The beautiful story of Charlotte's Web takes place in a simple barn yard on Homer Zuckerman's farm. Thank you, John Bohman for sharing this lovely memory of a nearly forgotten time.
When I was a child in the 1950’s, many of the older members of my large extended family still lived on farms in Shelby County, Ohio. They raised corn, soybeans, and hogs; and in those days, their farms were as small as one hundred acres. We often went north from Dayton for Sunday dinner, which sometimes consisted of a freshly killed chicken, and always included vegetables from their “patch.” I remember feeding their chickens, being afraid of their hogs, getting deliberately lost in their over our heads corn fields, exploring the barn where my father and his brothers played basketball, and sitting on lawn chairs listening to the Cincinnati Reds game with my great uncles during hot summer afternoons. My great grandfather, who lived his whole life on his farm, knew that part of Ohio so well that he could walk outside at dawn, look up at the sky, and accurately predict whether there would be storms that afternoon or evening.
Those decent and deeply religious folks have all passed on, and their way of life has largely died out. I still have a few distant relatives who work farms, but they now run big business operations on at least a thousand acres. The rest of us live in urban areas, and the members of my children’s generation only know about the way of life of their ancestors through our stories.
The relatives I visited in “the country” as a child lived in a place that remains magical in my mind’s eye. In reality, they lived at the mercy of the weather, the prices on the exchange markets, and the slow pull of urbanization and globalization. They were not romantics, and many of them did not have all that much to say; but they always were welcoming and kind to me. As a child of the next generation, I was always held in their deepest regard as one of them.
“Charlotte’s Web” is set in one of those mutually supportive communities created by farming families in the past. It is a fairy tale about a farmer’s niece, a runt pig she keeps in her uncle’s barn, and a very wise spider who saves his life. As the story unfolds before you, let yourself be transported back to and transformed by their mostly forgotten world. Then, let yourself experience the miracles that happen all around you in ordinary days.
John Bohman (aka Homer Zuckerman)