In July we celebrated twenty years of life in Floyd County. We came here during one of the hottest summers in more than a hundred years (or so the weatherman said back then), so it’s kind of fitting that this anniversary/milestone should be heralded by an equally long, hot summer.
When I was a kid, I spent summer and winter vacations down here. One set of grandparents lived in Parrott at one end of Pulaski County and the other set lived in Snowville, seemingly the other side of the county. In Parrott I could see all the way to New River and watch it sparkling in the sun. I could hear the rumbling of the trains as they passed, and occasionally they would sound their horns as they approached the crossings. To this day I love the sound of trains.
In Snowville, my grandparents had a house with a “branch” (which sounded really funny to me…the only branches I’d ever heard of were on trees) where we would splash around on hot summer days. Dad would always tell us, “Don’t let the crawdads bite ya,” and I spent most of my life in mortal fear of living critters in the water that might bump or bite me all because of that childhood memory.
I remember the beautiful weeping willows Granddaddy had planted along the “branch” that draped their long arms over the banks. We pretended they were “forts” where we could hide. And there were Easter egg hunts at Grandaddy’s. We’d come out and search for the colored eggs (the real ones, with the faded colors of dyes gone by…the ones that would stink if you DIDN’T find them!) Granddaddy got the biggest chuckle out of us missing one egg in plain view: sitting in the hollow of a fence post. We walked past that thing a dozen times before he got so tickled he showed us the egg.
I remember Granny’s biscuits and gravy…nobody made biscuits like Granny. And Grandaddy’s almost steady supply of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, every time we came he had plenty of gum to give us. Now that my dad (his son) is a granddaddy, I’ve noticed he, too, keeps a stash of chewing gum for the neighbor kids and grandkids who come to visit. Must be a family tradition…)
I remember the outhouse on the path out back. One of my cousins told me there were snakes down in the bottom of the outhouse, so you didn’t dare sit too long in there or they might jump up and bite you. Both grandparents had outhouses when I was little. The smell was enough to keep you from hanging around there in the summer, and when it was winter…well, the outhouse didn’t have any heat, so you just did what you had to do and got back inside the warm house as quickly as you could.
At my grandparents’ house in Parrott, they collected water in a cistern for drinking and washing. The downspouts from the house went into this square enclosure in the ground, and it had a flat metal cover over it. We used to sit on the cistern and eat watermelon in the summertime. At Granddaddy’s house in Snowville, they had a springhouse. The spring flowed so abundantly that the overflow was piped out of the springhouse through a 2-inch pipe. The pipe was part of a cinder block structure with a bridge you could walk across. We loved that! The water would come out of the pipe and drop into a big drain pipe that went out into the “branch”. In the summertime, Granddaddy would put a watermelon under that spring water flow and get the watermelon as cold as ice.
When Dad came down for a reunion recently, we drove all around Snowville and Graysontown with him reminiscing about his youth and friends there. My grandparents’ house is long gone now, but the springhouse is still there, although a bit hard to find. Someone who appreciates the value of that spring and its living water has built a sturdy little bridge from the road to the spring. I got out and made my way across with a cup and came back with some cold water for Dad to enjoy. The water still flows in the old spring, and it’s still as good as I remember it.