Just getting started and trying to learn how to do this.First blog
While driving back from Buckhannon, I took the old route to Clarksburg on my way. As I approached the hamlet of Peeltree, yes there is such a place – it’s West Virginia after all – there was that pesky sign, Gnatty Creek Road. Been over it a few times in the 60 years of wandering around. If you make the correct left turn after a couple of miles or so, and start up over the hill, the pilgrim will pass a beautiful farm which Mother would call the Morrison place, but I doubt if any Morrisons have lived on or been responsible for its property taxes for years.
I was on a quest to trigger memory. To remember. To remember Mother, her Pop and Mom, brother Frank, and sisters Edith and Juanita. How Mother having walked away from the profession of her Pop and sisters as school teachers, leaving not only the farm but Barbour County, to go to Clarksburg, to WV Business College, and then to work in the office at the Hazel Atlas glass plant.
Mother would ride the bus line that ran down Route 20 (Buckhannon Pike). The bus driver would drop her off at Gnatty Creek Road. There, through a pre-arrangement, not sure how, I don’t think they had a phone at the farm, Grandpa Sigley picked up his renegade daughter, child number 3, and drive her “up Gnatty Creek,” over the hill and down Indian Fork. Names on post boxes hadn’t changed much over 30 years. Some had. The old O’Neal house is standing, occupied with a fresh coat of paint. The O’Neals, none of whom I ever met or knew but through Mother’s stories and memories, were long gone. Gone too, were Mister and Missus Proudfoot and Kathleen, all of whom I knew, and loved. Right past the old Proudfoot house, which was looking really well taken care of, I slowed to look for a remnant of the fence line, which marked the boundary between what once were Proudfoot and Sigley properties. Didn’t see it. Couldn’t make it out.
As I approached the place Mother knew as her childhood home, I prepared to look for where the house had stood. The old house has been gone for 16 years. The space is only a part of green lawn space for the “new” house which is built in what I believe was a barn yard way back in the day. I looked right through where the old farm house was, where Mother was conceived and birthed into the world, and found myself looking past it. Little is familiar to me, nothing to orient a fading memory with current reality.
Looking to the left, I see where the old garage had stood. A riding mower sat there. The red tile garage that was built back in the hill was gone too. As if it were lifted up, beamed up by an alien ship and carried off to study, an offering of primitive early 20 century human structure. Dad helped to lay the concrete floor in that garage, elevating it from a dirt floor. Something Dad was quite handy at doing. After all, his dad, had been a concrete finisher, laying sidewalks and road beds in and around his mid west town. Dad worked with his dad and that baptized Dad with his subsequent passion with construction. I should have stopped to see if the concrete floor/pad was still there under leaves and whatever. I fancied it still there. Thinking: If Dad laid that concrete, it would take more work that most would be willing to do to break it up.
In that moment, the concrete floor/pad whether it was still there or not, became a metaphor for Dad: Tough, solid, resilient, enduring, strong.
And so I found, on Indian Fork at a place the family called The Farm, rekindled memories of both Mother and Dad. Mother’s home place, a place where her man Jerry was adopted as a son in a family among the hills. O how I miss them all.