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Growing up Country

Posted Sunday, April 25, 2010, at 4:04 PM

The water hole at the low point of my gravel lane is full, after several days of hard rain. The dogs love this spot on our half-mile walk.
I haven't written much lately; in fact, after posting 179 blog entries throughout the years (since I began on 7/7/07), I've begun to think that my brain is going dry. I think it's called writer's block - or maybe burnout. I need a mental, spiritual, emotional revival.

Maybe that came yesterday, after the tornado threat was over and the torrent of rain had stopped. For a few minutes, I left my troubles and my wet basement behind and walked down the hill, across the pond levee, around the gravel road, past the old combines and the pear trees, up the hill and down toward the county road.

My red hound Chigger jumped a rabbit over in the neighbor's field and it cut across the lane in front of me - right across my fat border collie's path. All three dogs were off on the chase, while I followed the lane as far as the dog's favorite water hole, full from several inches of new rain and inhabited by two leopard frogs, croaking happily. Everything looked freshly-washed and vivid green.

I called my sister from the water hole, and she reminded me of how much fun my children had had growing up on this farm. The kids would say, "Let's look in the mud puddle where Dad parks the truck. It's always good for at least one frog!"

The three kids rambled every inch of this farm, from the time each of them was old enough, playing in the dirt where my deck is now, building a "fort" at the edge of the field and hiding under a piece of plywood when Bruce the rooster attacked them (I can't believe I haven't blogged that story!), playing with frogs and voles and anything else they could find.

They took their friends to "Pebble City," a rocky gully up the hill behind the house, where I never cared to go. They would bring me back beautiful sandstone formations for my flower gardens.

In the opposite direction, they would run down the hill to another gully and dig up cow bones, white with age, and drag them back up to the front yard, where I would give them a metal washtub, bleach, and brushes. Happy the child whose mother gave him permission to bring these exotic treasures back to town for her own flower garden!

The big old barn played an important part of their ramblings, though they had strict orders from their dad not to go upstairs in the rickety portion. The barn was usually filled with bales of hay, cool even in the hot summer. We could always catch a breeze in the breezeway.

One long ago time, my oldest son Todd (now 36) found a baby pigeon in a nest on top of the tack room.

"Mom, what's THIS?" he asked in horror.

I had never seen a squab, and I was shocked at how incredibly ugly the baby was. We left it in the nest for its mother to raise. If she could love such an ugly child, she certainly deserved to be left alone.

A major portion of their day involved the pond, of course. There were frogs and fish to catch, mud to play in. They had more strict orders not to swim there, as their dad didn't know what was on bottom.

Down the hill beyond the barn was another, much smaller pond which the cattle had access to. The sides were mostly broken down and the pond had gray clay mud in the bottom.

I know this, because Matthew, his friend Davie Joe, and my daughter Kristin went down there early one morning during Semo Fair week. The boys must have been about eight and Kristin was probably about five. They came back coated in that gray mud. Kristin even had it in the part of her braided hair. It seems that Davie Joe had tried to carry her across, piggy-back, but he had slipped and fallen!

Those days are long gone, and the farm is a peaceful place now, where the bones of the dead stay buried, and the only sound is the singing of birds and the occasional unexplained strange sound, as recorded in "A Tillman Mystery." (see blog archives)

From the lush, green hills of Tillman, this is your rural reporter Madeline, praising God for a beautiful golden morning!

P.S. Be sure to check Paul Corbin's new blog on the NSC site! I just posted it for him!!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender

Keep those memories coming, Madeline! They will refresh you.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 10:45 AM

What a wonderful quote, lovebooks! Thanks for sharing it!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 1:18 PM

Kids who grow up in the country or a small rural town have experiences that are as foreign to city raised kids as if they came from Mars. (Are the country kids the "V" people, or is it the other way around?) There are a lot, and maybe even most kids who grow up in a city who have never played in the mud, or done the million and one everyday things that country/rural kids do for fun and learn about life. A few years ago I was walking in a State Park north of Los Angeles when a group of school kids near me became hysterical because they saw a chipmunk run across the path in front of them. One of the kids exclaimed - "Look a chipmunk got out of its cage!" Other than birds, these kids had only see "wildlife" in a zoo. Oh my gosh, what would they say if they saw the mysterious Advance cougar/yellow lab?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 2:51 PM

Oh, how I enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing the memories!

FJGuy that is so true! Although I grew up in rural Missouri my girls have been raised in a pretty good size town. One summer when we were home we met up with some family at Wappappello. It took a lot of coaxing to get my youngest daughter in the 'dirty' water. Up until that point she had not been swimming anywhere other than a pool. I knew then that I needed to make an extra effort when visiting family back home to expose them to country life...and dirty water. =)

-- Posted by fun2teach on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 3:21 PM

Fun2Teach, When I was a kid I swam in innumerable ponds and lakes with what would probably be thought of as dirty water and I LOVED every minute of it! If I had been around you can bet I would have dove right into Lake DeJournett and I wouldn't have cared WHAT was on the bottom ... unless it was broken bottles! One time when I was about 6 I was swimming in a scroungy small lake when I stepped on a broken bottle as I was getting out. Yikes! Blood everywhere! That was my worst experience swimming in "dirty" lake or pond.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sun, Apr 25, 2010, at 8:17 PM

FJGuy, I doubt that Madeline would LET you "dive right into Lake DeJournett." The area is far enough away from any local hospitals as to make such a dive far too risky!

I thought for a minute that you had written "when I was 61," and it certainly gave me pause, since a little birdie told me you were much younger!!

And speaking of Lake Wappappello, I attended a Girl Scout Camp at the Lake in the fifties, and our swimming instructor had no qualms about making us put our faces down in dirty water with little DEAD FISH floating in it!! I later had her for swimming class in college, and she was just as tough and uncompromising!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 7:00 AM

"No!" to kids is a challenge, so don't bet I wouldn't have made it into Lake DeJournett! 60 is the new 30, so I suppose that means 70 is the new 40, unless you are Jack Benny, and then you are 39 until you have no more birthdays.

GL, you're swimming instructor reminds me of my high school "touch" typing teacher. He had survived the Bataan Death March and was a POW of the Japanese in the Philipines until freed by MacArthur. He carried around a switch, just like the British officer has in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." If he saw you looking at your hands on the keyboard -- WHACK!! He would swat the back of your hands. He was a tough taskmaster but you learned how to type ... by the "switch" method! Today. Well I don't want to think what would happen to a teacher who went around swatting the hands of students. Probably make the national news as some kind of student torturer! I just came across an apropos book that pays homage to people like my typing teacher and GL's swimming instructor -- "Sissy Nation" http://www.amazon.com/Sissy-Nation-Ameri... The US is being PC'd to death.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 10:07 AM

I grew up in St.Louis county, a lot of it was still country back then. We went fishing, caught frogs, hunted, and we drew our water from a well, And my cousins from this area called me city slicker.

-- Posted by mythought on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 10:53 AM

Fantastic story! Makes me wish I had been born and raised in the country instead of East LA County, Cal!

-- Posted by swift on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 4:05 PM

When I was a kid, our swimming hole at church camp had LEACHES in it! When we got out, we'd all check each other to make sure we didn't have one attached. On a brighter note, I remember when Dexter didn't have a swimming pool (after the spring-fed one behind Caudle's house closed) and we all went to Wolper's Pond to swim. It had a sand bottom and a huge swing. It was perfect!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 5:22 PM

I remember the old swimming pool. I thought two lovely sisters owned that pool - Was their name Covington? They were on the library board and collected the rent on the old Ringer place, before it was made into the library. My brothers took a cousin to their house to see a puppet show one time.

Lovebooks, is Wolper's Pond still there?

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 9:34 PM

Great story, many city folks don't get to appreciate the surroundings in a smaller town or even the country.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 6:32 AM

Goat Lady, I'm not really sure if Wolper's Pond is still there. Anyone else know?

-- Posted by lovebooks on Fri, Apr 30, 2010, at 9:01 AM

Aaaaahhh, I love it...you all are making me even more homesick than I was already.

Reading everyone's comments got me to thinking...I was very much a 'tom-boy' growing up and still consider myself one as an adult. So, for all of you who were raised 'city-slickers', and missed the fun of growing up in the country...well, why don't you partake of it NOW, as an adult? We are never too old to learn something new. Find someone who has a farm or at least lives in the country and go exploring...find some frogs, play in the mud, build a fort...get some Tonka Toys or Hot Wheels and play in the dirt...take off the adult stodginess and pretend you are a kid again...seriously...might do you some good...

-- Posted by BarbaraNTexas on Sat, May 1, 2010, at 9:00 AM

AMEN, Barbara, I hope many folks will read this and take you up on the challenge and fun.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sat, May 1, 2010, at 4:10 PM

Wonderful memories! Yes, Covingtons were the owners when the pool was public. It was a fun place to go. Lovebooks, we swam at Wolper's also. I remember being slightly afraid of a water moccasin getting me, but that is where I learned to swim.

I enjoyed reading. I've been playing so much Scrabble that I might have missed a blog. Do you play?

-- Posted by GONENOW on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 7:18 AM

Oh, Gonenow, don't get me started! Even with dial-up, I've managed to get on Facebook Scrabble after all my evening meetings and stay up waaaaaay too late at night! Lots of fun for Word Warriors!

However, I do have some complaints (other than getting disconnected by my slow phone line): 1. What is it with these obscure, unknown words? 2. It won't let me connect words two ways - Says I'm not allowed to "go diagonally" or "skip words."

I guess I'll get used to it - but I sure didn't need another computer diversion! I need to go jump in the pond and play in the mud, like Texas Barb suggests!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 7:33 AM

How would I know how to answer those questions? Just love words and have fun with them! I loved this blog!

-- Posted by GONENOW on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 4:04 PM

How would I know how to answer those questions? Just love words and have fun with them! I loved this blog!

-- Posted by GONENOW on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 4:04 PM

gonenow, you must have loved this blog, you're repeating yourself,,,,heehee.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Wed, May 5, 2010, at 10:04 PM

Better watch out, Dexter...You're crusin' for a bruisin'!!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, May 6, 2010, at 6:39 PM

I also learned to swim at Wolpers pond. It is still there but no one swims there any more. In fact, while learning to swim I nearly drowned my future sister-in-law from St. Louis. Something touched my leg and it scared me so I jumped on her and pushed her under and wouldn't let go. Some of the family now fishes there occaisionally. Also, remember Miller's pond? We also swam there. I don't know about it.


-- Posted by kd5475 on Sat, May 8, 2010, at 12:39 PM

dexterite, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. You should try playing one of those computer Scrabble games one of these days. Ha!

Thanks to the Wolpers family for sharing their pond with so many folks. It gave us all special memories. Mrs. Wolpers was such a lovely person.

-- Posted by GONENOW on Sun, May 9, 2010, at 7:35 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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