By Dr. Stanley Watson/Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
Today I walked through the rooms of the two story farm house that was home to my family for over fifty years. The appliances were gone from the laundry room, all of the furniture gone from the living room, den and dining room — even the piano was absent from the parlor. Upstairs the rooms were bare and the shelves of books were missing from my office and the sunroom.
I stood in front of the wide windows of the sunroom and gazed out across the acres of young pine that had once been a pecan orchard before the onslaught of the hurricanes. One Sunday afternoon in September after I had preached at the First Baptist Church in Carriere, Miss., I was visiting with F.S. Lumpkin Sr. on his front porch when the conversation turned to the beauty of Pearl River County.
I said, "Someday I hope to own a piece of land in a place like this before I die."
"Well, I happen to have an option on a 50 acre farm just two miles west of town" Mr. Lumpkin responded. “Would you like to see it?”
To make a long story short, I walked through the pear orchard, the twenty acres of fully loaded pecan trees and through the woods. Without waiting to ponder the matter I asked Mr. Lumpkin to hold the place until I could find money for the down payment. He agreed and I went home and confessed to Johnie that I had bought a farm without talking with her about it first. What I had just done was against our rule that all major decisions would be decided by the two of us together.
When Johnie walked over the place with me the following week I explained to her that the farm house with its rusty tin roof would have to go.
"Hold on, Jack,” she responded, “the house has a good design, is well built and appears to be solid. It might be worth fixing up."
Well, she proved to be right. I was told that a highly respected minister/mason had built the house in the late 1930s, that the dimension timbers were heart pine and that the stucco structure would last a lifetime. We wondered how we could finance such a remarkable find on my limited salary at the Seminary but the answer turned out to be quite simple. By living on the farm and driving a VW beetle to and from the Seminary every school day, we found that the cost of living in New Orleans and living on the farm were about equal.
By arranging a small down payment and financing the place for twenty years the monthly payments on the farm were actually less than our monthly rent on campus. We enjoyed country living, gained financially from farming and for over half a century the Spring Meadow farm served beautifully as a launching pad for our children.
Our sons loved the place and Johnie found the woods and orchards to be a veritable garden. The boys cut pulp wood, we raised calves in the meadow with a running spring and wesold pears, pecans, and numerous farm grown items on Grandpa Thigpen's Hardware Store radio program.
I was often invited to preach and our boys courted the local girls. In fact, the two youngest, Mark and David courted and married two wonderful girls whose families were among those who had built this great community.
The house itself became a fifty year hobby. We built a carport onto the house then turned it into a den. I was planning to build a small porch among the branches of a massive two hundred year old live oak tree on the south side of the house when Johnie and Bobby Easterling turned my plan into a sun room that served well as a counseling room. Below the sun room we built a patio from which we could enjoy the bluebird sanctuary and evening sunsets.
The farm became the "old home place" where our sons brought their young families for reunions during the holidays. Daughter Anne was a favorite as a lively and entertaining hostess and the two daughters-in-Iaw happened to be talented musicians, Linda at the piano and Cheryl with her beautiful singing voice.
Well, Johnie and Anne have gone to be with the Lord and the boys families have expanded to married children and grandchildren so they naturally use their own homes as the proper place to gather. I find great satisfaction in my role as dad, granddad and great granddad when I join one or the other family for holidays and special events.
After Johnie passed away I lived in the home place writing this weekly column, attending church and community affairs and watching selected shows on TV. After a bit of coaching by some friends I escorted some single ladies to social events, became enchanted with Sheila Wallace and convinced her to marry me. At that point we needed to chose one of our houses to live in but neither of us had perused the home of the other.
Well, we chose her beautiful place on Anchor Lake instead of my farm house which was built in stages for raising four children, cattle, pecans, gardens, Christmas tree and a passel of wonderful memories. It would never be considered for the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval but was a great house to live in and raise a family.
The two story stucco house is newly painted, has new floors and sits on 14 acres of meadow and young pine trees and includes a guest cottage, a large barn and a workshop. I pray the next owners will also find happiness on this farm.
The Spring Meadow farm house will be occupied by a young family until it is placed on the market and sold. Don't you agree I should reserve the right to move that live oak tree to the south yard of our Lakeside home? Anybody know how to move a 200 year old live oak tree? The good book says faith can move mountains. Would that apply to a live oak tree?