Sounds of Home


As a child growing up on the farm, I didn’t give much thought at the time to the sounds around me. They were nothing out of the ordinary, really, just everyday sounds in the soundtrack of my life. Somehow, certain sounds can stick with a person as the years go by and ring loudly in my ears today.

I remember quite vividly riding on Dad’s old Caterpillar D4 dozer. You can find a million and one uses for an old Cat on the farm, from bulldozing out trees, to digging basements, to grading off building pads. We were down in the creek bottom and I can still recall crouching down to find a spot to ride on it, since old Cats don’t come equipped with buddy seats. I can hear the clop-clop-clop of the tracks like it was yesterday. We still have that old Cat and a few more now.

Another sound, maybe noise, that rings in my head is the circular sawmill my grandpa used to run. What a perfect combination of men, machinery, danger, and production. It was driven by the power shaft from a John Deere tractor and the whine of the blade changed depending on where it was in the log and how hard it was pulling. I would have liked to listen to it one more time before the old mill was sold, but it wasn’t meant to be. And anyway, now we have a more modern band sawmill that’s safer and more efficient.

The farm I grew up on was right next to the neighbor’s grain setup where they had an American grain dryer. If you’ve never heard one of these, the noise may be difficult to put into word form. If you have heard one of these, the noise is not at all difficult to imagine. It did not make one constant sound, but something of a pulse. The fans ran all the time during the drying process but the gas burner to provide the heat to dry the corn cycled on and off, on and off, until the batch of corn was dry. The dryer fans made something of a continuous medium-pitched whine, while the burner made a loud rocket-like whoosh when it cycled on and off. You wound up with something of an elongated whine followed by a long whoosh and then back to the whine. This went on until the batch was done, then the much quieter augers took the corn out of the dryer and into the bin. The dryer refilled with wet corn and then the whine-whoosh-whine cycle started all over again. The dryer is long gone but the noise lives on.

Maybe the way sounds and memories intertwine is like hearing an old song on the radio that takes you to a place and time decades back. I was 41 years old the first time I heard a whip-poor-will sing. I could tell you where I was, who I was with, and what month of the year it was. As spring approaches, I encourage you to get outside and get in tune with your surroundings.

Reach BJ Price at 937-456-5159 for more information.

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