The House on the Hill
The state of Oklahoma is known for its frigid winters and December 1968 is no exception.
I anticipate seeing the old farmhouse again. Memories of a little boy six years of age in the same mind of a young man of 23 lures me back, even though the house is no longer occupied by my grandparents. Those memories have affected me. The love, hard work, and family ties in the house effectively shaped my mind on what matters in life.
As I drive up the winding dirt road, I can see the house in the distance. It looks lonely and cold. The windshield wipers swoosh away the windblown snow. The house looks like a portrait in my windshield. The memories rush in.
I get out of my car and step backward as I wipe the melting snowflakes from my eyes. I’m overdue for this, I thought as I approach the house.
The steps are strong but graying with the traces of times impressions on every board. The top of the deck and railings which wrap around the entire front porch holds the falling snow. The rod iron bench is still there waiting to welcome someone. I remember sitting there with my grandparents talking about their hopes and dreams for the farm. I wanted to be a part of those dreams but life took me away. And I suppose that is what draws me back.
The screen to the front door still shrieks when I open it. I anticipate opening the door to an empty house. Each room, painted pale with time, project traces where pictures once hung. I didn’t expect to hear unclear whispers coming from behind the walls. Who is trying to tell me something? The voices come in stronger and distinctly and then reminds me to whom they’re addressing. I guess memories have voices too, endearing and comforting.
I enter the room I hold closest to my heart, my old room. It seems so much smaller than I remember but I guess my world was smaller back then except the view out the window is as large and beautiful as I remember.
The promise of winter already covers the land like a silken silvery blanket. As I look out the window, I can see the once bright red barn towering over the property. My boyhood lookout is high in the loft where I kept watch on the horses and cattle and hoping to get a glimpse of a coyote or the mighty black bear. The window is just a foretaste of the property and I am must go out back. As I step out on the back porch gazing out over the land, the pageantry of its beauty is breathtaking.
The 525 acres are stippled with white oak, red maple, elm, and redbud trees. My favorite is the white oak because their blue-green, lobed leaves become burgundy in autumn and remain on the trees over the winter. And their straight trunks reach high in the sky in majestic fashion. My grandmother’s favorite is the redbud, a much smaller tree that parades bright pinkish-red flowers at the first sign of spring.
Several song birds are resting among four oak trees while piping their winter songs, each taking their turn in composed concert. Their plumage displays a variety of brilliant dyes and I wish I were an artist to capture their poetical presence on canvas.
In the distance, the Ouachita Mountains appear as a blur, e.g., its peaks are hazy and the range lines seem to fade away. I squint my eyes to enable me to see farther and more clear through the shield of gray snow clouds. The more I squint the further I am able to visualize this beautiful mountain. The mountains run east and west, an oddity, since most mountains run north and south.
The mountains were original home to the Ouachita Tribe, according to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the name comes from the French transliteration of the Caddo word Washita, meaning “good hunting grounds.”
Bison and elk once found habitat in the Ouachita Mountains, but since been extirpated. The elusive black bear still roams the mountains. Today, you can find an abundance of white-tailed deer, coyote, and other common temperate forest animals.
I can hear the tales of yesteryear drumming in my mind, the ceremonial cadences are strikingly beautiful, sending chills up my spine.
Days end is approaching as the clouds and snow hides the dewy dim that begins to blanket the earth. Silence fills the air until night birds begin singing their solemn hymns but I can still hear the snowflakes falling, resting on the grounds and back porch. I cannot imagine a greater gift given me than the love of my grandparents. And I shall keep them safely tucked away in my heart and soul.
I walk away knowing that this time I will return in a few days to stay.
I love you Samantha and George.