The farm across the road from us belonged to Edna and Clayton Jones, born around 1885. Their farm was a corner lot with fields facing our farm and their house facing another road, old route 627. “Clayt”, as he was known, was a tall, thin man who, as legend had it, survived a broken neck from a fall when he was young. This accounted for his inability to move his neck so he had to turn his entire upper body to face you. Edna, his wife, was a matronly woman of sturdy Ohio stock who had many talents as Clayt’s partner on the farm. She could garden, tend to the cows, keep house, and OH BOY, could she ever cook and bake. She was cheerful and kind. So was Clayt. A wonderful couple to have as neighbors.
I often rode my pony Tricker down a wagon path in Clayt’s field to the back barnyard gate, tie Tricker to a fencepost and have a visit. I loved to visit with Edna, who I called Mrs. Jones. She always seemed to know when I was going to pay a visit because she would have the best sugar cookies fresh out of the oven waiting for me. Her kitchen was vintage 1890s. She had an old wood cook stove, which was very fancy, and she preferred it to the modern electric or gas stoves. Their house was a magnificent 19th Century Victorian, replacing an older frame home that was still standing a few hundred feet in the backyard. Edna would always sit with me and talk like I was an adult when I was only about seven years old.
There was a cow barn and a horse barn, both very 19th Century. The horse barn was also a carriage house. Clayt no longer had horses. They were replaced with an old Allis Chalmers tractor. But sneaking a peek inside that horse barn was a treat. An old McClellan saddle and a plantation saddle with a brass horsehead saddle horn rested on a rack amid the dust and cobwebs. A buggy and a buckboard awaited their horses. Upstairs there was a two-horse sleigh and the barn was quite advanced because there were trap doors above the horse stalls to drop down the hay and grain at feeding time. It was like exploring a museum. I would have loved to stay there and played. It was a ready-made western town! Clayt was in his late 70s and still farming. Dad helped Clayt with combining, baling and many other things around the farm.
At 8-12 years old, I would help sack the wheat or oats as they poured out of the combine’s auger. Clayt taught me how to tie the bags. I would drag them to the end of the wagon. In haying season, I stacked the bales on the wagon. Clayt would slowly drive down the path, through the gate, and beneath a cherry tree. If I sat just at the right place on top of the hay, I could grab some ripe cherries. He had an old hay elevator that I would toss the bales onto. When we finished unloading the hay, Clayt would plug in his well pump and we would get a drink from the tin cup hanging on a nail beside the pump. Such sweet water, and cherries and cookies. What more could you want? 1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” That’s how it was in our little farming community. A time seeming so long ago.