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The Shepherd's Heart: It's all about the memories

Thursday, December 3, 2009

To those who read this column on a somewhat regular basis, it's no surprise that autumn is my favorite time of year and that Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I guess that's because Thanksgiving always comes with all the trimmings -- especially good memories.

For instance, I remember as a youngster traveling during the Thanksgiving break to north-central Arkansas to visit my parent's parents and all of their relatives. We'd invade the old Stewart farmhouse on top of the hill near Luber late on Wednesday night -- sometimes staying up until dawn while the adults caught up on local happenings and family affairs. Many times, the pot-bellied stove in the "front room" would be crackling and glowing until the wee hours of the morning.

By that time, grandma would be stoking the fires of the old wood cook stove and preparing the dough for her wonderful biscuits. Grandpa called them "terrapins," and they went very well with Grandma Roxy's sausage gravy or homemade jellies and preserves.

At the table, barely able to keep our eyes open from the lack of sleep the night before, we'd watch intently as Grandpa poured a cup of Grandma's strong, black coffee into a saucer before drinking it. We'd sit and listen as he told stories of recent goings-on, or how such-n-such was getting along, or when he expected the first snow to fall. It was always amazing to hear him talk about what was going on there in Stone County, and to try to make the connections between the folks he talked about and the ones we knew. Were they uncles, cousins, friends? It was hard to tell. But Mom and Dad seemed to know exactly what he was talking about, so that made everything OK.

When our bellies were full and are ears were tired, we'd slip out of the warmth of the kitchen, through the door and into the fresh coolness of a country morning. The sights were familiar enough, even though we almost never visited more than once or twice a year.

Behind the house was an old stone well, dug many years before and still providing water from a bucket at the end of a long rope. Further out, way past the fence and the old wooden gate, at the end of a path that -- at times -- seemed to go on and on, was the old single seat outhouse. Past that, down yet another well-worn trail was the barnyard, the barn, a small pond, and some pens for a few hogs.

Beyond the barnyard was a thick patch of pine and scrub oak. On the other side of the trees a series of boulders turned into a small bluff overlooking a forested landscape. Along that bluff stood a few well-spaced pines and cedars. I found this to be a wonderful place to sit and contemplate life -- as well as any pre-teen city boy could contemplate life, I suppose.

The old house has been gone for years, and I suppose the landscape probably looks quite different as well. But it's all still the same in my mind.

It's all about the memories, don't you know?

BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart