Local History: The old man

Lee Kendall is Kim’s older brother by two years. Back about 1985 Lee wrote a few stories about growing up on the farm. Today, Kim owns the property. Lee mentions a cousin John on the Suwanee River. John is Kendall Thurston. The old man is Lee’s father, Nelson. Below is one of Lee’s stories. The photo is Nelson’s gravestone that Kendall carved from pool table slate.


Nelson's slate grave. Photo provided
Nelson’s slate grave. Photo provided

“Down at the edge of the property under a leafless butternut tree a gravestone sticks up through winter’s snow. The old man is buried there or rather his ashes are, well most of them anyway. My youngest brother, Gale, strewed several handfuls of them among the trees and stone fence posts that mark the boundaries. The old man always said in his later years he was never leaving the place and it appears he was right.

“The property is only two and one half acres, more or less. Lawn, shade, and fruit trees of all kinds have been planted and cut and more planted at the whim of eight generations of farmers. The old man’s butternut and exotic poplars dominate the scene now. They are slowly replacing the one hundred and fifty year old maples that are starting to die along the edge of the short driveway.

“After my brothers and I graduated from high school and left home the old man couldn’t keep up his home businesses. The cider press was dismantled and sold as was the sugaring arch and all the paraphernalia that went with it. From then on until he died the old man concentrated on gardening and planting trees.

“He loved his garden and grew all the common garden stock, plus little known and not much sought after curative and healthful plants. He had a few regular customers who drove long distances to buy them. Pumpkins were the big seller though, mountains of them for Halloween.

“The only plant the old man didn’t like, actually I should say hated, was poison ivy. It was the bane of his existence. He was so allergic if he saw some while out hunting or fishing he would detour hundreds of yards.

“There was a small growth of it at the far edge of his pumpkin patch. He tried to burn it one fall and caught a horrendous case from the smoke blowing on him. The next summer he tried swathing himself in rain gear and spraying, but it did no good. He caught it again and the ivy lives to this day.

“The land, the house and the three weathered barns attached to it, one after another in the old New England style, belong to Kim now.

Kim and Lee Kendall
Kim and Lee Kendall. Photo provided

“Kim hasn’t married yet so he always has a place in the old nine room farmhouse for a guest or two. Various cousins, aunts, friends, and friends of friends stay for a day, a week, a summer, or a winter depending on their vague plans. It seems like there is always someone there from some distant place with an interesting tale of travel to tell.

“My cousin, John, lives in a treehouse perched over the Suwanee River with his pet skunk, during the winter. Summers he usually spends at Kim’s. He and the old man used to argue, disagree, and practical joke each other constantly. Neither he nor the old man could resist trying to get a little dig into the other. Depending on the day, they’re either best of friends or plotting to kill each other.

“The old man didn’t like the noise and late night parties at the house so he lived in the silo. He had it set up quite comfortably in four floors. The first was the kitchen and living room, the second bedroom, the third closet and storage. On the fourth you could pull back the domed canopy for a birds-eye view of the fields and old stone walls.

“As much as the old man and John did and didn’t get along, John spent a summer after the old man’s death living in the grapevine covered silo. He also took the time to carve the gravestone under the butternut tree.

“It’s a nice stone but I believe the old man would swear and b—h till he was blue if he could see it, for carved with exquisite care and attention to detail up the sides of the gray slate around the name and dates are winding vines of poison ivy.”

  This week’s old saying: “Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.”

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