Return to Hardin County
During a visit to see my parents who live in Pinson, Tennessee, I returned to Hardin County, Tennessee for a quick drive-through. I was accompanied by my parents and a friend- a friend who was to become my husband.
I neared the familiar territory, a feeling
I couldn’t quite identify came over me. We
drove along the highway from Milledgeville to Saltillo and parked on the bank of
the Tennessee River at the "end of the road."
actually needed, to show my friend, as I put it, “the most beautiful river you
will ever see.” Whether or not he
was impressed I don’t really know. While
sitting there watching the river roll by, I felt a lump in my throat and the
conversation seemed to pass by me. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the river.
drove the road from Saltillo to Hooker‘s Bend and passed over White Oak creek
where I entered into family territory. To
my left was the farm where Aunt Moody and Uncle Tom had raised their family.
On the right where my mom lived when she came to “the Bend,” on past
the remains of Aunt Eva’s (she’s really a cousin) home with Aunt Zora Allen’s home
place to my left. We drove past Aunt Ollie White’s old home and to my right
was Oakland Methodist Church sitting there peacefully, old and regal….I could
almost hear that bell ringing, and see my Grandpa Watson standing in the door.
I was taken back to my childhood when we walked, on occasion, the
“long” road from Grandpa’s house to the church for Sunday services.
We passed Aunt Annie Allen’s old home and the store she had managed to keep open after her husband was murdered there. Before the curve in the road that takes you across the branch and back out to the Savannah road there sits a beautiful, stately home to your left. To me that elegant home is but a small part of my memory in my memory of Hooker's Bend. Although it has long been a pleasurable view, I barely recall Mr. Abe who lived there.
On my right I see thick brush, but catch a glimpse of the
gray siding of an old
home. My heart skips a beat, just
as it does every time I see it. For
inside that old decaying house lives the spirit of a family, my family.
In my mind, the yard is neatly mowed and flowers grow profusely, sweet
peas adorn the fence around the garden, the old mailbox still sits at the road
beside the sidewalk proudly conveying the message that S. M. Watson lives here.
My eyes see that the old rope swing is hanging from the limb of the big
oak tree, a well bucket is dangling over the well waiting to serve up that cold,
fresh water. The smell of fresh, plowed dirt lets you know that Grandpa's
plowing with his horses, Pat and Judy, and soon will make the trip to the branch to
give them fresh water to drink. Grandma’s and Grandpa’s rockers sit on the
porch waiting for Grandpa to sit down and "rest his eyes."
Grandma’s and Grandpa’s rockers sit on the porch waiting for Grandpa to sit down and "rest his eyes."
My memory enters the front door of the
house and the aroma of Grandma’s teacakes,
fresh from the oven, awakens my senses.
The cookie jar sets waiting for our small hands to grab as many as we can.
book press, filled to the brim with century old books, and the oldest of the
family bibles, welcomes all who enter here.
My memory’s eye sees a small girl sitting on the couch, papers and
books scattered around her. She sits, quietly, pouring over the old letters and papers
from so long ago, making notes, notes, and more notes. Her love for
family history is just beginning to develop.
bobwhite calls in the distance and brings an adult slowly back to reality.
Brush now covers the house, the swing no longer hangs from the limb of
the oak tree, there is no well bucket, and the smell of the teacakes disappeared
from the kitchen years ago. But the
spirit of the family survives. It
survives again every time a grandchild returns to the old home place and
remembers these things. Few of the
great-grandchildren have any memories of the old Watson home place.
But those who do, will surely return, and they will take a part of the
spirit with them when they leave.
we drove on down the road and passed Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim Bain’s old home.
There are many memories there, too. Afternoons
spent playing cards, listening to Blanche read using Braille, the smell and
taste of buttermilk candy, the old fig bush.
But there is not enough time to allow those memories to take over.
The branch is waiting to be crossed, a necessity when one returns to
Hooker’s Bend, and I still want to go by Liberty cemetery to find my
great-great grandfather Allen’s grave (I found it!).
can finally identify the strange feeling that had overwhelmed me.
It was just like Scarlett from Gone With The Wind.
I had returned to the land my forefathers loved and from my return to
Hardin County I had suddenly grown stronger, wiser, and ready to face what lies
If you have roots in Hardin County, I strongly advise you to go there.
Go back to your old home place, touch the soil that fed your forefathers.
It will be an experience you won’t forget.
Trust me, I know.
Jane Watson Ellis
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