April has left us, and with her departure is taking most of our wet and gloomy days, and, leaving us with sunshine and blue skies. How our hearts have longed for these warm days of spring! The children are overjoyed to be able to run barefoot through the tender new grass that is springing up all over the place. It is a blessing to grow up in these hills and be free to wander through the woods and wade in the clear mountain streams.
I have a poem written by my good friend Ross Fortner, which describes growing up here. I want to use part of it here:
How blessed can we be, we children of the hills,
To have grown up free, and close to the land?
Having been born to the natural world, all around,
And learning and growing, in love and grace,
In the shelter of these hills,
In this magnificent place, this place we call home.
Sometimes it is more a mystery when we like to roam.
How splendid it was, and when possible, still is,
To wade in the little creek that runs through our land,
And learn how it feels, on our bare little feet,
The rocks slick with moss, and the minnows so fleet,
And how about the feel of soft summer clover,
Watch out for the bees, they think they own it.
And, well, maybe they do, for we are just a part
Of God’s Perfect Plan, for this, our Mother Earth.
Speaking of clover, remember how fragrant it is,
As its aroma drifts on the wind,
Even days after it is mowed?
A sweeter smell I have yet to find,
Even after 50 years, I can’t get if off my mind.
These childhood memories are precious, and looking back, I wouldn’t change one thing in the way I was raised. It was an old, Jenny Lind house, with a tarpaper roof, which sometimes leaked, surrounded by the johnny-house and tool house. The tool house was used in the fall to smoke the hams and bacons when we butchered. The house had never had a drop of paint on it, and the boards on it had turned a silvery-gray by the winter weather.
On the front porch was a homemade swing, hung on a pole above us. It was well used and loved, as it was occupied by a gang of kids crammed close together, and also was used to lull countless babies to sleep. That end of the porch was covered with woodbine, which made a welcome shade when the sun was hot. I can still hear youthful voices singing, “Twilight is stealing over the sea, shadows are falling dark on the lea, Born on the night wind, voices of yore, Come from that far-off shore.” We didn’t have the foggiest idea of what a “lea” was, but we sang loud and clear.
Mary Ellen and I swung the babies to sleep-she with Susie on her lap, and I with Jeannie. We sung, “Go to sleep, my little buckaroo,” and “The sandman glides from street to street, with busy hands and quiet feet.” Soon our little ones were fast asleep. Now our “little ones” have children, and grandchildren of their own. They are rocking babies and singing lullabies to them. And the generations go on.
We didn’t have much of this world’s goods, but we were rich in the things that counted. We were secure in Mom’s and Daddy’s love, and had plenty to eat, even if it was mostly rough farm grub—which is the best kind! Our clothes may have not been the latest style, but they were clean and warm. Most of all, we were secure in our Heavenly Father’s love, and taught from babyhood of God’s care for us.
I guess it is natural, as you grow older, to look back on your life, and reminisce about bygone times. It seems that the hard times and heartaches grow dimmer, and the blessed good times grow brighter. Memories are precious, and God’s gift to us. I wish now that I had paid more attention to Daddy’s memories before he had a stroke. There were lots of family history lost when he passed away.
It is so important for a family to make good memories for their children. It doesn’t have to be vacations to Disneyland (although that does makes good memories) but it can be simple little things that they remember. I remember one time when Mom took an iron skillet and some potatoes up in the woods near our home and fried them for us children. Later, my brother Ronnie remarked, “Boy, I’d like to go on another “tater picnic!” When all the kids started to school except Andy, we took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches up in the woods and listened to the squirrels and birds. I don’t know if he remembers that or not, but I do!
Most of our excursions centered around nature, and that is where my favorite recreation still centers. I’m sure that museums and parks are great places to go, but, give me the rugged beauty of a mountain stream, a campfire glowing brightly in the darkness or patch of spring beauties in their low and modest state. My heart thrills to hear a whippoorwill in the twilight, or, see the sunrise through the rosy clouds at dawn. I love it all!
Yes, I am supremely happy for my mountain childhood, and also, for the warm memories that remain. I thank the Lord for them.