James is standing at the edge of a cattle crossing at the top of the driveway to the house where my grandparents lived when I was about his age. I can't even begin to count the number of times I crossed that very crossing throughout my childhood. Grandma and Granddaddy lived at the Eli Cannon place, tending cattle and keeping an eye on the property for the owners. They didn't own the house, but it sure seemed like we were approaching "home" every time we drove in there. The picture below is taken from the top of the hill where the driveway begins, and the homestead is that big white house you see surrounded by trees.
Susie, aka Aunt Soupie, drove the kids and me by here over the weekend. We were camping right around the lake from it, and we both thought James and Kate would like to see where our Grandma and Granddaddy lived when we were kids. You can see that the crossing is in pretty rough shape, so we didn't even pretend to be turning around in the driveway and get a closer view. . . but if our conversation as we passed by landmarks is any indication, memory would serve to give you a detailed tour of our childhood explorations.
Neither Grandma nor Granddaddy had a driver's license, so my mom would drive almost an hour to their house and take them to town once every week or so. I don't know why Grandma never got her license, maybe they were too poor to have a car, even one of Uncle Grover's fixed up junkers. I do have a damn good idea why Granddaddy never got a driver's license, though, and I am convinced it had a lot to do with the way he drove when he took one of the tractors out to do something around the farm. I say this with a big grin on my face, knowing that the man was born during a time when a horse and wagon was a more common mode of transportation than a car. I also say it with conviction because the man was fairly hardheaded and this conviction of his that he knew exactly what he was doing made him just a wee bit reckless behind the wheel. Surely, a team of mules would've balked at some of the moves he made on a tractor.
Thinking back to those summer days when we kids were out of school, I can feel myself back in the backseat of the green Volare station wagon, hair whipping across my face because the windows were all rolled down, sweat sticking a few wisps of bangs to my forehead, the taste of a cream soda Dum-Dum sucker lingering in my mouth. The Dum-Dum suckers were the highlight of a quick trip to the bank drive-thru before heading out to Grandma's. I remember the slightly wild scramble of three kids trying to make sure they didn't get stuck with a root beer flavored freebie when mother handed us the suckers from the bank teller.
As soon as we passed the McDaniels' population sign, we'd breathe a sigh of relief that the long drive was about to end with us tumbling out of the station wagon and into the shady yard at Grandma and Granddaddy's. You can probably tell from the picture that the yard was a shady one, but a picture doesn't do it justice. Two incredibly large trunked silver poplars guarded the front porch, and a row of maples held sentinel post along the front yard fence. Another huge tree stood just to the outside corner of the front yard, ensuring full shade over the metal pipes that made up the cattle crossing. Forty-some years of going barefoot all summer long have seared in my mind the location of all the cool (and hence, non-searing) surfaces in that yard. The almost always slightly damp concrete floor of the front porch is one of those surfaces. The smooth metal pipes of the crossing are another.
We weren't supposed to play on the crossing because it was too easy for little feet to get hung and ankles to get twisted. It was an oasis of smoothness after a walk across the gravel driveway, though, and it was an interesting place after a rain shower. The pit beneath the pipes would collect water, and it was neat to look down between the pipes. . .if you could keep your balance and lean over without slipping sideways.
There you have it, my advice for barefoot children who might find themselves in the yard at the Eli Cannon place :)
P.S. I forgot to mention that chicken poop is not always relegated to the area around the chicken coop, so be on the lookout for that, too!