During the years before I started attending school, I lived in a clapboard frame house at the corner of Sycamore and North Streets in North Lewisburg, adjacent to the corporation boundary line. North Street was an incline which culminated at the city limits. Looking out the large plate-glass window of our living room, I wondered who lived in the large farmhouse at the top of the street, with the big, imposing white barn. After my first few days in the first grade at the local elementary school, I learned that I had a classmate who lived in that very house. His name was Thomas Vincent Reid, or "Tommy" for short.
Tommy's parents were Paul and Virginia Reid, and farmed an extensive area of land which abutted the corporation boundary. Their home was a two-story, white, wood-framed house. There were several outbuildings, to include that very large white barn, a milking parlor and stable area, and corncribs. As I came to know Tommy and to spend more and more time at his home - as opposed to my own - a whole new world of adventure beckoned. There were wide expanses in the big barn to explore, flocks of pigeons to scatter with our b-b guns, stored field corn to help shuck and grind, and tunnels and hide-aways to construct in the hayloft where the bales of hay were stored.
I had the opportunity to watch the cows - Holsteins, mostly - being milked, not by hand but with the elaborate milking operation. The warm, white liquid created by each cow was sucked into large, stainless steel containers. When these containers were full, they were carried into the milk parlor, and emptied into a large metal vat. The milk was stored there until the arrival of an especially-equipped truck sometime later in the week. The precious milk was then siphoned into the truck's bulk tank, and eventually found its way to an area dairy where it was treated and bottled for sale.
The cows fed on the luscious meadow grasses which surrounded the barn and lots during the warm months of the year. During the winter, the hay which had been grown, cut, and baled during the summer months was used as feed. This was supplemented with ground corn, wheat, or oats which were grown and harvested in the productive fields.
There was usually at least one - and sometimes two - large, dangerous looking Black Angus bulls which seemed to dominate the farm. The boys who were eventually attracted to play at the farm were warned about, and very leary of, those huge, scary animals. More than once, boys who had not been quite careful enough were chased around the premises by an intimidating, and often angry, black bull.
As time passed, and neighborhood boys like myself became more common visitors to the farm, our boundaries and limitations were extended. Boys roamed the fields, occasionally helped with the chores, and were treated to fishing trips to Devil's Well, a private pond owned by the Reid family. There is a great story about one very large wide-mouth bass, a rowboat and a bush...but that's a story for another time.
Paul and Virginia were hospitable, and treated the boys with trust. They asked only one major concession: absolutely no one was to go into the basement of the house where the family had installed a large, ornate, and expensive pool table. That rule was faithfully observed...at least for a short period of time. As the boys became more and more daring with age, and opportunities presented themselves, the pool table was no longer off-limits. When Paul and Virginia would get into the family car and drive away to go shopping, or to visit friends, the boys who were there slipped into the basement, using an old exterior basement doorway. The balls were racked up, the cue sticks were chalked up, and some very aggressive games of "Eight ball" transpired. The games would continue until the sounds of the returning car caught the boys' attention. Then followed the mad scurry to put the balls, rack, and cue sticks back into their proper locations, and to vacate the premises...all without being seen by either Paul or Virginia. Most of the time, the boys were successful. At other times, they were literally "caught in the act." Then came the stern lecture from Tommy's parents, to which all of the boys promised to adhere...at least until the next time. The boys never tired of the game of evading capture!
Tommy and I remained friends as we completed the years leading up to our graduation from high school. We went our separate ways after that, rarely seeing each other over the next 40 years or so. In 1990, I stopped in our hometown while on my way to an Army duty assignment in Panama. I drove on familiar streets to the Reid farm, knocked on the door, and visited for a few minutes with Paul and Virginia. I was very glad I took the time to stop by and thank them for the memories of the occasions I had spent on their farm. Sadly, Paul Reid died in 1992. Virginia Reid died in 2009.
Only this past summer did I have the opportunity to return to our hometown and to spend a few hours visiting with Tommy and his wife, Darlene. It was good to do so, and so very long overdue.