There surely must be a saying somewhere that goes, “You can take the country girl out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the girl.” I have lived in a foreign country, our 50th state, several places in the continental United States, but South Central Alabama will always claim my heart.
Going home to touch my roots has always reinvigorated my spirit. In 1970 my soldier husband, two small children and I moved to Fort Benning, Georgia from his previous duty station in Hawaii. This is approximately two hours from my family in Alabama. After the divorce, my children and I remained in Columbus, which is adjacent to Fort Benning. At that time it was the 2nd largest city in Georgia. Not only did we visit my parents, but other relatives as well. One relative was my Uncle Walter Roper, my daddy’s older brother. I shall never forget my uncle and his sprawling farm located near Fort Deposit, Alabama just off the 31 Highway.
As soon as we arrived at Uncle Walter’s house, I set out to explore his woods. He raised cattle and had a sizeable farm. He also had peach, pear, and pecan orchards which produced high yields annually. My trek usually would take me all the way to the creek that flowed through his property. That was always a place for me to relax and contemplate any problems besieging me at the time.
Many, many years have passed since this time. The wonderful connection with this land has not been lost. My uncle’s granddaughter Viola Roper Sellers and I have become inseparable. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama. I usually stop and pick her up so we can visit the land among other areas we might decide to explore.
One memorable Fall Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago, she showed me something I consider a primal slice of time. We decided to drive down the dirt road to visit her grandfather’s old home place. The house is no longer there and with the exception of some acreage she and her brother own, the land is no longer in the family. We passed a pond that I assumed belonged to Uncle Walt. She told me that was not the pond he had dug. She said that his pond could not be seen from the road. She showed where to stop. We disembarked and walked a short distance into the wooded area. We climbed a slight embankment. What we saw was an amazing sight. It was a hidden pond. I know many of the locals must know it is in there, but no one who just happened to drive along the dirt road would know of its location or existence. Cousin said that she and her mother once fished there when she was a little girl. As quiet as we tried to be we still managed to disturb water fowl nesting in the trees across the water. The birds flew off making an awful racket of protest. We stood transfixed. I wanted to write a poem. I searched for words to describe my feelings. The place was enchanting. It was a unitive moment – a time when we humans can feel at one with the universe.
To visit the hidden pond has become an annual journey. My cousin could not have known what this revelation would mean to me. It is a gift I shall forever cherish.