I first moved to Georgia in 1984 from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
My father had his duty stationed changed for NAS Oceana to NAS Atlanta. The largest portion of our trials and tribulations with his health were over now and the Navy had saw fit to hold a board for him to be medically retired.
But that is not what this is about.
When we first moved to Georgia we had no where to go. My mother and grandmother did not get along. The rift between them grew very wide after my fathers illness.
My father owned well over 100 acres of property we used for hunting. As a boy I walked the hills and ridges all over that to this day they are memorized and I could find my way even in the dark I am sure.
Upon it was a single room hunting cabin, that my father had built. The one room held a set of bunk beds, a potbellied wood stove and a table. Obviously not conducive to a four member family. So He enclosed the porch and created a second room. Each room was about 15 by 15, maybe 15 by 20. The exact measurements are lost to time in my head as i assisted with the building. Every cut was made with a chainsaw as we had no power, nor did we ever have power there as long as the cabin stood.
The wood stove was relocated to the new room, and a small propane cook stove was installed. The table also moved to the new room.
The old room was equipped with 3 sets of military bunk beds my father got from the Naval auction area.
A new porch was built. The only security we had for the front door was a simple hook latch from the inside. If we left we could padlock the door from the outside.
For almost 2 years we called this place home.
Our baths we took with hot water we boiled on the wood stove. Our baths were rather public, being done in the floor of the new room, between the wood stove and the table inside of a #2 washtub.
20 ft ftom the front door a spring came out of the ground. It ran down the slight incline about 70 yards before entering a small creek. Once in desperation for some privacy I jumped in the creek to take my bath. In November. It was a short lived effort in futility to be sure.
I can say it was the shortest bath I ever took, and the coldest.
Our bathroom was as big as all outdoors, and for night time we had a plastic bucket with a lit that could be removed we called our “honey pot”. One of my morning chores was to empty it each morning.
I can not complain. When it rained I slept like a baby as the water hammered out beats on the tin-roof over my head. In the winter we were quite warm as the wood stove was always running bright providing both light and heat. Coleman lanterns lit the rest of cabin so we could read and play cards. Mornings would be very cold unless, someone stayed awake to mind the stove and keep it hot.
The summer was the hardest part as there wa no way to move air. But there was no shortage of wilderness to play in. We spent the summers working my grandfathers garden, chipping wood for winter, and doing repairs to the property. Building a split rail fence by hand and assisting my cousin Billy Garland in his chicken houses.
The second year my father took a car battery and devised a way of powering a radio and a mechanics drop light. Inverters were not yet commonplace and he wired it with an extension cord and alligator clips. We would sit on the porch as the sun went down listening to America’s Top Country Countdown.
I finished the 3rd and 4th grade in this fashion.
But what I remember more so is getting up each morning and getting fresh water from our spring that bubbeled forth as mentioned earlier. The softest sweetest water in a tin cup every day.
In someways I think this changed me. I played by myself more than with others due to this, and even now I would rather sleep in a ice cold remember bundled under warm blankets than turn up the heat. I was always a touch eclectic, I think, in the eyes of my classmates. Perhaps I viewed things a bit differently than they because of this. I truly do not know. But I always held it as a changing point in my life.
It’s turning winter now.
The cabin is long gone.
My fathers house stands near where it was.
The spring has been made in to a pond and no more can one dip cups for water as I once did.
If there is one standard in all my travels I have learned it is that nothing truly last forever, and that nothing stays the same. Not even those places we hold dear to ourselves and deem untouched by human corruption or desire to change. Or those places we see as beautiful, now they exist only in our minds eye, to be seen, thought on and reviewed, but never again touched or seen with eyes.
The smells of winter coming remind me, however. It does every year.
Wood burning on a breeze, the chill of air across my toes, warm blankets over my arms.
I miss reading Robinson Crusoe by the light of the wood stove. I miss braving the cold to get a tin cup of the worlds sweetest water I ever tasted while listening to nature and the world around me.
Nights where my family was the closest, and the farthest it has ever been. I did not know it then but the bond between my parents was separating then and would eventually break.
We played cards by the light of the wood stove, board games and took turns reading such books as Swiss Family Robinson. Each of us reading a chapter, in the old way. or playing music. My father playing guitar while my mother sang.
Today I have satellite TV, laptop computer, central heat and air. I have came a long ways.
But sometimes, I truly miss that time in my life more than any other. And I know that this truly is a long hard road, but my memories help.
Way back in my memory there’s a scene that I recall
Of a little run-down cabin in the woods
Where my dad never promised that our blue moon would turn gold
But he laid awake nights wishin’ that it would.
When the world was on our radio, hard work was on our minds.
We lived our day-to-day in plain dirt fashion,
With ol’ overalls and cotton balls all strapped across your back
Man, it’s hard to make believe there ain’t nothing wrong.
But momma kept the Bible read and daddy kept our family fed,
And somewhere in between I must have grown
Cause someday I was dreamin’ that a song that I was singin’
Takes me down the road to where I want to go.
Now I know, it’s a long hard road
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Sharecroppers Dream