Rick Houser:
Come in, the doors are unlocked

The other day I was talking with a lady who I had gone to school with and her husband and in our conversation I said “you know Jenny whenever I would stop at your home I knew your mom would offer me a glass of tea or a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.” She just smiled at me and said why of course she did. That was good old country hospitality. “When that was said I instantly had to agree. That was country hospitality. Somewhere between the 60’s and 70‘s and today a home’s door isn’t nearly as open to visitors as it was.

Rick Houser

So I went to the good old Webster’s’ Dictionary and looked up the definition to hospitality and this is what I found. (The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.) In the past this definition was practiced by almost everyone. What I recall was we all had an open door policy. Neighbors visited neighbors unannounced but regular. Never really was it ever considered and inconvenience for someone to open your front door and holler “is anyone home?” to which the answer would be “the door is unlocked so come on in.”

I know from my own personal experiences that hospitality lived and the open door policy was also alive. I can’t say just how many times I stopped at someone’s house that I knew and I would be invited in to the kitchen and offered a cup of coffee or iced tea and maybe some cookies or a piece of pie or cake. Once this was carried out I would sit with these folks and we would visit for a good length of time. I can also say I saw this same scene carried out at our home where my mom would do the offering and I can almost guarantee you at the very least mom would set a metal container full of homemade Toll House chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the table and she would encourage you to eat as many as you would want to as the visiting began and the exchanging of conversations was enjoyed.

Two things existed then that have disappeared and that is the time to visit and the open door policy. This form of hospitality has almost vanished from our society. Today is a hustle bustle time and we are all caught up in the I don’t have the time to sit and visit. This is in my way of thought sad as we no longer get to know our neighbors as well as we should. Nor do they get to know you. Today when we want to talk to a friend or gossip maybe we text them. This is a great concept but a text in no way can take the place of a conversation. No not in any way! To this statement I will stand firm. On a text you can’t see a person’s expressions or the animation to what they are saying. A text is only a string of words and without a person in front of you telling you about something it remains just a string of words.

In the not too long ago people didn’t have to worry about leaving their door unlocked. Crime wasn’t what it is today and it is wise to practice caution these days. But in the time when the coffee pot was on the stove and the pie was on the counter the door was open and this certainly gave the feeling you were welcome to enter their home. This was such an interesting part of our culture. Sometimes a neighbor would come to your home to deliver good news they had received and sometimes they brought the very saddest of news and sometimes they just stopped in to see how we were doing. All of these reasons are so very important to what we would know and how the messenger felt about their news.

There was a lady I sold hay and straw to for her horses. She was a professor at the University of Cincinnati and very educated. When I would deliver her load of hay and straw and had stacked it precisely as she instructed I was then told to come to the house. I of course would go to the house as I wanted paid. But before I was paid I was given a cup of coffee and a tray of sugar cookies. It was a must that I take these items and sit at her kitchen table and visit with her for at least fifteen minutes. I must admit I originally was hesitant as this lady spoke on a level that I was not educated to. However as time passed our visits became more informal and more enjoyable. From her I learned a lot and only because I took a few minutes to converse with her. This was when I realized that taking a little time to learn about another person really is a valuable thing to do. I will always be grateful to this lady for showing me that.

I don’t know how to slow the world down so we can resume the time when we got to really know our neighbors. Nor do I know how to return this world to a safer place where we can leave our doors open so we can rap on the door and yell into the house if anyone is home. This really is a big chunk of our good way of life that has gone by the side. For its loss I am somewhat saddened as it was a part of our character. Just think of the term good old country hospitality and see if that doesn’t in a fraction of a way bring a little smile as you think just how great of a time it was. I know I enjoyed many a cup of coffee and iced tea and cookies or pie. The big part was the visits. As much as I enjoyed going over to Pt. Isabel and visiting at the Trees home I also enjoyed the visits from Ed Maus at our home. Ed was a great neighbor and when he arrived he would open the front door and give out a loud war hoop to let us know he was at the door. I really liked the unusual greeting even though it would cause me to jump out of my skin. Try texting that!

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.