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Reminisces of an October day: a visit out Bottom Road

Brisk weather brings to mind a last trip to the old family homestead for Jim and his mother.

By Jim

For some reason the old farm out Bottom Road not far removed from Russell Springs, the place where I spent the first seven and half years of my life, lingers in my mind this brisk December day.

The farm -- two hill sides with a creek slapped down the middle, as my father well described it -- encompassed only fifteen or sixteen acres, but to little kid me, the copse of woods along the winding waterway comprised a forest primeval, filled with fearsome ninja squirrels and marauding terrapins, and the slow-moving brook seemed as wide as a mighty river.

Most vividly this cold morning, I recall waking the perimeter of that old place for the last time in the early 1990s, exact year now forgotten.

On a beautiful late October day, my mother's birthday (she was bit past eighty), we drove the short distance to the farm and left the car near where our farmhouse, then gone for several years, had stood.

By this time in her life, mother suffered both from Alzheimer's and from cardiac issues. I had weighed the latter before asking if she wanted to see "the old place," as she always called it, and decided that were she to have a heart attack and leave this world, she would die happy and at a place she loved.

As we began our trek, I could plainly as day see my father, a tall man, struggling through the snow the morning after the Great Snowfall of early March 1960, going to the barn over the hill to tend to the livestock. I could taste the sweet, icy cold water from the deep well in the side yard, conjured up half-memories of my parents processing fresh pork, could again hear the whippoorwills calling at dusk and the hooty owls at night, and visualized the smoke house, the junk house, and the privy, the latter two long since torn down.

We walked down the lane and over the hill, past the area my folks always used for a garden and where two or three of the old fruit trees -- trees that were there and bearing when my father's family bought the place in the 1930s -- had provided pears and apples for us thirty and more years ago. And too, it's quite possible my hand drifted to a small scar on my forehead, a reminder of falling near there when a wee tyke, cutting my forehead on a sharp object that missed my right eye by the scantiest of margins.

Then on past the barn, also gone, and memories of watching my father milk the family cow and of me playing in the loft, and of the huge old oak tree directly behind the barn. I believe by then, the tree had been lightning struck and little remained except a few feet of the trunk and perhaps a few snag limbs. From there, we crossed the wee branch of Williams Creek and went on up the gentle rise to where the two room-tenant house used to stand, my folks' first place of residence after their marriage near the end of World War II. I suspect the brief time they lived there was one of the happiest and most content eras of my Mama's life. That was the first time in nearly twenty years she'd had a place she could call her own home.

We looked for but couldn't identify a tree known all those years earlier as Mama's Dogwood, and from there, then slowly made our way on up the hill toward the back of the place it joined the Hopper farm.

At the back of the property, we had to cross another small branch. I stepped across and turned to help Mama, only to watch, much to my delight, as she held onto an old woven wire fence and walked across on a small downed limb as nimbly as she must have crossed any number of other creeks in the past, stretching back seven decades and more ago.

We skirted along the back line (giving good clearance to the blackberry bramble where decades earlier my cousin Joe and I got what had to be two of the worst ever cases of chigger bites), then headed back down the hill and across the Williams Creek branch again, and up the hill behind my brother's place. It was on that slow uphill climb that mother said something that likely will always stay in my mind. Out of nowhere, or so it seemed to me, she said, "You know, I've tried to forget so many things, I wonder if that's why I'm so forgetful now."

That was, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, the last time either of us made that reminiscent walk. By warm weather the following year, Mama wasn't able, and I could never work up the courage or enthusiasm to make it solo, and a few years later, the farm passed from family hands.

I don't know how much about or for how long my Mama remembered our sunny October afternoon adventure, but for the space of a couple of hours, she was happy -- and home.

This story was posted on 2018-12-10 11:11:30
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