March 19, 2005

Carver Creek Walkabout, part 2

I'm glad you are taking this walk with me. Step carefully because the path has high weeds and each leaf is full of little chiggers that bite and dig in to your skin with a vengeance. A dip of kerosene will get rid of most of them but they will itch for weeks! After we get there, we have to check each other for ticks too. Especially on your legs and back and in your hair because if you don't find them before they settle in, you'll probably have to pick off a few from under your arms and around your waistline after you go to bed tonight.

We're on our way to the Bleven's boys house on a sneak visit because grandma thinks we're going to help Cindy Westbrook with her chores. Actually it's 3 boys and 1 girl who live in the large unpainted bare house by the side of the road. Mr. Blevens is mean and loud! Mrs. Blevens is meek and usually hides in the bedroom if anyone comes by. Elijah is the oldest and doesn't say much. David likes Cindy (they later married) and Amos thinks Sandra is cute. The girl is awkward and silly and giggles as we enter the doorway.

I see a playpen full of dirty clothes and bare mattresses without sheets or pillows. In the kitchen is a hot woodburning stove and a large bucket of lard sitting in the window sill. The few dishes scattered around are dirty but ready to be used for the next meal. Several skinny dogs are growling but not moving after Mr. Blevens gives them a swift kick across the room.

Amos and David want to go for a walk with us but I feel uncomfortable and want to leave. In the end, I wait on the path for them to return laughing and acting like fools, I think. It's difficult for me to play and have fun and tell jokes. I wish I could be like Sandra and enjoy sneaking around. The boys tease me a little and they all laugh at me for being such a stick-in-the-mud and seriously threaten me if I even think of telling on them.

So, let's you and me continue our Walkabout of Carver Creek from one end to the other. The next place after the Bleven's house is a couple miles on down the road. Tommy Wake and his family live here but Tommy is not SDA and he rides the bus to the public school in Annapolis. Grandma REALLY doesn't want us associating with Tommy, but Sandy has a crush on him too and we usually find an excuse to stop at his house once in awhile.

Tommy's dad has a little farm and some cows and they have a big house with a front porch and some outhouses. They have indoor plumbing, but we don't ask to use it. We like Tommy's mom a lot because she is nice to us and always offers fresh cookies and milk. One day she left the creek for some reason and after that it was only Tommy and his dad and no more soft chewy cookies.

Here I will interject that when Sandra and I went back to the creek some 30 years later, Tommy was living on our old property in a nice modern mobile home. Sandra was especially thrilled to meet Tommy again and they chatted about old times for several minutes before we went on our way.

After Tommy's house, the road goes uphill and around a large sweeping curve. Perfect for sledding in the wintertime! At the bottom of the hill on the left is an old schoolhouse. In front of the schoolhouse is a well with a hand help pump. You hold the handle and pump up and down to get a gush of sparkling cold water.

It had to be primed each time we wanted to get water from the well, but it was the best water around!

Later Grandma would teach school in that little schoolhouse where we played kickball at recess and memorized Bible verses for every class! On Saturday nights Jimmy would play his fiddle and the boys would buy our apple pies.

Grace and Albert Jordan lived next up the road and they remain my friends even today . They helped grandma get a better house. They rushed to help when we got sick. Albert showed me how to milk cows and Gracie showed us how to make butter. One night I ran to get Albert when I thought our house was on fire. I'm sure he recounted that experience with a good laugh every time because the "fire" was only a bunch of lightening bugs Sandra and I had captured that evening.

The last house in the horseshoe would later become our second house on 5 acres of land overlooking Albert's pasture and Carver Creek. Looking over the hillside 30 years later we were awed by the beauty of it all. When we lived there, it took so much just to survive that we didn't see beyond our childhood vision of hard work and demanding grandmother.

If you continued on to forge the creek again, there were several families we didn't know very well. They were mostly city folk who came from St. Louis on the weekends. Later, Charlie and Eva would move down from St. Louis and take Sandra and I under their wings. But that is for another story.

One family on the other side of the creek was known to us because a young man lived there who became a frequent guest at our house. Norman Reynard was tall, good looking and oh-so polite. He had only one arm due to an accident earlier in life but there was nothing he couldn't do or lift! Norman lived with his parents and helped take care of their farm.

Grandma said Norman had eyes for me. I didn't know what that meant, but I could count on Norman to show up when there was heavy work to be done. Whatever I was doing, Norman would be at my side to offer a helping hand. He was sweet and kind and serious like me. Norman never did anything to make me feel uncomfortable.

I'm sure Grandma wouldn't have cared if I was 14 or 41 if she thought she could gain a son-in-law to help take care of her too. Norman was in his early 20's and handicapped so I'm sure he wouldn't have minded taking a sweet teenage wife. I was terribly naive about it all and thought only of taking care of Sandra and finding my mother. No one had ever stayed long enough in my life to teach me how to love someone.

But in the end, Norman drowned trying to cross Carver Creek on his John Deere tractor on his way to our house after a storm. I figure he was coming to see if we were ok. Maybe his judgement was blinded a little...? I really missed Norman after that - for more reasons than I understood at the time. But, like others in my life, he was gone and I moved on.

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