We were in the Arkansas piney woods near Narrows Dam, which had just been built to harness the Little Missouri and Ouachita Rivers, creating Lake Greeson. There were all kinds of fish for Daddy and Leslie Ray, pimento cheese on white bread and longneck bottles of Pepsi for Mother and me.
Daddy had been trying to convince Mother to settle down in a small town where he would pastor a church and tend his flock, but it was her calling we followed for years, performing, traveling the Deep South, singing, packing up instruments, moving on and doing it all over again.
One morning on the way to Hot Springs, Daddy said we were only visiting the Singing today because Mother had a new song she’d written and by tonight we’d return to our new house.
A few months back we’d moved into the parsonage where in the vacant lot between the house and the church our lives changed. A freshly planted garden grew alongside Leslie Ray’s rabbit pens and pigeon cages. We had a chicken coop and a giant weeping willow tree with branches fluttering almost to the ground, creating a cozy space I claimed as a playhouse.
A few steps from these homey installations in no more than a minute we could be at church, then turn around and go the other way and walk to school. Such convenience was previously unknown, and this was clearly how we were meant to live. Not in a car.
Our town was country all the way from the outer edge where a road led to a creek and back in the other direction to the cluster of buildings around Courthouse Square. It was nothing like the bustle of Texarkana where we kept an apartment as headquarters while we traveled.
Soon it was apparent our settling down might have something to do with Mother’s changing wardrobe. Instead of the slinky jersey dresses with the sweetheart necklines, she was sewing cotton tops with an abundance of fabric in the front.
Here’s what you don’t see in the picture up there – the real reason we stopped touring for a while. We got us a baby who also seemed to enjoy life among the pines.