The State of Tennessee took the old farm place, up on the side of Rhône Mountain in Kingston, Tennessee for a new highway. They called it eminent domain, which is, “the power of the state to take private property for public use with payment of compensation to the owner” (Dictionary.com). Being too young to understand what was going on, (Why did they need another highway? They already had one that ran right by the farm!) I only knew that my grandparent’s farm wasn’t going to be my grandparent’s farm anymore.
They moved from Tennessee to Georgia back in the early seventies, when I was only six or seven years old, however, I still have a lot of memories of the old place. Thinking back on it, it seems as if I was much older when they moved away. Even though I grew up in Hixson, a suburb of Chattanooga, I spent a lot of time there – during school breaks and vacations – and experienced things that the other kids my age never did.
I can still remember the old house before it burned and the mobile home replaced it. My parents say that I was too young to remember that house, but, although I don’t have complete memories of it, I can still describe certain parts of the layout and the color and pattern of some of the wallpaper. I even remember the single wire hanging from the ceiling with a lone bulb swinging on the end. I remember the outside of it as being black, although I’m sure that wasn’t the case.
There were fields and barns and gardens and woods and a big pond where cows used to drink. As a kid I used to drink water from the pond, too. I didn’t know anything about dirty water and bacteria back then. I never got sick from it though. I remember climbing up into the hay loft and jumping down on the bales and loose hay below. After one of my many daredevil jumps I looked beside me, and into the face of a fat corn snake who had decided that the hay was a nice place for a nap. I could swear that he had a grin on his face and a wink in his eye, approving of the fun I was having. Once, when walking around the dirt road from the pond, I found a small hog-nosed snake. When I picked it up – yes, I played with snakes – it curled up and turned upside down, appearing to die. I was afraid if killed it until it rolled back over and started crawling around my fingers. I put it in the pocket of my overalls and it slept in there most of the day.
During the growing seasons I would spend most days in the garden, weeding up and down the rows, between and around the vegetables. Some days lunch would be a pickled pig’s foot, some saltine crackers and a bottle of hot sauce, washed down with cool water from the spring. Other days I’d pick something from the vine and eat it there in the garden. Speaking of the spring, there was a fresh water spring at the end of the driveway, that fed into a cement block cistern and overflowed into a little pond that ran under the road and to the nearby creek. We kept a dipping gourd hanging by the spring box for drinking. That was the coldest and best tasting water I have ever had, and haven’t had any like it since they left the farm. The little pond was always filled with watercress that was always fresh and tasted so good on a hot day.
There were other amenities that you would find on most farms. Aside from the spring box, hay barn and pond, we also had a chicken house, where I would go get eggs for breakfast. Mama chickens can get mean when you go to get their eggs! There was a smoke house, where I always thought the older men went to smoke cigarettes and tell dirty jokes, because we kids were never allowed to go into the smoke house. And lots of woods. I think this was my favorite part of the farm. When I was a kid my dad was the scout master of our local Boy Scout troop. The troop built a camp in the woods at the old farm and spent three or four summer camps there. I used to go and spend a few nights during the week until mom came and then I would spend the rest of the week with her and my grandparents at the trailer. Even when they weren’t camping, I still loved to go to the campsites and “just be”. It was like I held some kind of ownership in those sites, because I had camped there, too, and that was my realm.
Other memories I have of the old place and of the town of Kingston during that time was the dairy farm across the road that had the creek running through it where my granddaddy and I used to fish. My older brother caught a carp in that creek one day, and granddaddy told him to take it to my grandmother to cook up, wrapped in a cow paddy! He threw the carp back lol! The first time I ever flew was when the owner of the dairy farm, Mt Bacon, took us up in his single engine plane, flying us around the farms so we could see them in their entirety. There was also a little country store close to the farm that had the meat and cheese counter in the back, barrels of pickles and crackers and other goods, jars of pickled pig’s feet, sausages and eggs and lots of baskets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The town has changed a lot since then, but some of the town I remember can still be seen if you know where to look. I’m not sure what prompted this journey down memory lane, but it’s been nice to revisit the old farm and walk though the woods and fields again. Thank you for walking along with me. This truly was a ramble.
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