I have always heard that as you get older your mind goes back to your youth; I have now lived long enough to find that it is true. Many days my mind wanders back to the carefree days of youth when I did not have any responsibility I just did what my parents told me to do while I expected them to feed, clothe me, provide me with a place to sleep and see that my other needs were met. My parents worked hard to do that. In addition, they showered me with love.
I think when we look back at our growing-up years we always remember the good times. Seldom do we dwell on the unpleasant or hurtful times. I am so thankful that there were few of those times in my childhood.
Did you ever lie on your back in the grass on a beautiful sunny day just so you could look at the sky and see the little fluffy clouds move across the blue above them or stand outside on a clear night and stare at the moon looking for the man you had heard lived there? If so, did it make you think of all the wonders of God’s creation and where you fit in it all? As a child I was probably too much of a dreamer. I am so thankful that my everyday life felt so secure that I could dream.
Growing up in Walter’s Branch our house sat in a narrow valley between two large hills. The hill behind our house was pastureland where the cattle were let out to graze. At the top of the pasture were large patches of blackberries in early summer we were sent to pick these. The mountain in front of our house was all wooded. That was a playground for us. We sometimes just climbed the hill because it was fun.
One summer we even dreamed of cutting trees and building a cabin. I think we might have cut three or four small trees then the dream ended. In the fall we would pile leaves in the ravines and then jump in. I know that sounds childish, but then we were children. We could climb to the top of the hill and walk down the ridge to where we could overlook all of Isom. Along the top of the ridge there were mountain teaberry bushes and when we chewed the leaves they tasted like teaberry gum.
Sometimes in spring Dad would take us service berry hunting. Nowadays when I see service berry trees in bloom, I remember those times. As I grew older I just enjoyed walking in the woods especially if something was troubling me. They gave me a quiet place to think.
I remember the joy I felt when I was allowed to go to school with my sister and brother even though they made me carry the lunch pail much of the time. I loved school and learning to read was wonderful. Being able to pick up a book and read the stories in it opened up the world for me. I have never lost my love of reading; it is my favorite pastime today.
The walk to school was about a mile, and part of the way was a path that wound around a hill. I can remember in the spring how when the trees where turning green and some were blooming, seeing and smelling spring in the air would fill me with such joy I would skip and sing around that path when I was by myself even though I can’t sing. After the path we had to cross a swinging bridge. This was fun for a kid, especially when there was a flood in Rockhouse Creek that flowed beneath the bridge. You could stand on the bridge and look down at the swift, muddy water. It gave you the feeling that the bridge was floating, carrying you down the creek. For a kid that was, as they say today, “awesome.” I don’t think our mother would have felt that way had she have known what we were doing.
We usually walked to school with the Ison children from next door. They were our playmates and good friends and we enjoyed walking and talking over our school day activities. Lessons were for learning and recess was for fun, basketball, round town, and dodge ball, for the smaller kids jumping rope, hopscotch. Oh! Yes. recess was for fun. In winter there were a few times our teachers even took us to the creek behind the school when it was frozen to skate. I loved school.
There was a small creek that ran in front of our home. This provided us with much entertainment. We played and fished in it. Our fishing pole was a stick equipped with twine string tied to a stickpin bent in the shape of a fishhook. We were actually able to catch fish with this and sometimes we caught enough fish Mother would fry them for us. Going to our grandparents’ home we had to cross this same creek on a bridge, which was just a large log that had the top hewn down to make it flat. When I learned to cross that bridge by myself, to me it was a great accomplishment. Summertime with Dad’s help we would dam up one of the one of the creek pools and make us a swimming hole. Of course it wasn’t large enough to swim in, but we sure had fun playing in it.
The story went that somewhere on the mountain between our home and Smoot Creek were rocks known as Chris Rocks with a cave beneath them where it was told that a man named Chris Craft made his home at one time. As children we always planned to find these rocks and see if we could find evidence that a man had once made his home there. I think we even started out on this excursion a few times, but never found the rocks. I’m not sure if this tale had any truth to it or not, but it was exciting for us children to talk about and make plans to do. That is what childhood is about, “dreams”. I’m sorry to think that kids today don’t seem to be able to use their imagination and their ability to dream big dreams and then work to make them come true.
I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Walters Branch at Isom. Even after I married and moved away I still remember how safe it felt when we visited my parents. It was as if I could leave all my worries at the front door and my parents would take care of everything. That is what home meant to me.