I passed by Aunt Lessie’s house, now lovingly restored, and immediately started remembering the wonderful childhood days spent around and in it.
One of my very first memories is that of playing in the sandy area of the driveway under two big oak trees. It was generally moist, so you could “scoot” your foot down into it. Then you’d carefully ease your foot out, leaving a little cave.
We created a whole housing project for toads and frogs. Sometimes, we’d lie on the top of a red clay bank across the road and idly nibble on some kind of tart tasting clover and listen to Daddy and Mr. Reeves and Uncle Asa hollering at their mules as they plowed, then slide down the bank, getting our clothes red-clay red, much to our mothers’ delight.
Just a little piece down the road, three tall sweetgums grew, close enough together that their limbs intertwined. Wonderful climbing trees. They leaned out over the road. We’d, Willa and I, climb way up in them and drop sweetgum balls on the cars and wagons, if any, passing below. Alas, Daddy cut them down to expand a field.
Uncle Asa’s pasture was right by the road. It was not level, but it was the site of many a softball/baseball/some kind of ball game.
The game was played with a broken axe handle and a cancerous rubber ball. There would be anywhere from two players, just Willa and me, up to a dozen or more, maybe on a Sunday afternoon.
Out past that, there was a pine forest with just the perfect slope to make it ideal for sliding on a barrel stave. Oh, yeah. Get at the top, shove off and go flying down the hill, trying to stop before hitting the ditch.
We were heartbroken when Uncle Asa sold that timber. We never found another spot that was just right.
The old house itself was a typical dogtrot house, a wide hall down the middle, with a big room and a smaller room on one side, leaving a space for the back porch and the wash stand, with a dipper and a bucketful of cold well water always available.
The other side was the busy side, with a big room that served as the living room, parlor, den, bedroom…what have you. That’s where we congregated. Aunt Lessie’s legs had that mottled pattern that legs get when they stay in front of a fireplace a lot.
Also on that side were a small bedroom, a small dining room and the kitchen. No running water, of course. And there was a little house out yonder…
I’ve often wondered how they managed.
There were Uncle Asa and Aunt Lessie. Uncle Asa’s mother and step-father lived with them. There were four girls and a son. And many times, a hired man would also live with them. They never seemed overly crowded.
As we grew older, brother Jack and I would be working in the field across from the frog houses. It was good to run up to the house and sit in that cool breezeway…and maybe munch on one of Aunt Lessie’s cold biscuits left over from breakfast. There was something special about her cold biscuits. Ours at home didn’t taste that way.
We chuckle about it: It seems that every time we’d stop for a biscuit break, Daddy would come along. Amazing. Some kind of mind reading or something…
Also, I never quite forgave Willa: we’d be picking cotton, and I’d beg Willa to come across the road and help us. Nope. She’d sit in the swing and sneer at us.
That took a star or two out of your crown, girl.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.