My father’s past had all but disappeared from this lonely country road in the Appalachians of northern Pennsylvania. It was late August, we had driven here in his new time-machine—a red Buick Skylark—on a daylong excursion through his early years in two rural counties—full of tree covered hills, deep vales, stony creeks, derelict pastures, small deserted stores in little rundown hamlets—where die-hard hill people hung on with a tenacious love of place. My grandfather Clayton tenant farmed on Black Creek Road for three years in the late 1920’s. All that remained many years later were lilac bushes on a steep knoll beside the road; house, barn and outbuildings—long gone. With no place to park along the narrow and curvy route, we didn’t climb the knoll and explore where his large family lived during those times. Perhaps my father could still see its outline against trees and sky, and that of the barn across the road; if so, he kept this to himself. Down Black Creek a mile or so were the remains of a one-room schoolhouse—now a stone foundation filled with rotting wood, leaves, and rusting pieces of metal. A memory of wintergreen covering the ground near the school could not be verified with any present sight. The sound of children playing, until a bell called them in, was so long ago, it had finally faded away—escaping through the hills and valleys until not even my father’s memory could capture it. My father’s older brother John, a person with a rebellious and wild nature, beat-up the young male school teacher for supposedly ‘picking on’ his younger brothers. He then recalled one winter evening when he and my Uncle Gene were late coming home from school after playing in the frozen creek. Clayton met them in the barnyard—rather annoyed at missing their evening chores. It was not a happy homecoming for two boys who once lived on Black Creek Road.
Poem By T.P. Bird
T.P. Bird has published in a number of lit journals, and has published a chapbook, ‘Scenes and Speculations’ (Finishing Line Press), a collection, ‘Mystery and Imperfection’ (Kelsay Books), He also has a collection, ‘Somewhere Beyond the Body’ (Wipf & Stock) forthcoming. Retired from Industrial drafting/design and pastoral ministry, he lives with his wife Sally in Lexington, KY.