Written for “The Tuscumbian”
Look back almost 130 years at the late 19th century, early 20th century heyday of a thriving railroad town that after a few changes in name had become “Tuscumbia” once and for all. Many things of that town’s past are in dim memory or on some stored, written pages with accompanying photographs of family, homes, and life in general. Small things that have flavored our present are little realized until retold. This is part of what this blog is about: Talking and sharing about what we know as “children” of this town, on “paper”: Whether it is actual or electronic, we should be ready to share that history, among ourselves and others, for the sake of those who, in life, follow after us, making their own history.
Life was busy in the town and among the occasional feuds in its citizenry, there was, as always, found a need for more distant, even if not safer place, to take peoples minds off of their problems or “take it outside”.
Located on the south outskirts of town, sitting below a bluff, there was the every present spring and creek, source of the town’s water. Here cattle could be watered, people could fish, and people could live a life a little bit more rough and free than in the town above.
My grandmother, who had always, from youth, lived a life of a Southern “Lady”, shared with me, smiles that I did not understand for some time, and stories of how there were “places” near this then and now beautiful area, before and during prohibition, that people would go at night to “drink and party”. They even adding to their “sins” by dancing to music and gambling. I remember one place she described as being called the (“Bloody Bucket”?). Tales of drinking, dancing, shooting, and “blood” prevailed occasional evenings as she related the events to those adults in the “parlor” and children in the next room who would and could listen. She was, by then, to me and my siblings, a staunch Methodist, who “looked down on those things”, asking, at the same time, that we remained “Godly”. Now to a young child, in my time, these were as good as any scary stories, religious mythologies, or fairy tales as could be told. Who needed ghost stories? My grandmother’s “reality” stories were always better.
Then there were stories, from her and others, of the spring area being used as the annual fairgrounds and assembly places for political rallies, speeches, and for general public use for strolls and picnics. I only found out, within the last few years, that there was a horse-racing track located on the fair grounds that was apparently quite an event to attend.
Then there was the infamous swimming pool that was there in my living memory. I always wanted to go swimming in the summers that we visited my grandmother in the late 50’s, early 60’s, but were denied access to it by both her and my parent’s. They would relate stories of snakes being found in the pool and people drowning because they did not wait an hour before swimming: The latter being told, not in humor, but as a warning that food and swimming do not mix, the former being a particularly good reason not to go swimming there in the first place. I always wondered why anyone would ever go their at all. One summer I returned and the pool was no longer there, not even a big hole in the ground.
Other than that information and a couple of recently found photos of the horse track, I remember little else. These stories, though, were far less interesting than shooting and gambling, but I do know that except for those stories, along with Memorial Day, 4th of July picnics, or the occasional political rally, those days have long past.
I now, occasionally, get to accompany my grandchildren to this same area to picnic and feed the ducks: The ducks that have always eternally, to me, seemed to be there since I was a young child. I think of what amazing stories left among those that I remember, the grandchildren could be told about, both scaring and enlightening them at the same time, as I was. There were, in hind-sight, life lessons in those stories that did make me a better person, even if just knowing about them, but my life was enriched by them none the less.
Carl Brackin Jr.