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Southern Cultures 10.1 (2004) 87-90



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A Southern Memory

Robert Flournoy





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Figure 1
"So, in the days before interstate highways and air-conditioned automobiles, we loaded up the family car every summer and drove to Alabama and my grandparents' farm. Two thousand miles roundtrip across Texas in the summer, always gloriously welcomed by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are the happiest memories of my life." Nana and Granddaddy Flournoy, 1960, courtesy of the author.


I never know what to say when someone asks me where I am from. I was born in Memphis and the family moved before I was one. By the time I was six we had managed to live in four different states, finally to wind up in El Paso, Texas, where my father was sent in 1952 after he came back from Korea. He was a career military officer. We were to move many times after the Texas assignment, traveling the world. Home was the house where we lived. That was fine, but my parents knew that we needed family roots and a sense of place that was more permanent than our transient lifestyle afforded. So, in the days before interstate highways and air-conditioned automobiles, we loaded up the family car every summer and drove to Alabama and my grandparents' farm. Two thousand miles roundtrip across Texas in the summer, always gloriously welcomed by grandparents, [End Page 87] aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are the happiest memories of my life. I once reminisced with my mother about one of those trips when both of my dad's brothers, their wives, and about six cousins were also present for a week in that little farmhouse. She gave me a raised eyebrow when I waxed sentimental about the beauty of that time. My aunts, I later learned, also would have raised their eyebrows. But for me it had been pure bliss. I was ten years old on that visit, and something wonderful happened.



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Figure 2
"Hunting, fishing, and my anticipation of being an all-pro running back pretty much occupied my thoughts at that age. Our time on the farm afforded me boundless fields, woods, and swamps in which to hike and hunt." Grandparents' farmhouse, 1955, courtesy of the author.


Hunting, fishing, and my anticipation of being an all-pro running back pretty much occupied my thoughts at that age. Our time on the farm afforded me boundless fields, woods, and swamps in which to hike and hunt with my dad and uncles. It was a glorious freedom and camaraderie, the taste of which is still strong within me. Hunting and fishing were a way of life in this country in 1957, especially in the rural South, and I loved it. I was wild and free in the fields of south Alabama. But we had rules. The rules were simple and inviolate. Everybody knew them and obeyed them. Hunting and fishing on Sunday was unheard of, and no game bird was ever, ever taken unless it was on the wing. No ducks on the pond, no dove on the limb, and no quail on the ground. You just didn't do it. I never questioned it, although it made for some long Sunday afternoons.

One day on that fateful visit I found myself alone with my grandparents. The [End Page 88] rest of the gang had "gone to town." After I bugged my grandfather to walk me through the woods with the old single-shot shotgun that had been his as a boy, he told me to get the gun and a shell and follow him. "One shell?" I asked. "Yep" was his reply. I hurriedly grabbed them both and followed my grandfather's arthritic limp behind the old house across the cotton field that he had worked as a boy and into the woods about a hundred yards away. It dawned on me later that this must have been an eternity for him. We finally stopped at an old wild pear tree that could have been there since the Civil War. My granddad...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 87-90
Launched on MUSE
2004-03-05
Open Access
No
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