On these visits to see Mama and Aunt Mae, I truly realize how fortunate I was to grow up on this mountain. We didn't have much money when I was little, but man was I ever wealthy! I had all of Uncle Dave's land, plus the entire Talladega National Forest to roam, and roam it I did. As early as I could remember, I would get up and journey into those woods. All of it was mine, every single acre. Beside our house on Uncle Dave's land was this big pecan tree that was loaded every fall, and on any day of the week, I could walk up the hill to Aunt Mae and Uncle Dave's house and Aunt Mae would always cook for me, butterbeans and biscuits and maybe even some salmon patties! Her and I would sometimes pick blackberries so she could make us the most awesome blackberry cobbler. Aunt Mae's yard had apple trees, both red and green and she made the best fried apple pies ever. They had a scufadine vine, a grape vine, and a fig tree that was always full of fruit. Uncle Dave grew watermelon and cantaloupe in the fields behind our house, and he had an old refrigerator in his well house that always had at least one of each in it, chilled and ready to slice. As I got older and started riding bicycles and later dirt bikes, that's when the daily adventures really got going! Salt Creek Falls and Branch Falls were both within walking distance of our house and we swam many times at Salt Creek Falls, climbing up and down the side of it, in spite of the danger. But those aren't the only falls on that mountain, you know. I've found waterfalls in those woods that very few people have ever seen and honestly to this day I can't remember how to get to. The memory of coming across those hidden gems and being blown away by their natural beauty gives me such an awesome feeling to this day. I was always shy and a loner, happy to spend the whole day by myself in those trails, but boy when I wasn't isolating, did I ever get some attention! My Daddy was my world and Uncle Dave was my hero, and when they passed away I was crushed. But the three rocks in my life, Mama, Aunt Mae, and my sister Penny, loved and babied me, and you know I just ate it up. Oh yeah, I was spoiled. Again, not with the things money could buy, but with love, and I still am. If there is anything in this world I'm good at, it's being loved! I've got lots of experience!
As I sit here right now and look out of the windows of Mama's house and see those pines, I'm filled with happy memories. I've always felt that my soul lived in those woods, and sometimes when I'm here, I just start walking, not intending to go anywhere in particular, but just to go. No I wasn't born a Rockefeller or a Carnegie, but there is no way in the world you could convince me that any of their children were more wealthy or more privileged than I was as a child. God certainly blessed me and he still does, every single day. I don't thank Him nearly as much as I should.