by Don O. Thorpe
O. Thorpe, "Rural Yesterdays," This People Magazine
When I was a
boy on my grandfather's farm, I slept on a bed in the corner of a back room
next to a large window. At night, I would lay there in the dark and try
to picture the steep rutted driveway that climbed to the top of a hill
overlooking my grandfather's farmhouse. I knew that at the end of the driveway
there was an old wooden pole gate that I could barely see if the moon was
bright, and on the dark of other nights the gate could only be seen when an
occassional car would pass by. Most of the time, the car lights would shine on
the gate as they passed down the rural dirt road on their way to somewhere else,
but sometimes the lights would come up
to the gate and stop, and then I knew that someone was coming to visit us.
The old wooden gate has long since fallen down,
and the driveway no longer sees visiting cars, only the hooves of stray cattle. Today, most
people are rushing to the city where the lights are bright, and a whirl
of frenzied activity can surround them. The rural farms and their quiet way of life
have almost disappeared.
Now, as I sit in my city house near the sounds of thundering buses and
hurrying cars, I long for the old gate and the glow of silent headlights.
As a photographer and writer with
roots in Southern Utah, I have tried to reflect a sense of the gentle dignity
of my rural past, and to hold on to the everyday values of a passing way
Sometimes, when I'm walking alone
with my camera in the sunshine, I can still smell the country dust and
see the warm evening glow on the fences and barns of my youth. In these
unhurried moments I see again in my mind the lights at the top of the hill, and I linger
for a while to look into the dark with a farm boy's innocent eyes.
built his farmhouse out of logs and rough sawn timber in 1912. It still
stands as a witness of his craftsmanship. My mother was born there, and
her mother died there. Years later, grandfather slipped into the next life
from behind those same log walls.
Now the house is overgrown with
sunflowers and sagebrush. But the logs still stand, as firmly in place
as they were the day my grandfather put them there.
Near the house, an old wagon wheel
rests chained to the ground. But I can still see it jouncing along in Alfa Alfa stubble as my uncle threw heavy bales of hay high over his head to
the top of the wagon.
As I look into the dark wood diamond
eyes of our old barn, I remember the smell of new mown hay, and the sounds
of leather and wood. I can almost hear the sliding leather of well worn
and rugged harnesses, and the creaking of old but sturdy barn doors.
As a small boy, picket fences kept
me in, and the world out. But now it is easy to step over them as the world of
progress lifts my feet into the realms computer technology and away from the
casual life of my boyhood.
When I was young, it seemed my grandfather would never change or grow
older. I just assumed he would always be there. Then one day, he died,
and I started to learn about living and leaving my boyhood days on my grandfather's