The old gate is rusting in the rain. Children, comin’ home from school, no longer skim their pebbles on the old town creek that just around the bend becomes a pool.
The old house is creaking in the rain. Lovers, comin’ down the hill, no longer stop to linger by the old dead tree they took away for lumber to the mill.
The old world is dying in the rain. The summer, comin’ every year, no longer stops to wonder as it goes along its way, “Did anybody ever live here?”
And we’ve all grown older, come see where we have been, out here rusting in the rain.
~ The Kingston Trio, “Rusting in the Rain,” lyrics by Rod McKuen
I mostly like getting older. Less external pressures to “do the right thing” per another’s standard or be there at all costs because you’re expected. Rearing of family is past – grandchildren now move front-and-center to hawk their achievements and antics.
Downsides of aging are there, but some can be staved off by getting out of one’s own way, as it were. A healthy diet taken in moderation, regular and vigorous exercise, a challenged mind, interesting friends, reading and/or other endeavors. Append adequate sleep and generous blessings from the Creator to help extend the pleasures of life on earth.
Among the pleasures I enjoy are the moments when I can slip back in time – in my head and heart, in reality, or both – to replay or re-explore familiar scenes. Traveling Arkansas backroads; stepping into a languid mountain stream in summer to the insistent droning of cicadas while deftly placing a wet-fly tight against an overhanging shoreline in hopes of snagging a bluegill or smallmouth bass; watching the hot colors of summer wildflowers wave in the breeze like thousands of cheering hands at a ball game. Or seeing old buildings, barns or cellars or churches, and wondering what became of the young- folks-become-old-folks who built them, guarded them, laughed, conversed, studied, worshipped, slept and ate in them, then passed them on to the next generation.
Last week offered me a brief window into those pleasures — this, a solo trip. After leaving Fayetteville, Arkansas, on a brutally hot afternoon besot with an ambient temperature of 98° F and a heat index of 107°, I took late-afternoon refuge just north of War Eagle Creek at Withrow Spring State Park, angling the RV into a nice shady spot where I did some pre-dinner prep, then after a lazy walk to the evening warbles of thrushes, robins and cardinals high in the lush oaks, I took a short snooze that ended up lasting all night.
Spurred by pangs of hunger, I was up well before daylight the next morning. After eggs and the salmon steak I had prepped for last night’s unconsumed dinner, and with a cup of strong black coffee in hand, I quietly maneuvered over to Highway 21 and turned south, windows open to savor the fragrance of new-mown hay rife with sweet clover. Bales abounded in the meadows along the highway.
Saw “Sugar Booger’s Bar-B-Que and Cold Beer” place along Highway 21, but it was way too early for such goings-on.
Onward through Kingston to Boxley and the Buffalo National River for a short, leg-stretching hike, I spotted a plethora of old barns, Boxley Baptist church house and sights that reminded me of my well-spent summers as a hobbledehoy on an aunt & uncle’s farm or Grandmother’s place, wading creeks with my collapsible cane pole and a cage of crickets around my neck, intent on a stringer of bream, or working slowly along a dark pond bank with carbide lantern, a treble hook on a pole and a gunny sack, bound on snagging some croakers for a dinner of legs. My wonderful Uncle Allen Kinyon, now 91 and fighting valiantly with the end stages of life, taught me the skill, and I had the privilege of sharing the reminiscence with him last week. Another familiar scene was just sitting in the dense shade of Arkansas oaks along Lee’s Creek of a still, sweaty afternoon, avoiding the sun and listening to the incessant buzzing of flies, mosquitoes and cicadas while watching a water moccasin slowly troll the channel’s banks, looking for an unsuspecting meal.
As I neared the turn-off to Lost Valley, a young elk cow lazily raised her head from grazing in a field where I had spotted another old human structure I desired to shoot. Too bad she wasn’t a big bull in bugling stance with a gi-mongous set of antlers, but “beggars shou’nt be choosers.” Besides, the roadside colors of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Cornflowers, Spanish Needle and Queen Anne’s Lace were their own reward.
Doubling back through Kingston, I enjoyed a fun conversation with a yeoman about his fine old ’53 GMC 5-window Custom Cab pick-em-up while he was putting finishing touches on the roof of a new addition on the Kingston Community Library … Kingston, Madison County, Arkansas.
Overhead, the sky darkened with noticeable speed as it had threatened all morning, and just as I got my last shots “in the can,” the heavens parted and I was in for a shower in a good ol’ Arkansas thunder-soaker. I had time, too — roadside — to reflect on a still-vivid set of conversations my older sister and I had with our aging uncles, both U.S. Navy veterans of World War II, a couple days earlier. Perfect ending to a perfectly delightful, unhurried tour of the road less traveled.
Enjoy my gallery below (be sure to click on each photo to see it full-size), then find your own time to get out there with open eyes and hearts! I enjoyed our chat.
Carpe diem. Vita brevis!
© June 30, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.