Welcome: Three Creeks Schools in Three Creeks, OH
We invite you to spend some time in Three Creeks! Welcome to our town and our schools...You are so very much appreciated as a visitor. The heart and soul of any town must be the rich sweetness of its children; Equally the most sacred bonds are those which exist between the parents, townsfolk and faculties of the town's schools. Here in Three Creeks, we have two public elementary schools, one Catholic elementary school (St Margaret's ) and of course, Three Creeks High School...Home of "The Indians"! What follows in the class by class format are the stories of the folks in Three Creeks as our lives unfold day to day and are reflected in the times of our precious young folks. You are invited to visit in our community, get to know the folks here, drop by the Red Rooster for a cup of coffee and conversation. Be with us and know the love and joy that surrounds the life here is reflected in our care of the young; They are on loan to us from up above, and we want to nurture and care for them...moment to moment and day to day. So spend some time, and if you can't stay too long for a visit, as we say in the foothills of Appalachian country, "Come back and see us real soon." Bye Neighbor
The Bird me Hansburg “He will sing with joy because of you” Zephaniah 3:17 Sister Mary Rose had worked at the Food Pantry for fifteen years. She was well acquainted with the many faces of need. She knew the need for food, the need for coats, the need for work and the need for hope. People wore their stories on their faces like a look of slow death. Poverty and want creased the lines of despair into the forehead of many folks struggling to provide. Paper stuffed in the corners of doors and windows to repel the cold and whole families sitting in the kitchen while Ma baked something, anything to make the cold go away. It seeped into your bones and made your joints swell. Sister Mary Rose knew the face of want. She knew the face of need. She knew the face of her Lord. This suffering Mary Rose offered up in prayer. Sister, like so many clergy and religious in Three Creeks, worked to put an end to local poverty. But this winter was especially hard. The Ohio economy was like a frail old person…afraid to take a step, afraid to reach out, afraid to hope. Why even that New Your Times’ newspaperman had come to interview folks in this part of Ohio. We’d made the business section of the New Your Times! Little Three Creeks, Ohio. What did the NYT tell the world about us? Our loves, our laughs, our livin’? No, the NYT told about how “the economy has hit rural Ohio hard, driving away blue collar jobs.” There you have it…we are just blue- collar- job- folks. We’re much more than that, thank you very much! We’re rock hard and bread poor, but we’re here and been here many generations. Sister Rose and a Committee of Helpers ran the Three Creeks Food Pantry. On the board was Rev Paul and other clergy. Each of these good people wanted to put their finger in the dike and repel the waters of recession. The “r” word that no politician would utter. Said political types wanted to shake your hand and take your vote, but would they remember you and your need in their big houses, eating a full dinner and no paper stuffed under the windowsill to keep out the cold? Made ‘ya wonder? Sure did. Sister had a saying she was fond of repeating, often in a quiet breath, barely audible, “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth.” Yep. We’re ready Lord, to inherit, if You’re ready to bless. In the midst of hard times, Ms. Umbuger, the new English teacher for grade 9, at Three Creeks High School had come up with an idea. So many of her students came to school hungry on Monday mornings, that she went to Sister Mary Rose after Mass one Sunday with an idea. Cecelia thought with the help of Sister and the new priest, Father Obata, the new priest from Nigeria, (that’s another story) that the good folks of St Margaret’s Catholic Parish could be the blessing that might help us to inherit for one more season, one more month, one more time… not to have to have just bread and soup the last week of the month. What news! Sister Mary Rose was always open to ideas. Just what ideas did Cecelia want to explore? Cecelia Umbuger was from a working class family in Cleveland. She had attended Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio and studied to be a teacher. Her college loans were forgiven for each year that she taught in the public schools of the “economically depressed areas of the resident’s state” so read the clause in her loan application. So here she was …fresh from student teaching in Columbus and now hired into the Faculty at Three Creeks High School. A great opportunity, a warm faculty, a wonderful community and then, “that man”… Principal Know-It-All… as Mrs. Purdy, the Head Cook, described him. Yes, our new Principal, was no where the hit that Cecelia was. Truth be told, many parents didn’t know what to make of him. He had degrees and a paper trail like a pure bred canine, but no sense about folks. We may not be higher-educated all of us in Three Creeks, but we are folks-educated and know how to treat a body. But the Principal had lots of folks-learning to do. “How can I help you Cecelia?” Asked Sister Mary Rose. Curious about what this new-comer to Three Creeks might bring to the community. “Well Sister, I have an idea. In my parish on the east side of Cleveland, we have many families who have struggled, and been struggling for quite awhile. Since we saw the need at St. Orbertz’s Parish, we organized ‘Operation Backpack’. We’d collect basic foodstuffs and send home one, two or three backpacks with the children on the weekend, so they had the essentials to make simple suppers. We’d also send home a box with other supplies. We had families coming to pick up the children on Friday afternoon, and they’d bring the kid’s wagon to take home the supplies. It was a big hit. Very successful and kids got to eat over the weekends. They returned to school on Mondays without the haunting look of deprivation.” “I see” “Well Sister, I think something like that might work here in Three Creeks. What do you think?” “Well, I don’t see why it isn’t worth considering. I can bring it up at the meeting of the Food Pantry Committee. Is that the kind of thing you were thinking? A united effort from all the churches and the synagogue in Three Creeks?” asked Mary Rose. “Yes, yes, absolutely. I am happy to come to the meeting and explain what we did at my parish in Cleveland. That is if the Committee meets sometime other than 7-4:30. I can’t miss my teaching. I am knee-deep into “Beowulf” and Grendel, the monster, is just about to do battle. I can’t miss that part of the story with my ninth-graders. We’re going to write it up as newspaper stories. I can see the headline, ‘Monster bites dog! News at 11!’” Cecelia Umbuger broke into a sweet smile. She had all the enthusiasm of a young teacher. “Good. We meet on Monday evenings at All Saint’s Baptist. Can you come?” “Yes Sister. I can come. I will see you tomorrow night.” Replied Cecilia, excited about a peek into the future. Cecelia believed in the power of blessing. Her own life had held more than its fair share of challenges. Raised by her father after her mother’s death, Cecelia and her sister Pru, short for Prudence, had worked both at home, at school, and at The Eastside Pharmacy all through their high school. Both of these girls attended college with the experience of hard work behind them. They were not afraid of the challenge of hard work ahead of them. Cecelia’s mother had left a letter for both girls that their dad gave each of them on their 16th birthday. The exact wording was a blur to Cecelia now, but this much she did remember. “Be a blessing, call forth a blessing, be blessed.” So simple, but so strong. With those words, one could turn the lights out on want. Hope is a bird with white wings. It flies quickly into our souls, our lives and our relationships. Cecelia Umbuger brought the white winged visitor to Three Creeks with her enthusiasm and can-do attitude. Like the phoenix of her own life, she was ready to fly again into the lives of the children she served. As you can imagine, her idea seemed like a possibility to the Committee on Monday night as they met at All Saint’s Baptist. This was a crack in the door which let in light. After all, it had worked in the parish in Cleveland. So emboldened, the Committee decided to try the “Operation Backpack” strategy. All of the churches and Tiffereth Israel Synagogue would need to help. But all of these houses of worship had determined ladies in the “Social Concern’s Committee,” the invisible army of grandmas and auntees who made the bed of the world. With their help, the Operation Backpack strategy might make the essential difference in the moments of a child’s life. Like dinner. On Monday night, the Committee met. On Friday afternoon, they sent home the first of the backpacks to a few families. Word spread. And so did the smiles of the children. By the end of the month, the Operation Backpack was successful in the two Elementary Schools and the parish school at St. Margaret’s. From January to April when the economy began to improve Operation Backpack was the blessing that Sister Rose had prayed for and Cecelia had been open to. The white bird had landed in Three Creeks and the good people living there were blessed. The success of the whole plan was revealed when the Principal at Three Creeks High School told his Faculty how much he liked this idea and gave Ms. Umbuger the respect of her colleagues. (She already had that.) But what was most interesting was this: Mrs. Purdy, hearing about the announcement at the Faculty Meeting, thought there just might be a chance, a very small chance you see, that “That man” maybe was not a lost cause.
Cab Ride me Hansburg “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 Max had been driving on and off all day. Today was one of those days where, perhaps, one broke even with the price of gas, or made money. Driving a Honda as a Cab was unusual, particularly a ten year old Honda, but hey it worked for Max and his “Regulars.” They depended upon Max, and his ability to be faithful to remember their Tuesday run to the Pharmacy and their Thursday run to Bridge Club and their Sunday morning run to All Saint’s Baptist. On Sunday, Max didn’t use the meter if folks were on his street or the next block over, as he could crowd four people into the Honda, and everyone was going to the same place on Sunday morning. (It seemed too much to charge someone when you were going there anyway.) Rev Paul described this kind of thing as “tithing with your deeds”. It worked for Max, and his four church member friends, Molly Browning, Pete Schaffer, Dorsi Lessing, and Margaret Fixali. Max could recite what would be the pattern of conversation with no problem. You didn’t have to hand him a “crystal ball,” Max could tell you what folks were likely to talk about. Molly Browning was interested in talking about the number of hours she worked as a Legal Secretary for Finch and Finch and Brownlee. She only liked Brownlee, so we heard a lot of negative tidbits about Finch and Finch. Her favorite expression was to remark that those two were “for the birds”…complete pun intended. Molly was also sweet on Pete Schaffer, not that he returned her affection openly. But curmudgeon that he was, Pete did always complement Molly on her hats. She had a propensity to wear a different hat for each season, spring summer, fall and winter. Same hat, same complement. Pete liked routine. Drank his coffee black, read the local papers and insisted that the New York Times was a “liberal rag”. Pete had been a railroad man, and rode the regular run from Cincy to Cleveland with stops along the way. His railroad regularity kept him wary about arriving late for worship. Max was never sure if Pete kept the railroad on time, or if it was vice-versa. But time, routine, and regularity were his motto. The rhythm of sameness was a lullabye of lassitude, and surprising to Max. Pete was long retired from the railroad, not that you would know. He still kept track of the 4:55 to Cleveland as it ran through Three Creeks, whistle blowing, and gates flashing…ping, ping, ping…Train acomin’… clickity , clack, clickity, clack, don’t look back. Train acomin’…clickity, clack, clickity, clack, don’t look back. Pete never did look back. He lived in the moment, and made it work for him. Not a real complainer, his biggest “bugaboo” was being on time and NOT late for worship. Pete was the honorary Chief of the Ushers at All Saint’s Baptist, and he kept the punctuality of worship real regular. Rev Paul could set his watch by Pete’s wave of readiness, to enter the Chancel and raise up the Choir for the opening hymn, “A Closer Walk With Thee” or another Baptist favorite. Another rider, Dorsi Lessing, shared Pete’s eagerness to be at worship on time. Dorsi was a self-declared contralto soprano. Most everybody just thought that meant she was loud when she sang in the choir. Some folks probably thought that “contralto soprano” was a new menu item at Three Creek’s Olive Garden I-talien Restaurant. Whatever kind of soprano she was, Dorsi could belt out a lyric and never draw a breath. The Altos in the ASBC Choir had to console themselves by remembering that she could not dominate the lower registers of the music scale. Dorsi sang with gusto and enthusiasm. A “cradle Baptist,” she had been weaned on “The Old Rugged Cross”. Not for the faint of heart and hearing, few folks sat in the pew directly across from where the choir sang. Except for Ms. Wilson, nearly stone deaf. Dorsi may have been the real reason. Just as Dorsi was a “cradle Baptist,” Margaret Fixali was a “reformed Catholic” as she was fond of telling us. And while she now worshiped with Rev Paul and his flock, she was determined to proclaim the Catholic view of Paradise with levels to Heaven, much like what Dante had implied in his long poems. These were the same poems taught so eagerly by English teacher, Jossie Manning, to the unwilling 12th Grade World Lit class at TCHS. Margaret’s levels of Heaven made for interesting discussion at the Adult Class. Often times, Rev Paul had difficulty finding a volunteer to staff the six week run of classes as most folks had been through Margaret’s version of Heaven so many times that they whispered about her as a “determined” Catholic hiding out as a Baptist. (Rev Paul argued humility and gentleness were the hallmarks of conversion. It was his hope that with patience, before he retired, Margaret might give up her bureaucratic approach to afterlife.) But Rev Paul’s wife, Roberta, was not so sure. She used to back Paul as he counseled “patience” and at the same time, Roberta used a rhetorical question to defuse the bureaucratic approach. Roberta assured the Adult Group, that Saint Peter was happy to welcome All Believers, Baptized and Affirming, into the Celestial City. After that statement, everyone said “AMEN” as if on cue, and Margaret would be quiet for at least half an hour. So the Sunday worship at All Saint’s Baptist took on a life of its own. From the Choir to the Sermon to the Adult Group and the Coffee & Cake Fellowship, the lives of the congregation grew together like the vines of pumpkins waiting for fall. Destiny was the role of these little orange gourds, soon they would be Jack-o-Lanterns with Trick or Treat calling to come; So the worshipper’s lives at All Saint’s Baptist grew and intertwined in the unfolding of life events: baptisms, marriages, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, missionary visits, altar calls, summer tent revivals, and funerals, and Paradise, awaiting us all. While Max could predict the tenor of conversation on the way to worship, the ecclesiastical season shaped the Preaching and the rest of the service followed that lead. Comfort came in the warmth of friendship and the knowledge that even Margaret’s most defensive stance of the bureaucratic nature of Heaven, only reminded them all that this path through the Garden of Eden asks us to leave the gate open for the rest of humanity, and not pick too many flowers along the path. Max could live with the conversations Sunday in and Sunday out.
Band me Hansburg “Put Your Hope In God” Psalm 34:5 The sun fell across the classroom with bright, white light reflecting the luminescence of winter sun that glints off the already crusted snow. With today’s added snow fall, we could cross country ski right after school, if we did not have Marching Band Practice. That was the big if…Would Mr. Chappelear cancel today? After all, the Girls’ Tumbling Team was taking up the big gym, and how would we fit the whole Marching Band in the little gym? But sometimes, it was hard to read Mr. C. He was a committed to the Marching Band. Even in the winter. We were one of the few bands that practiced year ‘round. Sometimes, it seemed we practiced so that we could keep our A-1 Rating in the State Competitions, but it’s hard to believe in all that , especially when it takes place in August at the Fair- Grounds in Columbus. We had what, eight months, to rehearse? By that time the new Frosh will be integrated into Band, with their Uniform, their Step-Sequence and their Rolling Chant: “We are the Indians, Everywhere we go, People want to know, We are the Indians, Yo Yo Yo!’ and Repeat.” I mean how hard is that? Not hard. Not hard enough to require a January practice in the small gym. Teachers must live on their own planet, Planet Stupid. That was the only reason to practice on a January afternoon when you could ski. What part of perfect snow, perfect sun, perfect weather was too hard to understand? It must be that Mr. C had the tuba on his mind. He was, after all, a really good tuba master. He even traveled to Columbus to play in the Symphony. Mr. C liked to get the Band together, practicing the step sequences. He would come dressed in his Long Coat with Tails and Major Domo Hat and bring the tuba into the small gym. He actually looked like an escapee from the Marching Band Hospital for the Slightly Unusual. Some kids thought it would be funny to take his costume and send a ransom note, but that was really hurtful. Mr. C only had the Band’s best interest at heart. He followed the academic progress of his Band Members, offering tutoring and proof-reading English essays. He was great resource for 12th Grade World Lit. He was friends with that teacher. Helps to have a small Faculty at Three Creeks High School, as teachers know one another’s interests and idiosyncrasies. It’s the idiosyncrasies that get to you in a nine month year. Most Seniors really hated World Lit. But then, we had to pick some class to loathe and none of the others seemed as remote as World Lit. All of this was running through Brian Williker’s thoughts as he sat in the last period Study-Hall and tried to decide if it was worth cutting Band Practice and going skiing. Maybe Alan Jonas would wanna ski. He lived up the road from Brian about three miles out of Three Creeks. Their bus would leave right after school and Brian could ask Alan on the bus ride home. Seemed like a plan. Or, he could go to Band and take the Activities Bus. But Brian had a very workable plan. Brian and Allan rendez-voused outside the fence of Brian’s farm. Off they went, skiing over the fields gliding in natural harmony of their surroundings… clear air, clear wind and clear field. The sensation of cross-country skiing is like the rhythm of a rocking chair with the easy push and pull that rewards you with the spray of snow and the swooch of moving to and fro. To and fro. So went the late afternoon and into the blue twilight of a January sunset. Both boys loved to cross country ski and loved the open, free sense of flying across the snowy terrain. The light was falling from azure to purple, when Brian and Allen returned to Allen’s farm. Dropping by the farm house, Mrs. Jonas seemed relieved to see both boys. ”Brian, you could stay to supper, but your Mom called and needs you to come home right away. So maybe you’ll take a rain-check on the dinner invitation.” “Sure thing, Mrs. Jonas, and thanks for the message. I am on my way. Thanks Allen. That was so cool. See you tomorrow.” “Ya, tomorrow…on the bus. We can do World Lit homework. I have too much Calculus to get to it tonight.” “Okay, see ya then.” Brian walked out the Jonas’ back door, and picking up his skiis, made his way up the road to his own house. He could see the kitchen lights were on and his Dad’s truck was home. Dinner would be soon. Brian leaned his skiis up along the side door of the breezeway porch. He let himself into the kitchen and turning left threw his coat and things over the big brown lazy-boy rocker. Brian came into the kitchen. He could smell the wafting scent of pork chops and fried apples. With luck, Mom would have made buttermilk biscuits; Dad loved ‘em almost as much as Brian did. Mrs. Williker turned toward Brian as she sensed him coming into the room. The kitchen table was set and dinner was almost ready. Brian’s Mom looked so serious, but then, she worried about everything. “Oh. Brian, you’re home. I am so relieved.” “Ma, you worry too much. Allan and I were fine out there and we came back before dark.” “Right, right. But I was concerned. The Assistant Principal, Mr. Walker called. You missed Band this afternoon.” “He called just about that?” “Well about that and some news.” “What a detention? Or something?” Mr. Williker came in from the Den, folded the Three Creeks Gazette under his arm and sat down at the table. “Well, no…But here let your Dad tell you” replied Mrs. Whilliker. “What Dad? It was one practice, that’s all. I haven’t missed any Band and the afternoon was perfect for skiing.” “Well, Brian, we all make choices. That is part of being alive. Sometimes our choices are happy surprises and sometimes not. You chose to go skiing with Allen. It sounds like you had a fine time.” “So, why the third-degree?” responded Brian, irritated with his Dad’s “lesson-mentality” “Look Brian, we have some sad news and wanted you to hear it from us before you hear it from any of the Band members who may be getting ready to call you” said his Dad. “Why? What happened in Band?” “Your teacher, Mr. C, he had a MI infarct. A heart attack. Brian, he’s gone. Happened right there in the Band Room just as kids were preparing to go to the practice in the small gym. Quite a mess as you can imagine.” Brian sat down hard on the oak kitchen chair. He could hardly take in what his Dad was saying. Mr C gone? “The Assistant Principal called and let us know so we could tell you. He said the Seniors in the Band were going to do something tomorrow at Morning Announcements. Maybe you should call one of the Band members?” Brian sat very still. He didn’t know what he felt and he didn’t know what he thought. He’d gone skiing. He could’ve gone to Band? Would that have made any difference? Who knows? Too late now. Brian knew he should call some of the Band members. But all he wanted to do right now was just pretend everything was the same. Go skiing, have dinner, do homework, take a shower. Normal, everyday, routine. Same, same same. Brian did not want to deal with the alchemy of sorrow. But now, in January still five months from Graduation, adolescence had disappeared. Your adult life is waiting in the small gym. Addressing all the band members, Brian and the other Seniors stood up along the south wall of the small gym. “We will be practicing just as if Mr. C was here” said Brian to the Band members. “ We still wanna be A 1 in the summer competition. Mr C would expect us to win. He’s probably gonna be looking down from where he’s playing the tuba in the Paradise Symphony.”
The Bridge Game me Hansburg “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24 Billy Watkins looked out across his pasture; He called to his black and yellow labs to join him as he passed through the gate leading from the edge of the front lawn to the open pasture, rolling gently forward down the face of Sugarloaf Mountain. Twenty-five years, Billy had homesteaded this site, always thinking sooner or later, he’d meet the right girl and bring her home to his few acres of paradise on the side of the mountain. Now it was later. Billy had made his living as a naturalist for the Cincy Office of ODNR, but his little farm kept him busy enough that he really had two full time jobs. Maybe that was the reason he’d remained a bachelor. Now, he wasn’t alone, some of his younger friends were also in the “single state”; Sheriff Bert, for one, the only person that Billy Watkins could describe as someone who was still committed to being single and should’ve been the naturalist. Bert loved the out-of-doors more than anything, except, maybe Mattie Haven. Billy, Bert and Lamar went fishing every chance they got; When they weren’t fishing, they were talking about it, reading about it and thinking about great f-i-s-h stories. There was always one who got away. But these summer evenings, the time had stretched long and a bit lonely. For the first time, Billy wondered about wanting more companionship that two smiling dogs could give. Billy had given some thought to Sheriff Bert’s idea that he should come to the Bridge Club; It met Tuesday nights at All Saint’s Baptist Church. (The Sheriff had been lured into the Bridge Club by Mattie, and he’d come to enjoy the challenge of the bidding process. But, Bert was the last person to admit he liked bridge, and he talked about it as his “compromise” to keep Mattie happy.) “You should come, Billy. You’re good at cards and it’s only one night a week.” So declared Bert as he cajoled Billy over the phone. “Me, in the Bridge Club?” “Naw, sounds too proper…” Replied Billy. Billy had just laughed out-loud. Then… one evening, he had tagged along. He was stunningly surprised by the tall, shapely red-head, Sheila Brown, who plotted out her bridge strategy with the cunning of a General Patton. If he could meet and greet Sheila, perhaps reviving his bridge game would be worth it. Billy had learned to play in college; He preferred playing bridge to any humanities class offered. If it wasn’t science classes, Billy often chose to play cards in the student union. That lasted until his advisor told him graduation was slipping away; Then, Billy got serious and finished up. He sorta stopped playing cards because he was anxious to get his degree; Billy wanted to work for ODNR and knew that he required his degree to make that dream come true. He had realized this dream and loved it. Now was it time to capture another of his dreams? Sheila, a longtime widow, lived alone in town with her cat Fletcher. Billy liked Sheila and did not like Fletcher. The labs, Pickles and Icecream, didn’t like Fletcher either. Billy had found that out one evening when he drove over to Sheila’s and had taken the dogs. Fletcher clawed Pickles in the face and tried to bite Icecream on the ear. Fletcher was NOT a nice cat. Billy remembered all this as he walked in the pasture. He knew every inch of it. He had mowed it. He had walked it. He had memorized the slope of the mountainside. These pasture land grasses, wild with summer Blue Dots and Queen Anne’s lace, sloped to the creek. Billy stood in the middle of wildness watching the labs run to and fro after rabbit and raccoon. Now as late summer breathed hot July air into August humidity, Billy wondered about it all. The bones of the pasture were well known to Billy. He’d walked the land, he’d wooed the land; he’d won the land. Could Billy do the same with Shelia? To look out at the pasture was like looking at an old friend. The mountain etched itself into the blood and bone of those who dwell on its side. Season’s change, but the face of the mountain endures. Billy thought, just maybe, he saw a smile in the lower edge of the pasture, as if the mountain were welcoming Sheila. Seasons come, seasons go. Time is the marker that measures our footsteps. The mountain knew Billy’s loneliness. Now, the mountain side smiled. Love flowed in Billy’s heart, and each birdsong and flowerface sang too. Bert, has agreed to be the best man and Mattie, Sheila’s bridesmaid. Billy stood still taking stock of the evening, his last as a bachelor. But Fletcher, the mean-as-sin-cat needed to learn manners, or she’d be sleeping in the barn.
Crop me Hansburg “Heal me O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved. For Thou are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14 Lexie Vroometer stood leaning against the tractor. The warm sun of July flashed brightly in Lexie’s eyes. He took off his straw hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. Even with the air-conditioning in the big rig, July sun could still cause him to break a sweat. Lexie’s fields ran along both sides of the road leading to Three Creeks, and he was one of the first mailboxes on the Rural Route. Sam Champion came at 10 AM every morning, bringing copies of the Three Creek Register, the Fairfield Gazette and Cincy Enquirer along with catalogs, bills and the recent issue of “Farm and Tractor”. Lexie always let Sheela get the mail. She wanted to see the catalogs and dream with her imagination, before the nickel and dime reality took her and Lexie to Wally Mart. Sheela would be dreaming a lot this summer, and likely well into the waning season of abundance. The Vroometer farm was mostly winter wheat this time of year, and the crop’s harvest was behind schedule with only 40 % of the crop harvested as compared to the five year average of about 65% by this time in July. Thank goodness for the number crunchers at “Farm and Tractor.” It was really helpful to compare the Vroometer Farm personal average to the state’s historical averaging. Beezer, Lexie’s oldest son, kept the statistics for his Dad, and did a real fine job. He was always good in math and now really good with the computer and projecting tonnage. Beezer had read that the expected harvest for this fall might be as much as 68 million bushels according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Now there’s a whole host of pies, cakes, bread and rolls coming out of the oven! None would be better than Sheela’s homemade wheat bread and rolls. That woman had a “floured thumb”; She was one fine baker and cook. Just ask any of the four boys. Lexie and Beezer spent many evenings in the July summer talking the wheat market. Likely Beezer had enough interest to want to farm. Lexie was not sure about the other boys. Thaddeus was looking to be a park ranger; he had fisher-folk blood. Marcellus wanted to be a school teacher, loved to play school since forever. And Antonio, probably a mechanic. He could take a motor apart blindfolded and kept much of the farm machinery running as he helped out his Dad. Yup, Beezer would be the farmer to follow after his Dad. He had a head for these matters and an interest in the earth. For sure, even now in July, Beezer knew that the Chicago Board of Trade was selling wheat at $8.25 a bushel banking on September delivery. That was a fine price. Beezer told his Dad that the price was related to the worldwide wheat shortage. Great demand existed for Ohio red, winter wheat. This kind of winter wheat was preferred for cakes, flatbreads, pastries and crackers. Beezer had farming genes… enclosed in his raggety levi jeans, coving his long, tall beanpole stature. Beezer, Thaddeus, Marcellus and Antonio…four Vroometer vandals, that’s how the Three Creeks High School Principal described Lexie and Sheela’s boys. ( Not that Lexie put any stock in what an outsider said.) It was a bit tough to explain why all four boys had decided to do the same prank. Lexie had expected four separate pranks. But working together, the boys had, on the last Friday before graduation, removed the outside doors of the Main Entrance and driven Dr. Perry’s car into the Cafeteria, and then replaced the doors. Dr. Perry had been away with the AP Latin Class to a Classics Convention. The coast was clear and time to strike was at hand. (Both Beezer and Thaddeus were in Latin 3 and Marcellus in Latin 2 and Antonio about to be in Latin 1, all over again, his sophomore year. ) Antonio had done very little, real work, letting “brotherly love” cover his translation homework assignments. He absolutely flunked the Final. Necessarily the brothers had decided to help Dr. Perry to reconsider failing someone… with a bit of student mischief. That’s all it was. The car hadn’t been damaged. Antonio was really careful not to strip the ignition. The boys had just “reparked” Dr. Perry’s car. On Saturday morning when the AP Latin kids and Dr. Perry had returned to school from Pittsburg, the missing car caused a huge sensation; The total hoped-for- response- to mischief. Dr. Perry muttered under his breath, outraged and indignant. The Principal had figured another teacher was picking up Alexus Perry and that’s why his car was missing. It wasn’t until they went into the building to call the Sheriff, that the Principal, and Alexus Perry saw his car in the Cafeteria. Only one other item seemed out of place… a wrench labeled Vroometer Farm. The Principal went to his office, called the Sheriff and the Vroometer’s. That was May. This was July and all four boys were still doing their community service work as supervised by the Jefferson County Juvenile Court. Most of the time, the boys enjoyed their required hours of service; Fortunately, Sister Rose had put the older boys on the “Grounds Crew” at Blessed Sacrament Retirement Center; while Marcellus worked with the Three Creeks Library and Antonio had been assigned to the Sheriff’s Fleet Maintenance and worked with the staff that kept all Jefferson County Vehicles running. In addition to the hours of community service, all four boys had to keep a diary checked by their social worker on “ ways to make positive contribution to society.” The diary seemed lame to the boys, but a necessary part of the community service. But the work had proven to be rich, rewarding and might lead to real jobs next summer. But with the work on the farm, there was no vacation this summer. Lexie and Sheela were happy the boys had gotten only three months of diary work and commitments to service hours. Over dinner on the last Friday of July, talk of the wheat harvest turned to talk of the planting of deeds in one’s life. That was a crop all four boys, now, truly understood.
Deer me Hansburg “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” Numbers 6:25 In Three Creeks, a farming community in Jefferson County, Ohio the residents still rely on Verna Taylor to receive, sort and prepare their mail for pick-up if they live outside the delivery zone. Verna is 91 making her the oldest Postmistress in Ohio. She has been working in her zip code since before zip codes were even a part of anybody’s address. Verna loves her job and is still going strong. Together, Verna and the delivery postmen, keep the mail flowing in and out of the town, but it is hard to know if they have more knowledge of things than Velma, owner of Velma’s Hair and Nails Shoppe or Willie, the Server Captain at the Red Rooster. Folks have relied on paper for news…getting the mail, reading the Three Creeks Register or the larger Fairfield Gazette, but the fastest news comes by “word of Velma and Willie.” So it was that the most recent news set the town abuzz. Yes indeed, Velma told both of her late afternoon “permanents” and that is how Willie, heard it from Zigitha Benson, Velma’s last afternoon “permanent.” Willie told the Purdy’s that evening, when Mrs. Purdy and her husband came into the Red Rooster for the last Wednesday Fish-fry during Lent. Willie passed on the information because she knew that Mr. Purdy liked to hunt and distribute the deer meat to those folks who needed it. “I mean, can you believe that? Whatever! An’ the state of Ohio is really going to try and enforce this? I swear, why don’t the state jus take over everybody’s life. No freedom to do nothing anymore. Dumb. What do those folks up in Columbus do anyway? Why don’t they pass some laws to make life easier for folks instead of more difficult? Make a body wonder, it surely does.” So exclaimed Willie as she took the Purdy’s order of fried catfish and extra lemons on the side. No great love lost in this rural area for the meddling of the state of Ohio in a body’s effort to see and do a little for themselves and their family. The state wanted to r-e-g-u-l-a-t-e the lives of everyone, about everything, and it was just the beginning of the seasons. So what was the news that stirred up Three Creeks this drafty March evening? Just this: The price of stealing wildlife just went up. The Wildlife Restitution Bill co-sponsored by Rep Bob Latta and Rep Jimmy Stewart passed the General Assembly in late November getting the Governor’s signature and had gone into effect March 4. So how much more are the penalties for getting caught poaching? Pretty high, consider these changes: A person who pinches a river otter can now be commanded to pay $500 instead of $50. The going rate for fish is no longer $10 apiece, but $50. Those were the cheapies! Either a timber rattler or a massasauga rattler will no longer carry a penalty of $1000, but now $2,500. But the worst news must be the new penalties for poaching deer, big bucks in particular. For an ordinary buck, now you have to pay $500, and the penalty for a trophy buck? A poacher who nails a whitetail with antlers scoring beyond 125 a formula kicks in…Take the Boone and Crockett gross score of the antlers, subtract 100. The difference squared is then multiplied by $1.65. The result? The potential restitution charge is outrageous to those who hunt “without proper protocol”. In dollars and sense? It will cost a poacher $15, 520 who has illegally taken a second deer with a rack of 196. Hunters felt depressed. In these hard times, city folk who fancied themselves “real hunters” paid good money for bucks wearing trophy hats. Prices ran into the thousands of dollars and a very active “after-market” existed. But the person most depressed? The Sheriff. He knew that poaching happened. He had heard. Sheriff knew how it happened. He could recreate the scene time after time in his mind’s eye. In the dead of night, while the folks of Three Creeks slept like good children, those folks looking to make money now that the coal mines were gone and the price of corn sky high due to ethanol demand, the “P” folk would set up along SR #162 where the curves prevent anyone seeing much around the bend. Through which with the heavy growth, deer often moved. The “P” folk would set up along the road, shining a bright spotlight, causing the deer to freeze. Then in that coup de grace moment, they took the deer out with one shot. Quickly shutting down the light, they scooped up the carcass into the bed of a waiting pick up and drove stealthily away into the darkness. The meat would feed family and the rack would be sold to city folk who wanted to pretend they could hunt. Good money. And until now, not an unreasonable risk. There were in Three Creeks, folks who went hungry and never visited the Food Pantry. Their children were bone-thin and ate a lot of squirrel. Poverty has its own face; it didn’t look good on the faces of children. What would the Sheriff do? Likely look the other way as much as possible. At $15,000 a pop, the “P” folk were headed to jail, especially if Jim Ledman, ODNR executive administrator of law enforcement got wind of heavy poaching in Jefferson County. Based on the recent news coming from Licking County, the Sheriff did not want to deal with the ODNR law enforcement. So the Sheriff would become on this topic, like his friend, Enke Hansen, a man of few words. Then too, maybe he should talk with Rev Paul about a new 12 Step Program...P Anonymous ? Making a list, the Sheriff needed to remind Lamar not to do any late night hunting on his nights off from the Fire Department. Lots of folks were gonna need reminders. Perhaps, if the Sheriff made the list, Verna, the Postmistress, would distribute the letters and make real sure certain folks got the news.
From the Heart me Hansburg Everybody comes from somewhere. The distinctive qualities which claim my heart lay in the hills and valleys of Ohio’s rugged finger along the Appalachians. In the deep, secret, hidden hollows and mountain tops, life finds it own rhythm and measure, sunrise to sunset from season to season. But in the “wake-up season” of spring, life pulsates in plant and animal rustlings. In such a homeplace, we see the smile of nature and the blessing of life’s call. Tumbling out from winter, the vernal equinox tilts us closer to the sun and clock strikes spring. Suddenly, snow wanes and the fingertips of green uproot through the earth. In late March the world warms by day and retains mild breeze by night. Appalachia is a land unto itself. Cut off by the mountains, the culture turned inward to seek its answers. Folk remedies to folk music, these Scotch-Irish immigrant stock live close to the land with a strong distrust of outsiders. The mountains gave and give refuge, but at a cost that make Appalachian folk turn inward to give comfort and knowledge generation to generation. From the history of “Reveneurs…Tax men” coming to smash your still in the 30’s to the coal companies today who slice off the top if the mountain and leave only slag to choke the streams, mountain folk have learned wisdom from their ongoing struggle with hardship, loss and living in spite of outsiders. These folks love their homeplace. Their lives are filled with hard work, hard love and hard loss. The Appalachian Mountains cradle this life and all who cling mightily to the sides of the mountains. In the stories that follow, we find the life as it ebbs and flows in the town of Three Creeks, Ohio.