Monday, September 6, 2010

VC 9/7: Meeting and a Labor Day Meditation

This is an image of walking beans, from an organic farm in Iowa!

Dear People: Tomorrow night we'll be meeting at 7 pm in the Bryan Center. I have attached the agenda and the entire packet if you're interested in knowing more about any of these points. I am feeling a bit rushed right now--but I'll try to give at least a quick overview here of the meeting.


Ordinance: Demolition Permit:
This will ensure that no buildings are demolished without turning off village utilities and ensuring for the village that the regional air pollution authority (RAPCA) has been notified and signed off on the demolition, etc. I support this legislation.

Resoulution: Accepting the rates as determined by the Budget Commission and Authorizing the Necessary Tax Levies and Certifying Them to the County Auditor. This is a pro forma thing we have to do every year.

Resolution: Appointing John Chambers of Coolidge Law as Village Solicitor. He's doing a fine job; we are very satisfied, across the boards.

First Reading of Ordinance: Solar Project with AMP

Resolution: Authorizing Application for the Ohio Public Works Commission Round 25 Issue One Grant for Construction of the CBE-Dayton Yellow Springs Street Intersection. This is a grant application for the construction of an entrance to the Center for Business and education, and the creation of a safe intersection with Dayton Street.

Resolution: Approving Train Station Lease with the Chamber of Commerce.

Ordinance: Revising the Economic Sustainability Board: This is a minor revision, having to do with clarifying the membership, I believe.


Update on Safe Routes to School--Ed Amrhein


Plan Fluoridation Meeting: I have worked on this with several villagers over the summer--Vickie Hennessy, Carl Hyde, Angela Brintlinger, and Steve Conn all provided helpful input. It's tentatively scheduled for Saturday, November 13th (or the 6th, as an alternative). An afternoon meeting, to begin at 1:30 pm and last no more than 2 hours. 3 speakers--one pro, one con, and one on ethics.

Review 2010 Goals. We will examine these to see what more needs to be completed.


Mental Health and Recovery Board Presentation (Greta Mayer)
Report on Annual Audit
Visioning Discussion
2011 Council Goals Initial Discussion: We hope that we can complete our goals discussion early so that we can have a Budget in place much earlier than in the past several years.

REPORTS from Manager and Clerk


FOR LABOR DAY, my own meditation on my first job, walking beans. I wrote this for my English 101 class this week (in response to my own assignment):

Scarred for Life

On my left leg is an old scar—a slash at about a forty-five degree angle to the ground. It marks the place where my oldest sister, Karla, sliced through a shock of volunteer corn in our father’s bean field with her trusty machete—and also through my six-year-old calf.

I will never forget that moment. The sky was blue, the dirt was black, the sun was hot, and the green of the fields stretched on and on between gravel roads. I think I was deliberately standing in the shade of the corn plants, avoiding the rising ripples of Iowa heat for a June moment. We were at the end of a round, drinking from a dusty, insulated plastic water jug and reapplying the pathetic 1970s suntan lotions that we used to try to avoid becoming burnt to a freckled, blistered crisp—even as we walked in cut offs, bikini tops, and seed-corn hats with our pony tails popping out the back.

I remember feeling just a strange jolt, not pain. I looked down to see the blood lips of skin and flesh splitting open. I was strongly aware of the odd lack of pain—it was a huge gash, but it didn’t hurt. This numbed sensation convinced me that I must be dying. For sure. How else could a huge wound not be painful, unless I already had one foot, maybe one whole leg, in the grave?

My sister tells me I looked at her with a doleful, reproachful gaze that only a wounded child can muster and said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, Karla!” She was just thirteen years old, and I now know that she felt horrible. She’d just sliced through the leg of her little sister! But she didn’t realize that I believed I was mortally wounded, and those were possibly my last words on earth. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Karla.

The thing is, I hated “walking beans,” which is what we called the act of walking up and down the rows of beans, in the days before Round-Up Herbicide, TM, and Round-Up Ready, TM, beans, pulling and hoeing weeds or, if there was almost more volunteer corn from last year’s crop than there were beans, stalking the rows of green pimpled beans with machetes, slashing away below the growth line of the new shoots of corn, sprung up where whole ears had fallen off last year, before the John Deere combine had passed through the rows.

Now, I had started walking beans when I was four years old—it was how farm families avoided child care expenses. I got paid $.25 an hour, to get out to the fields with my family by 7 AM, and then walk up and down the half-mile rows, supposedly weeding the row on my left and my right, until 12 noon, when we’d break for lunch and then mom would let us go swimming up town at the local pool. (I suspect my mom and my sister, on either side, did most of the work when I was four.) My sisters and my mom would work 4 or 6 or even 8 rows at a time, if the field was pretty clean. I just had to take care of my two rows. Other families hired teams of Mexican workers, or high school student teams raising money for a church trip. But our family mostly just did the work ourselves, and my parents paid us for our efforts.

Admittedly, walking the beans was better than “picking rocks,” which is what we called going out in the back of the pick-up, in the early spring, driving catty-wampus across the empty fields, watching for the larger stones that had worked themselves up through the winter—gifts from the glaciers that had scraped across this land thousands of years before. We’d yell, “ROCK!” when we’d see one. The pick-up would stop, and we’d jump off, run over to the rock, dig it up with hands, a hoe, or a small shovel, and toss it in the back of the truck, readying ourselves for another bumpy ride across the blank field.

Of course, I didn’t die from my sister’s machete slice—my mother ran over, tied one of my white socks around my bleeding leg, and carried me to the pickup truck. She rushed me into the emergency room at the local hospital (which no longer exists), and they stitched me up then and there—ten stitches, under the hot white lights of a small operating room. In fact, only when they started to anesthetize my leg—a process that kind of fascinated me—did my mom quietly begin to faint. A nurse ran over, scrambling to find some smelling salts to revive her.

I carry that scar with me today, and I have come to value it, in a strange way. When I was a kid, it was a tool I could use to make my sister feel really bad, and it gave me this very story of an exciting event that mobilized our whole world around me and my well being. The third of four children, and one of dozens of grandchildren on both sides, I was a child who needed tangible proofs of my value: I was deeply impressed that my mother would drop everything, pay any price the hospital asked, to have me healthy and whole.

As I grew older, it became the sign that I was not a soft, city kid: I had worked hard all my life, and I had the scar to prove it. But I was, I knew, absolutely not about to stay in that life. It was also a sign that I had a “better” life to lead—away from the dust and grime of hot mornings in the field. Away from blowing my nose and having it come out black with dirt; or walking in muck so thick and deep that it sucked off our shoes, leaving us stranded in our socks.

Apparently, kids in my home county don’t really walk beans any more. There’s really no need, now that round-up can be sprayed on the crops, killing all the weeds whose names and leaves I learned to recognize on sight—cocklebur, thistle, ironweed, sunflower, choke cherry, deadly nightshade, and buttonweed. The crop lines are smooth, and the horizon is dotted by wind turbines, their massive blades spinning swiftly in the constant wind that has blown across those fields since the dawn of time, slicing it into fragments.

It would be weird to say that I’m glad that my sister slashed my leg open with her machete that day when I was just six years old. But, in a strange way, it’s true. Some how that wound opened up the world for me. It seems both to keep me grounded in my past and also striving toward a new and different life—suitably haunted by the loss of the old farm life that has been plowed over and sprayed down with chemicals that I don’t fully understand, or trust.

But mostly it assures me of my family’s love, faith, and integrity—the invisible ground that I’m still walking on and supported by; the garden I need to tend and guard, with sharpened hoe and machete.



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