October 14, 2009 Edition

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The simple things
can be special

Dewitt Rowlett
Guest Columnist

When I was growing up in Possum Trot, five miles west of Swifton, there were few places to go and even fewer things to do other than work.

After I left home and went to work in a local factory, I finally started making trips to some of the places I had only heard about as a young-un. Golly, I even made it to Cedar Lake, Ind., to visit my cousin Pat who had moved away so long ago

To my surprise even my dad started venturing out after he retired. I guess he had given up on saving a million dollars (as Foghorn Leghorn would say "That's a joke son, ya hear, that's a joke.")

Anyway, he relaxed, stopped being so tightfisted and began to live a little.

He found his favorite spot for family outings in Lawrence County, a place called Lake Charles - he called it Charles Lake.AThe phone would ring on a Friday afternoon and his deep voice would say, "We are going to have a picnic at Charles Lake tomorrow."

Probably doesn't sound nearly as exciting to most of you who are reading this as it did to us back in the late sixties.

There were picnic tables and little charcoal grills to cook hamburgers, a lake with a swimming beach, people milling all around laughing and playing various games.

To all of us it was a different world and it felt to us like most of you would feel on a trip to Disney World.

From time to time some of us still gather there at those campgrounds, it brings back memories of my dad and seems like I can feel him saying, "Yep, Dee, this here Charles Lake is a fine place to be on a Saturday afternoon."

***

On my way to town almost daily, I slow my vehicle down just a little to look at a tree. This tree stands alone in a pasture and although there are no crops of any kind being cultivated, it reminds me of the old home place at Possum Trot.

Just about every cotton patch in that community had a shade tree growing either in the middle of the field or at the end of the rows.

Water jugs, tea jugs, lunch buckets and the cotton wagon were placed in the shade of these trees, usually it was a walnut tree but at times an oak or maybe even a mulberry.

At lunchtime the family and friends would sit under the tree on the ground with lunch laid out on a blanket. Lunch mostly consisted of a pint jar of great northern beans, a cold biscuit left over from breakfast, a couple pieces of fried chicken, a fried homemade peach pie and a quart of iced tea.

You may wonder how in the world we had iced tea at noon way out in the cotton patch - well we did, yep, let me tell how we accomplished that.

A gallon jug of tea with some ice cubes could be wrapped in a burlap bag, tied tight with bailing wire and buried in the ground almost up to the lid. There would still be ice cubes in the tea at noon thanks to the shade of that beautiful tree.

The family would sit in the shade for the lunch hour enjoying the meal and the lively conversation. They shared their thoughts, their joys, their sorrows, their plans, as well as stories from their past. A meal around that old shade tree worked magic to keep families close to one another.

I look at that tree out there in that pasture and I think maybe I should get my family together, pack a lunch and go out there and have a picnic now and then. No phones, no TV, no computer, just conversation. Sounds wonderful to me. Anyone want to join us?

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 deemar1944@yahoo.com.

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