Friday, May 12, 2006

 

There isn't "country" anymore

Sometime in the 70's, I was talking to my Mom about a little place I had in rural Washington county, Texas. I told her that I slept in the bed of my pickup. She told me to be careful, I replied that it was OK because it was in the country. She replied. "there isn't any country anymore" How right she was.

Country was where I spent my summers in rural NE Tennessee during the late 1940's. I know the door to Uncle Ober's and Aunt Mary's farm house was never locked. There was no running water, indoor plumbing, phone or electricity. The gravel road that ran in front of the house carried very few vehicles. The milk truck came by daily to pick up the milk kept cool in the spring house next to the road. Other than that, maybe one or two cars a day passed by, that's it. Nothing after dark.

I can still hear Uncle Ober yelling at his team as he prepared the fields for planting. "Get up there Kate", "Come On John". Kate and John were the two draft horses he used for his farming. He didn't have a tractor. I really felt big the summer Uncle Ober let me drive Ol' Kate and John from the fields with a load of corn to unload in the corn shed. I realize now that Ol' Kate and John would probably have made trip even if no one had the reins, they didn't need me. The major event every day for me was when Bobbie Jean and I went to get the cows for milking. I never wore shoes, so I had to manage my steps to the bigger flat rocks because the smaller pebbles hurt my feet. You also had to be careful not to step in a cow paddy because it oozed up between your toes. Would have been easier if I had put on shoes, but not near as challenging. Also a tip about easing the pain of getting bull nettle strings on your feet and legs...Pee on it. The acid in urine neuteralizes the sting. The fences along the way were oak split rail with one stone wall that served to separate the east back pasture. Never asked who built that stone fence or when it was built, wish I had now.

To me, the most tranquil sounds in the world are cows baying at night and the night wail of a train whistle. Of course, the train whistles that are embedded in my soul are the mournful cries of a steam engine. Diesel's cannot come close to the character of a steam engine. Why the mournful cry of a steam engine is peaceful to me will be the subject of a future post. There is no doubt why I love the sound of cows baying at night. It takes me back to those cool summer nights in NE Tennessee.

Made a trip back to NE Tennessee a few years ago. Wanted to show my daughter and son-in-law my roots. There is no more country. The roads were paved, electricity, phone and indoor plumbing in every home. The split rail fences were gone, replace by steel posts and barbed wire. The most striking change though, the trees were gone. I visited my grandfather's farm, not in the family anymore, and you could see the Smokey Mountains while sitting on the front porch. You couldn't see them in my childhood days because of all the tall trees, I was somewhat shorter too. I miss the tall trees. My grandfather's main house is now a historical home in Greene county Tennessee. The family that owns the entire 500 acre farm are decendants of one of my granfather's sharecroppers. She proudly showed us the house and how she had "restored" it. I didn't tell her, but thay had butchered it. They lowered the 10 foot ceilings to 8 feet and in doing so, got rid of the main feature of the house, the big, red oval stained glass window above the front door. Also put vinyl siding over the original clapboard siding. The woman's brother couldn't assist in showing the house because he is in prison. He was in the courtroom where his wife was testifying against him in a civil suite. He shot her dead while she was in the witness box. I don't think he had much of a chance in the murder charges against him.

Mom, as usual, you were right. There is no more country.

Comments:
I'm really glad you're writing these stories down. I remember about half the story from being told, but it's so much better to have it in writing.
 
Love this story!
I'm always mourning for the past, and though I understand the need for change, it hurts me a little to find the things I used to love changed while I was gone. Can't help it... It just hurts.
 
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