Nineteenth Century People

It was the Nineteen Fifties. Glamor, glitz, consumerism! Cars were longer, lower and wider. Some folks had two televisions. We used Aero wax, Ipana and Prell. I had a neat Schwinn bike with streamers coming from the hand grips! Things were going great, why would anyone who had a choice not hop on board?

Well, I only had to take a short hop on that bike to know that everybody did not choose to bask in the glow of modern living. Just over the Butler Township Line beside the Timmons Farm lived a man and two women who, for reasons that apparently had nothing to do with religion, chose to live as their grandparents had lived. They had a small farm and grew crops they raised without benefit of any powered equipment. Stopping and staring would have been rude so we would ride over on our bikes and quickly pass their log house to gather what intelligence we could on the fly. A ten year old kid has a strong curiosity that needs to be satisfied and these folks, so far out of tempo with the times, were a powerful attraction.

One Halloween, so the legend goes, a group of older teenagers captured a bag full of cats and planned to tie them to the stone chimney of the cabin. The prank was rather original – if not cruel – but while it was high on enthusiasm it was short on planning. The climber and bag man were met at the front door by a large powerful man with a scythe. No words were exchanged. There was a quick departure! We all heard this story and kept our distance.

Years later when I was in college, my mother prepared a Christmas basket to take to the sole surviving member of the clan. My brother and I drove our sleek Camaro through the ante-bellum gate and knocked on the door. An elderly woman dressed like Lucretia Mott gestured us in and pointed to a long table. Light was provided by a single kerosene lantern and shone on a fairly large collection of similar baskets. Again no words were exchanged. The woman’s face betrayed a dual expression of resentment and gratitude. I was no closer to understanding what this was all about than I was as a curious kid.