Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
THE LITTLE TAR PAPER SHACK
Being careful where I stepped, I tip-toed through the hog pen watching over my shoulder to make sure the pigs were busy at their trough. At the corner of the barn, I glanced at the house halfway expecting my mother or grandmother to burst through the door screaming at me in alarm. Quickly I darted to the fence and crossed over into the pasture.
Here I faced another danger. I looked around to see where they were and breathed a sigh of relief. Uncle Asaís huge sheep were at the far end of the meadow near the roadway. Quickly and silently, I walked along a path that took me down into a forested area. Once again, I glanced over my shoulder at the house and realized that people now could never spot me from the back door.
At first I felt safer in the forest. Cows roamed through it and kept the vegetation somewhat sparse under the tall walnut, oak, maple and cottonwood trees, yet there were many trees and the thick foliage kept the sunbeams from reaching the ground. Fear began to set in as I remembered the story book mom sometimes read to me that showed a picture of trees reaching with their branches to pick up children, and I hastened my pace as I began to imagine that the trees were watching me and wanting to grab me!
I soon got to Uncle Asaís barn and could see the dark little tar paper shack a few yards away, tucked at the far end of an old rock foundation. A long time ago (the year before I was born) a huge three-story house had stood on that very foundation! It had been the Fellows homestead, where my Grandpa Theo and Uncle Asa had been born, along with many other children. Their parents had died years before and Uncle Asa and Aunt Edith lived in the large family home where they raised their children until that tragic day on January 5, 1940 when fire destroyed the building.
The only thing that remained was the little one-room tar paper shack that had once served as a smoke house. Many antiques were salvaged, and Uncle Asa carefully stored them in one end of the barn until a better day. With a few essentials, Aunt Edith and Uncle Asa survived in the tiny cabin-like building, similar to their ancestors in previous generations.
Inside was a small stove that served for both cooking and heating, there was a table and two chairs, with several shelves on the wall and an old wall telephone. She had a rocking chair in the middle of the room and beyond that was a huge bed covered with quilts, and a dresser. She kept her small home cozy and clean.
Aunt Edith was very happy to see me and invited me inside. She even let me sit in her rocker! She asked me why I had come to see her, and I announced proudly that I had come for a visit. Of course, she asked the fateful question, "Does your mother know you are here?" I lied to her and told her yes, but wasnít very convincing.
"Iíll call her and tell her you arrived safely!" Aunt Edith cleverly said. I became nervous and fidgety as we visited during the next few moments while I anticipated the trouble I was in. My mother soon appeared in the doorway with a switch in her hand, took me by the collar, and told me "March, young man!"
A few moments later in our kitchen, mom picked me up and set me on the table. She sternly asked, "Andy! Why did you run away?" I chose my words as carefully as any four-year-old is capable of doing. I rolled my big, dark brown eyes at her and said, "Why momma! I didnít run! I walked all the way!"
The house where we lived is rubble. Uncle Asa's barn is gone. But the little tar paper shack at the end of the rock foundation still exists, now the home of occasional racoons and rodents. Shaded by pine trees, the shack is surrounded by thick growths of blackberries and gooseberries.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project
by Andy Reddick