Just hold your horses, and don't let the title of this blog make you think I'm about to give you a Bible lesson. I'm not. I'll explain later why I use that term, which I think is appropriate in describing this family's little personal paradise in their neck of the woods.
We kids always looked forward to the day when Mother would say, "I want y'all to go to Cousin Callie's house and get me some milk and butter." Now, "Cousin Callie" really wasn't a relative, but we had a custom of calling just about everybody we knew "cousin." And when Mother made that announcement, we knew the trip wasn't for that day either - perhaps the next day or the day after.
Back then, our walking community could be almost five miles, but I don't think this family lived that far. On the morning we were to travel, we'd get up early, eat breakfast and get dressed. Then, Mother would say something like "Now, y'all run along so you can get there early and get back before the sun goes down" - in other words, before it got dark. Anyway, that was all she had to say. Before she got the words out of her mouth good, we'd be on our way. We headed out the back door and onto an uncharted path that led through the thick forest.
To this day, I still can't believe how we kids found our way through those woods and came out right at the neighbor's place (that lived near a creek and) just down the hill from Cousin Callie. I think of our unguarded travel as "inward radar" or now it would be called an "inward GPS system." At any rate, we never got lost.
Now, when we got to the first family's house, we rested on their front porch and chatted for a while. Then, we hurried on up the hill to our much-awaited destination. Cousin Callie would come out, greet and hug us and invite us in. Then, she'd start getting lunch (we called it dinner) ready.
While the lady of the house was busy in the kitchen, we played with her niece, who lived with her. Then, we'd wander into her wild, naturally grown orchards. picking apples, peaches, muscadines and scupadines (wild grapes), pears, figs, persimmons, plums, and pomegranates (which I never saw grow anywhere but on this patch of land). This is also where we got the Chinquapins "chinky pins" and Bull Nettle Nuts. Never saw those anyplace else either.
Now, we're seated at the "banquet table." Boy, did she ever know how to make a spread. I can't even start to tell you what all we ate, but I do remember they had their own cows and chicken. So, we had those big, homemade, buttermilk biscuits and cornbread made with real cow butter. She had fried chicken, peach and blackberry cobbler, collar and turnip greens, and just about anything else you can imagine that country folks could grow or raise we ate at those mealtimes.
That we were treated like royalty is an understatement. and when we were more than stuffed and could barely lift our little, frail bodies up, then we sauntered away from the table - some happy little campers. You know how some people just know how to treat their guest. Well, this lady certainly had the "gift" of hospitality, and some of my fondest memories are of visiting her homestead.
This family's land was abundantly blessed with fruits, nuts and vegetables that I never saw on any body else's land, and this is why I think of their place as "The Garden of Eden." It was amazing how that stretch of earth could have such a vast concentration of so many different fruits and nuts. And now that I think about it, it's possible that, before they bought that parcel, some old homesteader deliberately planted those trees and vines on his place that eventually became Cousin Callie's "good eatin' place." Well, at any rate, however the stuff got there, I'm just glad it was there for our pickin' and eatin'.