Growing Up Outside Da Region

... for a kid, a farm is a wondrous place. Even a small family farm is a place of the big.

I was born outside “Da Region” in rural Northwest Indiana. I must admit I had no idea there was a “Da Region” until I moved away - at which point I learned that people in far off places such as Florida and Washington were intimately familiar with this legendary place. “Da Region” is loosely defined as that area outside Chicago where the mob finds it convenient to eliminate their “excess baggage” - if...yous know what I mean. It’s close enough to make for a pleasant drive without being so close as to stink up their beloved Chicagoland.

This all makes it sound like quite an exciting place, but from immediately outside this nebulous region it was not so much interesting as...well...the precise opposite of interesting. Besides hearing on the news about the occasional burned out car hulk or that someone’s dog had dug up a fleshy shriveled thumb on the back 40 acres, there was not a lot of excitement in these parts. It was also geographically uninteresting in that it was billiard-table flat as far as the eye could see, which from July through October was to the cornfield on the other side of the road. Anthills were mapped by the US Geologic Survey. In my youth the primary pastimes seemed to be listening in on other people’s conversations on the party-line (lest you think I’m 100, party-lines existed until at least the mid- to late-70’s in these parts), porch-sitting, and excessive drinking.

All that said, for a kid, a farm is a wondrous place. Even a small family farm is a place of the big. There are big machines, big land expanses, big tractor tires, big red barns and cavernous outbuildings. Fond memories of youth include riding in the cab of a grain harvester as it gobbled up neat rows of grain. Fonder still was the task of “corn plunger,” which involved getting up in a wagon full of grain and riding the submerging corn down as it flowed over the sloped bottom and out the chute- while, hopefully, avoiding going out the chute and into the spiraling, sharp auger blade.

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