Old Kentucky Home
Flying east from the Arizona desert to be with my grandfather on his hundredth birthday, I look down on the brown lifeline of the Mississippi and think of his great grandfather, rounded up by the Confederates in the last days of the war and marched somewhere deep down into Tennessee before he could get away. He was having to hide, having to drink from a bloody horse track, when he figured he might as well die aiming for home as in those strange parts, and so began stealing his way to the river, then back and forth across it, the last time on horseback. To make it home. To make it home alive. To build a house still occupied by descendants. To raise a barn and tobacco and eight children. To sit humped up and long bearded by the fireplace telling great grandchildren, one of them my grandfather, about the bloody horse track, his terror of dying someplace off from home. In a full century, my grandfather has lived no more than a mile down the road from what he calls his old home place, and though I haven’t lived in that river valley for half my life, home is where I go when I go there.