Yesterday, I went to the drug store in Peak to receive a copy of the deed of distribution for my “inheritance” from Daddy and to sign some of the final papers for Mama to settle Daddy’s estate. It was in many ways a sad day for me.
I thought about the nearly 29 acres that I inherited. We called that tract of land the red field and the white oak. I grew up in those fields. As a child, I spent many weekends or late afternoons with Daddy while he plowed and planted and harvested those fields. With my sister and brother, we helped Daddy load and haul those 75 pound square bales of golden and scratchy hay that would feed the cows and horses for the winter. When I was older, I took Mama’s place on the combine, tying those heavy and equally scratchy bags of golden oats and pushing them down the chute so someone could drive behind and pick them up. Later, Daddy would take them to the mill to grind and mix with the corn and supplements he would buy from the feed-and-seed store to feed the hogs, cows, and horses throughout the year. As I child, when I was too little to work in the fields, I would play along the edges of the field, picking the blue bachelor buttons that grew wild along the edges of the field or making Maypop animals for my farm or zoo. When I could drive, I would take mason jars of ice water to Daddy.
When I was a child, the road by the field was a “red dirt road,” to borrow from the Brooks and Dunn song. It was crooked and hilly and crossed a shallow creek at “Chick’s Place.” Rain would wash gullies and ruts, and we had to be careful when we drove the road after a big rain. It didn’t take much to slide into a ditch and get stuck!
Vernon and Shirley still live on their family land up the hill and around the curve from the White Oak field. Not far from them lived Willie and Ernest and their father Mr. Pidd. They were the characters of the area, well-known throughout the area. You didn’t even have to say their last name for people to know exactly who you were talking about! Mr. Pidd was “ancient” when I was a little girl. He sat on the front porch of the family home, a rickety old house with weathered wood siding and a rusted tin roof. I seriously doubt they ever put in indoor plumbing or had running water in that house. I know they had electricity because some neighbors gave them a refrigerator in the 1970’s. Until then, they probably used the old-fashioned ice box to keep their perishables. Chickens roamed their yard along with a few dogs and probably some cats. According to his sons, Mr. Pidd watched the road on Sunday afternoons for Floyd and his chaps to ride by on our horses. If he were outside on the porch, we would have to stop and visit. I can’t imagine living in the primitive conditions. Willie and Ernest wore denim overalls everywhere, even to church. They put on ties and dress shirts and jackets. They were known for driving their mule-drawn wagon everywhere, and were fixtures in the Little Mountain Reunion parades until the mules were too old. All three men are gone.
Receiving this land reminds me that so many of the men and women of Daddy’s generation are gone. Dr. Joe and Ms. Imogene are still with us. There is a new generation taking over in the community of Peak.
In the next few weeks, I want to take my camera and begin documenting this place where I grew up, to preserve as much of it as I can. I want to keep this as family land, to pass on to my sons the heritage. I need to tell them the stories of working in the fields, and pass on to them the idea of stewardship of the land that Daddy passed to me.