Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Home Is Devoured - Part I

On November 11 last year, I wrote a blog Remembering My First Published Writing. At the time, some people asked if I still had a copy of the essay which was published in our high school paper The Smoke Signal. Alas, I did not - too many moves in the intervening fifty years. The stars aligned during my fiftieth class reunion last month and I now have an almost full four year collection of The Smoke Signal once again. (Eventually, the collection will be bound and offered to the Corning Public Library.)

So, for those who asked, here is the essay just as it was published almost fifty-two years ago:

My Home Is Devoured by Paula Shane - To me my home will always be a farm. I don't mean I intend to live on a farm all my life, but when I hear or think the word "home", I will think of the farm where I have spent all my life up to this point.
Many people consider a farm as a poor place to live but it has numerous advantages over urban residence. It is an especially fine place to raise children who have room to play without fear of running into a street and being hit by a car. I recall many happy hours I have spent playing and growing on the farm.
I remember our old horse, Queenie, and the old buggy we used to have. My older brother always got to steer the rig until my sister and I decided we knew how to harness up the horse. We would just joyride around the country until Dad decided we could be of some use hauling water to the field for threshers. That ancient buggy stayed in use until some bumble bees decided to make it their home one summer.
Something that was even more fun was the corn cob fights we used to have. Our neighbor and my brother were against my sister and me. They would climb onto the hog house and fire at us until they ran out of ammunition. No quarter was given; none asked for. And if you got hit you didn't dare cry. There was no ceding until both sides were ready to quit or until someone was really hurt. It may sound dangerous and barbaric, but to us it was just plain fun.
A person has a chance to develop his own true personality on a farm and not just be a carbon copy of his friends. I think farm "kids" have more respect for other people and their property than do city youngsters. There is something in the papers every day about teenage gang fights and the destruction caused by teenage vandals. A farm youth's life is a more strict upbringing, as his parents' before him, than the city youth who is often allowed to roam at will.
A person learns more from experience and contact than from anything else. Farm youngsters grow up with a knowledge of animals and a security around them. They know that milk comes from a cow, and they know how to get it!
One thing I think farm youngsters appreciate more than their "city cousins" is nature. Their perception of nature is greater because they come into contact with it more. We on the farm see crops planted, cultivated, ripen and harvested. The changing of the seasons is more evident because we see more of it.
Sometime in March you get your first announcement of spring. You can feel it and smell it coming. Between the patches of snow you can see the grass beginning to push through the broken skin of winter's frosty coast.
Spring comes slowly, then suddenly it's upon you in all its glory. Birds are singing, the grass is turning an emerald green and trees are beginning to leaf out. But this isn't the best part of spring. No, the best time is when you step outside after the supper dishes are finished. It is a peaceful and serene time - a time when you can collect your thoughts and let them rest on the wonder and beauty that He has set before you. A gentle warm breeze is barely caressing you. The first star has just begun to shine and the quarter moon is a faint glowing sliver. The smell of growing plants and fresh earth reaches you, and like a snake is charmed by the flute player, your thoughts are drawn away, leaving you at complete peace with the world. This is the best time of Spring.
Following this is uneventful Summer. It's hot and humid and there's always work to be done, until August. With August comes the let-up. The days move almost at a standstill; hot days, dry days. There is an undescribable peace in these days. You realize they are the last days of summer. Maybe that's why they move so slowly - to give you time to savor each one. The air is always full of insects: the only things moving at a fast pace in this waning time.
We on the farm don't think of fall as a time to buy winter finery but as a time for preserving food for use in the long cold days ahead. We see the cold beauty of winter's icy fingers as they coat the outside world with their own being and turn it into a sparkling tomb of silence. (End of Part I)


I have to admit, re-reading this is a bit humbling - seeing all the mistakes I made and the rough juxtapositions. But at the time, I thought it was about perfect - pretty heady stuff as a junior having your teacher thinking your essay was so good it should be published in the school paper. Never once did I think maybe they were short on articles for that issue and just needed some filler! Mr. LaChapelle's red pen was used abundantly on the original paper I turned in. I still remember his trite written across "a winter wonderland" before he suggested my changing it for publication and it became "a sparkling tomb of silence."

(Kari & Preston might note the heading for their Dad's sports column in the above picture.)

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