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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Jun 30, 2013

An old steel outdoor chair has been resting on our porch for more than 10 years. Its yellow paint is thin in some places, missing in others, along with some rust.

Its back is scalloped, making one think of the emblem for Shell gasoline.

It does not look like much, but it has a fun story to tell. Every story has to go back to the beginning, so here we go.

My earliest memories of our neighbors when I was growing up in the 1950s include Ray and Lena. They lived around the corner from us, not quite a mile away.

They had three sons who were grown by then, and Ray and Lena’s grandchildren were around my age.

Ray and Lena were the kind of people anyone would want for neighbors.

Ray loved to visit, and Lena was at home in the barn or on one of their Allis Chalmers tractors as she was in the kitchen. Ray and Lena could easily be described as “the salts of the earth.”

They enjoyed getting away, whether for visiting or vacations, so much that when all the snow from the blizzards of 1965 melted, the bottom of gravel road disappeared for several days leaving them stranded on the farm with no way out.

That was more than Ray could stand so they bought a farm a few miles away next to the highway. They tore down the old farmstead and built a new single-story house with a short driveway accessing that highway.

They lived happily there until Ray died just over 30 years ago. Lena stayed in the house, and she passed away not quite 20 years ago.

Lena was lonely without Ray, and visitors to her home were always welcome. She raised her garage door every morning to let everyone know she was up for the day and ready for company.

We lived just north of her, less than a mile, and we would pass her home every time we drove south or returned home driving north, which was most of the time.

In nice weather she would be sitting outside and as she recognized everyone’s car, a wave to her as we drove by resulted in a return of a big wave from Lena with her arm in the air.

After her death, her sons had an auction of her possessions. My wife and I thought highly of Lena and I told my wife we should buy her yellow chairs that she sat in when outside watching and waving as a fond memory of her.

I thought we could go as high as $20 for the pair. I believe we got them for about $2 each.

We brought them home and they sat on our porch most months of the year. The cats enjoyed sunning themselves on the chairs in the winter.

When the base on one of the chairs rusted through, I told myself maybe it can be repaired so it is kept in the machine shed. Besides, I didn’t have the heart to throw it away.

My wife and I bought Ray and Lena’s farm from the family more than 10 years ago. A few years later, we bought the acreage that had been part of the farm and sold separately.

Then we cleaned up the acreage, kept the barn, and moved our house there from the place where it had been built in 1975 as the second house on the farm where my dad grew up.

So this old yellow chair that Ray and Lena bought new has moved three times, changed hands once and now sits within 200 feet of where it began its life on the farm of Ray and Lena probably 60 years ago.

It sits next to another steel chair that may have been red or green when new, but is both colors now, mixed with some rust and welded repairs, a gift from close friends of ours.

That is called Ole’s chair which, of course, belongs next to Lena’s chair.

That is quite a story for an old, steel, faded yellow chair shaped like a seashell that we bought for $2 in honor of a good neighbor.

If you see us sitting outside as you drive by, be sure to wave.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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