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— Last Sunday we had the fortunate opportunity to sit down and talk with a woman who recently celebrated her one-hundredth birthday.

I can’t remember when I have ever conversed with a person who has seen an entire century of days come and go, but I was charmed by her steady mind and clear memory as we traded information. Her answers filled gaps in history for me, and my photographs helped update some tucked away memories from her past.

Although we had not met before that day, our common interests faded the fifty year gap in our ages. Our mutual bond grew from the reality that we both hold dear in our hearts the same 40 acre piece of rugged Newton County hillside and the 80-year-old mud-daubed rock fireplace that still stands on it.

She and her husband had lived on the place after they married in 1928. They homesteaded the land, and he built their log home, including the tall chimney that provided them with warmth and a fireplace for cooking “many a meal.” The first four of their seven children had been born there. The family planted fruit trees and built a rock fence as they cleared land for pasture.

Ten years later they moved away. She told me last Sunday that if she was able, she would love to go see the place again. I told her she is more than welcome.

Earl and I bought the place five years ago. He came across it while on a quest to locate a piece of property for his uncle who lives in California and wanted to invest in some Arkansas real estate. With the old house completely gone, the chimney stood like a sentinel guarding a few remaining foundation stones and overlooking the nearby clearing where a rustic, A-frame cabin had been built many years later.

While waiting for an answer from his uncle Roger, Earl took me to see his remote find. In his mind it was a slice of heaven in the Ozarks, but I admit, that was not my first impression.

For starters, it was difficult to get to. For all but the very determined, the site remained hidden in a valley, accessible from the county road by way of a rough, mile-long lane that wandered through the woods below. It was the kind of “driveway” that grows grass and tall weeds between the tire tracks due to infrequent use.

The cabin had been vacant for a long time and needed many repairs. The yard was overgrown, and to say the place needed “a little TLC” was an understatement. After more exploration, though, I began to see its charm and hidden potential.

By the time we heard from Uncle Roger, I was relieved that he was not going to purchase the property. I had grown attached. I felt the place needed us ... and we needed it. With our youngest child moving off to college thatyear, this could be the project that would keep us busy during our transition to empty-nest-hood.

So, the place became ours and we spend many, many hours working the place over to make it a comfortable, albeit still rustic, weekend retreat. Neighbors told us about past residents of the cabin, but until a few weeks ago we had been unable to find anyone in the area who could provide information about the family who had lived on the old home site with the still-standing chimney.

How excited we were when we finally presented the question to a long time resident of the area who actually knew the place’s history. She gave us the family’s name, and to top it off, informed us that the woman, although now 100 years old, was still living.

We wasted no time in contacting the woman’s family and setting up last Sunday’s very special visit. We arrived, bringing photographs taken since we bought the place, plenty of questions, and a grandson who carried the “treasures” he had found near the chimney with his metal detector.

We came away feeling that she had received as much joy from the encounter as we did. We could tell that time had not erased the love she felt for the place where she and her husband had lived so long ago and where they had started their family. She said she hoped that we would not ever tear down the chimney - her late husband’s handiwork, and we assured her we would not.

Her daughters said we really made her day. Considering she has had so many of them, I count that a real honor.

Opinion, Pages 9 on 11/04/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park Talk with Centurian Makes Her Day

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