For the first six years of my life I grew up in the medium sized town of Jacksonville, Illinois. I spent weekends and vacations with all of my relatives who all lived within a thirty mile radius of my house. My Mom’s parents were, it seemed to me, the ideal farmers of the breadbasket of America. My Grandpa worked very hard to scrape out a decent income from 250 acres of corn, soybeans, a herd of cows and other miscellaneous farm animals. There was always work to be done and I was eager to help on a tractor or with chores. My Grandma kept us all in check with dinner promptly at noon and supper at six. We all crammed into a dilapidated farm house with a pump at the sink and an outhouse out back, but there was never a shortage of fried chicken, homemade biscuits, gravy or mashed potatoes. All from the farm, of course. There is still something very special about sharing a delicious home grown meal with friends and loved ones.
From there in Rohrer, Illinois, population 12, we would drive a whopping six miles, through the bustling metropolis of Modesto, population 100 to my Great Grandmother’s farm. This is where my Great Uncle also eked out a similar living for himself from the same amount of hard earned farm land. The Crum side of the family would come from all around to gather at the other family farm for a very similar ritual. Was there a book that farm families read on how to run a house? Because this was another tight ship. Always barn cats to catch and try to tame, usually, a go cart or a dirt bike to ride and always exciting and enlightening stories to hear around the kitchen table. Boots stayed on the porch, anyone who had been in the barn best be washed before they sat at the table, and adults spoke and children listened. Farming was and is important business that, I learned at an early age, was not to be taken lightly. It is not hard for me to feel a surge of warmth, pride and love whenever I am able to take my own family back to visit these magical places that feel like home.
Although we would always trek across the country to vacation at the family farms, I grew up mostly in suburban America: Somerville, NJ, Richmond, VA, Rochester, NY and Philadelphia, PA. I will always feel at home in the midwest, but am also comfortable in big cities like London, New York and Montreal. I spent most of my twenties and a chunk of my thirties in the mountains out West where I really enjoyed skiing, running, mountain biking and even wakeboarding in the frigid waters. My wife and I had our first child in Colorado, and we both knew that the glam and glitz of a ski town in the wild west was not where we wanted to raise a family. We loaded up the pick up, a trailer and headed back East to be closer to her parents in Bridgewater, VT. I was searching for that quintessential Vermont town where we could put down roots, raise a family, and have a place that reminded me of hand cranked ice cream and “Please, pass the gravy.”.
HELLO, Bristol, Vermont.
A year later we were able to find a house in Bristol where we could call home. One week later baby number two came into our lives and two weeks after that I started a new job at Mt. Abe as an English teacher. I was overwhelmed and psyched, to say the least. With kid number three in middle school and our oldest a junior in high school, I am very happy to be a part of Mt. Abe Middle school. Electronic portfolios, negotiated curriculum, Common Core State Standards and Performanced Based Grades are just a few of the tools that I look forward to employing as we work together to make students feel like Mt Abe is their second home.