The first day of my “Creative Writing” class, we were asked to write a story about an all expense paid trip with our favorite person. Those who had been in the class for awhile chose famous people who they admired. Now, I can not think of anyone I admire more than my father. Every summer, dad would load us, four kids and mom, in the old Studebaker and away we would go on some great adventure. We never knew just where we were going, but somehow we always ended up on this dusty red clay road that led back to my father’s roots. So, on my “Creative Writing” trip, I decided it would be fun to invite my Tennessee cousins, all eight of them, plus my sisters and me, to go back in time when Jordan Springs, Montgomery County, Tennessee was more than part of Fort Campbell.

The appointed time had finally arrived when we would all gather at Jordan Springs, Montgomery County, Tennessee. Frances Lorene, Royce Mitchell, Sara Kathryn, Martha Lou, and Nora Jean didn’t have far to travel as they had all remained in Tennessee, but Charlie Millard, Dora Mae and Horace Edward had quite a ways to go, as did the three sisters.

Distance didn’t put a damper on our spirits as it had been years since we had all been together. Taking a journey into the past was like a fresh bouquet of Floribundas waiting to open in full glory.

I can remember as a child, the excitement I felt in the pit of my stomach as we rounded the last turn on our long journey. The homestead would peek through the tall corn stalks and at last the split oak fence would beckon us to enter. Giant Oak trees, where locusts would orchestrate their music, and sprawling Maples stood as sentries guarding the old clapboard place, which was actually a three-room wooden shack, but as a kid growing up, it was the most exciting place on earth.

Grandma welcomed us in her faded gray checked cotton long-sleeved dress. It reached down to her cotton stockings and black leather slippers. A crisp white apron with a great big patch pocket, which held a tattered handkerchief, covered half her small body, and a crocheted shawl covered her shoulders. She made a great game for us grandchildren, coaxing us ever so slowly into the comforts of her home.

The front room was sparsely furnished with just the bare necessities: a big feather bed, two hickory-splint-seat rocking chairs and a daybed. There was a fireplace and kerosene lamps to work or read by. The youngest of the family slept on the daybed until graduating to the dormitory and where Grandma could tend the young one, if needed. The older children had a room all to themselves and in the cold of winter could snuggle down in their iron stead beds filled with straw mattresses overlaid with downy-like feather beds and handmade quilts.

The hand-hewn table, selected from a stand of trees on the northwest property line, ran the length of the eating room. I can still conjure up the aromas coming from the woodstove in the back of the house. There were always hot biscuits on the table and plenty of fresh churned butter and country fried ham.

The mule-eared, rush-woven-seat chairs leaned up against the table, waiting for the family to gather for a prayer before devouring the sumptuous feast. If there were more people than seats, then they ate in shifts, the menfolk first, of course. A pine pie safe with punched-design tin panels in the doors, sat in the corner. It held the goodies of the day for us kids to nibble on at will. The trouble was the mice had gnawed a hole up behind one of the legs of this grand old piece and gobbled up our yummy morsels quicker than we could. Uncle Tom, however, put a stop to that by stuffing pieces of tin up in the holes. That same pie safe sits in my dining room today, but am sorry to say it holds no hot biscuits or country-fried ham, just my collection of treasures acquired over the years.

There were chickens roaming free in the back yard. The smokehouse, where the hams were cured and where we had our Saturday night bath, was near the open fire which held a huge iron pot where work clothes were forced to give up the remaining stains of the red clay. Close by was the deep well where we’d dip a bucket in the vast hole and to our great surprise, bring up fresh cool water.

To the back side of the place was the footpath to the outhouse. The smell of the wild flowers drowned out any unpleasant odors and yes, it was a two-seater, but I never asked anyone to join me. The pig pen was in the same vicinity, and you could hear those curly-tailed rascals squeal at one another as they fought over the scraps from the table.

Grandfather Terry arose every morning at 5:00 AM, and he believed if he were up then everybody in the house should be up, too. That didn’t go over too great with my mom. She had been brought to this God- forsaken nowhere land of no indoor conveniences and left for the next six weeks to manage best she could, with four children, one in diapers. The following year dad arranged to have a room added on, with a separate entrance and peace reigned over the balance of our summers.

On the dusty red clay road into beautiful downtown Jordan Springs, my father’s siblings had settled on farms of their own, married, and raised families. Aunt Alice, the baby of the family, Uncle Ben and daughter Frances Lorene lived within a stones-throw of the homestead, but the rest of them had moved on down the dusty road. The Key family lived next door (when I say next door, I mean about a mile or so down the dusty road) and produced a fine young man by the name of Buford. He was my first love. I learned to blush when the kids teased me about him. Then Uncle Mack and Aunt Nora and their daughters, Martha Lou and Nora Jean were just beyond Pleasant Hill Road. At the bend of the road lived the St. Johns family. They were not kin, but we had some really good times with their two youngest kids, Mary Jo and Billy. Aunt Murtha and Uncle Genie came next with their two young ones, Horace Edward and Sara Kathryn. Last but not least Uncle Henry and Aunt Ellie lived with the largest brood; Dorothy Marie, Charlie Millard, Dora Mae, and Royce Mitchell.

“Downtown” Jordan Springs consisted of two general stores and a wooden footbridge over the springs itself. One store was run by Uncle Tandy, my grandmother’s brother, and the other was run by Uncle Albert, also my grandmother’s brother. I suppose everyone in Jordan Springs, were related, or at least it seemed that way.

Horace Edward, my sister, Eleanor Lorraine and I would purchase our cheese and crackers and a small sack of tobacco and go out on the footbridge and smoke and eat and talk. Sometimes we would wade down in the cool water of Jordan Springs and linger there until the sun laid long shadows on the dusty red clay road.

As I look back on those wonderful summers I always felt very special there, very loved and very safe. Those trips were probably the most meaningful of my life. To have such a wonderful big family who loved and accepted you no matter what, was very comforting and important to a young girl on the threshold of womanhood.

It is not possible to show my children or grandchildren the wonders of the dusty red clay road that led down to Jordan Springs, Montgomery County, Tennessee. On July 16, 1941, the United States Army selected 105,000 acres of that land by right of eminent domain and turned it into Fort Campbell.

And so, the children’s paradise would be no more—but I do have my memories, which pour out of me like a rusty old pump that has been primed ready.

To download a song (saved as an MP3) about Jordan Springs click here:

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