This is progress

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2012

By Rex Alphin

We’d been planting around that old house for twenty years. Down a long lane, 200 yards off the road it sat, right in the middle of the field. A long vacant, two-story dwelling, the rusty rolled-tin roof collapsing, screenless porch, crumbling bricks in piles at the base of soaring red chimneys, it rose lifeless above the earth, a silent memorial to the generations of former inhabitants.

The “Andrews Place” we called it.

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It had always been in the way for us. Planting up one side, end rows across the back and planting down the other side slowed the progress of the job, not to mention taking out productive farm land.

The owners had finally consented. “Tear it down,” they had said reluctantly. So we did.

The big old magnolia tree came first. She had spent a good many years sinking her roots down into the soil, and she didn’t want to let go. Under her branches many children had spent countless hours in the shade pushing toys through the dirt while pursing their lips. That tree is down now.

To the left was an old pecan tree. Must have dropped a hundred thousand pecans through the years that made a thousand pecan pies, salads, fruitcakes and cookies. Her branches held the ropes that held the tires and boards for child after child, each loving the squeak as the swing went higher. She’s on the ground now.

In the back was the grapevine. Every September saw long arms reach down through the foliage and pick those purple bites of deliciousness. That old grapevine is no longer there.

The old shelter in the back held rusty, worn-out farm implements pulled by worn-out mules at one time. It’s all gone now.

Out back of the house was a separate smaller building where the cooking was done. Seems the smell of fresh-cooked meals still rolled out from under her eaves. It’s no longer there.

To the right was an old well over which hung a long pole for pulling up buckets of water. That thing must have pulled up bucket after bucket after bucket, year after year after year. It’s all torn down.

And the house. The rooms that saw labor, love and laughter. That saw stories being told around a fireplace and clothes being sewn around a table. Floors that felt the weight of bare feet, work boots, high heels and tennis shoes. A house that heard the first cry of a newborn and the last whisper of a grandmother.

It’s all gone now. The trees, the barns, the buildings, the memories. Burned up, buried, hauled away, they’re all gone. Ride by, and you’d never know anything was ever there.

That field plants good now. Can ride right over the place. Don’t even have to slow down. This is progress, right?