. Remember this was the 30's so $2,000.00 was a lot of money then. Well Jimmy had sat on a tractor and plowed a field and the wide tractor seat dislodged his wallet from his back pocket somewhere in the field. Jimmy borrowed a plow horse and rake implement and walked behind that horse until dusk when he decided the wallet was lost forever. He began to unhook the horse when the horse stomped kicking forward a tuft of dirt and Jimmy saw something fly across the ground. Walked over and reached to his disbelief, it was his wallet with all the money. He said he never felt more like kissing a horses ass in his life"

Grandpap Paul and Granma Esther's house
When he finished with the two stories I began to put together the lineage of characters in his story and when he told me his name was Bill Thompson and that his daddy's name was Merle, I became elated. First off....the two people in the stories were brothers and those brothers were my uncles. Not the sharpest boys but hard workers. The farmer, Bill Thompson's father, Merle was my Uncle Merle because my grandmothers sister married Merle. It was said Merle was half American Indian and he and my Aunt Ruth lived across the state highway from my grandparents. Merle and Ruth had a large farmhouse with wooden floors. Story Three...One Saturday when I was about 6 years old I walked over to my Uncle Merle's to sit in his living room and watch professional wrestling with him. Merle thought the wrestling was real and every Saturday you could hear him across the highway yelling at the Philco black and white TV. I sat and watched both the wrestling and Uncle Merle rolling a cigarette from the can of Prince Albert next to his wooden chair. He had the cigarette almost done but a piece of tobacco left the paper and went up his nose causing Merle to violently sneeze and behind the sneeze came Uncle Merle's teeth flying from his mouth and skipping across the wooden floor in front of the Philco. I honestly thought my uncle had sneezed so hard that he blew out all his teeth so I ran home to my grandparents screaming "Uncle Merle blew out his teeth". That's when I learned about dentures and that they are just like stars...they come out at night.

I explained to Bill that we are related only by marriage but it was sure great getting to meet him and his wife Jean who smiled so sweetly. I asked to take their picture and Jean said she isn't pretty enough and Bill told Jean it isn't too often that a girl gets to have her photo taken with such a handsome man.

Barbers family grave site
We said our goodbyes and I now was off to finish up my business. I drove down the highway and looked for the block house out on the road Bill explained to me. I saw the block house up ahead and sure enough way back off the road was my grandparents home where I spent most of my weekends growing up.  The house was empty and in need of a little care but I had full run of walking about reliving in my mind so many warm memories. I turned away from the house and walked into the thick woods to where I remembered the Barber family grave site. This family was involved with the underground railroad hiding black slaves and assisted them from the south to the north. I walked with my memory as my only talisman then bingo there were the graves.

Walking back to the farmhouse I felt a sense of total satisfaction. My memory served me pretty well and the happenstance of meeting my new far removed cousins was a sweet surprise.

I returned to Cheeky, fired up Minnie, programmed in Cleveland, Ohio. This time not only was I on my way to the next roadside attraction but I felt completely joyful not only finding the farm but stumbling upon Bill Thompson and his wife was the really Holy Grail.

Geneva on the Lake.
 PS: On my way to Cleveland I saw a sign for Geneva on the Lake, a beach community on Lake Erie. my mother used to talk about fondly so I stopped by to see what turned out to be a stunted version of the Jersey Boardwalk

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