When we were girls, Sister Pam and I spent many hours at our Aunt Ferol's house. Neither the house, a replica of which is shown above, nor the barn are there any more. The story of their loss is one of the kind that makes your blood boil, and since I have already told much of it on this blog you may read it here if you so choose.
The only additional information I will add here about that loss is new information which I just learned from Cousin Doug, whose home this was. I guess when the state was wanting "our" property, they phoned and harassed my uncle at all hours of the day and night until he finally agreed to the sale. There just aren't words to describe such behavior, are there?
On warm summer afternoons, we would walk across the fields behind the house, down the bank to the gorge, through the gorge to this spot where Billings Creek widened and gouged out a wonderful swimming hole right under this sandstone bluff.
Sister Pam and I longed to hike back in and revisit our old "haunt." Cousin Doug was tickled pink to meet us and walk us in.
Back in the day, the walk was a fairly easy one due to the fact that the cows grazed in the valley and kept it looking newly mowed.
That is NOT the case now.
We parked our car at a tiny gravel "landing" beside the road to wait for Cousin Doug. Just behind where Sister Pam is standing was the home of our girlhood friend, Amy. That house was ALSO usurped into the whole dam project. Now we find it difficult to believe a house could even FIT there.
(Editors note: I spelled dam correctly for this context, though the other spelling could and would be applied by some and may be equally descriptive of our feelings.)
The land is now part of Wildcat State Park, so we started out down a designated trail. There were signs ordering us to stay on the trail.
We had no intentions of honoring those signs. We were on "our" land and felt we could go where we pleased. Which we did - - - with some great difficulty as you shall soon see.
Bless Doug's heart. It is a bitter sweet trip each time he returns to his roots on this farm, as you can well imagine. He would love nothing more than to still be living on and farming the old home place.
First pause - - - to observe and chat about the "clearing" behind Doug which used to be one of their hay fields. It was farmed out by the state for years after the land was taken, so it is the least overgrown of all the original farm fields.
At the edge of that field, we began to descend into the gorge formed over centuries and eons by Billings Creek.
By the way, there was only one "old" person on this hike - - - and it was NOT my 81 year old father.
I'll let your mind ruminate on just who that elderly hiker may have been.
On the gorge floor we saw moss covered logs like this one.
We also came to the very spot where Uncle Mack and Doug used to boil sap down to make maple syrup. You can see the moss covered stones that made the base of their fire pit.
Parts of the gorge were junglesque in their lush plant growth, we forged ahead.
Parts of the gorge were quite slick and muddy. We used our feet to flatten the grasses into the mud with each step and forged ahead.
Finally we came to a slight opening in the lush flora and could look down a steep bank and into the rushing waters of a widened portion of Billings Creek.
The sign said "hikers only," but Sister Pam and I had OTHER plans. Remember - - - this is "our" creek and we are reliving "our" past!
At last we reached our swimming hole - - - or at least as close to our swimming hole as still exists after the 36 years the state has had possession of "our" creek.
The creek used to flow toward this bluff from the right side of the photo, bend toward the left and flow beneath the rock bluff. There was a peninsula of land just before the bluff. We would spread our towels on that peninsula and warm there in the sun after wading and swimming in the cold deep water below the rock face.
There would be no towel spreading this day, for without those handy dandy milk cows, the grasses were chest high.
It didn't take Sister Pam and me long to shed our walking shoes,
And step down into the cold rocky creek bed.
Only we say crick. That is just the Vernon County way. After 36 long years, we once again went wading in "our" crick.
Sister Pam, a spry young thing, was in the lead. She scoped out the more shallow less rocky path.
The senior citizen tried to follow in her wake.
The water felt great. The sharp, hard, little rocks under my tender soles - - - not so much!
After our crick wading, we followed Cousin Doug up the opposite gorge bank from the one which we descended.
We were headed to the old home place site.
There was absolutely no trail here. Most of our course was covered in neck high grasses and wild flowers.
There were thistles, nettles, and viney things galore. The thistles scratched our legs and the viney things tried their BEST to trip us.
The senior citizen fell once - - - landing in a rather soft bed of tall plants.
She used her "down" time to catch her breath and rest as the "young" whippersnappers were getting ahead of her. (Sister Pam is 15 months younger than the senior citizen, Cousin Doug is ten years older and you already know how old dad is - - - those three were the "young" whippersnappers.)
Finally we arrived at the very spot, behind Cousin Doug, where the house used to sit. I think you can tell from the look on his face just how Cousin Doug STILL feels about the loss of their home.
From the house site it was an easy walk, over a real trail, to the road. In the far distance you can see Mount Pisgah, at the base of which we parked our vehicles and began this trek.
The senior citizen was trail weary.
She found a spot thusly marked
But having a bit of shade. In spite of not possessing a horse, she plunked herself down in this tiny patch of shade to wait. Sister Pam, kindness incarnate, plunked down beside her to keep her company.
The "young" 81 year old whippersnapper WALKED up the road to the car and returned to pick them up.
Perhaps the senior citizen should begin a walking program on more gentle terrain before she again attempts a "mountain" trek.