Mill Run

There are advantages and disadvantages to small town living.  Having lived in large and small locales, I’ve seen some of them up close and exhausted none of them.  In addition, there are perspectives to be gained from living in different areas of the country but profit from staying put, as well.  As so many things are relative, the age at which you experience a particular clime influences your knowledge and participation.  I often wonder how many of my memories are actual, and how many are things of air at once unverifiable and keenly felt.  The memory plays tricks, and time urges us to recall things as we wish them to be.  Still, truth remains and lives in the minds of the involved.

From the late fifties until the mid-sixties, I lived in a smallish eastern town.  It was largish for the area but would qualify as a smaller place by many (most) current standards.  Such can be fertile grounds for quality living, but they can be cruel, especially to strangers and the disenfranchised.  Children know nothing of the world only where they are living, and I have few lasting regrets from those days.  Most of my remembrances have to do with childish things, and I was blissfully unaware of any lifestyle outside my own.  To me, it was great adventure to venture on foot more than a block or two from home though traipsing through open fields or farmland was not subject to the same measures. 

Not far from Pine Street was an unremarkable stream which, to us children, was quite remarkable, indeed.  Though it was not many yards wide and relatively shallow, to me it was awesome as the mighty Mississip.  We called it the Mill Run.  That may or may not have been its proper name, but it served our interests.  Waters being cradles of life was grasped in a practical sense by neighborhood children long before book learning.  From the Mill Run, we captured crayfish, salamanders, minnows and mollusks.  We put them in jars and displayed them in private museums.  Turtles were harder to come by though snakes were often at water’s edge.  We were not trusted with fishing poles.

My maternal grandparents were sharecroppers.  They lived across what we called a highway from our house on Pine Street.  The Mill Run was on both sides of the great divide.  It was from this vantage point that I fished the creek.  As my father was an avid fisherman, I had been on excursions to many more sophisticated and productive regions even as a child, but there is something special about doing things on your own terms.  Interesting how things we take lightly as adults can be daunting and thrilling to the true youth.  Honestly, I do not remember the first time I made my way to the creek with bait and tackle (such as it was), but I do remember going alone and in consort even after I moved away. 

At the end of the straight way from my grandparent’s house bisecting tobacco barns and past the pigpen were houses for farm workers.  Whole families lived here though the inhabitants were mostly unknown to me.  That is, until one day (while on vacation), I met two of the boys on the sandy path.  From that chance encounter, fishing mates were made though only for that summer.  One morning, my new friends walked to the farmhouse and asked my mother if I could go fishing.  She replied that I did not have a fishing pole, but they responded that I could use one of theirs.  For a few days, we dug worms, baited hooks, caught hand-sized fish and lived as kings.  I wonder if the others think of those days as do I.

While the events of our lives may seem mundane to some, they are not to us and carry significance into eternity.  There are delights to be had in common things and eternal friendships of short temporal duration.  God has given us all things richly to enjoy.  We live from day to day and, before we know it, a lifetime has passed.  Simple moments, activities and treasures are the things we remember in the end and break our hearts in our final days.  Chance encounters may inculcate choice friendships unnoticed by all but the participants.  God has blessings for us in the small things and teaches wonders to our souls in elementary ways.  Don’t allow the purity of the ordinary to be sullied by the bustle of accomplishment.

Sterl

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