we would usually hit up the akers’ in-n-out convenience store first thing as we pulled into the tiny town of dougherty. it’s where i was first introduced to moonpies and the stars on tootsie pop wrappers. we’d weave through town and take big canyon road out to the country, and i’d get such a fluttery feeling when we’d round the corner closest to the farm. we’d unlock the cattle guard and roll down the long driveway. the neighbor’s black dog, creatively named blackie, would follow us the entire way and wait impatiently outside of the car door to offer his sloppy kisses.
we were home.
my grandparents’ farm in southeastern oklahoma is where i spent weekends and holidays and summer breaks, where i drove a car for the first time and bottle-fed calves in the early mornings. on our 450 or so acres, we raised beef cattle and hay, and picked pecans from the grove just for us. it wasn’t out of the ordinary for a cow to poke his head in the window of the bathroom as i sat in the tub – or for us to name our most beloved hefers and calves (red and junebug were always my favorites). there was an entire closet filled with games, toys, and books that belonged to our mom and her siblings when they were our ages. when we weren’t engrossed with those novelties, we could be found in the kitchen eating granny’s homemade biscuits off of her beautiful pfaltzgraph dishes. papa would sit at the table and read his newspaper when he wasn’t working outside. he always said that farming was the closest to God anyone could get. and when i think about it really hard, i can remember what his sweet voice sounded like.
that beautiful, maize-colored home was taken from us when i was just five. the house caught fire, and my papa got my granny and aunt out safely. they crawled on their hands and knees down that long, gravel driveway to the neighbor’s home. papa wanted to get one of the vehicles out of the garage, so that he’d have something to take his wife to the doctor and his daughter to dialysis in. he was always thinking of someone other than himself. the smoke and flames were too powerful. i miss him so much.
going to the farm was never the same journey it was before the fire. i picked through the remnants of the house and collected anything i possibly could that the flames didn’t consume – pages from my aunt’s old louis l’amour books, broken bits of granny’s dishes, old medicine jars and pieces of the porcelain tub i sat and talked to the cows in. aunt vivian passed away in 1997, and granny followed two years later. we go to the farm these days to tell stories from the past, pick pecans in the fall, and check on how that beloved piece of land is doing. summers’ thirsty acres – it’s my absolute favorite place in the world.
where is your favorite place?