Monday, July 28, 2008

My grandmother's grandfather had 13 children -- including my grandmother's father, Roy Metz, and her dozen aunts and uncles.  Entire clans sprang from those 13.  

And every summer since the 1950's, on the last weekend of July, members of those clans, nine or ten score in number, gather in the home valley.  They bring food, they bring family news, bring new children, spouses, grandchildren.  And they come for the barn dance.

The Metz's and the Browns still farm the narrow end of the valley, northwards up to where it opens up and the Amish dominate with their own clans and sects. 

It feels to me like a natural rhythm -- to return to central Pennsylvania every hot summer to that farm where my grandfather was born; where my grandparents raised cattle on the mountainside and in the meadows along the creek; and where then my uncle Fred and now my cousin Scott have done the same.

We're not such outsiders yet that they can't put us to work -- when we insist.  

And tasks become traditional over time.  Uncle Bob and I sweep the barn floor each year to clear the dust for the dance.  This year there are new planks replacing those that used to sag underneath the band.  (Planks too ancient by far to stand up under the stomping of square dancers.)

Tradition is that many of the thicker planks are from the original barn that was put up in 1820. 

(In 1919 or so the stone sides had gone decrepit and it was torn apart and put together as a fully wooden barn -- and most of the great beams still show the notches and peg-holes of their first century of use.)  

Bob showed me how 20 years ago he had to jack up and saw off the rotten posts of the front -- putting down concrete where poor engineering had set them all upon an oaken log lain on the ground at the top of the barnbridge -- gone rotten after a mere 70 years of weather and wear.