On the Hill

Memories, from yesteryear, from living on the old hill.

On the Hill

I spent a number of my formative years, growing up on a hill outside of Jena, in LaSalle Parish. It was at my grandmother's home on Pleasant Hill Road which ran off the "Old Hatchery Road."

When my grandmaw was still living, one could smell the love in the air, especially around Thanksgiving, Christmas and the much looked-forward too, family reunions. Grandmaw had fifteen kids and each one of them, with the exception of Uncle Chan, who died at around the age of ten, had sizable families. I grew up thinking that everyone had family reunions, that were large enough to be incorporated as a small town. As a kid, they sure were fun and since a lot of the families lived in other communities and in some cases, other states, it was a great time to see one another again.

Aunts & Uncles (ca. 1950's)

Some of my aunts & uncles from my Mom's side (ca. 1950's). My Mom was the last born (#15 bottom left).

I look back now and I marvel. I marvel at the fact that my Grandmaw, who lived in a less than 1,000 square foot house, with well water, a space heater and a window-fan, could get up and bake fifteen cakes, for the reunion. Today, when we need a fryer, it's nothing to run to the store and get one. Grandmaw would go out to the chicken coop, grab a chicken and then get her hatchet. Trust me, there is a difference between "fresh" fried chicken and store-bought.

I remember, in my early years (really early years), Grandmaw had an old pot belly stove in the rear bedroom of the house. Since there was no insulation (the wall you would see on the inside of the house was simply the other side of the wall you saw outside), this room was a magnet during cold winter nights. I remember that old stove would heat that room up to almost unbearable conditions. To this day, I'm not certain whatever became of that stove. I just seem to remember it being there one day and one day it was gone. With it gone, that left only a small space heater in the living room. If one had a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate and a heavy coat on, not to mention a healthy imagination, one could almost detect heat from that thing.

I never walked through five miles of snow, bare-foot, to get too school. However, I didn't miss out on all the fun. The house on the hill was surrounded by woods, with the exception of the cow pasture behind the house. We had a gravel driveway that cut into and through a hill that we grew up calling "paint rock hill." This old driveway was several hundred feet in length and I would walk to the bottom end of it to catch the school bus. We lived far enough from town, and thusly the school, that I would be standing at the bus stop well before sunrise. Man oh man, the things one would hear in those woods, just a few feet away. I never had to worry about falling asleep at the bus stop. Now, falling asleep on the long bus ride, well, that was a different matter altogether.

Some of the same aunts & uncles (ca. 1969).

At one point, we had at the home place, seventeen dogs, four wild Persian cats (can't imagine why they were wild), one pig, a coop full of chickens, cattle and an old blind mare. We also had a pecan tree, a walnut tree and a pear tree. Fortunately, all of these trees bore fruit and it was more than one day I went in the house, at the end of a hard day of playing outside, with a stomach-ache that led me to believe I was dying. Of course, the first time this took place, Mom asked me what I had eaten. I replied "nuthin" thinking that by "eating" she was referring to chicken, rice and gravy, dumplings, etc.. On that particular day, it had been five raw pears that didn't set well.

There's a lot more memories that I could bore you with but this piece wasn't written, for anyone to read (now I tell you huh?). This was written more for me, as I can remember some things now, that I have no doubt later, won't even be a flicker. Well, there is one more reason for having written it too.

I just saw, on the news, where kids no longer go outside to play. They stay inside, watching TV, playing their x-box or on the computer. As one might guess, obesity is running rampant with our youth. I can't help but wonder if any of these kids know what they're missing out on? I've got to admit, I don't see kids riding bicycles down the roads, like I did when I was growing up. Do kids still wish for swing sets? We were truly Blessed in that we had literally hundreds of acres of woods, at our disposal, to run amok in. To form clubs (TrailBlazers) and explore. We would camp, go hunting, swim in the swimmin' hole and cross from one side of the creek to the other, by way of tree roots, which over time, formed a great walkway for a bunch of wannabe Daniel Boone's. During summer vacation, we would hit the outside at first sunlight and unless Mom tracked us down with her Tarzan-like yell, many times we wouldn't see the inside until supper time.

The times were simpler. Folks still respected each other. It was fun to go 'visiting' cousins and the like. We depended on each other. When someone died, I thought it must be incumbent on everyone to cook a meal, to take over to the families house. That was just something that was done. I don't recall anyone telling someone they had to do that. It was what neighbors did.

Folks, God knows I'm far from perfect. I just know that those simpler times, when we were all in this together, and not trying to see who could be the biggest victim or file the largest suit; when we instilled respect in our kids, as opposed to a sense of entitlement, when we would rush to the aid of someone who needed help, instead of filming it for everyone to see; it makes me yearn, at times, for the return of those times. No, things were not perfect then but when have they ever been? I can say, with a great deal of certainty that they have gotten worse. Yes, there are families still instilling those values today but by and large, that isn't the case.

When you hear your final Merry Christmas, When you find yourself wondering just how Easter came about, with the Easter bunny and colored eggs, when Thanksgiving becomes just another day, some of you will also take the time to wonder...."what happened?"

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