Rain. One word pretty much sums up this entire week. Since returning from the river last weekend that’s all that it seems to have done. Each time I’ve thought I’d have a break to head back out on the water, the radar tells me to stay put. I know what you’re thinking. It’s just a little rain and it won’t hurt. In most cases, you’d be right. On the other hand, if you’ve read any of my previous articles you would know that I don’t need to be on the water in less than optimal conditions.
In the place of fishing for the weekend, we took the kids to a local blueberry farm, Sandy Run Farms. This isn’t exactly the adventure that I had envisioned for the weekend, but anytime you take a two year old somewhere it has challenges. We grabbed four small buckets and set out into the endless rows of blueberry bushes. If you haven’t been to Sandy Run Farms, I encourage you to go. It doesn’t matter if you have children or not, it’s a great place to kill an hour or so. The staff is incredibly friendly and the blueberries are delicious.
Do you know how you can catch a whiff of something and it takes you back to a memory that you couldn’t have possibly remembered without that particular scent? I’m not exactly sure what I smelled while we were picking berries, but it immediately took me back to summers at my grandparent’s house in Alabama. The memories were so clear and hit me so hard that it felt like they happened just yesterday. As I continued to pick berries, my eyes filled with tears at the thought of those summers.
My grandparents owned a home in-between Monroeville and Atmore in South Central Alabama. My grandmother still lives there to this day. This particular area of Alabama is similar to the Mississippi Delta. It’s an area scattered with modest homes and as much farmland as one can stomach. Our family owned around 100 acres that was mostly leased out to a local farmer to plant. The crops that were grown on the larger portion of land rotated between cotton and peanuts. As a kid, I loved to sit and watch the crop dusters fly over the house and spray the field, all the while my grandmother running outside quickly to get her laundry off of the clothesline. Speaking of scents that take you back, my grandmother’s towels always smelled the freshest, and still do.
Aside from the cotton field, my grandfather always had a section of land set aside to plant a garden. They’d plant corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans, potatoes, squash, okra, and egg-plant. I’m sure there was more that I’m forgetting. When I’d go to visit, it was always harvest season. We’d wake up in the mornings and go straight out to the garden to pick. I remember once as a kid we picked an entire truck load of corn. It was also the first and only time that I’ve ever seen a corn snake! I vividly remember walking behind my grandfather as he cut okra off the stalk. I can still feel the itch as we brushed through the plants! We’d fill our buckets with fresh produce and take it back to the house for grandma to clean.
That’s another thing that was, and is, great about my grandparent’s house. The food. There wasn’t a fast food restaurant within 25-30 minutes, so home cooked meals are what we ate. My grandmother is the best cook ever and that’s not up for debate. Every evening we would have an assortment of fresh vegetables from the garden. We also had fruit trees all around the yard. You couldn’t walk 20 yards without running into some sort of fruit tree. From fig trees, blueberry bushes, peach trees, to muscadine vines, there was literally something to eat everywhere you looked. It was like our own little Garden of Eden.
Our family also owned a parcel of land down the road a little piece where my grandfather had cows. We’d ride over there daily to check on them and do whatever work needed to be done. I’d help my grandfather mend fences, bust up beaver dams, or work around the barn. When the work was finished, we’d fish in the pond. This particular pond was perfect to take a kid fishing. You couldn’t hardly cast a line in without catching something. Granddaddy always made sure we made plenty of trips over to the pond while I was there because he knew that’s what I’d rather do than actually working. I know there were things that needed tending to instead of me fishing, but now that I have kids of my own I understand why he made the time for it.
I’m sure there are still kids today that get to experience this way of life with their grandparents, but there’s not enough of them. I really believe that those couple of weeks each summer when I was growing up helped mold me into who I am today. It’s a simple way of life, but simplicity is needed. We live in a world that is way too dang busy today. We need more weeks with grandma and grandpa where we pick peas and sit in the shade with a fishing pole. I never realized how important those days were until I got older.
The last time I spent a couple of weeks there was right before I left home for college. My grandfather was dying of cancer, and the weeks were filled doing the chores around the house while my grandmother cared for him. I tended to the garden, which was much smaller than usual, and made sure the yard was kept neat. It was a strange feeling doing those chores without him beside me. Now that he has passed, I do a garden for our girls. I love to watch them pick fresh vegetables in the evening and for my wife to cook them for us. I think granddaddy would be proud.