Laura pushes one cat or another down the sofa each night and opens her homework. Last night Uncle Tom, passing by, stopped and swiveled her book around. “Anna, Ohio! I grew up there. I grew up right here!” He pointed to the corner of a picture of an aerial photo of the Honda plant outside Anna.
He did grow up there, the last house in town and right next door to a huge farm. The farm continued after the children left, right up to the deaths of both parents. The son wanted to keep on farming, the daughter wanted her inheritance in cold hard cash and voila, the farm became a housing development and a Honda plant.
We visited Anna for a reunion of Tom’s family some thirty years ago. It was fall and haying time and I wandered next door to help out at the farm. I climbed on a flat bed of bales of hay. One fellow handed a bale off to Tom, who handed the bale off to me to put on the conveyor belt up to the hay mow. Two childhood friends on the flat bed and another in the haymow, unloading bales from the conveyor belt and stacking them.
You know what happened. The two fellows handing off to me speeded up so gradually I didn’t notice until I didn’t have time to wipe the sweat from my face. I thought they wanted to see if the girl would cry “Uncle,” and of course I wouldn’t. But they did get what they were waiting for—their friend stuck his head out the window up there to say slow down you fools, but saw he was being paced by a girl! Oh, the indignity of it. I let it go a couple more minutes, then did cry “Uncle” so the poor fellow unloading and stacking wouldn’t have heat stroke.
And now it’s a Honda plant.
I cannot fault the sister who was not seeking an investment or pity the brother who could not obtain financing for his farm. It is what it is. That Honda plant was built in 1982, and now in thirty years is in a fifth grade social studies book as an example of transportation in America.
The plant provided decent jobs for the community. It gave young people a reason to put down roots and stay where they grew up. Although Tom wound up in the opposite corner of the state, the plant and associated employment in the community kept his younger brothers close to home and to their dad. Tom’s brother-in-law, a retired federal prison system official, even settled down for a few years and as city manager helped Anna manage its new found prosperity.
Tom’s childhood home, the last house in Anna, was as run down as Tom’s dad a dozen or so years ago. Dad knew it was time to find more suitable living quarters, and he went to live with his daughter and the city manager of Anna. Dad knew a young couple in town, just starting out, who often stopped by to talk to the old man and say, “If you ever think of selling this house, we hope you will think of us.” Dad did, and the lovely old Craftsman home has been restored for another family.