There is something about the mixture of trees, fields, valleys, streams, lakes and the gentle beginnings of mountains that creates an inescapable beauty in western Pennsylvania. A short distance east, the Alleghenies commence to assert themselves – rising ever higher, the further east one travels. There, a more rugged description, like the land itself, becomes the norm.
But here, on the border between Mercer and Lawrence Counties, just east of Youngstown, OH., midway between Pittsburgh and Erie, and west of the Allegheny River (the upper Ohio of our ancestors) there is a softly rolling countryside populated by a mixture of Amish and “English” farm families that is precious to me.
Here, agriculture is once again the largest industry. I say “Once again” because manufacturing has largely left this region; left it bereft of the industrial might that laid the foundations for the honorable term “blue collar” and left us, as well, with a new term: “rust belt”. And in that leaving, agriculture, man’s oldest industry, has regained it’s ascendancy.
There is a sense at times, that one has turned back the clock, regained at least a passing sense of frontier largeness in the land. It’s more cozy than the Great Plains, less agoraphobic, almost like being cupped in the Hand of the land itself.