I have always enjoyed looking at old homesteads, cemeteries, barns and antiques, visualizing what life must have looked like back in its day. I wonder who the people were, who the place or thing belonged to, and what it would have been like to live back in that time. These landmarks and remnants all have their own stories to tell and they all generate a lot of questions in my mind. The McIntosh home place, a small part of which Lisa and I have owned and called home for the last 14 years, is such a place that is full of landmarks and remnants of times gone by.
I remember some of what this place has looked like during the last 40 years, but Jack knows the history much better than I because it has belonged to his family for at least 5 generations. Though he is only seven years older than me, he remembers from personal experience and from pictures and stories handed down from his parents, many of the faces of his ancestors and others who lived or worked on the place. He still remembers what some of the land and older buildings looked like decades ago, or at least approximately where they were located. Most of the structures that he remembers have been long gone, but I enjoy him telling me about each house or building that he remembers. I especially enjoy the stories of the old country store that belonged to his Great Granddaddy; Mr. Archie Lee McIntosh.
My Granddaddy Crumpler's home place is not too far from the McIntosh place. It too has always been special to me and I spent a lot of time there before his estate sold it off several years after my daddy died. The land is now home to a new subdivision, a funeral home and a new Middle School. It all looks very different now and I doubt that there is anybody still alive who knows and loves its history more than I do.
I still remember and treasure all the stories of my daddy's childhood on that property. What I treasure most however are all the memories of the times we spent together while he was still alive and living on the place, after I had children of my own. I also treasure the memories that my children have of and with him on that land.
The only remaining clues that the Tullie and Gussy Crumpler homestead ever existed are a few remaining pecan trees and a couple of old hidden fence rows that would not mean anything to anyone except me. This said, I am especially grateful that my family and I now get to enjoy and be a part of the McIntosh homestead and heritage on a daily basis.
I never see an old fencerow that I don't wonder: Who built it? When? What conversations went on as the construction took place? What kind of livestock were they fencing in or were they just marking land boundaries? How long did the construction take? How long did it take them just to cut and gather the many wooden fence posts that now lay hidden on the ground or are just barely held suspended by a piece of the old wire? I wonder if when they were building it, did they ask themselves if anyone would ever look back and remember them and why they put the fence up. I ask Jack and Darrell this question most every time we build fence: "Will anybody ever look back a hundred years from now and know, much less care, who we were, how hard we worked, and that we built this fence only to glorify God and to help make His love known to the nations?"
Old family cemeteries also tell a story of their own if you take time to walk through and read the headstones. You will often see where an entire generation of children within a family, and sometimes within multiple families, died because a new disease, fever or plague came through that they had no cure for or immunity against. The older the cemetery, the more graves you will see of newborns and very young infants that died due to complications that could be easily cured today. In these older cemeteries, you also see a lot of headstones for mothers and babies who died during childbirth but that would have easily survived today. It is not uncommon to also see a lot of headstones of young men, (sons, fathers, brothers and husbands) who died during a relative short period of time as casualties of various wars.
All of these headstones of long ago cause me to wonder who the people were--not just by name, but who they were to their family and to God. I feel just a glimpse of the sorrow that the survivors must have endured. I can only imagine how the parents must have suffered. I wonder how they ever found the will to live after losing two, three or even five young children within a week's time. Perhaps more importantly, I wonder if there is still anyone alive today who would have any idea who this person was! I know that to God, and to somebody else at the time, the graves contain the bodies of those who meant more to them than life itself. To someone, this person was the love of their life! But, who remembers?
There is one of these old cemeteries nearby our farm just off of the dirt road that runs along the field where we plant our winter grazing. This field now belongs to Jack's sister and was also a part of their great granddaddy's farm. In the middle of this remote little cemetery of mostly un-marked or modestly marked graves is a notable headstone for an "Alabama McIntosh". Jack remembers that he was kin, but that is about it. There are many other graves in this cemetery that hold the bodies of people that, as far as I know, have no one still alive who remembers them. I look at these old graves and I wonder how this person fit into God's plan as He ordained for them before creation. I wonder if and how they lived out their purpose in history and in His kingdom.
Back on the farm, my grandsons often find rusty pieces of metal protruding out of the ground that are off of old pieces of farm equipment that date back at least to the old horse and mule days. They call them treasures! I wonder who lost them? Perhaps the forgotten Alabama McIntosh was plowing that mule at the time this plow point broke.
We have also found several small glass bottles that looked like they were made for medicines of some type that Jack's great granddaddy probably sold from his country store. Each time we find these things, I cannot help but wonder whose they were and what the stories are behind them.
I look at the foundation of an old building and wonder who built it . What was it used for? What went on within its walls? What happened to it and to its owners through the years that resulted in it being abandoned and left desolate? I imagine how proud and excited the owners and builders must have been when they were laying the foundation of the then new structures that now lie in ruin.
Perhaps this remnant of a foundation is of an old homestead that belonged to a new young couple who were stepping out to build their first one or two room house in which they would live, make love, birth, and raise their children. I try to imagine the excitement and the dreams they must have had of anticipated Christmases to be celebrated around a home cut tree that would sit in the corner near the new fireplace--to be experienced first by just the two of them, and later with the children that they had dreamed of together. I think about the smells in their wood burning kitchen as she served the homemade biscuits, country ham, redeye gravy and fresh coffee every morning around their little homemade table. I imagine the dim flickering lights of a couple of candles and an old oil lamp as the cool winter breeze seeps through the cracks in the walls and under the doors. I can hear the sounds of the wood cracking and squeaking as they walk across the new planked floor that is yet to settle into place. I hear the familiar whining squeaky noise that the heavy homemade door makes as one of them quietly slips outside to use the outhouse in the middle of the night. These images, scents and sounds are all so real and so vivid in my imagination!
I also think about the probable sorrows and the hard times that this couple would face in this little home that they had not anticipated. Perhaps the children they so loved and dreamed of are among those that lie in the unmarked graves in the nearby cemetery on the dirt road.
I look at the remnants of this old home place, the old fence rows, the old plow points, and the old cemetery, all of which are just bits and pieces of what once was, and I wonder! I wonder who the people were and what they were like? Were they McIntoshes or were they before them? I wonder what God's plans were for their lives? I wonder how they lived out those plans? I wonder if God worked through them or in spite of them? I wonder how they impacted eternity? I wonder if they ever thought that they themselves and everything that they worked so hard to build, would one day be forgotten or become an unknown to almost everyone who followed them in this life? I wonder if any of them ever prayed that God would use their lives and their land to Glorify Him as He saw fit?
I know they never dreamed that a descendant named Jack McIntosh would one day sell part of this land to a Crumpler, and that together, they would give their lives and use their land to help take the Gospel and love of Christ to the world through a ministry called Cattle For Christ International.
I look at my own life, my own house, my own fences, my own barns, my own family that we have built on the McIntosh homestead and I wonder. I wonder if my life and my life's work will outlive me. Will yours? Only one life will soon be past--only what's done for Christ will last!