In the times in which my parents grew to be adults, they had what they would hither forth, until the day they died, refer to as “the home place.”
Back in the days long past, folks got married, found a piece of dirt to farm and pieced together some kind of farmhouse. It was always simple and useful with a fireplace, a wood stove and a well or creek nearby. It was forever important to Daddy to possess the temporal remains of what had been his daddy’s – a small farm with a four-room, tin-roofed house with a porch that seemed to sigh heavily from the despair and hard times it had seen in 60 years of existence. It was close enough to a red dirt road that when the occasional car or horse-pulled wagon passed, it kicked up a dust that cleaved tightly to the windows and the two screen doors that squeaked loudly when pulled open by the rusty handles.
My Paw-paw had died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 63, leaving my daddy to believe for the next 35 years that he would die at the same age. Daddy lived to be 78. When Maw-maw took leave of this world about 10 years later, she left Daddy in charge of her estate. He was determined to own that land that was good for nothing more than growing corn in its rocky soil or feeding cattle. To the world, the land was not of tremendous value, but to Daddy, it meant the world. It was his home place.
He had the home place appraised and set about figuring out how to pay his two sisters their share in a place that did not hold great sentiment in their hearts. When Daddy went to the county courthouse and pulled the deed, no one was more surprised than he to find that the land to which his heart had always belonged was fully his in deed. We will never know why but Paw-paw, before he died, had put the farm in the name of his only son. Maw-maw, of course, knew it – she paid the taxes for 10 years – but had never told it either.
This is a good example of the quareness of my mountain people.
Despite the fact that he owned the home place completely, he never hesitated to do what he believed was right – he paid his sisters their share of the appraised value, though it was quite a struggle for him financially. He loved that place and sought refuge there every Saturday when he went to check on his cows and work the land. An older man, Arch Seabolt, who lived across the dirt road kept an eye on the cows through the week. Today, my sister and I share that farm. We do not own it. It owns us. It owns the genesis of our mortal, moral, emotional, spiritual, cultural beginnings. Who and what we are begin on that old home place.
Unlike many people in the modern world, I was fortunate enough to spend my entire life in the same house, a little brick ranch that Mama and Daddy had managed to build several years before my birth on a pretty piece of land. Over the years, like Daddy with the land on which he grew, I developed a tremendous sentiment for that house. When Mama died – 10 years after Daddy – I took my share and bought the shares of my two sisters. History, remarkably, had repeated itself.
Now, like Daddy, I find peace in that place which raised me. There is a soothing comfort within those walls that calms me and wraps me in warmth. It is a cocoon into which I crawl when I need a respite. It is a touchstone that I can visit, and it will always make me feel grounded and safe.
It is my home place. And, it means the world.