NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Dear Cousin,

 

I went out looking for spring yesterday. I just knew she was lurking around some hidden corner, just waiting for the right moment to spring forth and announce her appearance.

It was a rare sunny day, without a cloud to mar the blueness of the sky. The sun shone warm on my back, a welcome change from the cold and gloomy weather that has prevailed for the last few weeks. It was good to be out in the open after a winter of being cooped up in the house.

My hike took me up the “little road,” called that in order to be distinguished from the “big road,” which was the main route through our little town of Ovapa. Always a dirt road, it has been stoned with gravel to make it more passable. At one time, it was a narrow roadway used for foot traffic and an occasional horse and sled.

Standing above the road bank were the dry stalks of last year’s weeds, ready to be replaced by the burgeoning growth of spring. They stand like weary sentinels with their duties finished, just waiting for replacements.

Across the meadow, green is showing through the brown grass, and there is a greenish haze around the weeping willow tree. This tree is the first here to show the promise of spring, and is a sure sign that winter is leaving.

The road travels right through the creek here, but the water is shallow and it is easy to step from rock to rock. Now there is new growth showing; little spears of day lilies are springing up on either side. Remembering Euell Gibbons’ fondness for these early spring plants, I pull up a sprout and sample it. It is tender and sweet and would make a good addition to a tossed salad.

The road is uphill now, and the woods come right down to the road. Ferns and club moss are thick, but look winter-weary and blasted. Patches of chickweed creep over fallen logs and rocks, green and fresh. I look for wild greens, but it is a bit too early. Dandelion greens are barely making an appearance.

As I pass Andy’s barn, his cows and horse stop grazing and look at me curiously. The cows drop their heads and continue eating, but the horse watches until I go around a curve and drop out of sight.

The road is all uphill now. It has been years since I walked the road to the “Hardway place,” but it is familiar. I knew that the house had burned down years ago, but it was still a shock to reach the house site. In my mind’s eye, the white two-story farmhouse should still be there.

I could see Mrs. Hardway standing on the front porch, a white apron enveloping her ample girth, and calling out, “Hirey! Come on in!” There was always a comforting hug waiting and a warm welcome for all.

There was always the homey smell of wood smoke from the two fireplaces, and from the cooking stove. We were urged to eat, in old time hospitality. After all these years, I still remember a birthday cake that she had made for one of the granddaughters. It had fluffy pink icing, and was delicious.

There was no wood smoke, no warm welcome. There were no grandchildren, Jerry, Nell and Dawn, or no Major plowing with his horse. There was no Mrs. Hardway, with her wiry gray hair twisted up in a knot on top of her head.

Instead, there was a tumble of stones, rusted remains of a cooking stove, refrigerator, and other household goods. Shrubs and vines had overgrown the scattered remnants of a home. An enormous walnut tree was bowed down with grape vines, its gnarly limbs almost touching the ground. Nothing looked familiar.

On the far side of the house site, I came upon a patch of yellow daffodils. These were planted with love by Mrs. Hardway, and as I picked a bouquet, I could almost feel her approval upon me. She is gone, but her flowers live on. So does her memory. I didn’t find spring, but something more precious — the memory of loved ones.

 

Please hug everyone for me.

Love,

Cousin Alyce Faye

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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