Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Afternoon's Drive into the Past

the barn in 2011

Yesterday, after lunch, Joyce and I decided to take a drive east to look for a barn in Wayne Township (south of Ashtabula), a place where supporters of abolitionist John Brown had hidden weapons he and his followers would later use in the raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Joyce has spent nearly a decade working on a book about John Brown, and her research has taken us all over the place--from Bloody Kansas to Harpers Ferry to places in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. And there's a local connection, as well. Brown grew up in Hudson, Ohio, where we live--and he also lived in two other places Joyce has lived--Kent and Akron.

Anyway, it's been a thrill, visiting graveyards in Iowa cornfields and all the other places her research has taken us.

We've pretty much been everywhere now--with a couple of exceptions (which we will remedy this spring and summer, I hope); now we're looking for a barn in rural Ashtabula County.

She had found a 2011 newspaper article about the barn (link to the article), and it identified the location, so on a lovely Memorial Day, off we went to search for it--though as you can see from the 2011 picture, it was not looking too healthy five years ago.

We took the Ohio Turnpike east to Warren, then a variety of roads that got smaller and smaller (we did this without GPS, thank you!), until we reached Hayes Road (which we missed the first time--had to turn around), then south on Hayes to where it intersects with McClelland.

And there we saw ... the barn was gone. We did recognize the site because of the two silos (neither dates back to John Brown days) and because of some of the old barn's foundation stones, visible in the picture below.

May 30, 2016
We took a few pictures of the rural site--very rural site--then drove home a different way, hooking up with Ohio 305, which we followed east clear into Hiram.

Along that road, whose eastern extremes I'd not visited in well over a half-century, I had memories going off like flashbulbs in my head. (Remember flashbulbs?)

In Champion, Ohio, I saw the Disciples of Christ Church where my father once preached (an ordained minister, he filled in here and there to supplement his salary as a professor at Hiram College, 1956-66).

In Southington, I saw Chalker High School whose teams I'd played against in high school basketball. (No offense to Southington, but our game with them was one of the few we had a chance of winning in my sad era.)

In Nelson, I saw the old community house where--was it in the building that's standing? or another one gone?--I played the first basketball game of my life. Seventh grade. Fall of 1956. The building had a pot-bellied stove and some wasps that enjoyed the heat. One of our players got a slight burn, another a wasp sting. The ravages of roundball.

Nelson, Ohio
Then it was into Hiram, where I lived from seventh grade through college graduation (from Hiram). As I drove up the hill into the village, I passed the homes of former friends and classmates from yesteryear. And I was nearly overwhelmed by it all.

And then on east on Ohio 82, where, in Aurora, we passed the old middle school building where I began my teaching career in the fall of 1966.

More emotion.

Joyce and I have taken road trips--short, long, in between--since the earliest days of our marriage. In December 1969, we honeymooned in New Orleans, then stopped at Mark Twain's Hannibal, MO, on the way home. And it's been pretty much continual ever since. Even if we have only a free afternoon or so, we often hit the road to see something that's made us curious.

It's usually our literary (or writing) interests that propel us. Lately, John Brown has been our passenger, but he's sitting in a seat that's been occupied by many others in our decades together--from Hemingway to Hawthorne, Jack London to Kate Chopin, Willa Cather to Scott Fitzgerald, Melville to Longfellow, Edgar Poe to Sinclair Lewis, and on and on and on and on ...

May it never end ...

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