I write this on my last day in Lebanon for a while; when you read this, I will be back in the Southwest corner.
When I return, my status will be much different than when I left. My wife, Maureen returned to the Southwest corner Thursday as originally scheduled. My sister Martha Duff and brother Joe left Friday to attend to their families and requirements on Signal Mountain. I stayed behind to continue clearing out a home in Deer Park and putting some order in my head.
I drove around my old hometown and neighboring areas looking for places with special attachment for me. Outside the land, many things like the old court house on the square, the old First Methodist Church, Rose’s Five and Dime next to the arcade on the square and Little Eskews’ (my stopping off place for a candy cigarette and baseball cards with bubble gum on the way home from McClain School) have been gone for a long time. Many other places have changed in ownership and appearance. Even the land itself has been modified. Farm fields now shoulder big and many houses. Dead end roads now plow through that farm land and connect to other arteries.
Of course, there have been changes in people. I don’t wish to dwell on sentimentality or approach being maudlin here. What has happened to my family and me has happened. Losing parents is an inevitably and when they are in their late 90s, everyone in the family was prepared as well as they could be. I thought of the many other departed folks who influenced my life. I can recite my teachers by name from Mrs. Askew in the first grade to Col. Brown at Castle Heights. Many like Mrs. Major, fourth grade; Mrs. Grissom, sixth grade; Mrs. Burton, LJHS principal; Major Harris, Latinat CHMA; Stroud Gwynn and Jimmy Allen, coaches at CHMA; and of course, J.B. Leftwich, journalism mentor and lifelong friend, continue to have impact on the way I live.
As I drove aimlessly around dwelling on fond memories of people and places, I began to consider how my family, the town of Lebanon, the county of Wilson, and especially myself had reached the end of a journey.
Kathy Denny, the granddaughter of Naomi Martin, who was the third child of Hiram Culley and Carrie Myrtle Orrand Jewell, lives here. Louise Jewell, a kind and loving woman and the wife of Huffman Jewell, the youngest of the seven Jewell children and her daughter Cynthia Cluck also remain in Lebanon. Another daughter, Dr. Charlene True, lives in Murfreesboro.
The Culley Jewells moved to Lebanon from Statesville in 1906. That Jewell clan had relocated from southern Kentucky to southeast Wilson County in 1812.
The remaining descendents of that clan have either passed or relocated.
My mother was the last of her Prichard/Webster family living in Wilson County. That side of the family has been in the area since John Knibb Wynn came from North Carolina after the Revolutionary War and claimed his land grant on Hickory Ridge.
I have been coming back to Lebanon, three or four times every year, primarily to be with my parents. That reason is no longer a driver. I am not sure how much I can justify returns with daughters and grandsons in Austin, a strong lure to remain west of the Mississippi. To be honest, I have worried about that. In the last week, I considered this being an end of a journey for me.
As we were going through photographs, records and memorabilia last week, we located three copies of the book my mother wrote book. She would not let us see it until after we died. The book is a historical record of her and my father’s family and life. Their life centered on family and friends. They traveled the country but always stopped to spend time with relatives or folks they knew from their past. As I read the book, I marveled at the joy and depth of their relationships.
And my roots run deep in the soil of Wilson County. Some of my closest friends wisely have chosen to remain here. My circle of friends in Lebanon continues to be renewed and grow.
Although I’m sure the frequency of my visits will decrease, I will be back and often.
Thanks for making me feel at home.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.