Tell a story or two
Someone said I should write a blog or blab, whatever it’s called, but I figure people probably don’t care what I think about most things. So I decided just to share a few short stories about growing up in a small rural town 40 years ago. Before I get too old fogie on ya let me tell you about one thing that has changed in that little town. On my last visit I noticed the names of the rural roads have been officially changed now with number designations. Even numbers for east west roads, odd for north south or something like that. According to the desecrators of my personal history, this is done to help emergency vehicles and delivery persons find rural homes. Makes since I guess, but, as for me I’ll miss the local history and color of the area that is quickly being forgotten. I asked my 20-year-old nephew if he had been fishing down at Browns Ford or McTaggerts and he looked at me like I was crazy. These places are known and named for the persons that originally settled the area, most with stories of minor triumphs and/or tragedy. I said “you know you turn south on Poor Farm Road”, again a look of puzzlement. I said “get in the car”. I drove him to see the place where I had spent a good portion of my childhood. A place where just 25 years prior to my arrival men who had no jobs, no money, and for most no hope came to work for food and lodging. As we made our way through the brush and weeds including a very nice mulberry bush (mmmh), we found the floor and partial walls of the rooms. They are smaller then the closets at my house and none had plumbing. Today we would say this was cruel and unusual punishment. In the grasp of old memories, I was compelled to mention another of my old haunts, Lahunt cement plant, which closed down in the 30’s. He had never been. We drove out on Peter Pan Road to Lahunt Road (oh, I’m sorry, Road 201?? whatever), but an 8-foot fence with a sign that said No Trespassing blocked our way. Hard to believe but they had closed the access to my old stompin’ grounds, a place of many epic adventures. In the late 60’s, while exploring, I walked into a clearing filled with gravestones. There was no longer a road, no signs, no fence, only these small generic gravestones. Of the markers that were still legible most seemed to belong to children. That night when I asked my dad he told me of the cemetery and a family member buried there and somehow got on to the influenza epidemic that had taken so many. He said that some in this tiny cemetery were probably victims of that flu The tunnels and buildings of the cement plant were also off limits with a promise that trespassers would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (whatever that is). The shadows of those broken walls were the inspiration for many stories including the one always told at dusk of a man buried in the wall during construction of the plant in 1890’s. He fell into the concrete mix while it was being poured. Too late to save him, they left him there, in the wall, with his pickaxe and shovel embedded in the concrete, a marker for all to see. (I know this is malarkey now but when you’re 12, wow!) The point is I would guess only a few in that area know of the old poor farm (or why it was needed) and fewer still know of the grave yard.
Maybe it’s because my Dad (a great story teller) worked for the county for 46 years and as a kid I spent a lot of time with my Dad in his truck (it had a little fan on the dash board, worthless in the heat but very cool). On most weekends we would travel old, now forgotten roads, setting up barricades to warn of bridges that had been washed (warshed) out and roads that needed or were under repair, We would set out and light up yellow dogs (large cannon ball sized metal lanterns filled with diesel) that would burn 12 plus hours and served as warning beacons to those traveling dark roads of problems that lay ahead. These trips were always full of stories and accounts prompted by questions like, “why is it called Sweeney Hill, Dad?”
To all of us who remember eating mulberries, inner tube patches that had to be lit with a match, kicking cans, clothes stiff from being hung out on the line, and pop bottles worth two cents. Tell a story or two.