Monday, September 18, 2006


My mom and dad tried hard to keep in touch with their family when dad took up the electrical craft and left the farm. Almost every other weekend was time to “go down home.” It was fine with me for the first ten years or so, but as soon as I became self aware and made friends I resented having to go. I longed to be older so I could stay home and be with my friends or just be by myself. However, I do not remember that happening more than once.

One of my earliest memories of “going down home” was of the old Mashburn home place shrouded in darkness and somehow out of place than the last time I saw it in the sunshine.

My uncle Ersie actually replaced the spot where the old homestead stood with a brand new 1950’s ranch style house and lived there with his parents and sister until he married sometime in the mid-sixties. Pa, Ma, and Lois then moved to another little farm only about a half a mile from Five Points, TN.

This particular night, when I was around 4 or 5, was not the first time I saw the old home place, but was the first time I can remember it. All I knew was that it had been moved from somewhere that I remembered it being before, but I had no previous recollection of where it sat. It was my first real consciousness of the house and I was seeing it in strange circumstances and in the eerie light of “coal oil” (kerosene) lamps.

The new house builders had pulled the old house about 200 or so feet, from its original resting place, out in front of the barn. It was there the family camped until the new house was finished.

As dad got out of the car at the end of our drive “home,” he yelled his familiar “MOUNTAIN FOLK!” greeting toward the house. As the other car door slammed shut, we could see faint yellow light coming from inside the house. Farm folk go to bed early, soon after dark usually (or as they say, “With the chickens”), so it was most likely about 8 or 9 o’clock and our arrival probably aroused them from their first blinks of “REM” dreaming.

As my dad opened the door, the yellow “coal oil” lamp light glowed on the face of my Aunt Lois, lying on her side on a quilt pallet on the floor and putting on her glasses. “We gave up on ya’ll, and turned in about an hour ago.” Lois said, getting up to hunt for more quilts.

That is the only memory I have of the old house, and after that weekend only the “new house” remains in my thoughts of what “home” was. I am quite sure my dad lost a host of memories after that of his days in and around the “old” house. A little bit of him gone and the first embers of my memory beginning to glow. For me, it was just a doorway opening to yellow light and the love and greetings of my grandparents and aunt in a time and place gone forever.

The new house was “down home” to me from the next visit onward. It was a fine house with indoor plumbing, brick sides, lights in the pillars of the porch, and beautiful hardwood floors throughout. I do not remember there being any heat source other than a large fireplace in the living room. All the beds were piled high with colorful handmade quilts on top of plump feather beds, and there was certainly no air conditioning in those days.

The new house still stands today and still looks good for its age. I am sure central heating and air has been added since those days, but I have not been in the house in more than forty years.

When I pass I still imagine family standing around in the kitchen watching Ma and Lois cook, or sitting around the dinning room table, the fireplace, or in the living room laughing and talking conversations they had years earlier. I wonder if the smells of cooking from those days still lingers somewhere in the corners of the dinning room and kitchen, or at least in the attic somewhere protected from time.

I wonder if the old sound of me playing choo-choo train on the old foot peddle powered sewing machine and making it clang into station can be heard late at night, or the sound of my running feet as I rode my “stick horse” around and around the hall, through the living room, into the dinning room, and on into the kitchen and began another dusty trip down the hallway trail again and again.

The “stick horse” was a stick Pa made for Ma so she could smooth out the tops of the feather beds while standing on one side of the beds. One end served as the handle end, being slightly larger than the circumference of the rest of the “smoothing stick,” which was about one inch in diameter and about four feet long. Years of smoothing had honed the stick into a beautiful slick piece of country art. To me, a mighty fine palomino pony that was faster than the wind - what I would not give to ride that ol’ hoss today, and come down that hall announcing that the “Mountain Folk” are here again!


Debbie said...

I never had a feather bed, but I slept on one at my grandmother's house. Folks these days pay big bucks for a feather bed topper. In those days they plucked their own, ha.

Ron Southern said...

Oh, you remember too much, Mushy!

But, anyway, nothing's "lost forever" as long as someone still remembers it. Since you have these reminiscences written down, perhaps yours won't be lost when you're gone. I guess it's up to your kids or grandkids whether they let you fade.

Hey, aren't you supposed to be on a leaf trip! Sneak, you must have a laptop.

Fathairybastard said...

Damn, that stuff is profound as hell. Yer good. You need to collect all these old time posts and publish them.

Marie said...

"Mountain Folk!" I love it.

Becky said...

hehe. That second house is so cute. I love it!

Peanut said...

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Anonymous said...

History is fun, but personal histroy kicks a**... I continue to enjoy visiting your blog looking for ideas to "borrow"(!) and hope your trip is going well...

Earth House Hold formerly Walk-a-bout!

phlegmfatale said...

This is a gorgeous post. I can see it all in my mind's eye as I'm reading it, and so much of it is similar to my own memories. Being of Ozark origin, I think there's something really special about Mountain Folk. Don't you feel sorry for people who never know the warmth of such kinship?