Although the trip to the old home place was just a few miles away, Ann had to make sure that Bea used the bathroom before undergoing the car ride. Ann hated the idea of having to stop along the way, at a fast food restaurant or gas station, retrieve old woman’s wheel chair out of the hatch back of the Geo Tracker, then put Bea in it. That was a feat in itself. Ann’s mother could hardly stand alone and when she had to pee, she had to pee, so time was of the essence. Maneuvering the wheelchair in and out of the small isles of a gas station was difficult and trying to get into a stall was nearly impossible. It was in some ways easier to simply get out and pee by the side of an isolated spot on the country road. Luckily, Bea’s urinary tract obeyed the request and emptied before the trip.
On the way to her childhood home, Bea pointed out all of the many places that still held court in her memory. Bea couldn’t remember if she had eaten breakfast that morning, but she remembered that John and Ellen Barkley lived in the small rundown shack beside the creek where she was baptized.
“Now, Julia and Ernest lived here” pointing to an empty meadow, the house long gone. “They had three boys, all crazy to court me. But I didn’t want either one. During World War Two, those boys were 4-F’s and if the army didn’t want them, I sure didn’t!”, Bea commented. “And this was where the church stood. I remember Preacher Parker running the tops of the pews when he got happy.”
She commented every bit of the way, saying the same things that she said every time they traveled down her childhood road. Over and over, Ann had heard it all before, all of her life, and tried to seem interested. She couldn’t keep her mind wondering away from her mother’s past and thinking of the present. Sierra was trying out for the cheer squad that evening. Ann wondered if her only daughter had remembered all the moves that they had practiced the night before. “Sierra had better use her new cell phone and let me know if she made the squad”, Ann thought.
Ann turned into a dirt lane and the rutted road slowed the Tracker considerably. “Now, right there is where Lionel and Saris lived. They bought our place when daddy died. They were the best neighbors we had. Saris came over and stayed with us when Mommy took blood poisoning. She was a good woman. Now this next house was where I growed up.” Ann knew very well where the old log house was. It was hot in the Tracker and Ann rolled her window down. She noticed the elderly lady beside her had beads of sweat on her forehead. “Mom, roll your window down, it’s hot.” Bea however, looking toward the old house, was lost inside her own mind, smiling faintly at nothing in particular.
Topping the hill where the house sat, they noticed something different. There was a man in the yard behind the property, on a back hoe. He had been grading all around the log home, smoothing the land down evenly, taking the grass and leaving fresh dirt behind. He cut off the engine of his machine and climbed down to meet the little black car that had pulled in the recently dug driveway.
Herbert Greene was his name. After they told him why they were on the property, Greene explained he worked for a town lawyer, named Jefferies. Jefferies had recently bought the place from the heirs of Lionel and Saris. Jefferies was planning on fixing up the rundown house and using it as a summer home when his relatives visited. Bea took a handkerchief out of her pocketbook and patted her face. “The old tree in the front yard is gone now, and the fence, mommy’s garden fence is gone. Did you knock the tree down?” Greene shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “That was my orders from Jefferies, Ma’am. You know Ma’am, that old house’s foundation is still pretty good. Built out of strong chestnut logs by somebody who knew what they were doing.” Bea gazed at the rustic hewed logs. “My daddy built that house in 1927. Used to have a good spring in the back there, deep in the bank beside that big oak tree. Coolest water anybody ever tasted. We young’uns had to carry water from that spring every day. Mommy used a long handled dipper to dip out that cold water”
Greene smiled at her. “Guess what, ma’am? I cleaned that spring out two weeks ago. The water is still there and it’s still good and cold! Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back.” A minute later Greene was back with a tall solo cup of fresh water from the cool spring. He handed it to Bea with a look of satisfaction. Bea took the red cup from his hand, held it up to her lips and sipped the water until it ran down her chin. She drank every last drop and then Greene offered to get Ann a cup. When he came back with the second cup, Bea thanked him and they turned the Tracker around and went on their way back to the nursing home. “Tell me again, Momma, who lived there? I really want to hear all you have to tell me about this place.” Ann said as they started their way back.
“Well,” began Bea, “ That’s Pearl and Estie’s house. That’s where my brother Ernest got bit by a snake while he was picking blackberries. And there’s the old tree that has Bonnie and Jack’s initials on it.” Ann smiled at her mother, took another sip of the water and drove on down the dusty dirt road back to town.