RURAL YESTERDAYS                                             
by Don O. Thorpe                                          
  Don 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 of life.
       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.
       My grandfather 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 farm.



Photography Don O. Thorpe 2009