Gary Abernathy’s appearance on the PBS coverage of our recent conventions inspired me to learn more about where he was based in Ohio — my beloved homeland. Having now been a North Carolinian longer than a Buckeye, I am always intrigued about the thoughts and political perspectives of the residents of my native land. Mr. Abernathy was an excellent addition to the PBS team who I have welcomed into my home via TV for many years.
I goggled away and learned that Mr. Abernathy is in Hillsboro, Ohio. Immediately a rush of memories, wonderful memories, filled my mind. Now in early retirement I reflect frequently with gratitude about the many individuals who helped me along the way to having had a 38-year career with the National Park Service. I know it would not have happened without first having worked at Rocky Fork State Park one summer as a naturalist.
The day I graduated from college, I headed down to Shawnee State Park for several days of training to help prepare me for my summer job with the Ohio State Parks. When the training concluded I stopped by Rocky Fork to introduce myself and gain recommendations on a place to rent for the summer. I was guided to a wonderful large house with a great front porch on a side street in Hillsboro where the lady living there offered to rent me a room. She seemed to be around the age of my grandmother, and her home was full of wonderful memorabilia, knickknacks and pictures. The bedroom I would rent was right off the kitchen, and she kindly said I was welcomed to use her kitchen pots and pans. It was just perfect.
I headed to my parents’ farm up in St. Marys, repacked, turned around and returned to Hillsboro, all ready to begin my summer work the next day. When I arrived I was greeted by the homeowner and her daughter. We sat in the living room, and the daughter explained to me why it was in the best interest of her mother not to rent the room to me. First of all they did not know me, I was young, fresh out of college and could bring drugs into the home and may even do drugs. I am sure by the time of that statement tears were beginning to swell in my eyes. In the true spirit of growing up in the Midwest, it is hard to speak about yourself and yet I knew I must.
It was indeed the early seventies and college students had many adjectives associated with them, so I tried to understand where the daughter was coming from and indeed they did not know me. I do not remember what all I shared, but I have never used drugs and I know I shared that. Perhaps I mentioned growing up on a farm or my magna cum laude college degree. I have always found speaking from my heart to be most helpful of all. Somehow in that living room, the daughter began to see a little bit more of me beyond a college kid who wanted to rent a room. I know I was placed on probation to see how the first few weeks might go.
It was a wonderful summer. Now, almost 50 years later, I can picture that conversation as if it was yesterday. Perhaps our nation needs that living room. A place where we can sit briefly and get to know each other better and speak from our hearts.
Fondly remembering Hillsboro,
Connie Hudson Backlund
Hillsboro resident summer of 1973
Presently residing in Flat Rock, N.C.