My paternal grandfather had a 500 acre farm along the Red River just north of Nashville, in Clarksville, Tennessee. I loved being on that farm, so every Friday mama would pack my little suitcase and off I went for the weekend with my grandparents. They lived in a stone cottage that was built with stone and wood from the land they lived on. My grandparents’ stone cottage.
In the Spring their backyard looked like a snowy day with all the many Dogwood trees in bloom. I would sit on the porch with my grandmother and learn about the trees that kept the house cool in Summer, the birds nesting in those trees, and the flowers in her abundant flower beds where the flowers were waking up from their Winter’s sleep. The Summers were spent working in the fields. I would go out with my grandfather on his John Deere or on horseback. I learned how to count when we would count cattle together. I would ride on the fender of the tractor as we meandered through the woods down to the coolness of the cave spring that was located on the edge of his property. After a warm morning of being out in the fields, we would go in for a good lunch, take a nap under the cool sheets, and then back at it until Supper. In Winter the snows would come. My dad would bundle up and drive through the snowy fields in the old truck to feed bales of hay to the Herefords. Afterwards, we would all get our sleds and go sledding down the hill that led to the stone cottage. My grandfather would have a fire going in the fireplace and I would lie on the rug to watch that crackling fire, and football games on his Zenith television. I remember all those times like they were yesterday. Now that the days are finally getting cooler, I think about this time of year on the farm. The apple orchard behind my grandparents cottage and the pony barn that was built near the orchard, the Shetland ponies beginning to grow their Winter coats. There were acres of tobacco being harvested by hand, then placed on flatbed trailers and pulled away to be hung in the “FD” tobacco barn for curing. I can see Sunshine Shack where old Dave one of my grandfather’s farmhands lived, and the beautiful maple tree in the backyard with it’s golden leaves glowing in the autumn sun. I will always cherish those memories.
The cool autumn morning brings dew on the grass that looks like a sprinkling of sugar across the ground. I notice the small, intricate webs the spiders have woven within the damp grass, looking like delicate lace.
Behind me I leave a trail in the dew. Behind me I leave the passage of time. I look up above to see the leaves of an old maple that have turned a beautiful gold. The leaves slowly fall around me and for a moment, time stands still.
The aroma of tobacco curing, brings me back to the present. There is a thin line of smoke that snakes above the ground.
It sends me the scent of autumn. Memories of autumn. A Tennessee autumn.
My little family posing underneath the old Maple tree behind my grandparents’ house. (1998)