(October 2, 2011) - The usual six-mile drive home from Sunday church took a pleasant turn some weeks ago. As I headed back to the farmette for more coffee and more newspapers, my mind went a different way and, without one turn of any wheel, I was on my way to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.
Back then most Sunday drives home from church featured three elements: a well-scrubbed Ford station wagon with at least five kids and no seatbelts in its back seat; the car radio relaying the tape-recorded highlights of the St. Louis Cardinals’ past week and the penetrating smell of my father’s slow-burning Camel cigarette.
If it was summer, all the windows of the big-fendered boat would be down so we could enjoy what was sure to be the closest thing to air conditioning we’d feel all week.
Winter delivered the opposite: windows tightly closed so the rolling oven would (we vainly hoped) roast us well-done so we’d remain warm for seven days.
And spring, summer, fall or winter we boys—Rich, David, me and Perry—sat like straight-backed little sinners all in a row, felt hats atop no-smile faces made stiff by starched collars, narrow ties and real fear of an angry God.