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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)

TITLE: Wash My Eyes With Tears
By Mona Purvis


Mitchell Mathis lugged around his mother's biscuits in a crumpled brown paper bag until he had eaten every last one. I never saw him share them with his sister and brothers or for that matter his dog, Trapper, his incessant companion. We didn't think it odd.

Those were simpler times when a summer day stretched into infinity. Our young lives were filled with riding bikes, climbing trees, wading in the creek, walking on barrels and homemade stilts, playing baseball, and picking blackberries and wild plums. Every day we would hike the mile to Bruce's Store, scouting the ditches for dirty soda bottles to redeem for Mallo Cups and RC Colas.

Our breakfasts of grits, fatback gravy, farm eggs and biscuits provided us with loads of energy which we spent with wild abandon. It wasn't until after the sun was high in the sky for hours that our empty stomachs cried out for satisfaction loudly enough for us to cease our play and seek out lunch.

It was at these times, these sweet uncomplicated times, we would all gather at the cross ties.

At the border between our property and that of Teri, Lanny, Ricky and Mitchell Mathis, an enormous pile of well-weathered railroad cross ties held sentry. No one seemed to remember how they got there. They had been there when we moved into the old farm house on Bearden Rd. and from the look of their condition for many years prior.

It was at this pile of cross ties under the shade of a gnarled ancient oak that we gathered together to share lunch on those long summer school-free days. Uncomplicated lunches of tomato sandwiches, fried potatoes, Kool Aid, peaches and watermelon. Sometimes, Mrs. Mathis would make peanut butter saltine crackers for us. We never worried much about who brought what to our table-of-sorts. Life was good, the sun was warm, the tire swing strong, June bugs and fireflies plentiful.

Rafe Goins would join our fine assembly when his pa thought he had plowed Bessie as long as her old bones could hold up to. Rafe was colored; we would never have even considered calling him black in those days. People were white or colored and it didn't make much difference the degree of the hue.

Rafe went to Lincoln School and we went to Roebuck School so we didn't see a lot of him during school days even though he lived just beyond our pasture. But, we made up for it on those wonderful summer days. Rafe would bring his lunchtime contribution and offer it proudly, usually a Mason jar of buttermilk and some cracklin' cornbread. It was well known his ma made the best cornbread in the county. That boy could laugh the loudest of anyone I ever heard and if I think on it even now I can hear him in my mind. It's a good memory.

Years have passed. The old farmhouse has long since been torn down and replaced with a row of duplexes. There's nothing remaining of those stout old cross ties, removed long ago by some land developer who had no idea he was un-setting our table. The ancient old oak and our tire swing is now just a memory. One that makes me smile.

Time passed and in its passing we were each pushed farther and farther away from our communion table. Mitchell teaches school, Teri raised a fine family, Ricky and Lanny opened a Buick dealership. I often wondered over the years whatever became of Rafe, no one seems to know. Someone said he was drafted into the army and he never made it back from Vietnam. I hope that's not the case. The world is cheated to not share in his laughter.

Somehow, we've forgotten or misplaced some precious elements of life. Maybe, they've been stolen. I don't know. But, I do know of a simpler time, a time when accepting what a person brought to the table went without question or judgment.

I've dined with some fancy people and in some fancy places and my palate has developed to appreciate things gourmet. But, nothing compares with those carefree days. Days when buttermilk and cracklin' cornbread were as eagerly consumed as the finest morsels set before a king. And laughter pure enough to wash my eyes with tears.

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This article has been read 427 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lillian Rhoades 07/12/12
Remembering the good times makes for a pleasant journey down Memory Lane.

I think your second paragraph would have been a better introduction to the story. Just an opinion, but your first paragraph would fit well in the sixth paragraph where you describe gathering together for lunch.

You told a great story, but it needed a little more "show." Ex. Describe Rafe's loud laughter...compare it to...did he throw back his head? Did it echo through the pasture?...

So glad you wrote a story about a time with which many identify - including me.:-)
C D Swanson 07/13/12
You managed to bring me back to simple days of yesteryear...and you brought tears to my eyes in recall.

Although your story is "cleary takes place in the South" aside from your breakfast differing a little from breakfast here in the East...I totally related to this whole well written and beautifully executed story.

I too hope Rafe is well...and thank you for this story. I was touched and it made my heart smile and cry at once.

God Bless~

Ellen Carr 07/14/12
Beautifully written. I really enjoyed your reminiscing story.
Dolores Stohler07/15/12
I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane with you. Of course, my memories are different from yours but there were tears in my eyes as I read your story and recalled the carefree days of my own youth growing up in a small town. Thank you so much. It was a good read.
Jody Day 07/16/12
Great memories. I thought the first paragraph was a foreshadow of some event to be described but didn't happen.

Nicely done. Made me wish I was there with you.
Noel Mitaxa 07/18/12
Warm memories of simpler times thaat you have captured so beautifully here. Well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/18/12
This is lovely. I thank you for taking me with you on this journey into your memories. it's important that these stories get passed on to generation after generation lest we forget. You handled the topic in a fresh and powerful way.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/23/12
Congratulations on ranking 1 in Masters and 14 overall!