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James R. Stout

Time and Tide . . .

            Fifty-seven years ago, today, September 30, 1963, our family moved into a new (to us) house in Bryan, Texas. We would live there for just over 3 years. On the day that we moved into that house I was 8 years-old. My sister Debbie was 11, my sister Barbara was 13, my mother was 34, and my father was 40. As I have previously told you about our family, we were a remarkably close and loving family. Only my sister Debbie and I remain in this world today. The house itself was the best house that I lived in during my growing up years. It was primarily brick, it had two bathrooms (the only house we had with two), three bedrooms, and the usual other rooms. It was at the end of the street and there were vacant lots behind and to the side of the house on one side. The roads in the subdivision were gravel, including our street and the street that ran down the other side of the house. Across that side street it was wooded and a place of adventure and mystery for the neighborhood kids. And there was the creek.

            The creek wasn’t a huge creek, but it had some areas that were fairly wide and deep. There were well worn trails throughout the woods and most of them ran through the woods on our side of the creek. One of the first things that I did after we moved in was to explore those woods. The “mystery” part of the woods revolved around a large hole. There didn’t seem to be a reason for the hole to exist. But exist it did. You had to stay away from the edge of that hole because it was probably about 20 feet deep, usually had standing water in it, and getting out of it if you fell in would be a serious issue. About 200 yards down the side road there was a trail that I discovered that lead up to the creek. It became one of my favorite “thinking” places. The banks had a soft and green moss carpet. It was perfect for laying down on with my hands behind my head and a great view through the canopy of trees of the perfect blue fall skies. I would frequently go there by myself and commune with nature. There were squirls and rabbits galore. There were huge pinecones strewn about on either side of the creek and the water would gurgle as it made its way across the stones laying about in the creek bed.

            Another mystery of those woods were the perfectly placed large steppingstones that allowed you to cross the creek without getting your shoes wet. I used to wonder who had placed those stones across the creek. All these years later the answer seems obvious. The land that the subdivision was on and the pastures on the other side of the woods must have once belonged to a farmer or rancher. He no doubt placed those stones in the creek to make it easy for him to get from one part of his land to another. The stones were simply too large and heavy for a child to have placed.

            We got a dog in December of 1964 and named it Rex. A full-blood Rat Terrier it was. Rex would accompany me on my exploration of the woods and many times he would sniff out squirls and rabbits and once a fair-sized rat (just to prove his heritage!). That dog had the most incredible olfactory glands ever. I could take a small rock and throw it into a thicket in those woods and he would bring back that very rock. I used to put a scratch on the rocks for identification with my Cub Scout knife. Once in a while Rex would have a hard time finding the rock. But he never gave up. Sometimes he’d be out there for half an hour searching. Given he was short, and the grass and greenery was taller than he was, you could hear him thrashing around and see the vegetation quaking in his path.

            We moved away from that house in November of 1966. Some changes had already been afoot. The roads had all been paved in 1965 and talk of a city park being built was in the air. I made a visit back there in 1970 to see some old friends and the park had just been finished. My friends told me that they heard the woods were going to be cut down and another subdivision built.

            The last time that I drove through that neighborhood it was barely recognizable. The woods are gone, the creek is now made out of concrete, and there are a hundred or so houses on the other side of the creek. There are roads with bridges that go across that creek now. Our old house looks much the same other than the trees are much larger now. When I drove through there about a year ago, I stopped on that side road and just sat there for a few moments taking it all in. In my mind’s eye I saw me, ages 8-11, running and playing where houses now stood. I remembered events that took place in another world than the one that I live in now. I am reminded of the 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer who said, “Time and tide waits for no man.” He spoke the truth.

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