Growing up, one of my favorite television shows was "The Real
McCoys". My grandfather was similar to that grandfather, in physical
appearance. White hair, balding at the crown, of stocky build, lined
face, big hands, and most comfortable and familiar in the attire of
overalls, the blue jean kind that come up and over the shoulders with
A grain bucket in his hand to feed the chickens, on a tractor, walking
and stooping to cut asparagus or tie up a tomato plant, these are the
places I remember him best and fondest.
Conrad Lipps was a farmer born of German immigrants. Growing up
in a German settlement of Delhi, just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, he
spoke only German until he went to elementary school, and in my
memory, still had hints of the guttural accent. He was a strong man,
physically, a gentle kind man in spirit. As children, my siblings and
cousins wanted to be around him. His garage was full of tricycles,
bicycles, scooters and wagons he had salvaged from the junkyard and
repaired for his grandchildren's pleasure. We would ride them endlessly
down the long blacktopped driveway in front of his house. He lived on
a back country road, his house the second to last, the last being my
aunts, so riding down to the bottom offered the safety of the cherry
lined road that fell into a field. He constantly carried with him Smith
Brother's cough drops, the kind of cherry flavor that did little to relieve
a real cough, but tasted wonderful. It gave him joy to give them to the
first child who saw him and asked politely of him. Of course, he
reminded us to share.
To me, having grown up with his hell -raising son, the exMarine,
whiskey drinking red head with a very short fuse, my grandfather's home
was a refuge. Summer days I could walk the four miles from our house
through the neighborhoods, into the countryside and finally down the
lane to find my grandfather's piece of heaven.
My biological grandmother had died of breast cancer before I was
born, and my grandfather had remarried some time later to the woman
"Grandma Jean". I knew her as my grandmother, a kind but no
nonsense "spinster", as she was known in those days, who, became the
endeared grandmother of 25 children.
Grandma and Grandpa's house was cool, clean and peaceful,
views of pastures and fields that led out to a panoramic view of the
Ohio River valley, and Kentucky beyond. A Franciscan monastery was
the adjoining farm, the home to a school and farm for delinquent boys.
The huge stone buildings rose out of the fields far off in the distance.
The brothers, in their long brown robes, were also no nonsense and
kind. They enjoyed card playing, a nip , and were always bringing gifts
of fresh butter from their dairy or homemade bread from their bakery.
In summer, 1 would often spend several days at my grandparents,
climbing out of the high iron bed, my feet hitting the cool hardwood
floors, to a full breakfast of musk melon from the garden and eggs and
sausage cooked and served in their summer kitchen in the basement.
Grinding corn in the garage and feeding the chickens was next in the
day, and I would follow grandpa as he moved steadily along, the
arthritis already evident in his slowing gait. I'd pick raspberries and
strawberries in season, getting covered with chigger bites and red juice,
and then head for the woods to pick the wildflowers.
It was so quiet there, in the night, in contrast to my home of 8
children in a busy neighborhood. The stars shown brightly, the cicadas
grew loud; the lightening bugs were plentiful and bright in the dark farm
night. Sometimes, I would catch those lightening bugs in mayonnaise
jars with holes punched in the metal lid, and just watch them for a
while.... their fluorescent light flickering on and off.... before letting
them free to the night air.
It was there, in those fields, in those woods, that the Mother Earth
first greeted me to her bosom. »
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