I hope this note finds you well.
In times of quiet, my mind often comes to dwell on the distant past. During long bicycle rides and runs I dream about the days on Gum Ridge when I was a child.
This morning, it’s cold and rainy and the surface of the lake outside of my window is still. After making a brief trip outside, I return to find both of the cats curled up in the chairs across the way. Annette is putzing away in the kitchen.
In 1945, Sam L. Taggart, my father, walked down the ramp of the USS Enterprise in San Francisco Bay and returned to the Gum Ridge rice farm in East Arkansas. Within days of returning to the farm, he and my mother, Sina Belle McAlexander, married, moved into a small sharecropper’s shack and began a new life. I was born about a year later.
The house in the country was a two room-affair raised up off the ground on pyramidal shaped concrete blocks, it had a tin roof with tar-paper shingles coating the outside of the house and was heated with an old wooden stove. I can clearly remember a single electric light bulb hanging from the center of the living space. In the corner, near the front door was a small table with a hand-me-down wooden radio. You could see through the floor slates to the ground. The outhouse was about fifty feet from the backdoor and it was a very cold place in the winter.
There are any number of Magical Memories that populate my mind; memories that have been created through family stories and photos.
My Grandfather Taggart died when I was one year old. There is an extant photo of Grandpa Jim holding me as an infant; in the photo I am not a happy camper, nor is he. For the longest, I was convinced that I could remember that event, but clearly that could not be so.
My first real memory is probably the great pigsty debacle. By the time I was three, one of my sisters had been born and my mother coerced Dad into adding an additional room and a back porch to the house. In the late fall of that year, after the crops were in, Dad and his brothers began working on the new addition. While the grownups worked on the project, I was constantly underfoot, running off with tools that were left unattended.
For Christmas of that year, I was given a toy carpentry set with a small hammer, a metal saw, pliers and screwdrivers. It seems that after the gifts were opened, I marched out of the house in search of my first project. Un-noticed by my parents, I sawed the gate off the hinges for the pigpen. It took a short time before the pigs discovered their newfound freedom. Dad spent the rest of that Christmas day rounding up the errant swine. I don’t remember ever seeing that saw again.
That time and that spot have a warm place in my heart.
Have a nice journey,
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/ writer/ marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 35 years. He recently published The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His two other books, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at Amazon.com.