Autumn has swept the rain clouds from the skies, leaving an expanse of blue heavens unmarred by a single cloud. The rain was a blessing, as the earth was dry and dusty and the lawns and meadows were crying out for moisture. The creek was almost dried completely up, and now it is running, carrying away dead leaves and debris. It is so wonderful that our Heavenly Father knows what we need and exactly when we need it.
This time of year is prone to make a person a mite nostalgic, although it seems that the older we get the more pleasure we take in memories of the past. I was going through an old folder where I had stored a lot of material and came upon several items that propelled me back in the past. I found a paper that I had written several years ago about Hickory Knob.
Daddy had passed away some time before that, but the grief was still raw in my soul. Hickory Knob was part of my childhood, and one of the favorite places where Daddy took us each year. Squirrel season rolled around, and the old tent and camping gear was brought out. Daddy usually had to patch a few holes in the tent, but Mom had to round up the food and blankets.
It was a magical trip! The narrow dirt road wound through several creek crossings, and in many places the water was deep. We had to dodge huge rocks in the creek bed, and we kids thought it was great fun when the water splashed high on the truck bed.
There was never a creek so clear and cold, with tiny minnows darting through the water. It was an isolated place, with only one house in the whole area. Immense rocks bordered the creek, and deer berries vined across them. We would pick and eat the tasteless red berries, and sometimes would find the flavorful mountain tea berries.
Wild grapes hung from the tall trees there, which could be attained by a barefoot boy shinnying up the trunk. The most vivid memory I have is the unique fragrance of that place. It rose up from the earth itself, the perfume of fallen leaves drying in the warm sunshine, the earthy smell of rich soil and the fragrance of late fall asters.
Each fall, I feel the pull to go back once more. Yet I know it is not the same. The big beech tree where we pitched our tent has been cut down, and Uncle Homer's house fell down years ago. All that is left to show that people once lived there are the cellar stones that are scattered about. It is still alive in my memory, as well as the elusive image of a beloved little boy who climbed the trees and dropped wild grapes in my hand.
Here are the words I penned on my last visit there. A wildfire had ravaged the land previously, and my heart was heavy.
This hillside where I sit
Has known the tread of your foot
Perhaps you sat right here and dreamed --
October sun warm on your face.
I know you saw the drifting leaves
Scarlet maple, bronze oak and golden beech,
The brilliant blue of autumn skies,
How could you be gone?
A forest fire has raged here
And not so very long ago,
The mountain laurel is brown and blasted,
Mute evidence of searing heat.