Simpler Times, Interrupted

by Kitty Born

I began drawing and painting as a student at Ohio University while pursuing a degree in Education. When my children were growing up I enjoyed capturing their best expressions in portraits and sketches. The Art Center in Lancaster, Ohio, has afforded me the opportunity to improve my skills in various mediums such as watercolor, graphite, and acrylics. I enjoy painting scenes that excite and involve the viewer such as nostalgia and familiar sights using calming colors. I believe in expressing happiness and warmth to the observer. This painting is done in folk art style using acrylics.

In this painting, I have brought the viewer back to a simpler time. The List family often visited a small country town named Lawshe where my grandparents once lived. I have included vignettes of activities that we remember as among the most enjoyable times of our childhood. The country churches we sometimes attended with our Grandma, the old railroad station we often visited, the leaking water tower for the old steam engines, all evoke memories of happy times. Grandma's stately white home with it's big front porch stands ready to welcome us for a day of good times and comforting arms. Grandpap's big black barn loaded with fresh hay upstairs provided us with hours of fun. Shown is a small boy leaning into the rain barrel splashing in the water. Watching Grandpap, the robust blacksmith with his huge strong arms, hammering the hot iron into horseshoes was a most awesome sight.

Behind he house Grandma's vegetable garden was full of lush ripe tomatoes, green beans and other delectable that the aunts and uncles loved to collect into baskets for dinners and canning. Beside the old wooden barn was the town pump where all the town's people came to pump water for their kitchens. The tobacco barn near the tracks doubled as a weigh station for the farmers to pull into for measuring the weight of the crops for market. The two most popular general stores we loved to run to for ice cream and root beer were Luther Atkins and Alva Elliott's stores shown on each side of the painting. Sometimes we saved the Popsicle sticks to make rafts for floating in the puddles after a rain shower. The little stream running through town, we called the "crawdad patch" was a main attraction to all thee List grandchildren. We would gather up buckets and tin cans, and head to the crawdad patch anticipating the hunt as soon as we arrived. We carefully lifted the slippery rocks in search of the illusive crawdad. Once the pails were full, we would run to Grandma's back porch. There we dumped them into a large metal tub filled with water from the water pump on her back porch that pumped water from her cistern. Excitedly we marveled at the number we found and poked sticks at the claws playing with them until time to leave. Then we would dump them all back into the "patch" where they scurried under the rocks to be hunted again the next time.

The sunken flower garden below the large white cottage, Mrs., Cook's house, was to the left of the little church. Planted with a massive array of colorful hollyhocks, poppies, and coneflowers, it was a virtual fairyland to little children. Small handmade wooden white houses were carefully arranged about in which we were sure fairies lived. Tiny white pebbles arranged as walkways led from one house to another. Where the stream ran through her yard she had a little arched walking bridge that just called out to us to play "Billy goats gruff" beneath. When she wasn't' looking we would sneak in and take turns being the Billy goats or the ogre beneath the bridge. There was a larger creek called Brush Creek that twisted and turned on each side of town. The older grandchildren often hiked the banks of Brush Creek in search of fossils. Some would even paddle a canoe down the creek looking for frogs.

The pine tree on the top of the hill we called "Bunker Hill" was a challenge not many ever accomplished. To hike to the top of that hill and picnic beneath its branches high about the town was an irresistible dream to most of the younger children. If you look closely you will see 3 of us making that walk.

Grandma pastured her cow, "Jersey", in a pasture field on the other side of the railroad tracks. Sometimes she would take our hand and lead us across the tracks to get the cow for milking. Carrying a rope in one hand and a child's hand in the other she would carefully cross the tracks, even if a train were sitting on the track. She seemed to know its schedule or if it would be moving but we didn't and that was an exciting adventure. S he would call out, "Here, Jersey" in her little voice and the cow would walk toward her to be led back to the barn for milking. Once safely in the stall of the barn, she would pull up her milking stool and begin to fill her milk bucket with warm milk. Occasionally she would squirt the milk into the mouth of a kitten or two and giggle. Then she would let us try to milk the cow.

This was the era of the old steam engines and the Norfolk and Western Railway. Dad was an engineer o the elite Powhatan Arrow passenger train. Often the monstrous whistle blowing train would plow through Laswhe and everyone there would either run to the station or look up and wave at the train. Steam would hiss and wheels would squeal as the old train clamored through town. The engineer would wave to all the admirers. We would hold our ears, ad wave with excitement. Sometimes we would cautiously lay a coin on the track ahead of the train to be flattened by the tons of steel going by searching for that coin afterward and admiring a new smooth flattened one was quite a feat.

The title of my painting is Simpler Times, Interrupted. It depicts a thought of wonderment. Was this giant modern sleek train, a symbol of modern times, coming to the quiet village destined to change our lives? Or was it just a temporary interruption of an otherwise quiet peaceful day in a magical time of life?