As we get older, it seems that the years pass faster and faster, and looking back, they meld together until it is hard to distinguish one from the other. I asked my husband Criss as this new year begun, what year would he pick to live it over, just exactly as we lived it. (I am sure we all have certain times we would like to go back and re-live, if we could only have the power to change it.)
He pondered for a moment and answered, "I don't know -- probably the year we lived in Jackson County." That was exactly what I was thinking, as I don't feel that I really appreciated that time of our life enough. We were hard-up, it is true, yet it was one of the most enjoyable years of our life.
We had moved to an old farm from Clay County, which contained 372 acres. Daddy had purchased the farm with the idea of settling there, but was laid off from Kaiser Aluminum shortly after. We had moved there in early spring with our two little ones, Mike and Patty. To our dismay, Criss was laid off that summer, and here we were on a huge farm with no near neighbors.
Had we realized it then, it was one of the best years of our life. The old two-story farm house had stood empty for quite some time, and the yard was overgrown with rosebushes and scattered flowers. A cellar and cellar house full of empty glass jars and tin syrup buckets was built in the back yard, and the outhouse was farther down the path.
We had electric power, but cooked on a woodstove with a water reservoir in the side of it. There was a drilled well on the back porch, and we hauled up the sweet, cold water in a bucket attached to a rope. A woodshed and a chip yard graced the back yard, and a huge barn sat in the meadow nearby.
Oh, we were rich in time! We scouted the hills for ginseng, and Criss and Old Smokey hunted the fat groundhogs that populated the fields. He took Roxie and Pearl, Daddy's big black horses, to plow the cornfields and Mike rode on one of the horses' back while I carried Patty and followed.
The creek that ran down past the cornfield was bordered with Sweet William flowers, and wild blue irises. We ate our simple picnic on the bank of the creek while the water rippled and glistened in the sunshine. Farther on down the creek was a small waterfall, where we took our daily baths. The waterfall emptied into a clear pool of warm water, and as there was no one for miles around, we had complete privacy.
I didn't realize then what an idyllic life we had. The songbirds would awaken us at daybreak with their trilling song, and we had the whole day ahead of us. White grapes twined on the end of the long front porch, and the scent of their bloom was heavenly. Cinnamon potatoes grew there also, combining their fragrance with the white grapes.
Inside the house, a double fireplace warmed both the living room and the bedroom. Of course the heat from the chimney made the upstairs bedrooms warm and cozy. We also had a wood burning stove in the living room, where we popped corn on cold winter nights. Uncle Myles and Aunt Lucille spent many weekends with us, enjoying the old-timey country living.
It wasn't tranquil all the time, nevertheless. I lost two-year old Patty one day, and she was nowhere to be found. I called and called -- she was there one minute and gone the next. I was panicky -- running from cistern (it was dry) up through the bottom and back to the barn. A tot that small lost on a farm that big -- a dozen bad scenarios went through my mind.
I rushed back in the house, calling all the while, when I happened to notice a set of small footprints in our bedroom leading to the dresser. There was Patty, hidden behind the dresser, still as a mouse. She had spilled my bath powder and hidden, leaving a powdery trail behind.
Then there was Criss' encounter with a red wasp. He had burned a wasp nest one evening just before dark, on the little stoop leading to the outhouse. I got up the next morning and made my usual trip to the necessary building and back without incident. Later, Criss stepped off the stoop on his way, when suddenly he was knocked to his knees. A wasp that had escaped the burning had perched on the side of the house, just waiting for Criss! Who says that insects can't think?
Yes, that time in our lives when we had no job, no money, no vehicle (the motor blew up in our old truck) no family nearby to lean on brought us literally to our knees. That kind of circumstances will cause a person to get down in earnest prayer. God did deliver us, and we don't take anything He has prospered us with for granted. Looking back now, it was good for us. I just wish I had appreciated it more at the time.
The New Year stretches before us, unmarred and unused. Who knows what it will bring?
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycef...@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.