My mom’s parents lived in central Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains. To get to their home you had to drive up the mountain on a gravel road for about ten miles then turn off on a one lane dirt road. There was one home at the top before you started down the mountain; this was my grandparents nearest neighbor. When you started down you went as slow as possible because the road was very rough and had large flat boulders that would drag on the bottom of your car or truck if you went too fast. Often people would get out of the vehicle at the top of the hill and walk down to remove weight so it wouldn’t drag on the rocks. It was over a mile down hill, and then you had to drive through a ford in two creeks until you came to their house at the end of the road. My grandparents didn’t own a vehicle and depended on their one neighbor to get to town to buy the few necessities that they couldn’t provide by their own labor.
It was a great place to visit when I was a youngster. There were cows to milk, chickens to feed and gather eggs from, horses to ride, strawberries and grapes to pick, just all kinds of things to do to keep busy in such a secluded place. Usually there was more than one family of my aunts and uncles visiting at a time so we often had from four to six youngsters sleeping in the same bed together. Remember the old tales and songs about sleeping at the foot of the bed, well we did, with four across there was often someone sleeping crossways at the foot of the bed and sometimes there was two of us. You can imagine the stories, the giggles and the shouts of “You kids get quiet” from parents with six youngsters in the same bed. At times there were two beds full of us, girls in one and boys in another. There were eleven children in my mom’s family and grandma’s house was a gathering place. In the kitchen was this huge wood cook stove and long table. My grandma made the best biscuits, fried chicken, garden vegetables; actually everything she cooked was the best anyone ever ate. It was a feast every time you sat down for a meal. Then we male children would get to go with grandpa and his hounds to hunt for squirrels, coons, possums and rabbits. Every thing went to the table to join the feast. My grandma’s house is the only place where I ever ate coon or possum and believe it or not they were both delicious.
I guess as they say all good things must come to an end. When I was sixteen my grandpa was found to have prostrate cancer. The hundred sixty acre farm was sold and my grandparents moved to a house near where all of us children and grandchildren lived. They used the money from the farm to pay for surgery and the treatment of cancer then later to buy a small home in town.
I think everyone of us has some item from our childhood that we hold on to for all of our lives, a doll, a cap pistol, a ball, a glove, something we always keep to remember our past. Even if we can’t hold on to it we never forget it. Well my one item is a rock! On my last trip out of my grandparent’s old home place in the Ozark Mountains I was riding with my uncle Eugene. When we got to the place where you had to ford the creek I asked my uncle to stop and help me get a rock to take home to remember the place by. Despite his protests I convinced him to help me load up a rock, bolder actually, that took both of us to lift into the trunk. A red sandstone rock that weighs around two hundred pounds! When I got home with my treasure and unloaded it into our back yard my mom exclaimed “that will make a perfect step for the porch!” I was pleasantly surprised because I had worried all the way home about what she was going to say about me bringing home a bolder.
The rock served as the step to our porch for several years. I went off to college, got married, and when mom bought herself a little house in town believe it or not the “rock” was perfect for a step for the porch again so it was moved three miles to town along with mom. In her later years my mom had problems getting up that step so I bought a preformed concrete step and set it at her porch for her.
When mom passed away my sisters, our spouses and I were sitting in the house going through everything my mom had kept over the years, and believe me she kept everything, to decide who wanted what, what to keep and what to give or throw away. We found cards for every occasion that any of us had ever given her, letters, pictures, little items that had belonged to one of us. Late that night it hit me like a hammer in the head. I said “Oh My!” everyone looked at me and said “What!” Without a word I went outside got a shovel and dug around the concrete step until I could tip it back away from the porch. There it was, just as I had suddenly remembered, my “rock” buried under the cavity of the concrete steps.
By this time I lived in central Missouri so the rock went home with me and I kept it in my back yard next to a dogwood tree. The dogwood was my mom’s favorite tree. In 2005 when Julie and I moved to our new home in southeast Missouri the rock came with me. It now sits in a landscaped area at the end of our home.
Every time I look at it, even if just passing by on my way to the lake or to mow the yard, I remember all the memories that are tied to that rock. It traveled ninety miles from grandma’s home to ours, three miles to mom’s new home in town, two hundred and twenty miles to central Missouri, eighty seven miles from central Missouri to southeast Missouri. That red sandstone rock has traveled four hundred miles over forty nine years yet still holds so many reminders of fond memories for me. Amazing how important an item can become to us as we walk through this life. Regardless of its nature, size or actual value it becomes priceless to us.
A story about the little things that become important to us as we travel through life.