I have two best friends I've known nearly all of my life. One I met in 1964, the other in 1967.
The latter came and spent the day with me last weekend. We packed a picnic lunch and set out to drive the back roads of our youth.
It was a gorgeous sunny fall day and the leaves have finally begun to turn here. We started our trip by turning up the road behind the old Bruno School and driving up on Pea Ridge and on towards Tomahawk Ridge.
My father was the bus mechanic/bus driver for the old Bruno School, so I know most of old the bus routes in the area. Renee Loftin Wiley's dad was the principal of said school, and she also traveled many of the roads with him on visits.
Our first stop was the old Pea Ridge School House. According to my Daddy, this building was multi-functional.
Monday through Friday it housed grades 1-12 as a school. On Saturday nights, community dances were held there and folks from all over gathered to socialize and enjoy good fun. Then Sunday morning it became the local community church.
Nearby is an old cemetery full of ancient grave stones, including one that surely must be the first as it leans against a tree just outside of the fence. The building itself seems to still be in use for special activities, as there are pews inside and an electrical cord hanging on the outside ready to plug into a generator.
From there, our travels took us back down towards Bruno and we stopped at Renee's old home place. Sadly, it burned to the grown many years ago, but the foundation is still there as is the old barn. We walked about taking pictures and reminiscing about times spent here and how the house seemed so much bigger when we were children.
The barn held many memories too. It once was full of hay and we played for hours there, as well as down by the creek, which runs nearby.
Now the barn is empty and in need of repair. It is full of discarded items and an old rocking chair that seems to be waiting for someone to sit down and read a story to a group of children.
From there we swung back down into Bruno proper. The old store is no longer there, having been torn down to make way for the church parking lot.
We remembered riding our bikes down there to buy sodas (kept in a cooler filled with water provided by Coca-Cola, with a bottle opener attached to the outside) and candy bars. It held a post office in one corner and a big pot bellied stove around, which many of the locals would gather to visit and exchange gossip. Out front were gas pumps serviced by Mobilgas with a sign bearing the symbol of a red Pegasus.
Behind the store, you can still see an old house where the owners of the store once lived. And behind that, just a little up the hill, you can faintly still see the remains of another house where my grandparents lived when Grandpa shared a blacksmith shop in the town.
The Bruno church is still standing, and still in use. It has been well cared for and added to over the years. Renee attended this church every Sunday as a child, and we both went to bible school there every summer. We spread our picnic lunch on the porch and ate there, waving at the few cars that passed.
Then we were off again, going slowly down dirt roads asking each other "Didn't _____ live there?" and "Remember going to this house for a sleep over?" Some house are gone now leaving either empty foundations, or having been replaced by larger, more modern homes.
Some are still occupied by family members, some have been sold to 'new people' in the area, and a few were bought by local cattlemen who have made good use of the pasture land.
And then we made a really cool discovery. By this time we had wondered up into the Eros area and Renee asked me "Isn't there a creek around here with a swimming hole? I was baptized there and I want a picture."
The only place that met that description was the creek at Patton Cemetery, and that is the same place I and my other best friend Sharon Martin White were also baptized! We laughed to think that all these years we never realized we had been baptized in the same place, just at different times.
You see, around here when people want to be baptized, we go down to the local creek or river and hold a baptizing service — no matter what the weather. Some old fashioned traditions never change. We drove down to the creek, and sure enough Renee recognized it.
Then it was time to head home. A lovely day full of wonderful memories, and leaving us with more memories to cherish.