I just got home after a trip to northeast Arkansas to visit my family. It was a much-needed getaway after dealing with some health issues. Said health issues are still in progress and are causing me a huge amount of stress and worry. I know worrying won’t change the outcome of the tests, but it doesn’t make me worry any less. Some of them have come back normal so keeping my fingers crossed for the same result for the rest of them.
My family lives just across the Mississippi river from Memphis, Tennessee. It amazes me how much different that part of Arkansas is from the part where I live. East Arkansas is called the Mississippi river delta. It’s flat and mostly nothing but farms and fields of winter wheat, soybeans, and cotton as far as the eye can see. A few trees here and there. Where I live, on the other hand, is the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. It’s beautiful and covered in lovely forest. I never lived in the delta, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for it.
All four of my grandparents grew up in that part of Arkansas. My dad’s family, who I visited this time, grew up in Dyess, Arkansas. It’s really only known for being the boyhood home of Johnny Cash now, but I assure you he wasn’t the only one to grow up there. I saw his old home, they’re fixing it up and turning it into a museum. It looks nicer than I bet it did when he lived in it. If you grew up in Dyess, odds are you were poor as church mice (that’s how my granny describes the level of poverty her family experienced when she was a girl). Most of the old homes where the families lived are gone now. They lived there after President Roosevelt turned the area into a depression relief project. Families (my own included) who qualified were given 40 acres of land and a mule to help plow it. They grew cotton and used the money to pay back the government when they could afford it.
My great aunt, granny’s sister, showed me where their farm had been, and where my great grandmother lived after my great grandfather died and she sold the farm and moved into town. I saw the old high school, where my granny was the only one of her eight brothers and sisters to graduate. The rest of them quit school by the time they were 16 to get married or start working. The town is just a small community now, but thanks to it being Johnny Cash’s hometown, the town square is being restored to look like it did in the 30s-60s, when most of the poor farming families lived there. It was amazing to see where my family was and how far they each came in their lives. They may have been poor, but all the kids did well and the ones still living live comfortable lives now.
I come from a long line of cotton farmers. All of my grandparents had 7 or 8 kids in their families and picked cotton all their growing up years. Makes me thankful for how fortunate I am. My grandparents, on both sides, are the only ones who left the area. I’ve had to grow up away from my family, so I love any chance I get to visit my aunts, uncles, and cousins…of which I have MANY. They are sweet people with thick southern accents. I notice mine gets thicker when I’m around them. I wish I could spend more time with them. When it comes down to it, though, my home is near the mountains. I’m not sure I could be happy living in a place where there isn’t a mountain for over 100 miles.
My great aunt let me stay with her. We talked for hours and travelled all over northeast Arkansas seeing the old ancestral homes. She cooks like you would imagine any southern grandmother to cook–everything from scratch and tastes DELICIOUS. No one makes sweet tea like she does. I think I drank half a gallon while I was there. I experienced true happiness this week, time with my family…and gained 3 pounds thanks to all the southern food and super sweet tea. That’s the good life, y’all.