The joys of a perfect midsummer day

oat shocks, Amish farm
Field soldiers.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The day began as another sleepy sonnet in a series of hot, muggy, midsummer dog days. It turned out to be an inspirational novella.

In keeping with my fair weather routine, I took my morning stroll. I typically immerse myself in the sights, sounds, and morning fragrances of field corn and fresh laundry.

Not this day. The air was thick, moist enough to ring it out and still be left holding a damp rag. Breathing even became a chore.

Already sweated, I dove into necessary yard work back home. I wanted to complete it before the elements became even more oppressive.

I donned my trusty work gloves. Out came the noxious poison ivy. Out went the volunteer walnut and oak seedlings sprouted from the nuts that the squirrels and blue jays had planted in the flowerbeds last fall. They conveniently abandoned them for my birdfeeders.

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Even with little rain, the shrubs seemed to have grown a foot while we were away. I grabbed the trimmer and snipped the wiry branches.

After cleaning up, I took breakfast in the shade of the back porch. With the high humidity, the chances of rain looked promising.

I checked the progress of the road repair in our rural township, the prettiest in the state. No, I’m not up for reelection. As a trustee, I just enjoy inspecting the roads, conversing with folks, and breathing in the beauty of the picturesque landscape.

My camera is my faithful sidekick on my rounds. I’m mindful of respecting Amish ways when it comes to photography. I focus on the agricultural artistry. The golds and greens are at their peak of brilliance even in this mini-drought.

While away, the neighbor mowed the adjacent alfalfa much to the delight of the swooping swallows and the purple martins. They harvested insects in concentric circles around the sturdy workhorses and their mowing master.

To the east, thunderstorms built fast and furious, their anvil tops reaching 60,000 feet. Our meteorological ingredients fed the liquid fortunes of folks 100 miles away.

In the afternoon heat, I turned to writing in the comfortable air conditioning. I confess to guiltlessly adding my two cents worth to global warming.

Neva worked her magic with dinner. We enjoyed a summer feast of fresh veggies and fruit washed down with freshly brewed garden mint tea.

As the storms moved further east, the air here cleared and cooled, if only because the dew point and humidity took a temporary break. Feeling refreshed, we walked around the parched flower gardens and discovered the season’s first monarch caterpillars.

It was about that time that a friend rode by on his bicycle and waved hello. We returned the gesture and moseyed into the house. We weren’t in long when the doorbell rang. It was Mark. He had turned around, and come for a spontaneous visit, the best kind.

Mark was a former student of mine. With more tea poured, we began a marvelous time of reminiscing on the back porch. He filled us in on his family and former classmates. We happily learned that he is now a grandfather.

We cherished his presence and friendly update, despite the unintentional reminder of how old my wife and I are. It was one of the main perks of living and working in the same community over time.

Rank and location have their privileges. So does having a view to the west. A stunning sunset proved a fitting end to a perfect summer’s day.

sunset, Holmes County OH
Stunning sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Checking the roads and the scenery

Fall haying by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

When I moved to Holmes County, Ohio more than four decades ago, one of my initial purchases was a county road map. I wanted to learn my way around the ridges, valleys and hamlets of the area.

I drove both the highways and back roads in order to get to know the topography and citizenry of this place. Geography buff that I am, landscape variations between the glaciated and the unglaciated portions of the county greatly intrigued me.

I marveled equally at the steep wooded hills that defined the broad Killbuck Valley, and the rolling farmlands and rivulets in the county’s northern section. The common elements of picturesque scenery and practical people reoccurred despite the demographic differences.

All these years later I still drive the roads, still learn, still enjoy my bucolic and human encounters. I think about that often, especially when I inspect the roads for which I am responsible as a township trustee.

Washout by Bruce StambaughMy main objective is to ensure safe road conditions, and check for potential problems like plugged culverts, leaning trees and slippery roads. I do those duties, but the pastoral vistas and the genial people I encounter along the way can easily distract me. I don’t mind in the least. The diversity of the countryside and characters in my township are truly remarkable.

My regular route takes me up hill and down vale, through densely wooded ravines with sharply slanting walls that rise abruptly on both sides. In several places road and stream are pinched with just enough room to navigate side-by-side.
Amish farm by Bruce Stambaugh
In minutes, I can motor from forested valley to high, rolling fertile fields that surround coffin red bank barns and white farmhouses. Various shapes and sizes of purposeful farm buildings cluster around the intentionally unadorned agrarian castles.

It was inevitable that over the years the views would be altered. With the population regularly expanding and the land not, cottage businesses and manufacturing buildings sprouted up out of necessity. Many are Amish run and involve some aspect of the lumber industry. Other shops create products specifically for the benefit of the Amish lifestyle, like buggy shops and farriers.

The commerce is nice. The views and residents are better.
Saltcreek farm by Bruce Stambaugh
Near one of my favorite hilltops, the land falls away gradually, cascading toward the Killbuck lowlands. It is a sacred place for me, and yet it is at this precise spot where a new Amish country murder mystery novel is set. When I read about the book’s release, I wondered if the writer had ever met the good folks on the homestead he had impugned.

Last winter, during a fierce snowstorm, a semi-tractor trailer truck got stuck on the slippery incline in front of this very farmstead. The kind farmer cranked up his bulldozer, puttered out the long lane in blinding snow and pushed the teamster and his rig over the hill and on his way.
Wash line by Bruce Stambaugh
When it comes to beauty, seasons are really insignificant as I traverse my lovely township. Refreshing summer breezes flap wash lines loaded with pastel clothing. Gaggles of youth skate and play on frozen ponds. A Golden Eagle roosts on a chubby fence post. Leafy rainbows of the mixed hardwoods compete with those in post-storm skies.

Then, too, rounds from paintball guns plaster stop signs, runaway streams wash away road banks, and citizens rankle at impassible roads. Fear not. Repairs can be made, relationships mended.

Peace is restored to my Camelot, at least until my next dreamy drive.
Amish school by Bruce Stambaugh