In the middle of the town I work in, right across the street form the Walmart, Kmart and other strip mall fascinations, looms a reminder of our past. At the far north edge of the Sears Hardware parking lot stands a weary old farmhouse, its clapboard walls worn smooth by rain, wind and time.
Although the windows are cracked and the roof is sagging, if you look closely you can still find traces of the whitewash that once graced the siding, now laid bare to the sky. Carefully made calico curtains hang listlessly in the windows where they once gave a family shade. Beyond the house, tall grass and weeds stand in silent sentry in front of a slumped-over coop that once housed proud hens. All around in the yard lie traces of a time long lost to this patch of earth, the seats and engines of a hundred Allis Chalmers and Massey Fergusons choked in vines and rust. It's a graveyard of farming in the center of a suburban town.
I imagine as I drive past each day that years ago the home was a showplace, a respite for travelers down this main country thoroughfare where they might ask to water their horses or stop for a rest. Now it sits, a pile of junk and lost prayers, to some, an eyesore in the center of progress.
But have we really moved forward or just shunned hard work for the instant gratification of a factory-made world? We might do well to remember from this last vestige of our agricultural past, to recall what once was a more close-knit community, the home of A.I. Root and the infancy of the science of keeping bees, where our children knew how to treat animals and till the earth to plant food. We might find lessons, hidden there among the weeds, about what it means to be neighborly, about patience and thrift, about the value in hard work and advance planning. These virtues and the skills to grow, cook, build and create are disappearing in our cities and towns, lost in a world of Google and iPhones. It'd probably do us good to remember the names of those who toiled before us so we could live here in ease and comfort, safe in our kingdoms of convenience.
This Memorial Day weekend, while you are remembering those who gave their lives in military service, don't forget those whose lives of service helped us in other ways: put food in our bellies, a roof over our heads or clothes on our back. Ask a neighbor or relative to share a story, a recipe or a lesson in living and remember that all our world was once made by hand.