Monday, April 13, 2015

Feels like heaven ~ my column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: The column grew from an entry I made last week.

I first saw the property where we now live in the spring of 1974. I worked for The Community News at the time, and Jilda worked for Keynote Fashions selling dresses.

We lived in a trailer parked on a rented lot where Sumiton Elementary School now sits. Even with both our salaries, we probably qualified for food stamps, but our financial situation didn’t stop us from dreaming about a place of our own.

She bought me a copy of The Whole Earth Catalog for Christmas that first year and I spent hours reading about people who were going “back to the land.” Reading about the tools and information in the catalog became an addiction.

In my work at the paper, I heard that a woman in Empire wanted to sell an old farm along with some property.

One Wednesday, I got off work early and headed into the country to have a look.

The day was warm and when I stepped from my old Plymouth Valiant, I got a whiff of wild honeysuckle on the wind. Parking close to the old mailbox, I ambled down the road toward the old home place and barn.

The hollow was painted with dogwood, wild hydrangeas, and redbud trees. The sound of water gurgling from a spring somewhere in the shadows was almost hypnotic. Overhead a wood hen knocked on dead pine looking for beetles.

The oak, hickory, and poplar trees with low-hanging limbs transformed the red-rock drive into a lush green tunnel that seemed cooler than the air around the car.

Time stood still as I walked down that path absorbing every detail. I knew that moment that I wanted to spend my life in this place. I had no idea how, or when, but those things didn’t matter. I just knew.

Jilda’s eyes bloomed with amazement when I took her back later to see the place. When we took her folks up there her dad fell in love too. We didn’t have the money, but he did. We hoped he would loan us enough to buy the land, but instead he bought the property. In hindsight, I realized he wanted to make sure Jilda and I stayed married.

The old place had been a rental for years and the folks who rented it treated the land badly. There were junk dealers who lived there at one point, and when they moved away, they left pieces of old cars scattered.

After Jilda and I had been married 10 years, her parents deeded the land to us. They’d also bought the adjoining property, which they gave to Jilda’s brother.

Through the years, we made many improvements to the old barn and the foundation of the house. We planted fruit trees, shrubs, vines and flowers. I lost count of the recycling trips we made, hauling off rusty car parts and other junk left by the tenants.

But there were a few things I left intentionally. Leaning against a hickory tree down at the barn is a moss-covered window from a car with an old headlight nearby. I left it there to remind me how far we’ve come. My blog-friend Jack Darnell called the artifacts memory markers. I thought that was a perfect name.

I know this old farm isn’t the promise land, but in early spring when the dogwoods and wild honeysuckles bloom, it sure feels like Heaven to me.


  1. This one is nothing buyt LOVE. At my age, I still love dreamers. I know it was years ago but the thought is the same. THIS IS IT.
    Sadly, I do not mean that badly, but I have found our dream spot three times.
    They were great for awhile, but I am naturally a roamer. We are parked behind the last place, and now our GRand daughter lives there (instead of us).
    I really get a kick out of you guys, and I tell Sherry, I really do want to do what Rick and Jilda do.

    Maybe we can find that place when we are 80!

    Cheers to you guys!

  2. You obviously made a good choice because the two of you have been so happy there

  3. It sounds like a bit of heaven for sure !

  4. It looks like you found the right spot to live.

  5. I've visited spots like that--friends in the Tennessee mountains. So beautiful, and after all these years still not repaired. It's a lot of work!

  6. Anonymous10:21 AM

    You have found your Shangri-La!!

  7. This sounds like your own paradise-the sights and smells you speak of certainly sound like it

  8. I envy your connection to your land. I've never felt that way about a location. Hopefully I will, someday.

  9. Story strikes a chord here. 1980, we bought an old falling-down farmhouse 10 miles out of town. In 35 years the town has expanded and followed us out, but we did the right thing and, like you, knew it at the time. Regrets? Oh my gosh yes --every time I have to repair something else.

  10. I need a proof reader just for my comments. LOL The comment should have been:
    This one is nothing BUT LOVE!

    Also thanks for the shout out!

  11. Nothing wrong with dreaming, and working hard to achieve your dreams, love helps too


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