[dropcap]S[/dropcap]omewhere in Alabama—yesterday, I drove past big round bales of fescue and alfalfa, fragrant enough to make you short of breath. I pulled over just to look at them. When I realized what I was doing, I felt foolish.

Where I grew up, if you peeked out my bedroom window, you’d see dozens of alfalfa bales dotting the pasture. Like sleeping creatures. And on our north side sat two ponds, where you could terrorize all the bass and bream you’d ever want—releasing big ones, keeping the small.

Everyone’s dogs ate table scraps. They slept outside, often beneath porches, and had lots of puppies. And with each litter, you sold some; kept a few. That’s because the smell of a newborn puppy is something difficult to part with.

I’ll bet heaven has a whole wing dedicated to newborn puppies.

In these quiet sections of the world, gravel roads form an interlocking network, weaving through hidden places. Just off these roads are the houses we grew up in. Mine was a faded gray thing, five-thousand feet off the road.

I saw my old house a few years ago. Someone painted it yellow, ripped the kitchen out, and added a sunroom. They rebuilt the barn, tore down the chicken coop, the goat pen, and built a deck over Mama’s old garden. There aren’t any bales of alfalfa anywhere.

They couldn’t have chosen an uglier shade of yellow.

The creek still looks the same. In my mind’s eye, it remains as big as the Mississippi river; in reality, it’s the size of a single-lane road. A lot of things happened around that creek. There’s a big rock down there where I sat for a whole day after Daddy passed, feeling sorry for myself.


I almost didn’t write any of this, because there’s nothing remarkable about it. In fact, for many years I wasn’t especially fond of my own life. But the older I get, the more I’d like to remember it, no matter how common.

At times, I’ve tried to forget things, hoping to make myself into something new. That my sad memories would dry up like a bad rash. It doesn’t work that way. Maybe you understand what I mean.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to be ashamed of the life-story God gave you, only to find out it’s the strongest wrench in your toolbox.

I’m not ashamed anymore.

And I love those round alfalfa bales.


  1. Trina - May 1, 2016 3:57 pm

    Yes, many of us understand completely! Age brings us the wisdom to truly value what is important and there is nothing more important than our roots.

  2. Jack Helser - May 1, 2016 4:40 pm

    Practically everything has been changed in my childhood home; I recognized only a light fixture and knotty pine broom closet in the utility room that my dad made. One thing remains that inspires wonder, the grape vine my parents planted has grown large over a new trellis.

    In your childhood home, the creek remains – source of life that it is – living water. In mine, the good seed we planted and God has made flourish. Life and fruit remains. The other stuff we built and cherished, the works of men, gone.

    It did bring joy to my heart to see in my old bedroom, a guitar on a stand where I had kept one and in the family room, stood a piano where mom had played hers. Makes one wonder if a bit of our spirits live on there?

    I also wonder if the kid can play Stairway to Heaven? The drive belt on my sister’s record player was sacrificed to make a phrase trainer and I sat on the floor in my room every day for a week learning to play the song note for note. Nah. Chances are the new kid is a Youtube’n hack.


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