I hope this note finds you well.
For the last year, I have dwelled on an excellent adventure of bicycle riding, but this time, I will linger on a journey of memory from my youth.
During the Christmas holidays, my thoughts often turn to my parents and my young life on the farm. Seventy-two years ago, Sam Taggart (my father) returned from WWII and from four years aboard the USS Enterprise. He quickly married Sina Belle McAlexander. She was an unlikely combination of cosmetologist and Rosie the Riveter. She spent a good part of the war years working at the ammunition factory in Jacksonville, Arkansas. The youngest daughter of nine children, she would become the caregiver in the family.
Dad and his family farmed rice for the Conner Company of Augusta. We lived on a farm stuck squarely between the White and Cache Rivers that carried the name Gum Ridge. Just west of my grandparent’s house was a two-room house that the young couple moved into. The house was a typical sharecropper shack; it was raised up off the ground on triangular blocks, had tarpaper siding, a tin roof, an old potbellied woodstove and no indoor plumbing. Twenty yards to the rear of the house was an outhouse that I must tell you was very cold in the wintertime.
A little less than a year later, I was born into this little family, and two years later, my sister, Becky, was born. For a short period of time, all four of us were stuffed into this little living space. It was around that time that my father built a bedroom and a back porch onto the house, doubling its space. For the next five years, our family of four lived in that tarpaper house on Gum Ridge.
The memories of that time are rich and full. Many of the memories fall into the category of magical memories. I was too young to really remember much, but through photos and constant retelling of stories, that life is quite vivid.
There was a hog lot between our house and Grandma’s house. I can remember climbing the fence stile, racing across the lot and exiting on the other side with the sure and certain knowledge that Grandma’s fresh cinnamon toast would be my reward.
Early one winter morning, I watched a calf being born in a small lean-to shed just a short distance from our backdoor. The shed was lit by a kerosene lantern. Each of our breaths created a momentary fog in the dim light. The birth was uneventful and would have proceeded well without us, but the events of that morning still linger in my mind.
I can remember getting in trouble one Christmas Day. I received a child’s carpenter box complete with hammer, saw and screwdrivers. My first act was to disappear with my tools. In short order, I succeeded in sawing down enough of the gate to the pig pen that all the pigs were running loose in the yard. Dad spent the rest of the day repairing the gate, getting the pigs put up and putting my saw in a safe place away from me.
Life on Gum Ridge certainly did inform my life.
Have a nice journey.