Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ozarks: Uncle Cranford's Place

Yesterday, we drove to the homestead of Uncle Cranford Hodges and his wife, Gay, where the children once again fed cattle, played with cats and dogs, and watched deer bound across fields, three activities that they've not yet tired of.

Uncle Cranford lives about 10 miles north of Gepp, Arkansas, not far from the Missouri line, on a farm that blew away in a tornado back in 1982, leaving them with nothing but the determination to rebuild. The storm came from the southwest heading directly for their place, and Cranford watched the quarter-mile-wide funnel coming across a field toward him from about 200 yards away before he and his family retreated to the safety of their storm cellar. Seconds later, the cloud hit, and within 20 more seconds, everything was gone.

Cranford described the sound as like that of a jet engine. The winds were blowing so powerfully that even the underground walls of the cellar shook visibly each time that a nearby tree was uprooted. A heavy branch fell across the cellar door to block their exit after the storm had passed, and only with difficulty could Cranford use a board to leverage the branch far enough away that his youngest son, James, could manage to slip out and pull the branch off, freeing the rest of the family. Their house was completely gone, leaving only the kitchen table, still laden with the evening supper as though nothing had happened.

They rebuilt and continued farming. The location is beautiful, and they are only a mile from a paved road that used to be dirt, for I recall the area from when Uncle Woodrow used to work as the foreman on Mr. Heldenbrand's Little Creek Ranch. That's the same ranch where I stood and watched a tornado pass directly over my head one summer when my brothers and I were staying with Woodrow and Pauline. That storm passed us by but touched down in Bakersfield, Missouri and blew the roof off the school.

Fortunately, yesterday's wind and clouds brought neither rain nor tornado, and the evening passed pleasantly. The kids played on Gay's piano, Cranford strummed his guitar, and I tried to sing. We stayed for dinner, then did some virtual bowling on their television. I won twice but couldn't get as excited as En-Uk, who leaped for joy each time that he made a strike.

The evening passed too quickly, and we had to leave by 8:45 because the drive home at night would take an hour along the dark and winding roads back home.

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At 1:11 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"...back home."

Settling in are we, Jeffery?

At 1:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffery, we really enjoyed our brief time together, especially En Uk and Sa Rah playing the piano. We were amazed at their level of expertise. And I also marveled at your smooth baritone voice as we sang. My guitar playing leaves much to be desired, and I named my guitar "Mista Note-R-2."
I recalled my brother Bradley and I having our final wrestling match as kids, that ended with me uttering my first curse word to him.. Uncle Cran

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for your compliment on my 'baritone' voice. I had a good evening, but the quality of my voice is variable. I lack the lung capacity consistently to blast out a line or hold a long note.

Maybe I should also have shot off a "damn you" or two in Bradley's direction to set him straight. He seems to have responded well to your expletive.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a lot of sympathy for your feelings about Bradley. As I said to Sun-Ae, I have a lot of sympathy for you and your brothers' feelings. If I had been in your shoes, I would likely feel the same. However, there is another side, that will never be settled until we all stand before God's righteous judgment bar. Until then, I think we have discussed that fully already. I hope Sun-Ae's five year plan can be fulfilled. Glad you made it home safely.
With love - Uncle Cran

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

At that final judgement, everything will be made clear, and I expect that we face a lot of surprises, but whatever good qualities Bradley had, and he seems to have had a number of them, he never, for whatever reason, fulfilled his role as a father, and his absence from that role sufficiently explains the general indifference of his children.

But, as you note, we've discussed that pretty fully already.

As for five year plans, we'll see what happens...

Jeffery Hodges

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