The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Can You Ever Go Home?

by Ron Bowlyow,

(Bowlyow is a Carman native, who recently moved back from Florida to his home county of Henderson, and lives in rural Gladstone.)

Over the past six weeks, as I meet people, I have been asked, "What are you doing moving back to Illinois from Florida?" I think I am actually being asked if I have lost my mind. My one word answer is "hurricanes!"

After living through two active hurricane seasons in Florida with a ten year cycle predicted, it became too much to endure.

The idea of living six months out of the year, from June to December, waiting for the next axe to fall, was far more stressful and far more expensive in costly home repairs than I was willing to live with.

Needless to say, the Florida tourist industry isn't offering me a job. Don't get me wrong. Florida is still a great place to visit and serves as a warm haven from the northern winter weather. But that six month hurricane season is another story. I will stay clear of it then.

So after a forty year absence, I returned to Henderson County.

Just as I was making the decision to leave Florida and search for a new location, my youngest sister Jill, decided to put her house in rural Gladstone, on the market. After some phone calls to other sisters in the area to bounce it off them, I bought Jill's house, sold my house in Florida, and made the trek north to Henderson County-home

But the age old question became apparent-can you ever really go home after forty years? Or put another way, how do you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris? Well, I have seen Paris and it wasn't home.

Nor were any of the other major cities I have visited and lived in throughout the world. During the forty years, I had the wonderful opportunity, through a military career, to live in and visit places I never dreamed of.

It was always great to experience new locations and the people living there-their customs, their cuisine, and their ways of life. During all these experiences, I managed to make it home to Illinois at least once a year-that brief week trying to cram into every hour, family reunions, an occasional school or class reunion, quality time with aunts, uncles, siblings, in-laws, and nieces and nephews.

There was never time just to take drives, reminisce, and smell the roses that exist in Henderson County.

Although the years were changing all of us, making us older and hopefully wiser, time did not erase those basics that were deeply rooted defining who we are and how we got here. Those basics become what one holds onto while being introduced to external factors that can threaten that basic core that Henderson County helped to create-what home created in all of us-the values, the love of God, and the manner in which we cherish those we have know all our lives.

Over the years, a lot of those who helped mold us have departed. Those individuals who remain are much older, but so am I. Isn't that a rude awakening when one realizes that?

The buildings that became our hangouts, where we had great times that provided wonderful memories, are gone. Those cherished places that still exist are a little the worse for wear and many are vacant, serving only as a reminder of better times.

The small farms are mostly gone, being incorporated into larger farms. Fences and fence rows with trees are gone. Large farm equipment cannot be bothered with such things. They require expansive fields. Large irrigation systems are commonplace. Forty years ago there were a few around, but not the big pivotal rigs of today.

But just as there are changes, there are the traditional cornerstones that don't appear to change. One of those is the Carman United Methodist Church. I have now been a member of that church for fifty years. It represents that foundation that is still seen throughout Henderson County-the many community churches. It is great to see that they still exist. Although there are still lots of familiar faces, many are gone. But it is wonderful to see those adults, who were just little kids when I left, there with their teenagers. And yes, there are others there with a newborn grandchild.

The other tradition is the frequent community fundraising dinners-the soup suppers and other dining experiences that are far more than just culinary in nature, but offer great socialization where one can spend hours visiting the people from the past.

I know it is too soon to be able to answer the question as to whether it is possible to ever come home after being gone for forty years. It sure feels like I am home. But I will continue to ask the question as I settle in.

I will keep you posted.