The old home place near the Tomahawk on Hanover Road in Stone County, Ark., -- though I have dwelt away from it most of my life -- has always held a special place in my heart ... or as Hawthorne stated about his much-loved Salem, the old farmstead "possesses a hold on my affections ..."
Even during this cold, grey, wintry time of year, it can be a magical place.
Here, the mornings and evenings become times of wonder and reflection as the rising or setting of the sun paints a beautiful picture of orange, grey, purple and some colors yet to be named.
The foundation where the folks' old home once stood near the aging pump house is visible yet, and there is much evidence of the stone wall that once surrounded the barnyard. The mossy rocks are still there, but they lay scattered about in the lines where the wall once stood. The air here smells of earth and leaves and long-ago fallen trees.
Up the hill from the pasture and the small woodlot that was -- long ago -- home to the barnyard, an old creek bed falls toward the base of the hill. Boulders, rocks and fallen trees show the way up the creek bed to the flat shelf of land near the back property line. Up here, the undergrowth of briars and brush clears a bit, leaving only tall, straight trees to welcome me. It makes me feel as if I were walking in a primeval forest under an ancient canopy of green.
Below, the golden hayfields sway in the breeze that rushes down the holler; the tall hardwood trees surrounding the pasture and running up the hill to the East sketch lonely silhouettes against the grey afternoon sky; and the Tomahawk rushes ever closer to the concrete bridge that takes the road away to the south toward Turkey Creek, Cleburne County and eventually, Greer's Ferry Lake.
Up the road where the dirt road meets the blacktop and heads back into town, I see the cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried. Further still stands the old school house where my mother spent many of her school days. The side road just past the cemetery and the old school house winds through the trees and fields and up the lane to Star Gap, where I walked with friends and cousins many years ago, and where some of my kin still call home. The old house I visited during my childhood and youth is still there, but I have to look for it.
The stretch of road between Star Gap and the Tomahawk is where I feel at liberty to leave the worries of life behind and venture into a world that remains very familiar and comfortable to me; a place of fond memories; a place my parents fondly referred to as "down home."
I trust I'll get back there to live someday; back to the rocky ground and the waving hay fields and the trees that stand as sentinels over the memories; back to my roots; back home again.