For Allison and me, it was also a time of great mystery, and we knew that on the farm magical creatures lived amongst us. Allison, a year and a half older than me, was only six when we moved to the farm and seven that December. She and I were the best of friends and spent endless hours playing or doing our chores together. We had no doubt that monsters were in the barn. Even the small woods on the back side of our house were not to be trifled with in our play. Though, to be honest, the small woods near the house were nothing like the big woods a large field away with its deep, impenetrable forest of trees and large piles of rock-mounds that we were positive were Indian graves – graves that were, in fact, for the ancestors of the very same Indians who were watching and stalking us every time we went in there alone together.
Allison was not like Holly, though she too had a strong will that often would be at odds with what I wanted to do. Whereas Holly had dark hair and more of an athletic build, Allison was blonde, more fragile, and more like Mother in complexion. She was more of a “girl” and loved to play dress up, or with her dolls, or “house” together with me.
For many years, if I wanted to be with Allison, this was the parameters in which I had to operate. She didn’t tolerate soldiers entering our play, or Indians attacking from the woods, or Viking appearing out of nowhere, all of which I thought were quite natural. Being a boy, I was required, therefore, to take a few minutes of serious fighting every so often to protect her, her dolls, or restore order to our “house.” I think she thought I was an idiot.
At one point we decided to build a tree-house in the small woods behind our house. Of course, Allison and I didn’t know what we were doing and couldn’t find a tree that satisfied her requirements (large trunk to nail slats for a ladder, thick, low-level branches in which we could build a small platform, and, most importantly, located on the edge of the forest so we could run to the house anytime we heard something we couldn’t comprehend, saw something that made absolutely no sense, or smelled impending danger, such as a large wolf or worse, a witch).
Soon she grew frustrated with the effort. Allison was no Charley – Charley and I built a raft on our creek and was ready to float it to the Mississippi if only the raft hadn’t sunk a few feet into the mud with us on it.
Allison, on the other hand, looked at the daunting task of building a tree house in an “actual” tree and decided that a “tree house” located on the ground near the edge of the woods right next to the lawn would serve perfectly for our needs. Accordingly, for many an afternoon in the small woods the two of us created a beautiful home together, cooked cold water with grass and wild onions, and raised a family of babies, while, of course, always vigilant in waiting for the unfathomable that might be coming our way.
Jerry was born on the farm approximately one year after we made the move from Pittsburgh. He was conceived on New Year’s Eve, and, in fact, was the gift for the ultimate, modern farm family. The night Jerry was born, the story goes, Daddy was down in the barn helping a huge sow deliver a large liter of piglets. The fear was that the sow would roll over onto her babies or worse, eat them. The hired hand heard the phone and came running. “Mr. Giles, Mr. Giles, get back to the house – your own sow’s delivering!”
I remember, the next morning, discovering the sheets pulled off my parent’s bed and lying bunched up on the floor, which I thought was so strange, especially on a weekday. Holly was there, of course, and got us all off to school. Later, though, when Mother came home, Jerry was the tiny baby in her arms.
Jerry was her fifth child, more than six years younger than me. No Korean War baby, but a new era baby, a soon to be “what you can do for your country” baby. Unfortunately, like a kid who was always too young, Jerry suffered the consequences of too much going on with our family and never being old enough to participate or, even, understand.
Even as a kid, when we took a cross-country trip in our station wagon to see the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, and the Seattle World Fair back in the summer of 1962, Jerry was the one left behind with the older couple who lived on the farm across the road. The story is told that they kept him in an empty corn bin until we returned six weeks later.
Even Jerry‘s name was different.
Holly was born on December 24 and named “Holliday” in honor of the occasion, Charley was a “junior” after our father; Allison was our mother’s maiden name, and I was named after Jonathan in the Bible and my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. However, Jeremiah Blackmore was a name totally derived from the farm. Jeremiah Black, a Pennsylvania statesman who served in President Buchanan’s cabinet, was born on our farm and was buried near the highway next to our lane in a private, fenced-in cemetery. Recognizing this, in combination with “the Mores,’ the owners who had so thoroughly updated the property, my mother came up with “Jeremiah Blackmore”…
Jerry, then, was a true testament to our farm and our beautiful spot in the Alleghenies. Perhaps too, an indication of the happiness my mother and father felt that first year.
Categories: My Family Story