November 12, 2008 Edition

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Smoky memories

Dewitt Rowlett
Guest Columnist
Last night my wife and I attended a get together at some church friends’ house in Vilonia. There was a wood-burning fireplace somewhere in that neighborhood, and the smell of wood smoke permeated the air and brought back memories and feelings from my childhood.

This time of year, folks out at Possum Trot had brought in the wood burning stoves from storage, polished them up, bought new pipe and elbows and had a pile of wood in the backyard. Some of the wood was split thin for kindling and in our case some was still in blocks waiting to be split.

My dad worked outside the county and at times was gone for a couple weeks. Splitting the wood was a job for yours truly.

I never did learn to use an axe. My dad scolded me constantly for "chewing up the axe handle."

A lumberjack I am not.

Anyway, the smell in the air from that fireplace made me remember standing out in the middle of the gravel road and looking to the east — seeing my grandparents Jim and Essie Scotts’ house, Uncle John and Aunt Lizzie's house, Uncle Warren and Aunt Virginia's house and Gene and Edna Hayes’ house, all with smoke coming from the chimney.

The whole countryside smelled of wood smoke — not enough to cause any problem, just enough to have a faint smell in the air — a clean smell that made you feel warm even if the temperature was way down. Just knowing that roaring fire was in the house was comforting.

For a while last night I was that carefree boy from Possum Trot who had no worries except being sure I wiped my feet before I went back in the house and curled up beside that little wood stove

Dewitt Rowlett of Vilonia is a native of Possum Trot Community, five miles west of Swifton. He writes of his life in rural Arkansas and is gaining quite a fan club of people who are of the nostalgic persuasion. Comments can be sent to him through e-mail at

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