Summer Sundays at my grandparents Mimi and Da’s house were laid back, restful, and full of fun things to do. Everyone but Mimi slept as late as possible, rising to wonderful smells wafting throughout the house of her bacon frying.
Breakfast was dependable, good old grits, eggs however you wanted them, bacon and maybe ham, fluffy biscuits slathered with butter, and milk to drink for Harold and me, coffee for the grownups.
Actually, after I was six or so Mimi allowed me a cup of coffee too, a lovely pale brown liquid, mostly hot milk with a splash or two of perked coffee and lots of sugar added.
I’ve loved coffee ever since I first tasted Mimi’s wonderful Luzianne coffee with chicory. I can still smell that wonderful flavor as I type these words. Remarkable. (But today I don’t add sugar, don’t buy chicory flavored brands and don’t perk it, either… is it even still real coffee?)
After breakfast we read the Sunday paper, of course. The sections were carefully doled out by granddaddy, news and sales sections for Mimi, sports and farm-to-market for himself, funnies for Harold and me.
Afterwards Harold and I headed outdoors to play hide and seek in the barns and packhouse, dig for arrowheads in the fields close to the house, or see how far we could explore the “back 40” until hindered by ditches full of murky water. Mimi’s yell of “Din-nerrrrrrr!” out the back door brought us and our appetites running.
After a scrumptious lunch of fried chicken, fresh vegetables and pineapple layer cake, it was time for a short nap. For the adults, that is. Us kids meandered around the house and yard, drawing hopscotch patterns in the dirt (me) or laying out roads for toy trucks (Harold), whatever came to mind that didn’t take us too far afield.
Because Mimi and Da’s fun thing to do on Sunday afternoon was “go to ride.” Many folks did that on Sunday afternoons, so you took a chance on finding somebody at home, just part of the adventure.
About three o’clock we piled in his latest Mercury sedan, Mimi in her fresh apron sitting up front beside Da in his fresh overalls, Harold and me holding down the back.
We kneeled on the seat and stuck our heads out of the windows, eyes squinted nearly shut to let the wind blow on our faces. Da turned left out of the driveway onto Stagecoach Road and we headed south toward Elim.
Several miles down we hit the Sand Hills. The road became mostly whitish sand, the trees mostly scrub, and if you stopped the car in the wrong place the sand dunes – i.e. ruts in the road – would get the tires stuck but good.
This was where the ocean had come many eons ago and there were still bits of sea shells in the sandy soil all through there, Da explained. That’s why they call this the Sand Hills, he added.
He didn’t slow the Mercury down too much as he made a left turn in deep ruts onto another narrow dirt road. Within a mile or two we had arrived at our first stop of the afternoon, Cuba, South Carolina.
We rolled to a stop in the front yard of a big farmhouse, built up off the ground just like Mimi’s. Shade trees made good places to “set a spell” and visit, straight-back chairs brought from indoors to give everyone a seat.
The men leaned their chairs back against a tree trunk, lighting up hand-rolled cigarettes while they discussed crops and fertilizers, tractors and combines.
Mimi and her friend sat upright with their aprons spread in their laps, comparing recipes and sharing news of neighbors, babies and poundings. If there were any “young’uns” for Harold and me to play with here, we might be treated to a tour of the barn and the latest batch of kittens, or invited to climb the stable fence and peer at a mule or a goat. Both were signs of hospitality when neighbor kids came to call.
After a cool drink of home-made lemonade, we bid Cuba goodbye and piled back into the car. What direction would we take next?
Maybe down the country to see a friend’s new Farmall at Wisacky, over the swamp to see how the crops were faring at Hogeye, or perhaps into Darlington County to visit relatives at Philadelphia. Possum Fork, Camp Branch or Meadow Prong might be this week’s destinations.
No matter where we wound up, the house would be similar. Sometimes the grownups would sit on the front porch, sometimes in the front yard, sometimes under a shade tree. The visits would be similar too, adults catching up on news and gossip, kids eager to show off their new hound dog puppy or sow and piglets.
The roads and lanes were all dirt back then. Even without road signs granddaddy always knew where to turn but to save me I couldn’t find those places today. The names have stuck with me through the years, though, and some seem to make sense.
Did they raise hogs at Hogeye? Hunt possums at Possum Fork? Camp out at Camp Branch? “Boogie down” in Boogie Bottom? But why name a place Cuba? Or Wisacky? Or Sheminally, over toward Lake City?
There’s still a New Hope – was there ever an Old Hope? There’s the Neck and Old Neck. Whose neck were they named for? Maybe that’s just the “neck of the woods” where somebody lived.
Deep Hole Swamp is pretty understandable, you don’t want to get lost in there! There’s Oates, Oak Grove, Gum Branch, Mineral Springs, and Smith’s Mill, all self-explanatory.
Bible names were sprinkled all over the place too, like New Zion, Bethlehem, Ebenezer and Shiloh. We didn’t visit all of those on Sundays but the odd names dropped during conversations stuck in my head like glue.
As I searched online for a reference to Cuba, SC one day (no luck), I found some unfamiliar places in a Pee Dee map from 1895. I don’t know if any of these still exist but I’d love to know how they came to be called Single, Lucile, Max, Bee, Blossom or Jay. Or Othello, Parnassus, Green Plain, Key or Church.
Still, the place I remember most is that farm house in Cuba, where we stopped first on many a Sunday afternoon when Mimi and Da wanted to “go to ride.”