Posted by: bree1972 | December 18, 2010

Take me home, country roads 12/18/2010

I’ve always loved dirt roads.

As a little girl growing up in Sylvester, my mom and dad often took me to visit my daddy’s parents in Poulan, a small community about 8 miles east of Sylvester.  Daddy and his brother and sister (my Uncle Hubert and Aunt Martha) grew up on a small farm outside of Poulan, and they all graduated from Poulan High School in the late 1930’s.  My dad loved telling that he graduated second in his class.  The punch line was there were only two people in his graduating class.  As I said, Poulan was, and still is, a small community. 

My grandparents lived down a dirt road.  We’d leave the highway, make a right and then a left through the one-street, one-block town center, cross the railroad track, and turn off the pavement onto dirt.  A few miles later, we’d pull into their yard – no paved driveway, just grass and clay and sand and some beautiful flower gardens.  My grandmother (who I called Ma-Mama) tended those flowers every spring and summer with a green thumb she passed down to daddy, but which sure didn’t end up in my genes.  She always wore a wide-brimmed, straw hat when she was gardening, although she would never have the pale, Southern Belle complexion she so wanted.  Her skin was more olive, and without that hat she would have tanned beautifully – although back then a tan was not considered a beauty asset.  Daddy said his mother had some Indian blood running through her veins, and that was the reason her skin was dark.  To this day I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I never knew my daddy to tell a lie, so I think it was.

We’d usually go visit them on Sunday afternoons.  My Aunt Martha remained unmarried until she was in her 60’s and lived with her mom and dad in the house where she grew up.  She was the only one to go to college, became a teacher, and taught for over 40 years before she retired.  I adored her. 

While the others would sit on the front porch and rock and swing, she’d take me by the hand, and we’d go walking down that dirt road.  She’d ask me all kinds of questions – how I was doing in school, what I was studying that week, what was my favorite color, what was I reading, who were my friends, what did I want to be when I grew up.  And she really listened to the answers.  She loved talking about the Sumner family history and could name uncles and aunts and cousins and children by the dozens, and she knew each one of their birthdays.  She’d let me play in the water that ran down the ditches, and we’d take sticks and draw pictures in the fine sand of the road.  She’d name the insects we found and tell me what small animals had made the tracks in the dirt.

Sometimes we’d leave the road and walk across a field in front of their house to the Warrior Creek, a little riverlet that flowed through the woods, where my dad and his brother and sister spent a lot of their childhood playing time.  They’d cool off in the Warrior on hot summer days and bring home a mess of fish they’d caught with a cane pole and worms they’d dug up out of Ma-Mama’s garden.  They grew up poor – yet they were rich in every way that counted.

It’s very seldom when I turn down the seven miles of dirt road that leads to our house on the river that I don’t think of my grandparents and my Aunt Martha.  Dirt roads will always recall memories of a simpler time – a time of youth and innocence, a time when life was what laid ahead.  For seven miles I can drive slow and be right back there walking with my Aunt Martha – telling her what I want to be when I grow up and drawing pictures in the sand.

I love dirt roads.

Personal Note:  We’re leaving Sunday (the 19th) for Arkansas.  I’m sure I’ll find the time to post something from out there at least once before Christmas, so you might want to check back in a few days.  See you soon, and God bless.

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful story! Your Aunt Martha is very proud of what you grew up to be!
    Wishing you, your family, friends and readers a joyous Christmas!

  2. I to love dirt roads. When in the UP I always want to try the dirt roads. We’ve found the most interesting things doing that. Your Aunt Martha sounds like my Aunt Ruth. She didn’t marry until her late 50’s. She was the youngest of 6 and always entered her neices and nephews telling stories at family events. Have a safe trip to Arkansas and enjoy the grandchildren. Don’t they grow up quickly?

  3. The third picture reminds me of British Landing Road. Wawashkamo would be on the left. 🙂

  4. What a sweet story. Your Aunt Martha sounds like a very special sweet lady. You have some wonderful memories to hold dear.
    I too love dirt roads, for the quiet and peacefulness.
    Have a safe trip to Arkansas and enjoy a wonderful Christmas with the family. Bet
    those grandkids can’t wait to see you.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. Brenda,

    What a beautiful story. As usual your writing caused me to have memories of my past and I sure do like that. I guess the older we get, the more we live in the past. But then that’s not all bad.

    One memory I have is going to my Grandma & Grandpa Amacher’s farm near North Star, Michigan. I was about 4 years old and we lived in the woods northwest of East Tawas, Michigan at the time. My mother, my brother (3 years old) and I went by bus for about 125 miles. The bus driver let us off on the highway a quarter mile from my grandparent’s farm. Then we walked east on the gravel road to the farm. When we got there, we went in the back door and went up a few steps to the kitchen door. Just as we got to the door, my Grandma opened it. In hand she had a plate of sugar cookies, some with white frosting and some with pink frosting. I’ll never forget what she said, “I made these just for you.” I said, “How did you know we were coming?” She answered, “I heard you coming.” I believed her. A good memory! Why wouldn’t I live in the past?

    Of course, I don’t do that all the time. The rest of the time, I read your blogs!

    Have a safe trip and a great Christmas!

    • You have such wonderful memories, Lowell. And what a sweet Grandma!

  6. We lived on a dirt road going up and I miss those roads too. Just seems like there aren’t many dirt roads left. 😦 Yes, the car would get all muddy and those lovely bumps, but that was all part of the fun.

    Happy Holidays & safe travels!

  7. My favorite picture is the dirt road going to the cottage in Cedarville. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to sleep every night. What a treasure your Aunt Martha must have been. If she had a one word description, it might have been “teacher”. What a tribute to her. Please drive carefully and hug all the fuzzballs.

  8. This story really spoke to me as I too had an Aunt Martha. We never really knew our grandparents as they’d all passed by the time I was five. But we had our Aunt Martha. She was my mother’s older sister, the only ‘career girl’ in a family of fruit farmers from Sodus, MI. It was to her house that we went every summer to spend a couple weeks visiting with my mom’s family and spending time on the beaches of Lake Michigan. She was quite ahead of her time-she lived alone, had been divorced in the late 40s (scandalous!!!) and worked as an accountant for a local manufactuing company. She told us stories of growing up on the farm and of things my mom did as a little girl. She spent every Christmas with us-we’d sit and look out the window waiting for her to arrive. We drove my mom nuts with ‘When’s she going to get here? Where is she?”… .We lost her about 25 years ago at age 88. She was quite a woman. Thanks Bree for bringing back some of my favorite family memories.

    • Awww, Annie – what a wonderful story about your Aunt Martha. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Beautiful image and story memoir, Bree! I often talk about the (not two-lane) but two-tire tracks up the road and hill to my grandpa’s Wisconsin farm — we’d travel there from Illinois for either or both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and the big test was could we make it up the hill late in the night upon snowy arrival or have to walk the lane to the house and dig the car out (late 49 & early 50s black chevys) the next day.

  10. My Grandpa and Grandma Holik lived on a long dirt road hemmed in on both sides with deep ditches. The road to their farm always seemed to be longest of the whole trip, and bouncing down it was always fun for us kids but not for Dad’s old car.
    I miss them a lot. Traveling that road now a days brings back memories of searching for morels while riding on a trailer towed behind Grandpa’s tractor, and watching for the brave deer our noise hadn’t scared away. Fat chance. 🙂

    • Thanks for all the great memories, Doris and Sue. What’s a morel?

      • A morel is a gigantic, ugly, monstrosity of a springtime mushroom. But they are soooo tasty, people hunt them like gold and hide the places they find them. If you can’t find them in the woods yourself, sometimes you can buy them in the store for about $20.00 a pound. There are morel-looking mushrooms but they can be very poisonous. So you need a guide or a mushrooming book to find them.

  11. I grew up on a dirt road too and loved it! It went down a hill outside of our house and in the winter it was awesome to sled down – on the old fashioned sleds of course with the metal runners that made you think you were flying! I pray that you and your family have a Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year!!


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