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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

TITLE: A Half-Mile, Dusty Road
By Jim McWhinnie


The old place felt mighty empty.

I am not all that sure what I was expecting, but I had not expected this. As I walked down that half-mile, dusty road, I had convinced myself that I was about to pass through a portal in time. I suppose I was expecting to see barefoot brothers and sisters playing freeze tag beneath the five oaks that gave our farm its name. I suppose I was expecting to see Teddy, our collie, chasing the chickens that had strayed from the coop. I know I was looking for the red, Massey-Ferguson tractor, the round milking barn with the green shingle roof, the grey hay barn that also stabled our two Clydesdale horses, Big Ben and Prince. I suppose I couldn’t wait to find some comfort in that two-story farmhouse. I wanted to hear one more time that screen door slamming behind me and to smell that stone mill bread baking in the cast iron oven. I wanted to sit on the hearth of that grey stone fireplace. I wanted to see that blue floral wallpaper that covered my bedroom walls, my bedroom that looked out over the front porch. But most of all, I suppose I was expecting - maybe, I was even needing - to slip back into that time when life was full to the brim with innocent peace.

Then I realized that fifty years is a long time when it comes to one-time farm boys and the farmhouses that they had left behind. What was - well, it was no more. The yesteryear that I hoped I would find, was long gone. The farm that was once so full of life now was full of dust and ghosts and a whole lot of empty.

The barns had lost their reason for living and now were falling down one board at a time. No more work to do.

The chickens had been replaced by a handful of squirrels and a passing flock of starlings. No cows to milk; no horses to ride.

The farmhouse was no more, except for a crumbling foundation of bricks and a rusty pipe here and there. Even the five oaks now were but two, the other three having died away to the seasons of time. Nothing left of those sprawling giants except their decaying stumps, as if tombstones for the now departed old men.

And what of all those brothers and sisters playing tag? They had become doctors and teachers, one, a preacher, and one, a civil engineer. But my guess is that they all still had a soul full of farmhouse memories.

I actually did find that old Massey-Ferguson tractor, a rusty relic I found hiding out in a feral field. I took the time to climb on her once more. And when I closed my eyes, that far part of my life in distant yesterdays came back to me. And as it did, the empty place began to fill up with life once more.

Now and then, I walk down that dusty half-mile and fill my life with that realm from whence I came. And now and then, I walk down that shining path and fill my life with that realm to where I go. It seems like I need them both, more and more with each passing year.

Yes, I do believe that is true. I need them both to keep my present moment, full.

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This article has been read 667 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virgil Youngblood 06/12/09
Memories are the fabric of our lives. Thanks for sharing.
Mona Purvis06/12/09
Hauntingly beautiful! I find myself living this even today. The longing is powerful...and sweet...and sad...and promising. Loved this so very much.
Mona Purvis06/12/09
Hauntingly beautiful! I find myself living this even today. The longing is powerful...and sweet...and sad...and promising. Loved this so very much.
Cindy White06/14/09
What a lovely story, and so well written. Beautiful words put together skillfully. I really enjoyed this, thank you.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/15/09
With wonderful imagery, you presented masterfully a picture of your memories. For me this piece is a "keeper."
Chely Roach06/15/09
Absolutely gorgeous. I loved the line, "Nothing left of those sprawling giants except their decaying stumps, as if tombstones for the now departed old men." Superb.
Eliza Evans 06/15/09
I enjoyed reading this, it's just lovely. Exquisite details...blue floral wallpaper...etc.

Here is a little observation. You use the word 'I' 34 times--20 times in that first paragraph. :)

Is there perhaps a different way to express yourself there?

Keep writing, Jim. Always a blessing to read your thoughts and reminisences.
Connie Dixon06/15/09
Memories are a gift of the past and you described them so well. Wonderful visual descriptions here. I was right there with you, even to the disappointment. Good job!
Lollie Hofer06/15/09
I liked the phrase "a whole lot of empty." Good use of this week's theme. I want my husband to read this because it is reminescent of his childhood as well. He always loves talking about the ol' farm. Your descriptions were rich. Well done!
Bryan Ridenour06/15/09
Loved your descriptions of the memories of old. Wonderful take on the topic. Nicely done.
Patricia Herchenroether06/15/09
This could have been for the Bitter and Sweet topic. hehe. Seriously, this was beautifully written and I feel the same longing, a sort of sadness when I think of my childhood days. Well done.
Mariane Holbrook 06/17/09
This was beautifully done and stirred up some precious memories for me. Don't worry about all the "I" references in your first paragraph. You could shorten it into two or three paragraphs and that wouldn't even be an issue. I loved this entry!
Sonya Leigh06/17/09
As usual, you have gentle, lovely descriptions in your writing, Jim. I really enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

I'm thinking you must have some excellent, specific memories on that farm...would love to see some of those in a plot-structured story sometime.

It's exciting to even think about how great a story any of those memories would make--written in your style and by your hand, of course! You have a rich way with words. Good job! Again.
Sara Harricharan 06/17/09
Loved going down that dusty half-mile trip with you. Great descriptions, kind of a melancholy feel. I liked it.