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James R. Stout

Monster Lane

            Sometimes as a parent or grandparent we’re just too tired or busy to properly answer a child’s question. That can come back to bite us. In fact, it usually does. Most of the time it starts out as a simple question that could be easily answered within just a few minutes. But once we commit ourselves to a fib, we’re kind of stuck with it. When I was a child and I would come and visit my grandparents I would stay with them for a week or two at a time. Of course, this was before I was old enough to be in school or was during the summer. Grandma and Grandpa had a kind of schedule for their week. Grandma would go into Trinity, Texas to buy goods at a grocery store (items that they either didn’t grow or raise on the farm), go to the bank, and perhaps go to the dry goods store for various items on Tuesdays. Wednesdays were for going into Huntsville (not every week though) for sewing supplies, possible business at the county courthouse, and to the nicer 5 & 10 Cent Store on the square. These trips were generally just Grandma and me. Grandpa was almost always working on the pastures either cutting hay, feeding the livestock, plowing or tending to the corn that he grew for the cows, and general farming duties. Fridays were generally the day that Grandpa might go into Crockett to get a haircut, purchase parts for the farm machines, and during the period of time that my great-grandmother was in a nursing home in Crockett, we would go see her.

            Once in a while Grandpa and I would make a trip into Trinity for something that he needed before Friday and could be handled at a business in Trinity. Perhaps one of his Stetson hats needed to be reblocked or he needed a tube for the radio. It was on one of these trips into Trinity that I became aware of Monster Lane. As you were leaving Trinity on highway 19 there came a point where the highway veered to the left and another road veered off to the right from the highway. This became known as Monster Lane. On the day in question I asked a simple question.

            “What’s down that road, Grandpa?”

            “There’s not much of anything down that road.” Grandpa replied.

            “Can we go down the road to see what’s there?” I asked.

            Grandpa probably needed to get back to the farm to complete some work before the end of the day. So, he said, “No, we can’t go down that road. Monsters live down there.”

            For Grandpa, that was the end of the discussion. For me, it was just the beginning of a lifelong fearful apprehension of that mysterious road that I started to call “Monster Lane”. What kind of monsters? Did they eat people? Did they ever come out during the day? Were they like that “One-Eyed Purple People Eater”? Little did Grandpa know that for the next several years I would scoot over just a little away from the door of the truck when we would pass by that road. I never asked him to go down Monster Lane again, but for the rest of his life I wondered what kind of monsters lived down that road.

            Now, looking back on it I realize that Grandpa was probably busy and needed to get back to the farm. He had no idea that his comment would strike fear into my little heart for years to come every time we drove into and out of Trinity, Texas. Grandpa passed away when I was 11-years-old. We still came up to see my grandmother for the period of time that she lived there. She would move to Houston to be near her daughters about 18 months after Grandpa died. We made trips up to the farm over the next few years, but they became less and less frequent. As I grew older, I didn’t think about Monster Lane much. I certainly didn’t believe that there were monsters down that road.

            Life got busier and busier and I grew up, got married, had kids, worked, and did all the living that we all do during those busy years of life. I would occasionally drive past that road when I came up to the farm for a weekend, but I would generally just smile at my younger self for believing in monsters. But in 2009 I built a house on part of the old farm and moved to the country. I was still working, but life became less hectic. Still, I didn’t seem to ever have time to see what was down that road. Finally, I retired in September of 2017. But even upon retirement my time for the next year was limited. My mother was in poor health and I would take her to the doctors and her various hospital stays. There were several deaths in my immediate family that consumed my time. Last March my mother passed away. During the summer I found myself with much more time on my hands than I had previously had. One day as I was driving through Trinity, I decided to finally see what was down that road. I must say that it was with some anticipation. After about 60 years of wondering what there could possibly be down that road, I found out.

            Not much of anything. Monster Lane basically ran parallel to the railroad tracks leading out of town. There were a few houses, remnants of long closed businesses including an old sawmill, and not a single monster anywhere to be found! When I was finished driving the mile or so down the road before it came to a dead-end, I exclaimed out loud to myself, “Well, now I know what’s down this road.”

            Saying that out loud made me think of my Grandfather again and something that he would say after someone would pass away. He would get a far away look in his eyes and then say, “Well, I guess they’ve done gone down that road and have seen what there was to see.”            

            Thinking about Grandpa saying that made me think of the loved ones who had recently passed. My father, my mother, my sister, my son-in-law, two uncles, three aunts, and a cousin have all gone down that road and have indeed seen what there is to see. Now, as a Christian I know that I am going to Heaven. I’ll be reunited with those loved ones and most importantly I will be in the presence of my savior, Jesus. But exactly how that will look, feel, and be remains a mystery until we go down that road. Mind you, I’m not in a hurry to go down that road. I’ve already shown that I could wait 60 years to go down another road. So, I can wait as long as it takes. I still have things I want to do. Things that I want to accomplish. Things that I should do. I love being with my grandchildren and children, other loved ones, and friends. Speaking of grandchildren, I’m planning on taking them for a drive down that road the next time they come to see me. Why? Just because. I also plan on taking the time to answer their questions no matter how busy I might be or how seemingly unimportant the question may seem to be to me. It could be very important to them, so I will take the time to answer their questions. What you have to do is ask yourself a question. You won’t get the complete answer right away, but you can know to some extent the answer to a very important question. What’s down that road for you? Will you go to Heaven or will you take a drive down Monster Lane?

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