During the Great Depression, my father worked on the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its purpose was to put the unemployed to work building such things as libraries, public buildings, roads, schools and the like.
In my father’s case, it was to help build a sewer system in Springfield, Ohio. A lot of it was shovel work.
My father was a quiet man, but he told me once of his work there. And I said, “Dad, I would have taken that old shovel and thrown it to the ground.” His reply was, “Son, before that shovel could hit the ground, there would have been a half dozen men to grab it.”
Many men worked there. Three such were Kenny Holton, Bob Shockey and Gail Miller. My father and those three became friends. There was not much social life for people of their financial status, but I can recall many euchre parties and several times they emptied out the living room furniture onto the front yard, rolled up the carpet and square danced to records. Vacations were unheard of, but we kids would take turns staying at each other’s house for a week in the summer.
Of the four families, three lived on farms. Only one was a townie, and that town had but one flashing red light. Our place was out in the country about three miles from the town. Once my mother became so desperate for female companionship that she put me in a wagon and pulled me the three miles to town. It was blistering hot.
There, lived Bob and Betty Shockey. These were the only adults I was allowed to address by their first names. They had two boys, Johnny and Danny. We became bosom buddies. One time we were all at the Millers. They had a barnyard where roved a big bull. I’m not certain why we did this, but we climbed the fence into the barnyard. The bull did not take this kindly and shortly made a charge at us. I can tell you this, we hold the record for scaling a five-foot fence.
Back to Mom and her visit. I was not looking forward to that walk home — I mean it was hot. A kind neighbor offered to drive us home. Whew!
I started school in 1940. Danny Shockey was a grade ahead of me and Johnny, two. Midway into second grade, we moved to another farm and that was the end of the Shockeys for a long while.
Then, at the end of my sophomore year, we moved back to that area. Johnny had already graduated and Danny was a senior. Danny and I got to play football, basketball and track together. After graduation he worked at the local feed mill and I went off to college. Shortly thereafter he was drafted into the Korean War.
When he came back from Korea, Danny joined the Highway Patrol and I became a football coach. His first assignment was about 30 miles from where I coached and he’d drive up in his patrol car and we’d cruise around. He showed me how to make a 30 mph skid-turn and various other maneuvers that I did not include in my high school driving class.
Danny was in the patrol for a decade then went into the insurance business. Eventually he owned his own agency and then retired. It is of interest to where he retired. About 40 years ago he bought 140 acres in Vinton County, Ohio. Vinton County is all hills and has all of 14,435 souls living there. There are three schools, elementary, middle and high. They are all at one location. Lots of busing, as parents do not drop their children off at school in Vinton County.
I saw Danny last at my class’ 50th reunion. His lovely wife Dottie accompanied him. I say “last,” but that is not true. This December I drove the 118 miles to visit him and Dottie. It was an adventure. The road off the main highway back to his house was gravel, even though Danny claimed it was tar-bound. It was narrow and all hills and curves. His house sits a hundred yards from the road on a gravel road you could not navigate in any snowfall. It sits on a hill on the only level spot on the property. It is lovely and well landscaped.
We shot the bull until lunch, then after lunch we toured the 140 acres on a Kubota 900. I can only describe this vehicle as “you can’t get it stuck.” We were either on a hill or in a valley. The valley trails were nothing but mud, but the 900 went through them like manure through a tin horn.
Danny and I are all that are left. The rest are square-dancing in the sky, or playing euchre. This was the first I’ve seen Dan in 16 years and I doubt we’ll meet again. It was well worth the drive.
Oh, yes, Dan planted 35,000 pine trees on the property.
Now, there is a man after my own heart.
Roy Ault is a columnist for the Englewood Sun and a longtime Englewood resident. He is the author of seven novels. All can be found on Amazon or you may contact him at 941-473-6051.