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Jacob Hatcher

Uncle Jack’s creek

By Jacob Hatcher

Community Columnist

There’s a spring flowing from a hill in Tennessee that, for most of my childhood, might as well have been the place from which the living water flowed. It’s just across the creek on my Uncle Jack’s farm, and every Fourth of July we would meet at his house and ride a flatbed trailer across the farm.

I can still hear Uncle Jack hollar, “All aboard that’s gettin’ aboard; if ya caint get aboard, get a plank!”

He’d park the tractor in the shade and a wealth of riches would be laid out before us. It was sort of like a feast you see opulent kings eating in medieval movies, only a little more redneck and a lot more fried.

The kids would impatiently partake of pulled pork and watermelon, while the spring splashing into the creek was a siren’s call, beckoning us to beg our uncles to fling us out into the middle of that frigid water.

In my most nostalgic moments, I wish I could take my kids to that creek and have them experience the joy of my childhood. I wish the taste of Butterfinger ice cream would transplant them there like it does for me. The fact is, though, the creek’s still there but it wouldn’t be the same.

The chicken would still be fried and the ice cream hand-cranked, but that’s not what made the Fourth of July precious for us. It’s not something that can be recreated; it’s a moment frozen in time. It was those people, at that place, at that moment in history.

So, I’ll cherish my memories and wish we’d taken more pictures. I’ll sit in the shade and eat a bowl of Butterfinger ice cream, knowing it’s not as good as Papa made it. I might even dip my toes in the little creek beside our house, if the spirit moves me.

And as the breeze rustles the leaves above me, I’ll hear a faint, “All aboard that’s gettin’ aboard…” off in the distance like a ghost whispering in my ear.