A New Pencil Box

25 Linda schoolLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A new pencil box and the first day of school. Who is old enough to remember the fresh wood smell of newly sharpened pencils? I’m thinking about that as I put on my hat and head out the door for my first day of classes at Henderson. The American West and Arkansas History; that’s my course of study this semester. Why? On the Journey I explored almost every inch of the “western” states but was left with more questions than answers by the end of it. I want to learn more about the legislation that opened those vast lands for settlement, the many treaties with the natives who were already living there, the creation of the new states; in other words, the expansion of our country throughout the 19th century. All to make this site more useful for everyone who accesses it. The Arkansas History class will help with that too, and additionally will provide insights about the emigration of my ancestors who died here in 1849 on their move from Alabama to Texas. Ancestors. A little family talk now. And “how I spent my summer 25 group at pianovacation.” Since I’m settled in one place with plenty of room for visitors, I invited, and they came! Grandson Andrew arrived June 21; grandson Sam July 12. Andrew left July 16; son Mike, and his Brenda, and her grandson Michael arrived July 31. Granddaughter Kayla and son Rick arrived August 2. Mike and Brenda and Michael left August 3; Sam left August 6. Rick and Kayla left August 16. Did you notice? There was a perfect alignment of planets on August 2.

Yes, my two oldest sons, brothers who live on opposite sides of the country, had an evening 25 Group at tabletogether. We were missing the youngest, Scott, so had grandson Sam stand in for his Dad in the photo shoot. So much laughing, and so much fun. Chasing lightning bugs in the yard. Hours of Trivial Pursuit, the girls against the boys. I did one of those grandmotherly things we’re entitled to do when we reach this age. During dinner, I passed the camera around the table and had each person take a photo from “their point of view.” I also asked that each person tell why they were glad to be together. I hope the kids remember it forever. I know I will.

What did everyone think of Arkansas, and small-town living? “It’s so green!” Rick raved, despite being from the Evergreen State of Washington. Well, it’s true, this area of Arkansas is 25 Kayla pianotimber country and pine plantations stretch in every direction. Mike and Brenda stopped at Fort Smith on their way here from Colorado headed to their home in Florida. “You should go!” they said. “It’s the most interesting historical spot we’ve come across, anywhere.” Kayla, who had seen the movie Divergent, was thrilled when we drove through Amity, with its rolling hills and farms. “Look GMom!” she said. “It’s so peaceful and beautiful, just like I imagined it.” I asked for an explanation and she gave me the movie plot. [In a futuristic society five factions exist: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Members join the faction they choose, after a test.] “Which would you choose?” I asked. “Amity,” was her answer. Andrew 25 Andrew ziplinedrove a mule and shot a shotgun for the first time out at Linda and Ellis’ farm; Ellis let him drive through the open fields and woods looking for deer, and whatever other wildlife might appear. His other delight was Ziplining at Rowdy Adventures, sailing over the Little Missouri suspended on a rope. His big accomplishment was clearing away the tangled vines at the side of the house, a monster job. Michael, who had the most energy, loved my big back yard for 25 Sam Texarkanabadminton, and soccer, despite the ball-swallowing hedge. Sam liked everything. “Arkansas touches eight states,” I told him when he arrived. “Which ones would you like to visit while you’re here?” “All of them,” was his reply. We settled on Oklahoma and Texas. As we approached Texarkana, we sang along with CCR “It was down in Texarkana, just about a mile from Louisiana….” But it’s not! Louisiana is way more than a mile away. Sam fell in love with Henderson too; we took a guided tour of campus and the office showered him with “Reddie” gifts.

25 Kayla Rick cemeteryThose who stayed longer went to the cemetery with me to visit those ancestor graves at Clear Springs. “Imagine traveling through Arkansas in a wagon, on a dirt road. Those little children having their Daddy die. And then the little children dying too, except for one. Martha Jane, just four years old. And her mother, pregnant.” How did they manage until they were rescued, and brought back to Alabama, I wonder, as I walk among those lonely graves. Somber thoughts. “If Martha Jane hadn’t survived, none of us would be alive today,” I point out. Her picture hangs in my living room, my 2nd-great-grandmother, mother of twelve, and how many descendants? “You are her descendants,” I explained to the kids. “You are a part of history. And you are the future too.” Happy thoughts.

25 Sam JackWho was happiest this summer during our 58 days of family visiting? Jack, of course. Everybody loved Jack, and he reveled in the attention. So many laps on which to rest his head. So many snuggles. So many memories, for both of us. Now he’ll get to nap all day, as I settle in for the first day of school. It’s a good thing, like having a new pencil box.