All day my heart has been on Hickory Knob. As I stepped outside and the rich, earthy smell of fall wafted toward me, I was transported back in time to a backwoods place that was a paradise to us. There’s no other place on earth that has that indescribable aroma, compounded by fallen leaves, rich soil and hot sunshine on rhododendron bushes and hemlock trees.
I waded again the cold, clear water of the creek, watched the silvery minnows dart here and there, and sat on the bank and basked in the warm sunshine. Here giant boulders line the creek bank, and little red deerberries grow rampant on them. How we scrambled up those rocks to harvest the berries and gobble them! Wild grapes grew high in twisted vines in the tree tops, tangy and flavorful.
In my mind, I saw again the giant beech tree where Daddy always pitched the huge tent, saw the campfire where Mom cooked our meals, and the big campfire that Daddy would build at night after dark descended upon us. I lay again in the tent with the rest of the young’ens and heard the crack and rustle of some animal prowling in the rhododendron bushes on the bank above us. Sleep came quickly as we were tired after the day’s adventures.
Morning came early, and we awoke to the sound of Daddy chopping wood, and Mom putting the iron skillet on the grate of the camp fire. She baked biscuits in an iron Dutch oven, buried down in the red coals. They were fluffy and golden brown, and I ate them again with the fried potatoes and eggs she cooked over the fire. We were all together then, with Mark and Ronnie playing in the woods and creek, happy and innocent.
I saw Daddy throw his gun over his shoulder, and go into the woods in search of squirrels. There in a box were the red and yellow striped tomatoes that he’d saved to eat with squirrel gravy when we went on our camping trip. The day was ours! Daddy always cut us kids a grapevine swing, and we swung high over the creek and back up the bank. We prowled in the woods, waded in the creek and picked the late wild asters that grew in profusion.
Uncle Homer (Daddy’s uncle) and Aunt Bertha lived above our campsite, and he always made a trip down to visit us. I don’t think there was another dwelling above their house at that time, and the place was isolated and peaceful. It was probably lonely at times, but to us it was a lovely retreat, away from the world.
Uncle Homer had a grandson who lived with them, a loving youngster a little older than me. I promptly fell in love with him. What good times we had, in that primitive Eden! He scrambled up the tall trees and dropped wild grapes into my lap, and together we gathered the ripe deer berries. I looked forward each year to our annual fall camping trip and the hopes of seeing him. He was a distant cousin. In my mind today, I am roaming the woods with him and wading the creek.
One year we camped at Alfred’s Fork, and after we set up our campsite and stayed a few days, we came home for the weekend so we could attend church. When we returned on Monday, yellow maple leaves had fallen and covered our tent, table and the ground in a carpet of gold, inches thick. I will never forget that glorious sight! Oh, the memories!
I’m glad that “memories are one gift of God that death cannot destroy.” Daddy and Mom are gone now, and also my brothers Mark and Ronnie—too soon. The young boy that was my playmate is gone also—killed in Korea. His grave lies high on one of those hills where he was raised, to rest until Resurrection Day. He will always be 18, while I am 81. In my mind, we are both 17 again.
If I could go back to Hickory Knob, it would not be the same. The big beech tree where we camped is gone; cut down years ago. The only evidence of Uncle Homer’s house is some cellar stones, overgrown with weeds and vines. The creek is still there of course, and the rhododendron bushes where the wild deer bedded down at night still grows rife on the hillsides. I can only go there in my mind.
I’LL REMEMBER YOU, LOVE, IN MY PRAYERS
When the curtains of night are pinned back by the stars,
And the beautiful moon leaps the skies,
And the dewdrops of heaven are kissing the rose,
It is then that my memory flies
As if on the wings of some beautiful dove
In haste with the message it bears
To bring you a kiss of affection and say:
I’ll remember you, love, in my prayers.
Go where you will, on land or on sea,
I’ll share all your sorrows and cares;
And at night when I kneel at my bedside to pray
I’ll remember you, love in my prayers.
I have loved you too fondly to ever forget
The love you have spoken to me;
And the kiss of affection still warm on my lips
When you told me how true you would be.
I know not if fortune be fickle or friend,
Or if time on your memory wears;
I know that I love you wherever you roam,
And remember you, love, in my prayers.
When angels in heaven are guarding the good,
As God has ordained them to do,
In answer to prayers I have offered to Him,
I know there is one watching you.
And may its bright spirit be with you through life
To guide you to heaven’s bright stairs,
And meet with the one who has loved you so true
And remembered you, love, in her prayers.
Won’t heaven be wonderful when we meet once again with the ones whom we have known and loved in this life? 1Cor. 15:19 says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” I’m glad that I have a hope that reaches beyond this life. Heb. 6:19 confirms this hope, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”
I’m so glad that I have a hope!