Gravel Roads and Brush Arbor

Think about the many different types of roads. There are neighborhood streets and busy interstates. Footpaths in the grass. Dirt roads. Two-lane highways. Long, winding driveways. Mountainous roads. Roads that lead somewhere. Dead ends. Lake access roads.

The book I want to discuss today is not available to read because there are only a handful of copies of it in the world. In the introduction, the writer states:

“This narrative is dedicated to country roads:  some graveled, some still mud and some leading nowhere. What is wonderful is knowing that country roads are filled with the lives of so many others who traveled them years past and thanks to those hearty souls, you are allowed choices they could only dream of. No matter how high a man may rise, perhaps to being the richest man in the world, you can be assured that even on those roads paved with gold, there is an old country road which allowed him to get where his is.”

Sixteen years ago, before my grandpa passed away, my mom took the time to interview him and used his memories to write a book for my sister and me (of his days before we knew him). Here is the title page she created:

IMG_20150630_1855447_rewind (00000005)


As I was re-reading the book this past week, I remembered that old gravel road in Mercer, Missouri and its importance in my life. As a young girl, I walked the road, gravel crunching beneath my feet, loose stones rolling away as I passed my Grandpa’s angus cattle in the fields, the cows sometimes mooing their complaint at my intrusion in their territory. I always paused on the “bridge,” a two-board creation, to watch the creek moving beneath me. Later, as a teenager, I learned to navigate the two boards as I drove my grandpa’s pickup to town.

Here is the first paragraph of the book my mom wrote. She is such a gifted writer. I hope to publish this book at some point, as it represents so many others from the “Greatest Generation” who lived through world wars, the Great Depression, and learned to work hard, love through action, and worship God without fail.

“It was a cold November morning in a small rural area of Northern Missouri. Frozen haze was hanging over the curving creek bed and sweeping along the banks as far as the eye could see. The creek ran north to south, giving the illusion of something much larger than it actually was, while the craggy edges jutted in and out of the landscape, but always within a narrow curvature created by mother nature herself. The old house, sitting on the hill one half mile west of the creek, was creaking and sagging in places, while the shutters on the windows were painted white with hoary frost, and the smoke from the chimney curled endlessly into the sky. Inside the house the air was warm and inviting, interrupted by the whimpering cries of a newborn. Carl Vatus and Veta Fonabelle Gibson Porter were parents of a bouncing baby boy. The date was November 19, 1919, and the baby was named Doral Vatus.” (Shirley Porter, 1999)

The most special time of the year for my grandpa was July because that meant the churches would gather for Brush Arbor days (representing the old-time campmeetings of long ago). I was there for the first service, alongside my grandpa, as I was visiting him that summer. I celebrate my heritage, from that old gravel road and the influences of those who were born, lived, and died within a mile of that end of it.

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