Monday, August 1, 2011

We took a trip to Tennessee:

G finds fossils

A tiny, insignificant spot called McKinnon, Tennessee to be exact.  Located in McKinnon, or just above it on the ridge you will find 107 acres of heritage. My heritage to be exact, which passes onto my grandchildren G and F.  I am certain that I cannot find the words to tell this entire story but I will attempt it anyway.

We got on the road on Monday morning and met up with some cousins at a motel in Erin, TN.  By 3pm we were at the family cemetery. Wait a moment, I must back up first in order to better reveal why being at the cemetery was a moment worthy of memories.

We met with Lisa and her son Kade.  I met them two years ago for the first time. Lisa would be my second cousin, once removed and Kade her change of life child. They are from the Detroit area and as a child Lisa would travel to Clarksville, TN to visit the "other" side of the family. But she never came to the Mathis side. You see, her mother left the area after the death of  Rosa Mai. Rosa Mai was my grandfather's sister.  Without a lot of detail let me just say that this family lived life as hard as one could ever imagine. They were extreme in many ways and there are many family tragedy stories in their past.  So Lisa's mother, named Rose did not return to the Mathis homestead.   She was only 14 when she left and traveled to Detroit area.  It seems that many left the area and either went toward Detroit, MI or to Granite City, IL; both cities with iron or steel industry which had been a large part of the McKinnon, TN experience.

Back to the cemetery:   So there she was. Elderly, gray and unsteady on her feet making her way through the terrain and looking upon her grandparents headstone for the first time in her life.  Her memories a bit sketchy overall as she was raised in Clarksville and had only come once each year for a week when her father had vacation form work. She recalls a small cemetery but of course it only had a few graves present.  She had two Aunts and several babies there when she was a child. Since then it has of course filled more.  My grandparents rest there as well.  She had never thought this was something she would ever see.

From the cemetery we went down ridge/hill to the creek.  To reach the homestead you had to actually ford the creek. Once again with the assistance of  Lisa, Rose made her way to the creek. We placed a chair in the cold spring feed creek and Rose sat with joy as the cold water rushed across her feet and ankles. The water remains crystal clear as it flows across the red river rock, the "Dover limestone"  and the many fossils found as well.  Rose was very quiet about the experience but you could see in her aging blue eyes the moments of reflection into her past. She looked off into the far distance with a peace upon her face that can only be seen to understand. 

After hours of play in the creek we headed back to the motel. Rose was exhausted and Lisa and I were concerned that she had done too much. But Rose was a go-getter and kept telling us to stop worrying about her. This trip was important to Rose, he spouse of 66yrs has just passed and she wanted to get to Tennessee before she passes too. Funny thing about "old age", you have a direct, realistic view of life and how precious the moment is.

The next day we actually made it onto the homestead (living quarters) location. You can no longer ford the creek to get into it as a tornado came through years ago several very large trees now block that access. But there is an old wagon trail way that we called the back way in. You travel along the base of the ridge and cross one small stream from the many springs the feed the creek. We needed the four wheel truck for this. When we reached the clearing Rose could only see the space where it all once stood.  The original well is still there and the rubble from the chimney is all that remains.  I drove her to the spot that the old root cellar was at and parked there. When I told her we were right where the root cellar was she had some reference to it all.  So we took a chair to a location that would have been the porch and she looked upon the ridges. She recalled the barn that was there for a while when I was young and other structures that were never there when I was a child.  Once again she sat back in her chair with reflection of past in her eyes. She told me how they use to take the train from Clarksville and would be picked up by a mule and travel on the buckboard to Granny's place. They would ford the creek on the buckboard. She recalls the long narrow table in the screened  room and that others would stand behind them during the meal swinging sticks above them to keep the flies away. I do not recall any sheep on the farm but I was there after 1961 and she was there in 1930, she says they would slaughter a lamb for the occasion of a visit and have a wonderful feast.  This was the one week every year she looked forward to. He mother was a nurse and her father was a grocer.  My own mother recalls Rosa Mai coming to give the kids their shots each year.
We also spent the day at the creek the second day, my sister and her daughter joined us. My niece lives only about one hour away and my sister was taking holiday for the week at her home.  It ended up that my sister stayed one night with us and went to the 1850's farm located on the LBL area (land between the lakes). It was a hot day so a bit hard to enjoy since we got a late start of things but enjoyable anyway.  As a homeschooler you find that everything you do tends to have a lesson in it.  That was no different in this trip. There were lessons about family heritage, "pig iron" blast furnaces made of limestone and eventually, a farm of the 1850's.  They had already spent the day on our homestead so we could use our imagination and put this typical working farm in our holler and suddenly you have a realistic lesson.

We do  intend to return for a regular field trip in the fall. Kelley will not be able to participate but I am sure I can find other co-op friends who would take the trip. Also in that area is Fort Donnelson, where a grandparent lost his life in a Civil War battle.

On the last day of our trip we said out good-byes to Rose and family at the motel. We then went to the creek near the spring and played until it was time to hit the road and return home. It is only 232 miles away and an easy trip. If gas prices were not so high we could enjoy this more often. OH yes, the spring is a spot that comes from a rock under a large old tree. Many years ago my grandfather put a pipe in the crack of the rock and the water has been flowing every since then.  This was the only running water my mother ever knew for many years as well. They went to the spring to gather the water for the home then carried it back, UP HILL when the buckets were full.

So as a cute gesture G wanted to do the same She filled a 6 oz cup with spring water and walked all the way up the hill to the location of my mother's childhood home.
Here are some photos of our experience, including the walk up hill with a glass of water. LOL--
F plays with niece's dog

coming back downstream

f dresses a pioneer

g dresses a pioneer


kitchen as I recall it at my great grandmother's at Tennessee


G and F meet Rose

There is a spring at the bottom of this hill and the girls are carrying a glass of water up the hill like their Gram had to when she was little.  HAHA  next time they should try two full buckets.