View from Afar

I spent my first Memorial Day weekend in Hillsboro in decades. It was awesome. Driving through Kansas in May after abundant rains with mild sunny days made me think I had made a wrong turn and was in the bluegrass area of Kentucky.

Summer has three good holidays-Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

These holidays do not require sending cards, buying gifts, getting dressed up and going to church or spending hours cooking ritual foods. The Hallmark and flower-shop people have not yet found a way to make us feel guilty about these holidays. We are free to visit with relatives and friends, eat mightily and just hang out.

The Hillsboro Family Festival was simple joy. From the tiny horses to buying mustard from Grannie herself. The auto show had a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire. This was my dad’s car during my teen years. (Find a newly paved county road and, with a decent tail wind, you could bury its speedometer needle on the right side of the dash.)

There were toy tractors for sale, and zwiebach and New Years cookies were baking on the outdoor oven at the Adobe House. Little kids were waiting for their first airplane ride at the airport.

I remember my first airplane ride there during the county fair with my baby brother when I was 7 and he 6.

On Monday, I returned for the Memorial Day event sponsored by the American Legion. The reading of the names of community veterans who had died rang bells in my mind-men who not only served this country-but many also the glue that held this community together.

The reading of the names is a masterful statement of democratic and community values. No rank is given, no explanation of roles played and honors received, merely the simple recitation of names. Had the names been read even more slowly, I would have teared up, laughed, and grown nostalgic about many of them. (Along with, “Who was that?” on some)

Someday, if I behave myself, my name will be read as part of this solemn recital.

Lehigh nearly outshone Hillsboro in community elegance. Move the lawn chairs from the front porch to the street, serve a wonderful lunch and park some tractors on the street and scatter some old-timey machines on the lawns and there is a festival.

I saw a familiar Allis Chalmers WD model but no WD 45, the tractor of my childhood career as a farmer-but still it was a good collection.

I saw my first anvil shoot in Lehigh. Insert peanut butter and a pound of black powder in one anvil. Mount one anvil atop it, light the fuse and run like crazy. A big bang results in a black anvil flying twice higher than the tree line.

Life really doesn’t get much better than this.

In my childhood, we didn’t go to Memorial Day in town-there was too much row crop to tend. If the wheat was harvested and the plowing well under way, we had time to go to Peabody for the Fourth of July. Labor Day was an alien holiday-it was something about unions and industrial cities, more a time to go to Newton to JC Penny’s to buy clothes for the return to school.

This Memorial Day was a life review for me. It makes me feel old to realize the cars and tractors of my teen years are now antique and collectable-but worthy of restoration.

These holidays are celebrated from Maine to Oregon. They are always best celebrated in “home” towns-in summertime, when the living is easy.

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