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Home of my Heart

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A while back I took my darling wife and child down to Virginia for my nephew's high school graduation in Richmond, and stayed a few days in a cabin in Patrick County for a long overdue visit with my retired, kindly uncles, to proudly show off my son, and pay respects to my origins by introducing my offspring to the homes and graves of his ancestors. I'd not really spent any time in Patrick County since I was little kid, when I was sent for an extended visit with my Uncle Jack for a week or two, the summer after my father died. Or maybe it was the following summer? I don't know. I recall living practically on roadside fruit-stand honeydew melon, and my Uncle burning ticks off his legs with the head of a cigarette. We shot cans and bottles in the woods. I loved it.

Gathered in my Uncle Billy's parlor, (within a stone's throw of several fenced-off family cemeteries, some overrun by cows), as my Aunt Rachel showed us family photographs, and my son Coleman played with their grandkids toys on the floor, we reminisced about my childhood visit–whichever summer it was, when I was six years old–just turned six, or almost seven–I told them I firmly recalled drinking goat's milk at their table, the pungent, grassy flavor, that I'd never forgotten it. They responded that was impossible, as they never raised goats. Then my Uncle looked me up and down, smiled, remembering, and said, "I bet that was the last time you fired a shotgun!"

I pretended to think for a moment, then said, "You know, it probably was."

Later, driving the half mile back to his place, he showed me the house where my great-grandfather shot that third man–not the first one who died, or the second hell knows what happened to him, but the one who wouldn't get off my great-grandfather's tractor, who lost his arm, was mutilated, which sent my great-grandfather to the county work farm. Mostly why I grew up in North Carolina, rather than Virginia. Not because of the shame of it, but because of forced exile.

The photo below, the guy on right, is a cousin, late 1890s. He lived just down the road. I love his expression. I've seen it all my life, so many times, maybe you've seen it too.

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post #201
bio: john ball

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April - National Poetry Month 2005
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