My husband and I have always tried to teach the importance of roots; the knowledge of family history, and age-old traditions. These are important to all of us. When I found out what was on my son's mind, today, I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I have always held many fond memories about the ranch my paternal grandparent’s owned when I was a child growing up, and I have always loved to share those stories.
And so it was especially heartwarming on this spring day, to learn the ranch was on my son’s mind.
Grandpa had 80 acres in the northern most county of our state. It was just a small farm, by ranching standards, but to me it was enormous; and as a child, I loved every square inch of it. It sat at the base of
and to me that mountain was the most beautiful mountain in the whole world. It was
heavily forested and presented a perfect back drop to this serene setting. Black Mountain
This afternoon, we decided to take a trip north, to see what has changed since the last time we were there. We have, over the years, done many drive-bys, just for nostalgia sake. And I know the changes are huge, but I never seem to remember what it has become; I only remember what it once was. So it was on this trip, I was surprised, as well as disappointed in the changes.
Of course our trip brought up many memories and stories that simply had to be shared with Matt, even if he had heard them before. I also, decided, I would write down a few of these memories of the most beautiful place on earth, before they are completely forgotten.
I have written about the ranch before, in a blog post about haying. You can read it here, It is an extremely fun memory for me. Today I was able to point out the exact spot I speak of in that post - the place where I was hot and thirsty and longed to go back to the house…the place I remember making my grandpa just a bit angry.
The house was two stories - actually 3, if you count the basement. I loved each level and I have memories of each. The basement stairs! I dream about them sometimes…not sure why. But what I really loved were the stairs that led to the second floor. I loved climbing up those stairs to go to bed at night when we would spend time at Grandma and Grandpa’s. The ceiling light cast shadows on the wall as I climbed, and I would always sing, “Just me and my shaaaaadow…”. That song, I believe was from an old movie…I don’t know for sure, but with a quick “google” I see it was recorded in 1958 by the Mills Brothers, as well as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. I am not sure which version I would have known. Anyway, once upstairs, Grandma’s guest bed would be the most comfortable bed anywhere! (Well, I felt the same way about my maternal grandma’s bed, too.) Soft, cool, clean sheets, feather pillows, and homemade quilts! Can you say heaven??? I had the best night’s sleep ever, each time we stayed at Grandma's.
Grandma would always call “Rise and Shine!” when it was time to get up in the mornings. I remember being disappointed that I never heard her call. Everyone else would hear before me, and it would be their scurrying to get downstairs that woke me. I remember one morning, Grandma made an extra special effort so that I would hear. “Rise and Shine!” she called to me from the stairway.
I remember sitting around the breakfast table. How I loved that table as it was set in a little nook, with bay windows all around. There was a little corner shelf that fit at an angle snug in the corner, and there sat the cookie jar, which was a favorite of mine as a kid and still a favorite today. It was a light brown, milk cow, who I believe we named Molly. My sister has the jar today. But what I loved best about breakfast was Grandma’s homemade syrup! Warm and not too sweet, served in little syrup pitchers with a silver lid and handle. I have no recollection as to whether it was served on pancakes, waffles, or French toast; or all of the above, I just remember I loved that syrup!
I remember taking bubble baths in the large, comfortable bathroom. Grandma always had little individual packets of floral scented bubble baths to choose from. I almost always chose Gardenia. I loved that. She had a shelf in the bathroom that we were able to lift and drop our towels down to the laundry in the basement below. That was about the coolest thing in the whole world to me.
My brother and sisters and I would run in circles through the house which I am sure was not too popular, but the main floor had the perfect circle from the kitchen to Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom through their double doors (I think they were called French doors) into the living room and back into the kitchen. Round and round we went, until an adult finally stopped us. The living room was so comfortable, with beautiful views, and a front door that went out onto a lovely porch. I loved to go out there, but it wasn’t used very much as the back door was the easiest entrance to and from the barn and fields.
Grandpa’s barn!! A kid’s paradise! Oh the exploring we would do! And of course the hay loft was about tops! We spent many an hour, jumping from the loft into stacks of loose hay below. I imagine when Grandpa found out it didn’t make him too happy.
I loved to watch him milk the cows and just hang out around the barn with him. We would sneak corners off the salt-lick blocks intended for the cows that in our view hadn’t yet got dirty, so they were just fine for us to have a taste. To a kid, those salt blocks are as good as candy! Let’s just say I know why animals like them so much. Sshhhhhhhh; don’t tell anyone, I did that!
I loved Grandma’s hen house, the watering troughs, the wooden corrals and fences. Grandpa had built a wooden style that went over one of the fences into the orchard. I loved to go there, just to be able to walk over the style.
Probably the best place of all was what my siblings and I called “the swamp”. It was at the far end of the acreage, and there were beautiful birch or aspen trees growing there. The ground was low, and of course water gathered there, and I don’t think it ever dried out. There were paths around the swamp and my brother and I loved to play there, singing “Swamp Fox, Swamp Fox!” I don’t remember the rest of the words that we sang, but I believe the song was from an old Disney movie.
Snowy roads as we travelled the country roads, singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” until we reached our destination; a not too near “neighbor” girl feeding a fawn by hand – leading it out to the center of the lawn so that we could more easily see from where my dad had stopped the car; Grandma’s molasses cookies always on the table – Mrs. Baxter’s recipe. I have memory after memory like this, but I know this post is getting long, so I will stop for now, but I hope never to forget.
One more memory, though, before I end this post. It would have been about 1979 or 1980, when my cousin and I decided we needed to take my Grandma up to visit the ranch to rekindle precious memories. My grandpa had already passed away, I believe, so it may have been a bit later than 1980, but somewhere around that time, we took Grandma up to see the ranch that they had sold a number of years earlier. I will never forget her excitement that day. She could not have been more thrilled to visit her old home. The people that lived there, graciously allowed us to come in to see the changes they had made (none of them good ;-( in my opinion) but I will never forget how happy my grandma was that day. We took a photo of her, and her excitement is revealed in that old photo. We also took a photo of Grandma, me and my cousin in front of the old willow tree. That willow tree has starts that were taken for a number of our homes. My folks have a start from that tree and each of my sisters, also have a tree in their yards from this one at the ranch. I reminded Matthew that this year, for sure, we must get a start for ourselves.
I'm glad this came up out of the blue, today. Our drive was pleasant in spite of the rain. The old ranch is not the same, but my heart skipped a beat when we rounded the corner and it came into view. The mountain is as beautiful as ever, with little encroachment. The ranch, however, has been subdivided into at least 5 lots, and none of them are kept up well. Age has not been kind to the property my grandparents loved and cared for; but Memory made her appearance today and stories of Swamp Fox, haylofts; homemade syrup; and the furthest corner from home, were awakened once again.
Hey, Memory! Rise and Shine!!
Hey, Memory! Rise and Shine!!