Rutted Dirt Roads

In the South, down South, in the Flat Lands, is where I was born and raised. Cotton fields behind my house, Granddaddy’s garden, rows of black dirt, and gnats filled my childhood. Collard greens, peas, butter beans, and chickens our dog killed, the reason he was probably poisoned, filled my belly, and stained my thumbs-from shelling butter beans. We didn’t identify roads by number, but by three monikers-paved, dirt, and rutted. 

Dirt and rutted roads were my favorite. Bare feet slapping against dirt as smooth as silk, I’d walk with my sisters, to who knows where, and who cared, as long as it was bordered by sourweed and that itchy grass that puts up two black fuzzy tentacles. To this day I don’t know their real scientific names, but I know all about them. I know the taste of sourweed stems chewed as long as the sour juice stilled filled my mouth. I know the itch of grass with two black fuzzy tentacles that rubbed against my ankles.

I don’t live in the Flat Lands of the South anymore, I live in the Upstate; a name for which those of us living there deem a more progressive, upscale, and prosperous land.

I travel today to the land of my birth, I have my parent’s estate to care for, and care I do. I look forward to the drive as the ‘innerstate’ border of trees changes from deciduous hardwoods, bare at this time of year, to pines, proudly showing their evergreen needles, to scrub pines, which are indeed scrubby and scratchy, and finally to fields flattened by a farmer’s strength and sweat. My Upstate progressive tension eases from my shoulders, and I’m home!

Dear Lord, the Bible talks of Heaven’s Pearly Gate, and streets paved in gold and silver. I wouldn’t be home there. Could You please set my bare feet down between the sourweed and the itchy grass with fuzzy tentacles, so I can walk between the cotton fields and down dirt rut roads? That silk-smooth rut road will lead to a heaven made just for me; knowing my family, my family’s family, and their family’s family will greet me with open arms, bowls of butter beans to shell, and stories told and laughed over; stories that could only happen down a dirt rut road.

I can only pray that dirt rut road will lead me to The Little Brown Church in the Vale! Uh, the little white church at the end of a dirt rut road!

The Little Brown Church in the Vale!      Author: William S. Pitts

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the vale;
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

(Oh, oh … come, come, come, come)

Oh, come to the church in the wildwood,
To the trees where the wild flowers bloom;
Where the parting hymn will be chanted,
We will weep by the side of the tomb. (Chorus)

How sweet on a clear Sunday morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale. (Chorus)

From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light. (Chorus)



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