West Milton was a bustling railroad town once. The trains shipped out goods that were manufactured across the river in Milton. Canal boats and lumber filled the Susquehanna from one side to the other. There were rows of houses with gingerbread woodwork and a sprinkling of churches and farms.
Today, it's a quiet little residential spot on the Union county map. Just a few streets of houses, a bank with a barn out back, and a post office. The restaurant on the corner switches hands every few months. It was a deli, then a pizzeria, but who knows what it is now. The churches, though, still stand and their bells ring out in the evening just before twilight begins to fall.
On our way there, will we see the rocks in the river or will the water be lapping at the foot of the highway? I don't know, since it has been 3 months since I have been there. Is the corn dry? It is short? Is it green and ripe? I've lost touch with the agricultural season here in the city.
Before we reach home, we'll pass New Berlin. I have never seen the repeater there, but I know it is up on the mountain, somewhere. Every time we pass I look for it, but I can never find it. Even though I don't see it, my radio signal will find the way. Boy, won't everyone be surprised to hear my call sign come across the air! They have never heard it on any of the PA repeaters before.
This time, though, I may be asleep for sheer exhaustion by the time we get that far. Somehow, though, I always manage to wake up just as we turn off the exit. And there behind the fire hydrant and street light - there is home! No, I take that back. Here in the car with me are dad at the wheel and mom alongside - they are home.
Getting home after a long time away is always fun. The house always feels so warm and exciting. There's usually something new - either unfamiliar books stacked on the coffee table or some fresh baked goods in the kitchen compliments of someone from church. We always say that we will wait until tomorrow to unload the car, but, well, as soon as somebody starts by grabbing the bag in the backseat, we end up bringing it all in, anyhow. Once we do, we all collapse in the living room and enjoy being home.
Of course, I'll get to see the sisters, too - the two cats at gram and pap's house in Newky. They are always by the fence waiting to greet us when we arrive. And from what I hear, they continue to leave paw prints on pap's car, much to his dismay. But, what can you do. When it is a cold evening and the hood of the car over the engine is still warm, it's no wonder that the cats want to make their way to the top of the vehicle!
It's our custom to sit on the porch after dinner on Sunday evenings and spent the remainder of the day there. The sun sinks, darkness falls, and that is the cue to ask everyone whether they want tea or Pepsi with their ice cream. We've shared all kinds of stories by the light of the fireflies. Visiting there is always a treat and a joy.
They are not the only friends we have in Newky. I have another friend in Newky - she was there the day that I found the antique shop that had thousands of hats. I went wild! I had to try them all on. I liked the blue, round-topped European one, but it was too small. The plush green one was cute, but too big. I settled on two brown hats and a navy-blue one with pheasant feathers. The bag of hats rode home on top two canvas bags packed full with books from the library. I was full on a fish fillet and quite satisfied. We followed the river south home that day from Williamsport. As we passed Pleasant View road, I caught sight of the big quad antennas on the house on the hill. It's nearly impossible to see from the main road amidst the trees, but when the light hits just right... wow!
Sunday morning is church. Time to wake up early and select the perfect hat from the bunch. Maybe this morning I will wear the black riding hat with the long feather on the side.
At church, I am greeted by beloved, familiar faces. I grew up with them all. They know me inside and out, and yet I still surprise them with my impulses to travel abroad and curious hobbies. They always have to get in some teasing while I am there - it wouldn't be home without it! Free teasing and Christmas chocolate go hand in hand when you are a preacher's kid!
The message, the hymns, the prayers, the praise, it all stirs in my mind a clearer understanding of the whole picture. A piece of a verse will strike me, and I capture it on paper with multiple colored pens. It may have been engaging, wrestling with my mind, or it may have been reassuring, dissolving some weight that I had been carrying, or it may have simply been thrilling, a new way to understand the truth of God and His beautiful Word. In any case, a number of pages in the notebook are filled and I am filled on strawberry cake with white icing. Follow that up with a walk up and down the hill and then a dabbling in some old beloved novel or video game while my parents nap from the big morning.
This year, Saturday and Sunday afternoon will be filled with radiosport. The antenna will be launched high into a tree with a clear view of the autumn sky. The electronic log will be set on the desk, interface rippling and waiting for the first contact. The Bencher will be waiting in anticipation - it hasn't seen a contest in a while. And the radio...my radio will finally see its first contest!
The bands will be full of Pennsylvanians all calling for contacts. I'll jump into the fray, stand amidst the pile-up, and chase down the multipliers. Go! Tap out the call signs, type in the exchange, watch the map of Pennsylvania fill in with color as each county is contacted. KB3RGW, with 4-months of CW training, will see just what she and her rig will be able to do. It wasn't that long ago that I sat in wonder and awe at my first CW contest. This October, the same fascination will now be blended with the thrill of the chase - my chase! In all truth, I probably won't make a ton of contacts, but every one will be amazing fun :)
I can't wait to go home in October.