We were getting ready to move to California. Dad had gone first, to find us a place to live as well as a job. We wanted to see the old home place one last time before we left, and visit relatives up there. We knew we’d probably never see them again.
The Mountain was one of the original sections homesteaded in WV by our family. I had been up there once, that I remember. I was a very small child, though I remember bits and pieces of it fairly well.
I remember looking for Aunt Annie’s hat. She was dressed in black with full skirts. Her gray hair was frizzing out around a bun, and she was old. Very old. I figured, as any cognizant three year old might, that she was a witch. Hence, I wanted to see her in the proper head gear.
Mom sent me out to the pump to wash my hands for lunch. Dad and all the other guys were doing the same. I don’t remember what prompted me to ask him about Aunt Annie’s hat, but I do remember telling him why I thought she’d have one. “Well, she’s a witch, isn’t she?” All of the males of the family laughed loudly. I’m guessing she had a reputation…
The hike up to the home place was on a zigzag type road. Originally, it had been a corduroy road. That means it was sort of paved with logs, to keep the road from sliding and to make it easier on wagons, etc. That had all fallen to ruin. There wasn’t even evidence of bark on it.
It was very early in the morning, and it was late in September. The spider webs had crystals of dew on them. There were no sounds, except that which we made, though I’m sure the forest around us was full of wildlife. We made too much racket, so they just laid low.
The eeriest part of this climb was the fog. It hung in the trees, and swirled around our feet in places. It was like looking through hazy glass. Nothing seemed real. It felt like a time out of time, and to a degree, I guess it was.
When we got to the top, I began to understand why some of my relatives were not happy. The old home place had been abandoned, and it was falling down. The area was now a fenced off pasture, with cows grazing on what was probably once a lawn. To a degree, it was devastating to see.
This is where I made a promise to myself. I suspect it’s also where I took that final step into adulthood. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to save this home place, but I promised myself I would build a new one.
It has been thirty years since I made that promise. We’ve made the first step towards keeping it. We now have some property in the right area to build. In fact, we know where that family’s original house stood, and may use the same site. The first step has been taken.