I was born off the beaten path back in 1981. Yes, I was born in a hospital, but then I was taken home to an old log cabin that had been built by my family all the way back to the 1700s. It stayed in liveable shape until more recent years and it is now fallen and gone from time. I’ve always been in touch with my roots, my ancestors. Family was everything once upon a time. I am the last of the wildlings. Passing down some of my wildling to my children, though the world and life they know couldn’t be more different. The call of the outdoors resides deeply in their genes.
I suppose the Hollar as we called it was claimed by my family as they first settled here, if not then darn near close to it. The cabin had a big room, a kitchen, and a big loft upstairs. I lived there as a baby and again when I was around the age of 3 I do have some memories of it from the age of 3. Later, we lived in an old farmhouse back on the land for just over a year. We had no running water at that time. We carried spring water up to the house by gallon jugs, rain, snow, or shine, and yes us kids did it. We loved it. It was easily a mile each way. We carried our water from the creek next to the house to bathe in, boiled upon the stovetop. At least we did have electricity.
We didn’t have any television stations except for maybe one that the old antenna brought in. Some think we were poor but we were blessed beyond measure. We still say without hesitation that it was some of the best years of our lives. We were free to roam acres upon acres of land, mountainsides and we did often only going home to eat or returning just before dark. The road was rough with big rocks and it made riding our bikes all the more fun. We were wildlings, left to our own devices being one with nature and our imaginations.
My brother and I started baking from scratch using old recipe books, cakes, and cookies, it was fun and delicious. We spent many mornings doing our daily routine running from one of the old mean bulls, he chased us feverishly and relentlessly every single morning on our 2-mile walk to the bus stop. Lucky for us he was quite the fat beast and had pitiful endurance that always waivered just as we reached the cattle guards. Occasionally we did a little dance with the other cattle on the way back in from school. The cows were more of the sweeter-natured ones. So much soul in those big beautiful eyes.
We often caught salamanders, and crawfish from the creeks, they were quick and a challenge and we always let them loose as soon we had them in hand. We played in creeks, ran through the mud, played in the rain. We grew to know the lay of the land like the back of our hands, discovering old forgotten family graveyards tucked inside the woods. Yes, I had many experiences there with spirit. It was land rich with history and secrets and life.
We spent many Summers and times in between there even when we weren’t living there. It was a huge part of my childhood. Watching and gathering with family as they harvested their cane in the heat of summer and began the long process of turning it into molasses. We had family gardens and would go regularly after it was planted to keep it up and maintain it. I grew up on fresh food and fresh water. I have countless and rich memories of this place. What an amazing experience and how it helped to shape us, children. Imagination intact and carefree to the fullest extent of that definition, most can’t claim that kind of childhood.
We ran barefoot the entirety of Summer. Not from lack of shoes but just pure preference. We were so connected and grounded with the land and had no clue. We built small dammed areas in the creek for the hottest part of Summer a reverse sauna, cool refreshing water bubbling and flowing as we sat chest-deep. We gathered wild berries when we were off and about having been taught which ones were safe to nibble on. Wild black cherry trees loaded down with the most delicious cherries I have ever eaten. Nuts and berries convenient and filling snacks and mountain springs for when we were thirsty in the heat. We had it made. We became intuitively resourceful with the freedom and countless hours spent making the most of our days. We were never bored with the exception of bad weather days when we had to stay inside, it felt like pure torture to us. Please can we just go in the yard? Fields full of giggles and played out imaginary scenarios. What a sight to see, what a sound to hear, and what a shame our children don’t know the same.