Rushing against a fast approaching deadline for the paper, I pull the car into a tight curve and swing around, stopping just short of the Highway 2208 sign at Crowley Corner. To most travelers along Highway 58 going into Clinton or headed the other way to Mayfield, this small intersection holds nothing special.
However, for some of us mortals, there are special memories that surface each time we drive through this part of Hickman County. Like today, bitter April’s chill wind pulls at my warmth, until I push the scarf into a tight fit around my neck. Moving from the parked car, I head for my target.
Unlike most years, a unique blend of large azaleas, redbuds, and tulip blossoms are dancing in the wind each day in a high yard overlooking the road. But this year’s flowers are in trouble. The ice storm has wrought a very cruel pronouncement of a brilliant death sentence for the flowers and trees.
I shelter myself from the wind between the fallen branches of a 30 foot high tulip tree. The wind cannot reach me around the broken and sheltered tree branches of the tulip tree. Some of these broken limbs, ten inches wide and twenty feet long, just lay on the ground or hang from the tree as if they are gently going to sleep.
I snap 15 photographs of this quiet ballet of sunlight; brilliant pinks, reds and yellows; sweet smells of bees moving nectar from one blossom to another. I yearn this moment will never end.
But it must. Somewhere in the deep part of my mind, labeled “being responsible,” I come back to the realization that I came only for the photographs, nothing more. Yet, I know I am lying to myself. There is a much deeper reason for coming to this spot, ghost of my youth, a feeling of slight regret for the past.
Just as the sun moves into midafternoon, I stand for several minutes looking out over the scene, remembering the year of my 14th birthday. My grandparents, Charles and May Bell Cauthorn, lived three miles to the west of this spot.
I remember the warn summer days of that time when my grandfather “Doc” would let me drive down to the little Weatherford Grocery Store at Crowley Corner. We drive the 1953 blue and white Buick Special. At 10:00 each morning, grandfather searches the shelves of the little store for Big Apple Chewing Tobacco. My treat is a Dr. Pepper and a Moon Pie.
I enjoy my time with him. He is a mechanical genius with motors of all sorts. I help him repair broken engines and enjoy the feeling of getting grease on myself as I help him bring an old engine back to life.
Time is a cruel mistress. There is never a chance of going back. Here, some 48 years later, at a stop in the road, I visualize my youth in mental snapshots of cars, buildings, relationships, and people who will never to be seen again in this life. Framed against my self recollecting, is the image of the cemetery of the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church on the other side of the Highway 2208 sign.
The tulip tree will live on. It is smaller, but still with life for many more seasons. But after this year, the fallen branches with their wonderful assortment of pinks and whites blossoms will be no more. The memories of their sweet beauty will be added to that time portal we call the past.
In each of our lives there exists a special Crowley Corner, where youth still resides and lingers during quiet times of reflections. But for now, I must move on with my life. Standing next to the black car, I take one last look at the geography of what had been coexisting with what is.
Along many rural roads, memories of youth pull us back from time to time to make us recharge a sense of being. Smiling, I bid good day to the spirits of my past and the brilliance of an April day, at the intersection where headstones, highway signs, brilliant pink tulip blossoms, lost buildings and gas pumps and Big Apple Chewing Tobacco have all become a part of the ghosts that haunt Crowley Corner.