Nearly five decades ago, my family was part of a farming community forced to sell their properties for the development of Salt Fork State Park and Lake. A few weeks after my family moved to their new home, the state burned their old house and farm buildings.
Once the lake basin filled, the “old home place” became inaccessible except by boat or by a long and rugged hike!
Less than nine months after their move, I was born into the Cooper family. I grew up hearing many stories about life prior to the lake’s forcing them to relocate. I felt left out. Every one else had experienced a life that was unknown to me. When I would express my desire to visit the site of their stories, they would respond “there’s nothing left to see”.
Thankfully, they were wrong.
This spring two buddies and I traveled by canoe to find the farm site. (They did the rowing, I enjoyed the ride.) My friend Jason plotted our course by carefully studying a map and Google earth. Tom, a veteran of the waters, provided the canoe.
The day of our adventure was very rainy. That did not dampen our determination to explore! We knew the distance from where we launched the canoe to our destination would be approximately a mile. The farm site would be located in an inlet.
As that inlet came into view, our excitement rose.
We rounded a point and there, directly ahead, was the cove pinpointing the very spot where my family’s house had stood. As we rowed to the bank, a cut stone retaining wall became visible just below the water’s surface. That wall had once marked the driveway leading to the house.
A two inch diameter black water line was floating on the water’s surface. Still attached to the far bank, it was the line my dad had laid more than 60 years earlier to feed water from the spring to the house.
The three of us got out of the canoe. As Jason and Tom explored the shallow water’s edge, I was drawn to more solid ground. I pushed through dripping wet briers and brush and was very excited to discover what the thicket had concealed. A cut stone wall, about waist high, was in front of me. Another similar wall, shoulder height, was to my side. A row of cement blocks formed the foot print of a third wall.
Years after my family’s move, I was standing in what was left of the basement of their house!
The house may have been gone for decades, but the foundation remains.
As I stood in the ruins of that basement, I felt joyful; victorious. With the help of my friends, I had discovered the evidence of the life my family had been forced to leave.
We could stay for only a few minutes. I didn’t want to leave so quickly, but thunderstorms were predicted. We needed to be out of the lake before the storms hit.
I feel like I’ve gone home and found something of myself. I’m looking forward to going back. There’s more to be uncovered.
We shall not cease from exploring and the end of all our exploring will be to return to where we began and to know it for the first time. -T.S.Elliot