Home for us is Ohio. I almost said “rural Ohio” but realized it would be redundant, because most of Ohio is rural. It’s a beautiful state, full of rolling pastures and tons of cows. Ohio cow farms are distinctly different from the “cow towns” out West. The first time I saw (smelled) one in Texas, I seriously considered becoming a vegetarian for about the amount of time it took us to get through the fog of hideous smells. (About 10 miles each way.)
The fact is, cows taste good and I like to eat them. I don’t like seeing how they get to the plate. I still have strong urges to free the cows I see in cattle haulers, so if you ever see a crazy lady screaming, “BE FREE!” in the parking lot of a TA as she’s trampled to death by a frightened herd of cattle, you can have my rock collection.
Ohio cow farms are dairies, for the most part. They’re pretty and green and the cows are given free range, because happy cows milk better and milk is the magic elixir in Southern Ohio. There’s an Amish community not far from our hometown, and the things they do with milk should be considered in the realm of heavenly. It’s milk alchemy, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Even the cities in Ohio are pretty. When you’re coming north on 75 toward the state line, you crest a little hill and come around a curve and — BAM! — Cincinnati is large and live, right in front of you. George calls it “the big reveal.” The bridge across the mighty Ohio River is old and rickety, and the river is usually raging. No matter where you cross the Ohio, she looks pissed off that you dared do it. Traffic flies and lights blur through the beams — it’s really impressive.
I once had a nervous breakdown trying to drive (a car) in Cincinnati, but I’ll ride shotgun through it any day.
When you get up a ways, between Columbus and Akron, the terrain starts to roll a little and for miles all you see is corn and cattle. There’s an occasional turkey, chicken or pig farm, and like cow towns, the smell announces arrival a long time before you actually see it.
I noticed a lot more sheep and goats this time through. The sheep are precious this time of year, little balls of white fluff on tiny black stick-legs, just like in the cartoons. It’s still pretty cold, they huddle together and look like low-lying clouds in the pasture from a distance.
The one thing that’s constant in any Ohio landscape is a proliferation of Canadian geese. Apparently, Ohio has more Canadian geese than Canada. They’re everywhere, and yes they’re pretty, but when you deal with them all the time they become a complete pain in the ass. They will destroy a lawn, and waiting for a gaggle of them to cross the street takes on the average of about 90 minutes. Their poop is also the size of a full-grown cat and the saying “Slicker than goose sh@!” is an absolutely reliable comparison to anything slick.
They’re nesting this time of year, and I think because there are so many of them, they’ve become completely stupid about where they’ll build a gigantic, smelly nest. One build a nest in the seat of our riding lawnmower, inside a barn so full of raccoons, coyotes and feral cats, our dogs won’t even go in it. I think the only reason the stupid parents weren’t brutally murdered while constructing the nest is because the predators understood they were growing delicious little snacks that would be ready about the time their cubs and pups were ready to eat stuff like that. Individually wrapped, like fruit snacks for toddlers.
I was raised in Georgia, but I’m a sucker for the beauty of Ohio. We were in Georgia this past week, and while it has distinct charms, I was still excited to see the Ohio pastures again. Rural Georgia is wild, tangled and swampy. It seems adventurous and dangerous. I spent many hours on the Ocmulgee River with my Dad, and if you weren’t completely prepared for just about anything scary that could kill you to come bursting out of the kudzu, then you were screwed. Snakes, black widow spiders, wild boars, alligators, intestinal parasites, foot fungus, the list goes on and on.
I wasn’t scared when I was with my Dad, but riding through from LaGrange to Warner Robins on state routes through Meriwether and Talbot county this week, I kept thinking, “I wouldn’t go into those woods for love nor money.” I am so completely terrified of snakes ( a childhood in South Georgia will do that to you) I don’t think I could shoot one if I had to.
We caught a load from Palmetto, Ga., to Hamilton, Ohio, so I got to see both homes in one day. We buzzed up through Atlanta. I pointed out all the projects my Dad had a part in planning (he was a traffic engineer), where I lived when I was a kid, the Farmer’s Market. It was a nice stroll down memory lane. We did the Watermelon 500 around Hotlanta without dying, and made for Chattanooga.
Late in the afternoon, when the light was just perfect, we crossed over into Ohio. Outside of Cincinnati I noticed a little flock of sheep in the pasture. They were lying by a sweet little pond and, of course, there were Canadian geese posted up by the water. I got immediately nostalgic, it was good to be back in Ohio.
“Aw, look babe. Just like in the bible.”
“And the lamb shall lie down with the geese.”
“You sure about that?”
“Of course I’m sure. It’s in the book of Leroy somewhere.”
“Are you reading the alternate universe bible?”
“Question not, harlot, for the lamb shall lie down with the geese. And it is good.”
“Please don’t ever teach Sunday School.”
“It’s amazing, but no one has ever asked me.”
“They’re afraid of your vast biblical knowledge.”
“I was totally thinking the same thing.”