By Chris Rathbone
One of the things that my family loves to do when we have the opportunity to get together is reminiscing about days gone by. Too often we let the memories go that played a major part in shaping us into the adults we are today. Hopefully, some experiences helped to teach us lessons along life’s way. And sometimes some memories just make us smile and laugh about mishaps or funny experiences we lived through. I realize that many may not have too many good memories from years gone by, but one thing for sure, we can make good use of the years ahead that the good Lord gives us to make some good ones! Too many times we won’t let go of bad experiences from the past so we can move on to good experiences in our future.
The little community I grew up in is called Estatoe. Years ago, most everyone knew everyone else. Even if you did not know someone personally, you pretty much knew who lived in each house up every creek and “holler”. We lived so close to Crabtree community we knew most everyone there too. As a kid, summers seemed to last longer, and the heat didn’t seem to bother us so badly. It was nothing for us to stay outside all day long except to come in for a quick bite to eat and we were off and running again. We played in creeks, explored the laurel thickets, climbed up rock cliffs, rode bicycles everywhere we could, built forts, ran on gravel barefoot, scurried up every tree we could climb, fished, hunted squirrels and rabbits, tied June bugs on a string (bet you hadn’t heard of that one), caught “lightning” bugs, searched for night crawlers with a flashlight, made slingshots from a forked stick, shot basketball through an old bicycle rim, picked blackberries and put them in a milk jug, swung on wild grapevines, watched cartoons just on Saturday mornings, drank from the same creeks we played in, got into a few fistfights (and no one called the law), threw rocks at each other for fun, listened to music on 1470 WTOE am station, played in the dirt till we had what Mama called a “rusty necklace” around our neck, walked up to Crabtree Chapel Baptist Church to play softball on the field above the church, flirted with the girls we thought were “purtty”, etc, etc, etc. Whew, I’m bout wore out just writing about it. But you know, there was nothing to do back in those days to hear kids talk today!
My family attended the Estatoe Church of God. My cousin Charles was the pastor. Frank led the choir and played the guitar. Jerry played the bass and you could hear it all the way out to Mammie’s house. We opened the windows in the church during hot weather. The folks would get happy in Jesus, sing with all their heart, shout and praise the Lord with everything in them. Bible school was such an exciting time that all us kids looked forward to. Our teachers taught us lessons using flannel grafts (remember those?). We worked on a craft every night to show to our parents at the end of the week. We all looked forward to the snack time when the ladies would serve us cookies and Kool-aid. On the last night, we had a little commencement service where we sang a few songs and usually had some hamburgers and hotdogs for supper. I was always proud when I got to attend every night and received the gold star on my Bible School Certificate.
Daddy worked for the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation in Morganton and got home from work around 5 each evening. He would sometimes tell us he was going to take us all swimming up Crabtree Creek. The day seemed to drag on forever as we waited for him to get home. We would stand beside him as he ate with towels around our necks, dressed in our cutoff jeans, telling him to hurry and eat so we could leave. Mama would take soap and washcloths so we could bathe in the creek. The water seemed so cold but always refreshed us. After we bathed in the creek, we were literally sparkling clean from all the mica that stuck to our skin. But hey, we smelled like an Irish Spring! We would be so tired from swimming. Mama would make homemade hamburgers in a cast-iron skillet. We would be so hungry and those were the best burgers I ever ate. These burger joints had nothing on Mama’s burgers!
Garden work was a necessary “evil” during the summer. We loved the vegetables from the garden but hated the work involved. Mammie put out a garden every year she could. We would sit on the porch for hours stringing and breaking beans. She would “look” those beans and make sure to cut off every speck with that one certain knife she always used. Sometimes we could hear the train from Penland and it seemed so close. She always said that it was a sign of rain to come when the train was so loud. Sometimes she would send me and my brother Mike over to Gordon Huskin’s pasture to pick some apples he had given her permission to get. Gordon had a bull in the pasture that did not like trespassers in his territory. We would “sic” our dog on the cows to distract the bull so we could make it to the apple trees. Don’t worry, the dog only chased them a little to get the bull’s attention. We would fill our buckets with apples and then make a run for the gate. Sometimes the bull saw us and we had to drop our buckets and run for our lives! Mammie would cut rhubarb from the garden and made rhubarb pie. It was delicious!
You see, our past is filled with memories made with family and friends. Those things that seemed so insignificant then are often the things that we miss the most now. I have found the more I talk about those memories the more memories I remember! Funny how that works. Now some may read these things I’ve written about and think “How silly! What’s the big deal?” Well to me, it makes me realize just how much God has blessed me. In all those memories are people. Family and friends that Jesus placed there to share life with. The time God gives us here is not just about us but also about all those people we get to love along the way. We sometimes fail to realize that as we are living this life we are making memories that will be with us always. The laughter we share, the tears we shed together, the help we give each other along the way, these all matter. Why don’t you slow down a little and take some time to get together with those you love….and remember when?
I’ve got to go…Michelle is making hamburgers!
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.