I have been thinking a lot this week about the little piece of land I affectionately refer to as "the farm."
The land is part of a larger spread, some 300 or so acres, once owned by a wise old gent named Bob Thomas. He was my mother's grandfather and my great-grandfather. By the time I was old enough to know him well, he had seasoned into quite a character. But that discussion is better left for another time.
The farm sits at the end of a long "holler" at a community known as Hanover in the middle of Stone County, Arkansas. A large portion of that holler, on both sides of Johnson Creek, was once part of the original Thomas farm. Our little piece of that farmstead is made up of hardwoods (with some small stands of cedar strewn about), pasture land, and hay fields.
When I was a child, the northern end of the place was the location of a home that was considered, in that place at that time, a fairly nice house -- the residence of Great-grandpa Thomas. It boasted two large rooms separated by a breezeway -- or "hall" with a long porch running across the full length of the house. At the end of that porch stood a stone structure that covered a deep hand-dug well bubbling with the sweetest water in the valley.
Nearby stood the original homestead, a smaller weathered-wood sided house with newspaper wall-paper and a tin roof. It had been the home of my mom's parents and the home where she spent most of her childhood. We tore that old place down in the summer of '69 and built a nicer, more modern home where Grandma and Grandpa Everett lived after he retired from his trucking job in Kansas City. From the front porch of the new small white home you could sit and watch as rains came over the western hills and straight down the Tomahawk. Most summers -- especially in late August -- that rain was more than a welcome sight.
A long, narrow hay field ran the link of the farm on the other side of the dirt road. At the south end of the field Johnson Creek spilled into the Tomahawk just above the low-water bridge leading toward Turkey Creek and the northern reaches of Cleburne County.
The small hardwood forest that still runs the length of the property on the east side was a place of great adventure for me. Though not all that large, several acres of hardwoods and cedars can feel like the Black Forest of Europe or the infamous Sherwood Forest of England to a young man searching for dragons and Black Knights and mysterious magical cottages. (If you don't believe me - just ask Winnie and his buddy Christopher Robin.)
The pasture land -- dotted with small cedars and other scrubby bushes - once was home to Grandma's old Jersey milk cow named Heart (because of the white heart-shaped smudge in the middle of her forehead) and several of her closest "friends." The small pond at the back of the pasture gave up the first largemouth bass I ever caught, and that was more than likely the catalyst for my love for fishing that endures today.
The pastures were also scenes for my horseback re-enactments of scenes from old John Wayne movies and episodes of Roy Rogers and Rawhide. Old Pat, the bay mare used to plow the garden, would somehow change into Silver or Trigger or one of the other famous Hollywood equines as we chased imaginary stagecoach bandits and bank robbers.
I could go on and on, but it would more than likely bore most of you to tears. Suffice it to say "the farm" holds a special place in my heart. And I just wanted to share it with you.