Reject Ďalter of Mammon," return to simple life


Special to the Courier & Press

Monday, June 26, 2000

A few weeks ago David and Valerie West and I went out to the country to pick strawberries in the rural areas Northwest of Evansville. Our inquiries yielded no strawberries as all of the U-Pick places were closed because it was apparently very late in the season and the fields were almost picked clean.

When we returned to their home, we decided to spend a few minutes picking cherries from a rather small but fecundate cherry tree a few feet from their home. As we gathered the small, crimson morsels amidst the wax green foliage of the tree, we spent the time conversing about future projects (planting green beans and picking strawberries later in the week) visiting with Valerieís aunt and enjoyed the slightly overcast skies and warm afternoon weather.

Steeped in the splendor of this rural Posey County farm, my mind drifted back many years to a childhood visit to another farm on the Ford Road a little further out Highway 62, the home of a cousin of my Great Grandmother Ida Grossman, the home place of Ed and Amelia Tiemann.

While it has been so many years ago, the memory of this place remains indelibly etched in my mind. The occasion for the visit was to pick black raspberries but the Tiemannís seemed to always have much more in their garden than what you came to get. The house was a white, clapboard structure not unlike those depicted in the Andrew Wyeth paintings of rural Maine and Pennsylvania. Ed and Amelia, aged with a wholesome beauty in their later years, seemed like a couple straight out of American Gothic.

But it was the large back yard that contained the magic. There was a huge grape vine woven onto a large white lattice trellis not far from the back door. Flower beds were planted everywhere. Beneath a huge shade tree nearby was a small wooden glider in which they no doubt passed many an evening sunset together amid the picturesque garden and well-manicured lawn that framed the back of the house.

There were several purple martin houses where pairs of the little birds would rear their families. They would swoop down to the lush green grass gathering bugs and worms to be consumed by their young.

The garden seemed to go on forever with everything from spinach to tomatoes, bush beans, pole beans, roasting ears, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, celery, carrots -- you name it!

Every summer Amelia would come to Howell for weekly visits to grandmotherís house bringing to town the beautiful produce which became Sunday dinner for our family. Always greeting us with a smile and a joyful lilting voice, Amelia seemed quite content and grounded in the rural manner of her life and eager to please her relatives and customers.

On this particular visit, the sky was deep blue and dotted with the occasional huge white, billowy clouds. The air was fragrant in the manner unique to such a rural setting. Ed, Amelia and the visitors quietly conversed some distance from the back yard, while a young boy peered up into the vastness of the enormous blue sky and the lush beauty all around. He laid on the green lawn making grass angels for a while until the quiet voices were interrupted by the report of a tractor engine in a distant field of an adjacent farm.

Consumed by the beauty and opulence of this simple family farm, after several minutes it occurred to the young boy that this experience must come as close to heaven as one can witness as long as they are on this earth.

Having planted several gardens since that day, I now know that such beauty does not occur simply by waving a magic wand. It is the product of years of blood, sweat, tears and dedication to a fleeting lifestyle which all too many of us find an anachronistic relic of years gone by. Today this lifestyle is incrementally threatened by those who worship at the concrete and asphalt alter of Mammon, the bulldozer and the bushhog.

I have not returned to the old home place of Ed and Amelia Tiemann in my adult years -- considering the commercial development which has occurred in thirty-five years Lord only knows what I would find.

Would it be too much to ask for the commercial developers to discover the magic of making grass angels? Maybe then the wetlands, the open fields, the family farms - indeed, even the little cherry trees -- would not all be such endangered species?

  David Coker is an Evansville free lance writer.  He can be reached at