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By Frank S. M. Samples
We are held in wonder as our years have left us old,
Of the friendships we have known and the ones we’re blessed to hold.
Though the web of years may dim the eye and gray the aging head,
We rest well in this precious thought of where our journey lead.
For through the years those special ones this fellowship have shared,
We know that somewhere there are some who know us and who’ve cared.
So life is rich in small rewards more valuable than treasure,
Of long known bonds so strong and true, there is no earthly measure.

If there is anything that can make a person aware of the swift passage of time, it must be a school reunion. We had our 26th Hagar Grade School Reunion this past Saturday, and it was bittersweet. It has been 53 years since the last scholars trod the wooden floors of the two-room school building, and it was torn down some time after that. I wonder how long Hagar Grade School was in existence–I know my father was born in 1907 and he attended there for a couple of years.

He finished the second grade, and told us one time of going to school with a baked sweet potato in his pocket for lunch. Although he had no formal schooling, he was an intelligent, self-educated man.

Down through the years, a procession of scholars trooped through this school, moving on to other places and other climates. There are still descendents of the old pioneer families living here, generation after generation. Names such as Summers, Hanshaw, White, Jarvis, Brown and many others are still common here. My great-grandchildren are the seventh generation who still live on the old family farm, beginning with Great-Grampa Huey O’Dell who first settled here.

Of course, in a community like this there are life-long ties of friendship and loyalty. There are Hagar Grade School students who attended eight years of schooling there, and went on to Clay High School and graduated together. They were, and are, as close as family and as loved. So many dear faces are gone now, and each year there are less of the original students.

Time has taken its toll, and we are no longer the red-cheeked, vital children of yore. Many of us are on canes, some in wheelchairs, and hair is gray or non-existent. It is still a joy to get together and relive old times, to talk and laugh. There were tears and laughter as we gathered together another time, and much love between us.

I found a poem written by my late Aunt Adelyne Samples Dawson, describing the schoolhouse she attended as a child.

Once sat a schoolhouse by the road,
On Twistabout, you know
In front of it stood the old Dood Hill,
The creek ran just below.
On Sunday it was called the church,
And meetin’ would begin
Oh, then you could hear the singin’ shoutin’ prayin’
And all the loud amens.

It was a place of worship.
The county gave permission,
There was no rent to pay,
No taxes, not even a donation.
The first week in September,
The children wildly came,
All bashful, shy and blushing,
As the teacher asked your name.
And then our seats were chosen
Each student took their place.
Excitement filled the school room,
With smiles on every face.

Boys’ caps hung against the wall,
The water cooler stood
On a platform strong and sturdy,
Of plain old rough hardwood.
Lard buckets adorned a shelf,
The pails contained our food,
Which was oh! so plain and simple,
But also tasted good.

At recess then the kids went wild,
With yells and screams so loud.
Then they’d choose up for a ball game,
Oh! What a noisy crowd!
How we hated to hear the bell,
That brought us flocking in,
With a mad rush we’d take our seats,
For here our task begin.

But gone is the schoolhouse,
It’s now not around,
We hear no more singing,
Not even a sound,
Gone now forever,
And that is the truth,
Gone, gone, gone
And so is our youth.
But we still have our memories
And memories do last
So we think of them often,
And we dwell in the past.

Twilight trails dusky fingers across the land tonight, cooling the edges of the sun-scorched day and bringing night to the hills once more. There is a definite note of fall felt in the air now; reflected in the cooler nights and seen in the more flamboyant wildflowers in the meadows and fields. The black-eyed Susans are closing their dark eyes for the season and giving their place to the flashy orange pleurisy weed and purple ironweed. Bright yellow flashes of goldenrod appear now along the meadows and road banks, contrasting with the clear blue of chicory blossoms. At night, the strident call of the katydids warn over and over that summer is fleeing fast.

The jarfly sounds its queer, metallic drone above the hum of the bumblebee as he flits from flower to flower. The June bug flashes bright green; wings glistening in the hot sunshine. Remember how we used to tie a sewing thread on one leg and let it zoom above our heads? Like most country kids, we were fascinated by insects. We would catch a Granddaddy Longlegs and chant, ”Granddaddy Longlegs, show us which way your cows have gone?” Then we waited until the insect put out one long, thin leg and pointed.

In the sandy soil beneath the Virginian office porch, the doodle bugs built traps. (Of course they were ant lions, but we called them “doodle bugs.” They made traps in the fine sand to trap unwary ants. We would creep close to the funnel-like traps and croon softly, “Doodle-bug, doodle bug,” until we would inevitably dislodge a grain of sand and a minor earthquake would erupt in the funnel as the doodle-bug investigated the disturbance. Summertime was a fascinating time for us children.

Still lingers–the sun shines down hotly on the mauve Joe-Pye weed that towers over the wild yellow sunflowers and paler evening primrose. Green pokeberries ripen on purple poke stalks, and glossy, black elderberries hang in thick clusters.

But the katydids know. Their urgent call is heard each night, and in the cricket’s plaintive chirp there is a secret knowledge.

Summer is over.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer