A Wagon Ride in the Country

The Wagon 
May I be indulged in a few pastoral remembrances before I settle down to the serious work of my subject? Some of the most radiant memories of my early life are my visits to the country. I remember the thrills of anticipation that made glorious the days preceding the one of the appointed visit; the get ting together small gifts for the dearly loved, the field and hedge scented cousins, the early breakfast, the heart throbbing suspense of waiting for the wagon. And when the wagon came, the delight of climbing into it, and feeling that the consummation devoutly wished for was now slowly and surely enfolding us. The wagon itself was none of your fancy, dainty affairs of luxurious locomotion.
Bless you! it was a regular old grinder, thumper and thunderer. It raised an earthquake of sound and an earthquake of motion. Seated in it, you could not talk without biting your tongue, and you grew numb in many spots from the merciless St. Vitus' dance of the monster. It was all Puritanical adamant without sanctimoniousness of springs or sentiment of cushions or poetry of paint. It was a huge box on stout wheels, and was pulled by two spotted, fat straight backed, unsophisticated horses. Before we got to the line of country versus town, the dirty town air was all thumped out of our quivering lungs, and the welcoming zephyrs of the country broke upon us in waves of beauty, color and fragrance.
We were literally churned by the time the five miles of up and down hill were jolted over, and were so hungry that the blood of an hundred blushes, if blushed at this late day would not express our mature mortification at the shameless havoc we made upon the nectar and ambrosia of the farm house table—aye, and the brazen visits between meals to the spring-house, orchard and pantry.
But I am not done with the wagon. Its ponderous wheel-hubs dripped with a mixture of tar and grease, black, shining, jellied and fragrant. Yes, fragrant. Don't sneer, fair and dainty critic. Can you not recall scenes of enchanting romance and bewildering sentiment, thrilling hand pressures and ecstatic eyeglances, when the scent of tuberoses or heliotrope steals upon your delicate nostrils? Ah ! you blush. You are convinced. On the same sweet principle of powerful and tender association, is the odor of tar and wagon grease dear and magical to my faithful nostrils. Whenever that insinuating, assertive fragrance is wafted to the sensitive membrane of my constant nose, there pass to my sensibilities and brain thrills of joyful memory to which only a poet could do justice.
For, are not the memories of childhood the records of a journey 'mid wonders, enchantments and magic? "No art can paint or gild" scenes in after life with the glory that decked everything when we though the world a paradise. We see no such landscapes now, no such castled cities in clouds and sunsets; we dream no such future of magical achievements. We have found out that a landscape is made up "of mountain, valley, stream and sky; that the country means geology, chemistry and crops.
Alas! How practical and prosaic the necessary anatomizing of life makes us. How the glow fades from even the rose when we interrogate it, and the music from the bird's notes, when we attempt to ask the sentiment of its song. But the old wagon has never lost its charm for me, and could I greet the fragrance of its voluptuous wheels I would find rising before me all those enchanting, first illuminations of my childhood's country visits.
The puzzle of growing things delighted me; the very weeds were exquisitely saucy and attractive; the dew was a wonder; the heavenly expanse, unbroken from horizon to horizon, was a sublime joy; the grand awakenings to fragrant mornings; the country sounds of lowing herds, of concerts of birds, the echoes of the shrill cry and the soft laugh, the contrast of sound and silence, each and all of these were magnificent mysteries. The dream-inspiring sunsets, the long slanting evening shadows with their Japanese effects, the slow march homeward of the punctual cows, the solemn stillness of the opal-tinted twilight, the distant, plaintive note of the whip-poor-will, the stealing forth of Night, with bare, silent feet and diadem of stars, all these were beautiful enigmas, long since vainly interrogated, though swept by the sad toned zephyrs of life and loss, as the winds sweep aeolian harp strings.
To pluck the fruit; to sally forth in bold warfare against the repulsive, soulshuddering tomato worm, to help pick tomatoes; to defy snakes, toads, and a hundred unknown monsters in the berry patch; to stand bravely close to the cow's terrible heels and horns; to climb a tree, to hunt eggs at risk of limbs; to change one's climate from the hot tropic of noon to the mild chill of the springhouse; to peep into bureau drawers whose fragrance was that of fields and oldf ashioned flower gardens; to see the long preserved treasures and souvenirs of a simple country life kept carefully from dust and sacrilegious hands; to watch the mysteries of the sweet, clean, great kitchen; to drop into the one luxurious chair in the darkened, prim parlor, and dream that all these delights were mine to have and hold forever, all these and more, have left ineffaceable pictures in my memory.
And I am quite sure that no faces in all the years since have glowed with the honest love and candor that made more than beautiful the countenances of my beloved country cousins, when life was as I have described it.
Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture, Volume 38, Part 1883