I was born and raised in a town in western Pennsylvania where the factory meets the farm.

An Amish man travels by horse and buggy in Lawrence County, Pa., where Joyce Leslie grew up. Photohubsanctuary/Shutterstock.com

My father sold paint and glass to both retail and industrial customers. My mother was a registered nurse who worked part-time overnight shifts, both at the hospital and for private older clients.

I grew up as an outside kid. Our backyard backed up to a wooded area. Always barefoot when there wasn’t snow on the ground, I slogged through the bog at the back of our yard into the woods where I was met with soft pine needles and patted down leaves that led to my tree.

A tree had fallen in the woods some years earlier. It was a very large tree with a root system large enough for me to crawl into. I decided to decorate, so I found soft moss to cover the floor and decorated the many divots on the outside of the roots with flower petals, colored rocks, little flowers growing out of moss beds, mayflowers, violets and brightly colored Indian paintbrush blossoms. I would sing and dance the length of the fallen log, no audience except the little frogs that lived in the tiny pond across the path. I watered my plantings in the tree roots with water from the frog pond, which I scooped up and carried in my small hands.

In the busy downtown, New Castle Dry Goods was a higher-end department store, with hydraulic tubes between floors so they could have a central cash control. Lower-end stores like Murphy’s had cheap products in disarray, dirty floors and disgusting bathrooms. A florist, professional shoe fitting, barbershop. Kirk Hutton Hardware, with the library ladders that reached up to the tall ceilings of the old buildings where the merchandise was piled the whole way up. Richmond’s men’s suits, jewelry shops and a pharmacy. Three luncheon places, with anything from chili dogs to tuna sandwiches with pie a la mode. The newspaper and tobacco store in the Greyhound and railroad station further down the street had a few trashy literature options mixed with its periodicals wrapped in plastic bags, scotch-taped closed to protect their covers from predators.

Just out of town heading south were the steel mills with railroad tracks running down the middle of the street, carrying steel machining products to Pittsburgh. Some of my friends’ fathers and our neighbors worked in those hot, dangerous places, coming home covered in black soot. Of course, they were also the ones with the weekend pleasure boats. It was decent union work. None of their wives had to work.

Heading east out of town were the farmlands where corn, alfalfa, oats, wheat and clover covered the endless fields. Dairy and beef cows roamed fenced-in grassy fields. There were a few small horse farms and occasional chicken or pig farms. In my rural junior-senior high school, Future Farmers of America was the only social club.

Where the factories met the farms: My hometown.

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