Family farm

Saturday, December 11, 2010


My paternal grandparents were farmers, in Ohio.  As long as I knew my Grandmother Rouse, she was in a wheelchair. She had developed Multiple Sclerosis sometime around the time I was being born and I never remember her anywhere but in the wheelchair, in the front room of her house.

Even then, she was a comforting and gentle woman. She was fond of the grandchildren who ran through her house, yelling and making chaos as a houseful of grandchildren can. We rode ponies, we picked cucumbers and plums and generally ran wild in the hills of their farm.

There were a lot of grandchildren in the Rouse family. The five children produced in excess of 20 grandchildren, with my uncle Jack being the most prolific. I am pretty sure there may be a few unclaimed out in the world who belong in my paternal family line through Jackie.

I took photos of the farm, which has since been sold, when I went back to Ohio for my Maternal Grandmother's funeral. I walked, alone, around the buildings and barns. Even though it was February, the smell of tractor oil and old hay and long dead animals permeated the air.

I peeked into the windows, trying to see if anything had been left behind. I tried the door handles to see if the house was unlocked.

I wanted to see if my uncle Edwards name was still engraved in the window frames in the dining room, a left over from when he was a young boy and the origin of a story of my grandfathers rage at finding his youngest son carving the window frames he had made., and the whipping delivered after the discovery.

I wanted to see if I could see the space where my grandmothers tapestry of JFK hung was discolored. Or the spot where the picture of Jesus praying could be discerned. I wanted to smell the house and feel like 5 year old Dawn. Maybe I would even go into the basement, a place I had never gone past the top of the stairs for fear of what might be down there.


No, Nothing. No way in. So I wandered the grounds, looking, thinking, smelling.  A house my grandfather had built himself, at the corners of four counties so my grandmother could look out of each side of her house into a different place.

A place where I had climbed trees with swings and eaten plums after being warned that too many would make me sick. A place where I had wandered the gardens to find cucumbers to slice and place in vinegar for dinner, only to disturb sleeping garter snakes under wide leaves.  A place where I had ridden horses, bareback, through fields, or sat underneath old trusting ponies slapping horseflies before they could bite. A place where I fell in manure, and got caught up in barbed wire only to have my aunt wash the wounds with Mercurachrome...leading me to believe that the cure was much worse than the injury.


This was my family's farm, and to honor them I made a rug of my memories. A rug that will live in my house, and the house of my daughter and granddaughters so they can see what I saw.

12 Baleful Regards:

Jess said...

God, Dawn, this is amazing....

My father grew up on an apple farm in Pennsylvania. I have scattered memories of there, and I took my camera there a few years back...I think I took two pictures. It wasn't mine anymore. But the smells and the sights and the old brook were the same...

Bobbie Sue said...

My family farm is in Michigan. Cousins own it now. Reading this brought back a flood of memories for me.

Sweet Dawn, your rug? Magnificent.

Dawn said...

Jess, The smells. The smells were what took me back 30 years when I stepped out of the car. Since I wasn't expecting it, given that it was February, I was stunned that the smell of the place had not changed at all, and that is what initially filled me with memories.

The rug after the one I am drawing now will be my maternal grandparents orchards ..and my grandmothers flower garden. That one seems to need more time to ferment in my mind, as it will be the same size rug, but tell a very different story.

I suspect I will start to work on that one in late winter, early spring after the rug I am starting now is done. (Its of the rabbits)

And Bobbie Sue, thank you my love. I only started hooking rugs last year, as a whim, as something I wanted to do but just never had done...and I found a real affinity for it. It is an amazingly soothing therapy for me and a way to tell a story different from quilting.

But really, I want to retain the memories for the women who come after me - so my grandmothers can be remembered for not only as names in a book, but as women who created things that resonated in the world.

Gurukarm said...

The story is so moving, Dawn, and the rug? what a great family heirloom you've made in an age of disposable and throw-away. Thank you for sharing them both!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Holy crap, Dawn. That rug is AMAZING. Reminds of Van Gogh.

What a cool story and awesome skill you have taken up. Jealous!

Laura said...

Beautiful rug! How big is it exactly?

Dawn said...

Laura, that was a good question - I had to go and measure it.

It is 48 inches wide and 34 inches high - so a decent size for a hooked wool rug.

Dawn said...

Kelli - I bet there are rug hookers in your area and you just don't know it.

It is a ridiculously easy skill to pick up, and really fast. This rug was started at the very beginning of September. I found my teacher via internet - and she happens to live about 10 minutes away, so it seemed fated.

SUEB0B said...

Your artwork is just lovely.

Judith Dallegret said...

I love your story DAWN! and your rug is truly a wondrous work of art!! BRAVO . . I love that you made it for your daughter and her children . . .
Judith
your rug hooking friend

Hillbilly Princess said...

Where in Ohio, out of curiosity? I'm in South Central Ohio, and it looks awfully familiar.

Dawn said...

HP - The farm was at the edge of Colerain/Bridgeport...so the Martins Ferry edge of Ohio. I was born in Wheeling WVA, so extreme Eastern Edge of Ohio.

 
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