Monday, November 24, 2014
More thoughts on Locust:
On that first day back on the farm, Honey dared me to go up those steps to the second story. I made it high enough so that I could see through the railing at the top into the room, but didn’t go on up. The room was just big enough to hold maybe two full sized beds and a palette or two. Some of you may be familiar with palettes. I remember visiting with relatives before the blow-up air mattresses were available or even cheap enough to buy. My grandmother had a ‘rollaway’ bed that she kept in her hall for guests to use once the beds were all full. When that was taken, if there were little ones left who couldn’t sleep with an adult, quilts would be folded into bundles and the couch pillows would be put down for someone else. One person would sleep on the pillows on the floor and the other would sleep on the couch without the pillows. Chairs would be moved together and maybe pillows or a quilt folded up to make a mattress there as well. Babies could be put into a bottom drawer, sometimes using the folded clothes in the drawer as the mattress with a sheet of plastic over them in case the baby wet through their plastic diaper cover. In hot weather the younger boys might be allowed to make a tent in the back yard to camp out in and take their flashlights out with them. Everyone had a place to sleep and survived even without the hotel accommodations we seem to need today.
I had the chance to talk to Honey’s sister in law this week and stayed on the phone over an hour listening to history. I didn’t tell her, but she confirmed a lot of the stories I had already learned from Honey. He was quite the lady’s man back in the day. Knowing how reserved he was when I met him, it’s hard to believe that he was into so much mischief back then.
He told me of one Fall night when he and all his cousins, at least the boys, were on a run through of the valley. They were tossing pumpkins and had tipped an outhouse and came across the storage shed in the middle of a harvested field of corn, not much bigger than an outhouse itself. They decided to set it on fire. It was full of fodder and I don’t know much about how one product burns compared to another, but Honey said it set a pretty big blaze and they all took off for the stand of trees to watch. He said the fire didn’t last long, but was the talk of the valley for the next week.
A few days later he and Buddy were in the old truck and wound around pass the corn field. The charred remains of the shed were easily seen from the road. Buddy never looked straight at Honey, but he might as well have stood him naked in the middle to that field and sent out invitations to the community to come and see who was guilty of setting the thing on fire. He just kept talking about what a sorry man it was that would destroy another man’s property. He talked about the work that had gone into harvesting the contents of the little building, about the cost to the owner not only in money that was so hard to come by, but also in time and effort and now he would have to replace the lost feed, the shed and work twice as hard next season to make up for the vandalism. He commented that it was hard to trust in people who thought it was fun to see another person hurt. Buddy drove slow and never came out and accused Honey of the foul deed, but Honey knew that Buddy knew that he knew that Buddy knew he had been involved. Honey said that he never owned up to the act, but he made sure that he never got involved with anything again that had to do with destroying property or causing loss to anyone. From what I understood from the telling of the story, Honey befriended the neighbor, (who was actually a distant cousin) the next planting season and did a lot of work for him, never talking about the burning again. But don’t you know in a small place like Locust, everyone know everything about everything and everyone even if it wasn’t spoken of in public places?
Honey wasn’t perfect and I laugh when I think about how I set him up on such a pedestal. I used to tell him, when I was leaving for my house, that I loved him and thought he was wonderful. He always responded “I’ll agree with that.”. He told me from the get-go that I would not have wanted anything to do with him if I had known him ‘back then’. His bragging was all tongue in cheek. I knew his secrets and shrugged them off. He was honest and open and fully aware of who he was and who he had been. He was never proud of many of the things he had been involved in, but he was completely assured that God had changed him and taken him in a new direction. If it had not been for the Lord on my side, tell me where would I be? I have seen the difference prayer and commitment made in Honey's life. What a story! What an adventure!
Sunday, November 23, 2014
In the beginning God created Locust and it was very good. He pressed his finger into the earth and a valley was formed. His fingernail scratched out the creek and water gushed over the rubble of stones and sang harmony with the birds. And it was good. This was the farm Honey and his three siblings grew up on. It hides back off of an old highway on a one lane road that wiggles its way around the shoulder of a hill to open up on measured fields and pine groves. Locust is the name of the community, but it is the term we used for the property that sat center of that thumbprint of God.
After being introduced to the area, I always anticipated trips to Locust with Honey. It was the last outing he and I had during the Spring of this year. Last weekend I was able to take sister with me. I suppose that my connections with the hollows of Tennessee endear me to the familiarity of the landscape, but I fell in love with Locust about the same time I knew that I was in love with Honey. He hadn’t been back there for several years so, when he started dating me, it was natural that, as he was looking for places to go within driving distance of our town, he would want to take me to his homestead. He knew I loved gardening and antiques and Locust was just the first place that came to mind. Standing abandoned for so many years, the drive and the cabin itself were overgrown with rough grass and weeds the morning we first went to see this rustic birthplace. Only half-standing up on the hill behind the cabin was the old barn where Judy and Babe had lived. We got out and started prowling around the old buildings. There was the wood shed, the broken down barn, another work building, the cellar that was dug back into the hill between the cabin and the barn, and, of course, the house proper. We found a shoot growing from a hosta his mother had planted in the front yard by the tiny porch and a beat up watering can tossed over into what was left of a fence. Beneath some stone rubble by the chimney, Honey pulled out the rusted remains of a push mower that had lost its handle in some long ago disaster. We picked our way around the house, avoiding stumps and mud holes, and I was surprised at how large it seemed to be. Honey had told me that it only had 4 rooms. He pulled up a wad of grass and used it to wipe off a smear of dirt from a side window to try to get a look into the middle room. The lower three rooms were shotgun style and in the far corner of the center room was a closet door that actually closed off a very steep, narrow flight of stairs leading up to the forth room built over the front parlor. The entire family used that area as a bedroom. Opposite of our window was a door that Honey said opened up to a side porch and the well where Ms Lillian pulled her water. It was just a hole in the ground with stone walls and a buckled piece of plywood covering it. The tiny step out porch had a nailed up sheet of metal over it so that the person fetching wood or water could stay partially dry at least when bad weather set in.
We went on around to the back of the cabin where the space between the hill and the wall of the house was only about three feet wide. Stones had been used to build a Ha-Ha wall. For those of you who are too citified to have ever seen one of these structures, it was a quirky breed of walls that were built in the 17th and 18th century, usually to form a boundary between a house and its yard and the grounds away from the house. The Ha-Ha wall also kept livestock from coming up into the yard and kitchen gardens on these estates and were constructed in more financially affluent residences to be invisible from the house, ensuring a clear view across the estate. The Ha-Ha is basically a sunken stone wall that meets the dirt on its top level with the ditch on the far side. Since the cabin sat right in the lap of the hill behind it, the wall cut out a flat front where the cellar could be dug out, concreted and sealed in years after the original was too fragile to use, covered with a roof, and then the roof covered with several feet of dirt and gravel. It was cool enough in the summer to store vegetables and the day’s milk and other foods that could spoil easily. In the winter it was warm enough to keep plants from freezing and to store the late harvest foods.
The roughhewn thick wood door to the cellar was hanging on by one hinge and Honey picked it up to prop it closer to the rock wall it was attached to . We took a step into the cave like space and felt the cool air settle around us. It was dry and other than needing a good sweeping out, was cleaner than expected for a deserted storage space. I think we were both wary of the possibility of snakes hiding in every cubby hole and rock pile and we sure weren’t hurrying through this tour.
We’d almost circled the house and Honey gave the back kitchen door a little yank, not expecting anything, but kind of grinning when it popped open with a wet squeak. I wasn’t too sure that the floor would hold if we stepped in, but where he went, I followed.
The linoleum was still attached to the floor and a couple of pieces of old furniture leaned against the wall. He told me about the poker games he and the boys played in the kitchen. Ms. Lillian would poke her head in ever so often to make sure nothing out of line was going on and was so proud that her boys could play a card game without gambling. Honey never let on that each of the matchsticks on the table represented a nickel and that at the end of the night everyone would tally up the winnings by counting the sticks. Buddy, Honey’s father, would come through on his way out to smoke and pick up a match to light his cigarette…much to the protest of all the players. And, of course, they were sipping on whiskey but hiding it in coat jackets or in the wood box by the table. Sticks of gum were a necessity as well, spread out on the table like an extra hand of cards.
We snuck through the kitchen like thieves and peeked around the door into the center room, probably added a century after the two-storied front had been built. This was the dining/parlor/sewing/visiting/extra sleeping room that never was filled with a lot of furniture but always seemed full of people coming and going. Honey pointed out the mantle and emphasized that there had never been an inside fireplace. The chimney was a vent for the wood stove in the bottom front room. The stove heated the whole house most of the time, except when Ms. Lillian was cooking back in the kitchen. However, it was just as convenient for her to put an iron kettle of beans on the front wood stove as it was to stoke and tend to the one in the kitchen, so the family often nested in the front room for most of the winter months. The front door wasn’t a good fit and if the stove was not kept hot, snow would blow in the cracks and crannies around the sills and door frame. Buddy would stuff newspapers and old rags in the splits for insulation and throw quilts around the baseboards to keep the wind out. There were three adults and four children in this house most of Honey’s childhood, but the count had dwindled to just his parents and himself by the time he was in his mid-teens. With the siblings were married and gone, Honey was left to take over the chores and he talked about it being a good thing because he no longer had to share the tobacco crop money with anyone else. Until he was left as the only child, the four had raised the crop together to pay for clothes and school supplies and knew that whatever was earned in the summer would be the only funds coming in for the rest of the year.
Remembering so much about the boy who became the man who fell in love the second time around. I am blessed!
Thursday, November 20, 2014
I just read the responses from yesterday and am so amazed that God has provided such caring people. I am overwhelmed and the advice and concern are so relevant to me today. God is doing a work through this. Last night at the church meeting a group of women approached me and asked me to join the widow's support group. when I protested that I was never married to Bill, they all commented that a soul mate comes in many different forms and that they would welcome me to their sisterhood. What a gift! I'm considering it. You all are right..this will take time and I do need to heal ...thanks so much for being here for me. Be blessed
Friday, November 14, 2014
back at the library to post.
Got the chair and fridge from Honey's. Both daughters were there. I had my posse too and it was pretty bland. In and out quickly...I wasn't allowed to go into the house. Found out that they do not have access to his funds. The bank he did his primary business with was gracious enough to allow them access to his account so that he could be buried. No death certificate yet ...so it will be weeks before everything is settled. I'm forming my own opinion about why he did not sign all the legal documents before he went into the hospital. My part in his life is closed. the girls will have to clean up the messy part.
My community has rallied around me full force and I will never be able to repay or thank them for their kindness and love. SP family has been so supportive and loving and the messages have been amazing. Thank you all. I expect to be back in a routine by Mon. I appreciate you all.
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