We met on the West Millpond Road in Roper a little before 11:00 a.m. at Millpond Crawfish, where it was hot in the sun and almost cool in the shade. We drove around the countryside in a truck that seated five, over paved roads, grass and sandy lanes, hugging tracks next to fields, looking at empty spaces where family homes used to be.
Weeks earlier, I’d looked for pictures of my mother’s childhood home. I have no picture of the house, which was torn down long ago -- just the sense of it standing off stage. Most of my pictures were taken with the house behind the photographer’s back, the subjects framed by trees and the Millpond Road.
When we stopped on July 7th to look at the space where the house once stood, I felt the familiar orientation of the view beyond the missing house. But I could not quite picture the exact footprint of the farmhouse that had once been home to Ben and Inez, Alger Ben and Reinette, then Alger Ben and Margaret and their children.
The big tree, draped in Spanish moss, which appears in most of my pictures from the old homestead (and here sits above my grandfather’s shoulder) is gone, but a tall pine still remains. It may be the same tree seen here in 1942, to the left of his bent elbow, smallish.
I sat in the truck and looked toward the field with the physical memory of that view. There was a big tree where I remembered a big tree, but a different species. There was a view toward a field that seemed timeless, and a line of trees to my right, but the house they once shaded, gone.
I should have gotten out of the truck, put a little of that sandy soil in a baggy, brought it home.