Cousins, Family, Family History, Memoir


Terry and I recently had the pleasure of entertaining my cousin, Rod, and his wife, Dorothy, who live in Arizona. His dad was my mother’s baby brother, and although all nine Dale siblings were close, those two had a special bond. Perhaps it was because Wayne was the last boy to leave the farm.

My mother never left home. Even after she and my daddy married, they stayed on Oak Dale Farm to help my grandmother. I was two when they sold the home place and we moved into Searcy. Grandma Dale went with us to a brand new home in a new neighborhood, and Rod’s dad built a house down the street.

Our older brothers, Will and Ted, were just a few months apart in age and inseparable. They were amazingly tolerant of my tagging along, but when I couldn’t follow them, I had Rod. My earliest memories are from when I was five or six, and he, at three or so, was developing the mischievous personality that still charms me.

I must have been in the second grade when they left Searcy and settled in California. It broke our hearts, but fortunately they came back often enough that I maintained a strong emotional tie to them. Being with the Dale boys –Ted, Rod and Rick — still holds the comfort of home for me. (Rick was a baby when they left Searcy.)

Rod and Dorothy planned this trip to coincide with the appearance of the lightning bugs. He wanted Dorothy, who grew up in California, to experience the magic he remembered of fireflies at dusk. They were not disappointed. The two evenings they were here (the Dale boys don’t stay long any place when traveling) the lightning bugs presented a magnificent deck-side show. (Thanks to ThermaCell Mosquito Repellent, we were able to exchange Dale lore well into the night.)

Rod also wanted to go back to Searcy to show Dorothy our old neighborhood. I warned them that the street didn’t the look the same. It’s in an old, rundown part of town now and nothing like Rod remembered. He was undeterred, so we went.

These are some things we found.

  • A “For Sale” sign in an open field with just a few remaining oaks out of the grove that inspired the name Oak Dale Farm where our parents were born.
  • Gum Springs Cemetery, the well-kept, rural resting place of our loved ones with the town  growing out around it.
  • Pear Street (called 7th Street when we were neighbors), shabby with more houses in disrepair than kept up.
  • Another “For Sale” sign in the yard of my childhood home, one of the few houses in good repair. It was empty so we explored the yard. The frame house boasts new siding and the addition of central air and heat. My dad’s roses are long gone, but the flat rock patio he built, gathering and hauling home every stone, is still shaded by the pecan tree he planted when I was a child.
  • Only a sidewalk and driveway remains where Rod once lived — the house burned some time ago.
  • The houses where the Rubles, Millers and Batsons once lived. (Later the Chapmans and Dunnams.)
  • Aunt Mary’s last home a few blocks away. NEVER would she have painted it that color!
After we ate fried green tomatoes and fried cat fish at a new-to-us Whistle Stop Café, we returned to Little Rock without taking one picture.
We didn’t need them. We have snapshot memories of the neighborhood in better days when we were young and free to roam from house to house.  They were enough.

We did take this picture of Rod and Dorothy the morning they left for Memphis to visit Elvis.


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