Saturday, October 27, 2012

Down Home

Driving down to the Bend.
So that mule plow was something.  We didn't stop there, though.  We were in that southernmost corner of Illinois where my mother's family lived--her parents and their parents.  So after seeing places in Cairo that she remembered as a girl, we drove around the farming towns of Olive Branch and Miller City, along Horseshoe Lake where my great uncle was a parks officer, and finally down to the "Bend."

The place along Promised Land Road that my great grandfather Grace farmed.
A crossroads on the way to the Bend.
Just west of Cairo the Mississippi River makes a twist south then back north.  The resulting curve is shaped like a fang or a canine, thus the name Dogtooth Bend.  Deep in this Bend, my great grandparents lived and raised their family.  The land is flat, alluvial river bottom.  Just on the other side of those trees are the levees, but back in the 1930s there was just flat, open land all the way to the river.

Almost to the river, the hunt club and old house in the distance.
Floods were common.  Here's a photo from around 1937 during high water.  The Stevens family, my great grandparents and their children, are gathered on the porch while an uncle sits in the boat, their only way to get to dry land.
The Stevens family about 1937.
Here is the same house probably fifteen years ago, still standing.

Cousin Nancy in front.
And here's that house on our last trip.  The floods from a couple years ago have continued to do damage.
From the same angle as the flood picture.
The inside is nearly wiped out.
My cousin who owns the place now built this high embankment and put a hunt club on it.  During that last flood, the water was a few feet deep in the club.  Goose hunting has been a major tourist attraction for this area, particularly in the 1930s, when this area of southern Illinois was the goose hunting capital. Wealthy Chicago businessmen would come down for hunting parties.  My great grandfather was a guide for them and was a tenant farmer on this land.

From there we went to my aunt and uncle's place a little further north.  They have a new flock of chickens.  Rhode Island Reds.  Just like home!

And they have a new puppy, Cletus.  Cletus and Clovis got to get to know each other.

Clovis taking his turn at the wheel.

And a few pictures of beautiful Gunston Hall in Virginia.  I stopped at Dad's on the way home, and we visited George Mason's beautiful 1750s home.  Mason was the father of the Bill of Rights and extremely concerned about preserving individual liberty.  He drafted the Virginia Declaration of the Rights of Man, the first such statement that was later used in the U.S. Constitution and by the French for their Déclaration des droits de l'homme.

Gunston Hall, riverside, with 250 year old boxwoods.
A beautiful avenue of cedars leading to the family cemetery.
The avenue leading up to the house.
Rhode Island randomness greeted Clovis and I upon our very happy return home.

No comments:

Post a Comment