A week or so back, I decided to go visit an old friend. So, I packed up some gear and headed for Brim Hollow.
I took two chainsaws, a twelve-gauge shotgun, and my favorite little ax ... but most importantly, I took my time.
You can’t be in a hurry when you spend time with a friend.
Some of my best childhood days were spent in Brim Hollow. When I go there, it is like turning back the clock 50 years. Sometimes, when I’m there, I can be caught talking to myself. Or maybe I’m just talking to the memories. Regardless, as I walk Brim Hollow, I always feel a strange, but familiar closeness to my late grandfather, Will Herod Brim,.
When I first arrive, I’ll say something like, “Hello, old friend. I’m sorry I’ve been away so long.”
Places filled with fond memories have a wonderful forgiving quality about them. I have always sensed a response of “welcome back.”
On the day of my return, the air had a wonderful feel about it. It was cool, but not too cool. It was a good day for cutting up a big limb the wind had twisted out of a cedar tree. I went right to work. After I had cut it into firewood, I decided to split up some kindling.
There is no kindling quite like dried cedar. The first stroke of my ax yielded
a sound I had not heard in years. Dried cedar makes a unique sound when being split.
I stopped to savor the sound as I smelled the cedar.
After the wood was loaded on to my truck, I laid my shotgun on my shoulder and moseyed on up the hollow. I was tempted to look at my watch, but I refused. Reflection is becoming a lost art. I wanted this visit to be unhurried.
At an old spring house, I lingered to observe how the rocks had been laid so carefully, and I wondered how long it took to build it. Then, I studied a network of rock fences brought low by time.
Soon I found myself high in the head of the hollow, rounding a windy ridge.
A tobacco patch once lay there, a patch we affectionately called “the mountain.”
It was now grown up in trees.
I was surprised by the size of some. It was hard to believe that tobacco once grew there. I observed how that in years past a strong wind had cut across the ridge, leaving a half-dozen big oak trees downed in its path. One now laid across the tobacco patch. Its trunk, black from decay, provided a stark contrast for the bright green moss that grew on its top side.
As I walked across the field, I looked down to see the sharp featured faces of rocks that had pushed themselves up through the decaying leaves. And I remembered how those rocks nicked and cut our bare feet when we pegged tobacco in this unforgiving ground.
I had circled the west side of the hollow when I arrived in a place we call Squirrel Tail Hollow. There, I noticed the ground laid heavy with undisturbed walnuts and hickory nuts (which we called hickernuts). I wondered if the squirrel supply was short this season or if the hollow had received an abundance of rainfall over the summer.
I looked up to see
one of the fattest squirrels I have ever seen. He was so fat he was flat across his back. When he saw me, I think he was too fat and too lazy to run. I laughed at his indifference.
Soon, I had made a full circle of the hollow and stood in front of the old feed barn. I stopped and peered inside. A ladder I had climbed a thousand times led into the barn loft. In the crib of that barn, I had cranked a corn sheller until my arms ached. I hesitated for a moment to picture dry shucks, yellow corn and red corn cobs.
On my way back to the truck, I stopped by the old home place. It’s beginning to fall down. I looked through the window into the bedroom where I once slept in a featherbed under a mountain of quilts. It is the room where my grandmother’s quilting frame hung from the corners in summertime. I thought of all the quilts she had made.
As I left the hollow that day, I felt a sense of wholeness that I had not experienced in a while. I had been reminded of who I am and from where I came, of the people and of the things I have loved … of the fabric of which I am made.
As I shut the gate behind me, I whispered, “Goodbye, old friend. I promise not to be away so long next time.”
Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall