The old house is still standing, though the paint is cracked and dry.... -Green, Green Grass of Home
I find myself an increasing rarity among friends and family: one who remembers living in a house without indoor plumbing.
The Old House, formerly a shotgun house, perched on the crest of a razorback ridge cutting across Highway 1 in the otherwise flat delta farmland of Phillips County.
I say "formerly" because a bedroom had been added to each side of the front room facing the highway, making the shape of a "T."
In 1959, with my brother Rodney on the way, Dad added an extra bedroom on the north side of the house, and (glory of glories!) a bathroom!
We lived there until my senior year in high school when, in one of those odd bits of trading country folk do (involving farmland and tractors), we moved across the highway into a two year-old brick ranch-style house.
I was gone from there in less than two years, so my memories center mostly on the old house, with its tractor shed and cow barn.
My younger sister and little brother were conceived there and brought home to there after they were born.
A giant willow stood a few strides from the back porch, providing a wide shady area under which to play in the summer, and long, supple switches for disobedient children year-round.
The cow barn also doubled as a chicken coop and I learned that there is an art to removing eggs from the nests of bantam hens, if one desires to remain unflogged by tiny but fierce wings.
My behind got left behind in one of the side rooms of the tall tin-roofed tractor shed. More about that another time.
I hoed cotton in the fields surrounding the house and taught my sisters to sing three part harmony.
Even after I had grown and gone away, I returned there.
Three of my four children were conceived there.
And once, when my mother objected (and rightly so) to my living there with a woman to whom I was not married, my dad said, "Nobody's gonna tell my boy he can't come home."
I live in a place that I have called home for twenty or more years; in a house, my home for thirteen of those years.
My youngest still returns there to check on the Old Man. With a fussiness which I find amusing, but also precious.
She cried recently when I took a tumble over a garden hose, dumping just-off-the-grill hamburgers onto the concrete driveway.
I cursed, then laughed, then invoked the five second rule.
The Old House now exists only in memory, being in the process of decay and collapse way back in '85 when Joyce and Sandy began to live with me.
But the memories are vivid and constant and I think of them whenever my mind wanders back to that long-ago home.