Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Summertime Memories

Cousins,
It is so easy for me to close my eyes and go back to those summer memories. Somehow about 40 years fall off and I am 11 and it is July in the hills of Kentucky.

Double Creek is where my Grandma moved after my Grandpa (my namesake Steve Hollen) died. I should say she moved back to Double Creek because that is where she was born. My Uncle Bert built his Mama a house right across the creek from the Arnett homestead. I was told my Great Great Grandpa built the log cabin back after the Yanks and Rebs kept coming by and taking anything that wasn't tied down.

The creek that ran through the little valley was the center of my day. My brother and I waded into the creek early each morning and wandered up and down about 2 miles of Arnett's Fork on Double Creek as we played.

Crawdads were a favorite catch for us as we bent over shallow pools filled with sand and small rock for our prey to hide under. Our hands wrapped around rocks as we cornered them or waited patiently as they would scoot backward into our waiting grasp. Our girl cousins were often chased by one or both of us. Hands full of crawdads. We didn't care that their claws dug deep into our tender palms as long as we could terrorize a sweet mountain girl.

Down where Arnett's Fork and Big Double Creek split off was out swimmin' hole. It was the deepest spot on the creek. It was also the most distant from Grandma's house at over a mile away. That wasn't much of a problem since everyone along that creek was kin. We waved as we walked the dusty road. Cousins, Aunts and Uncles waved back and sometimes called us in for a cold Coke or maybe some blackberry cobbler with sweet cream poured on top.

The family names up in the Arnett cemetery and along that creek were like a genealogy lesson...Hollen/Holland, Arnett, Gilbert. Smith, Bowling. All settlers in the early 1800s. All family on one side or the other.

The swimmin' hole was also the place where folks were baptized when the circuit ridin' preacher held services in the one room school house on Double Creek. He came once a month, preached, had dinner with folks and in the afternoon would baptize any folks that got saved in the last month or two.

My brother, my cousin J.M. and I practiced baptizin' each other many times in that swimmin' hole. Sometimes it was solemn and sometimes we would just grab someone and dunk 'em quick and hard.

As we would walk home the yellow dust from the road would cover our feet like magic shoes. We would run, fleet at the whitetail deer that would often stand on the hillsides. They would pause under the shade of a sweet gum or sourwood and watch as we raced home.

A quick stop at the creek to wash off the dust and we would run into the ol' cabin to see Aunt Bess, Aunt Mag and Uncle Bill or to Grandma's house to change and get ready for supper. Dependin' on where we landed we might put our feet under the table at Grandma's home or Aunt Sally's or Aunt Mag and Aunt Bess's table. I loved sittin' down to eat with all of them. They loved me and I always knew it and felt ...safe.

Supper might be fried chicken, mashed or fried taters, slow cooked green beans with a big ol' chunk of ham, plenty o' tomaters, green onions, fresh slaw and maybe even fried poke or maybe wilted mountain greens with chopped green onions and covered with a dressing of vinegar, bacon grease and a little sugar to cut the "whang" of the vinegar. Cathead biscuits (with real churned butter and sorghum or even home made muscadine grape jelly) would be our bread. If there was time to bake we might be surprised with butter rolls - sweet and filled with sugar, cinnamon and swimmin' in a buttery sweet sauce.

Cousin, I close my eyes and I float down that creek even now, back through 40 years to a simpler time. Jump in here , enjoy the cool creek water and let's float back down the creek together.

Aunt Mag and Aunt Bess won't mind me bringin' friends home for supper. I do it all the time. They'll be proud to see y'all.
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