When we go to Frontier Country, there are a couple of “circles” I try to make.One involves riding, the other, walking. Let’s take the walking tour. You need to get to know the place better. For some reason, we usually take it counter-clockwise, but the other way is no less tiring. You are familiar, I’m sure, with the famous Sanders Law: If one travels in a circle, he/she uses the same energy in either direction.
I always used to take the walk, usually early in the morning. I’d complete the circle and get back just in time for a big country breakfast. Now, I’ve noticed, I and brother Jack both tend to find excuses not to take the walk. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too something…especially now that nephew Steve has cleared a path that can be navigated nearly all the way in the old farm pickup.
By the way, there is a scientific name for our growing reluctance to make the walk. It’s a long, unpronounceable Latin name, but the acronym is OLD.
Anyway, when you leave the house, there’s a little gully on each side of the wide ridge that runs from the house to where it drops off steeply to the bottom. One has a permanent stream, the other a part-time stream.
We go by the barn (a huge photograph of which hangs on a wall in the courthouse). In the summertime, we’ll be met by fleets of deer flies. But past there, they’re not so bad. We go through the old orchard. Daddy tried to grow apples there, but the only one that lasted was the striped June apple tree. Oh, how good they were, even when they were still kind of green. Many a sick stomach because of that tree.
Then on out through the pasture and by a patch or two, where we used to grow watermelons and peas. We skirt the Ridge Field, going down hill to where the farm road follows the part-time running water gully.
Then we turn and go through the Spring Piece, so-called for the lovely spring in the woods just off the field. That’s where I was plowin’ when first cousin/best friend Ross told me he was joining the Air Force; and where I was trying to break ground there after the cows had been in there all winter, and I was turning up clods as big as wash pots, that would ride my Chattanooga steel beam clear out of the ground, … which was making me cuss so loud that Daddy heard me way back up at the house.
Then the road travels a thin line between steep hillside and wet lands where the black gums and bays grow.
Ah, now we’re at the top of “the upper pasture,” which is now solid wetlands, thanks to beavers. Right up the hill there is the oak tree I centered with the wagon and mules when Jack didn’t put on the brakes in time. And there’s where Uncle Kelley’s corn patch used to be, the one he got Jack and me to help him lay by … on the 4th of July. Daddy said, “Heck, if I’d know you wanted to work, I had plenty for you to do.” But working for Kelley was almost, I say, almost, fun.
Now, we step across the little stream where we often see deer sign and go up a steep piney hill and we come to the lower end of the George Field, in hay now, named for Great-Grandpa Sanders who rode with Fighting Joe Wheeler, and who established the family graveyard we’re about to come to. Ah, pant, pant, we’ve almost made it. Let’s stop and rest for a moment here in the graveyard. where we just put up a granite sign. Maybe vandals won’t steal this one.
Here we are. Breakfast is ready. “Where y’all been?”
I don’t know, the pickup is sounding better all the time.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.