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|She never saw the river|
Editor's Note: The following column first ran on Nov. 9, 2006.
We were all sitting on the front porch of my Granddaddy and Grandmother Payne's house. The front porch was the favorite gathering place after we had finished supper.
The night was not complete without some good conversation out on the porch. We had been talking about the Mississippi River.
The Payne family had migrated from Philadelphia, Miss., to Crowville, in the early 1900s. During the conversation about the Mississippi River, Grandmother spoke up and said that she had never seen the Mississippi River.
Everyone was mystified by her statement because she and Granddaddy had crossed over the river many times when they traveled from Crowville to Philadelphia and back on family visits.
Granddaddy spoke up and said, "Momma, what do you mean that you have never seen the Mississippi River? You have been with me many times when we crossed the Mississippi."
"Yea, Poppa. But you were driving and I never looked at the river because I was afraid you would look, too."
How many of you are old enough to remember that old bridge at Vicksburg? It was a scary time when you were crossing that narrow bridge with lanes that were only wide enough for old Model T Fords. The highway was so small that if you did take your eyes off the road for just a second, you did have a very good chance of running into another car, or as Grandmother thought, into the river.
But there was nothing any scarier than crossing that bridge at the same time a train was crossing. The railroad tracks were right there beside you. It reminded me of the times when we rode Shetland ponies at my Granddaddy Beck's cattle farm during a cattle roundup.
When I road by those cows, I was looking up at their bellies. That was about the same feeling that I got when our car was next to a train that was crossing the Mississippi River Bridge.
I was looking up at the bellies of all the box cars. They looked big and they looked close. Too close. Especially to a little boy.
As I stated earlier, the Vicksburg bridge was built for the old T-models. The newer and bigger automobiles of the fifties caused a tight squeeze. I was like my grandmother. I did not enjoy crossing that bridge, either.
There are so many stories that we can share that we heard while visiting our grandmother and granddaddy. Grandparents' houses have always appealed to the grandkids. I am sure that if you ask people where one of their favorite places was during their childhood, they would say grandmother and granddaddy's. Grandkids never ran out of things to do in the country.
Usually when we went to Crowville, all my daddy's brothers and sisters and their families would come over. We would always have a huge dinner with some of the best cooking this country has ever known. The conversations during the meals were as good as all the food.
After lunch, everybody grabbed a chair and moved the visiting out under the big oak tree. I remember those big roots that reached out and gave that big old tree a solid foundation to help withstand storms.
The roots of that big tree are so much like the roots that reach out from our own family tree. That root system is the key toward the strength of the foundation of every family.
I will always cherish that big oak tree and what it represents, but I still wonder if Grandmother ever saw the Mississippi River.
Robert Charles Payne is an inspirational writer who lives in West Monroe. He can be contacted by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.