Okay, no I didn’t. But the whole experience felt Mary Poppins-esque. Meet Sam. He is a descendant of my marital namesake and owns 280 acres of the original property purchased by Great Great Grandfather C in North Central Arkansas. Well, Sam and I got to talkin’ in the cemetery during the family reunion and he mentioned how the kids would have to walk to the small schoolhouse. Instead of taking the roads, they would cut through their pasture and would end up right where they needed to be. I asked Sam if it would be alright to walk that same trail since I hadn’t gotten to see the C farmstead up close and personal yet (We were having a C family reunion at the schoolhouse in question.)
Sam glanced up in time to see the entire reunion waiting on us to get back from our excursion. Who does this little pip think she is, in her bright yellow shirt, everyone was thinking.
So Sam strolled with me through the cemetery to the edge of the pasture. Then, he stooped really low under some tree branches and started to describe the natural landmarks we’ll need to guide us to the farmstead. I was instantly taken to the scene in Mary Poppins when Bert is showing them his drawing of a pasture. Little Michael Banks then exclaims that there needs to be a path! So Bert takes out a piece of chalk and quickly draws in a brown dirt path, complete with bridge. The transformation of the drawing immediately piqued your curiosity..and after that, who wouldn’t want to jump into the chalky dream with him?
Bert’s drawing: pre-dirt path
Sam starts describing the path we need to take in our pilgrimage. He said, “It’s a bit overgrown, but you should be able to make your way there easily. First, do you see those three pine trees all by themselves apart from the rest? The way is just about 30 yards to the left of them and then you’ll curve around to an opening in the trees. From there you’ll go through a second gate…and then a pond… and then you’ll curve around to the back of the farm. Now I can see the path you’ll need to take from here just because I’ve used it for 80 years. Can you see it though? It’s a faint curve in the grass, just barely visible.” I scrunched my nose and squinted. I saw nothing, but didn’t want to let Sammy down, so I focused. Then all of a sudden… the slightest shape started to form and I saw it. Once seen, it couldn’t be unseen and I eagerly got the rest of the group ready to go.
So, let’s start the jaunt, shall we? The school marm rings her bell and tells you to go home. It’s 1pm and mama’s ringing a chicken’s neck for lunch. You can just taste the fried goodness in your mouth and you hurry off, pushing other kids out the way. You hop off the side of the stairs and hit the ground running.
To be accurate, this is the second schoolhouse built. The first one was quite a bit larger when the tornado hit. But when they rebuilt it in 1924, a lot of children had started going to other schools and so the space was not needed.
You run through the cemetery and wave at Grandpa as you scurry by.
You catch a glimpse of the pasture over the fence from the cemetery. The path is a bit overgrown, but you quickly find the way. But, can you see it?
What if I zoom in a little bit closer? Now can you? Two brown curved lines mark your path as you run through the cemetery opening.
Too hungry to worry about opening the first gate, you hop over it while whoopin’ and hollerin’. All that answer you are the bzzzz of insects and wind through the trees.
You jump down and gain your bearings. Once on the path, it’s a leisurely walk under the warm October sun. And then you see them. The pine trees, Sammy was talking about. Separated from the rest. Alone in a sea of green.
My brother-in-law with his ten dollar hiking stick.
Just as Sammy said, right past the pine trees was the little clearing in the woods. You pick up the pace, anticipating what new views you’ll encounter..all the while enjoying the breeze on your face.
And the silence.
You get semi-emotional imagining how many generations must have walked along this same pathway and give a silent thanks to Sammy for not selling his sought-after property. Every so often, frightening images of cookie-cutter homes built on this land take over your thoughts, but knowing how much Sammy values his family property calms you down.
You spot the second gate and don’t dare try and leap over this one.
You have always been enthralled with country life and spotting a “wild” cow on the property only adds to your odd obsession of farm animals.
Every so often, you day-dreamily walk along taking in the scenery and then periodically have to clean your shoes…
because you day-dreamily walked right into cow manure. You find beauty in even that and feel like you’re a part of the family.
A couple turns later, you spot the family barn. You get excited and start running down the hill avoiding cow ‘beauty’ as best you can.
You are in dirty woodsiding heaven as you walk around the C family farm. Even though you do not own the property, you take mental notes of what you would like to do to the grounds. Throw that wooden girl swingie thing on the porch away.. plant food in the little garden on the side of the home.. paint the siding back to a gleaming white. There’s so much to do and you get overwhelmed thinking of how busy you are not going to be, cleaning up a home that does not belong to you.
In front of the home, the same dirt road as it ever was. Family history..and you’re walking on it.
Let’s get one more good look at 81 year old Sammy Glen. He still drives the cattle on his property and he still drives his truck around town. As alert as ever, this is the poster child of living off the land and the positive outcome of it. Energetic, sincere, and grounded. A solid person.