I know a spot that I love full well,
'Tis not in forest nor yet in dell,
ever it holds me with magic spell,
I think of thee Alma Mater.
Kansas State Alma Mater
written by H.W. Jones in 1888
Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I love Kansas State University. I love the Alma Mater. When I hear it I know that I am home. There was a time in my life when K-State gave me a new direction and made it possible for me to get the education that has sustained me for over thirty years now. It is a wonderful place to go back and visit and now the next generation of my family is making their impression on that campus. It is a proud heritage!
But before Kansas State was in my life, there was this family that I came from...one part of which is my father's family. My father is one of eleven children. These eleven children and their parents lived in a house, a BIG house-for the times, in the country. Lots of other of our family relations lived in this little valley, way out in the country. With the exception of the other families' homes, the only other thing in the area was the little church across the road. This church was of no particular denomination. Anyone who wished to attend the church service, when the pastor came through, was welcome.
Buck's Grove Church
Dedicated in 1880
The responsibility for the upkeep of this church fell to my family. The church was always open for anyone who wished to come pray, get out of the weather, whatever. My grandparents made certain that there was always heat in the winter and when they would see a light on or people around, made sure that whoever was there was fed. My uncles and my dad (I wrote more about him in My Dad on Monday) dug the graves for the funerals. They mowed the grass and tended to all the care of the cemetery. They didn't get paid for this...they did it because it needed to be done.
They were able to attend to this lovely little church so well, because they lived across the road in this big, old house. With eleven children, not all lived there at one time; the older ones had grown and started their own families when the youngest ones came along, but all of them-children, grandchildren, spouses, grandparents, aunts and uncles-joined together for celebrations, deaths, and get-togethers of all kinds at this place.
There were porches all around, including the sleeping porch, where they slept when it was too hot inside. There was the garden--much larger than most gardens of today, after all it had to feed all those kids! There were flowers planted--in the garden, around the house, in the concrete pots placed along the walkways. There were the trees--lots and lots of big, beautiful trees--that had been there for ages and ages. There were the barns and storage buildings...one for corn, one for grain. The creek ran right up to the barn across the road and the well to the south of the driveway supplied water to everyone in the area who might need some. Just pull your wagon up to the well and the boys would fill you up!
This big, beautiful place was built by my dad's ancestor (I'm not sure if it's grandfather or great-grandfather-I need to clarify this). His original place was built a little further back. He was one of the first to come to this little valley and settle here. Following him were his brothers and together they built their homes and families in the 'vale.' In time he needed more room for his family and he built the bigger house which was then handed down to the next generation. In it's time it was THE place to go. They called it Clements Park. All of the celebrations were there. There was much love there (all those children!). There was much work there (all those children!).
My family lived there until my grandfather died very suddenly. My father was eighteen years old, the oldest living at home. After that, my grandmother moved into town with the children and various people have lived in the house since. We were fortunate a few years ago, to be able to go back to the old place and stand with our parents and aunts and uncles and hear the stories of what it was like living there. What wonderful memories! A couple of those much-loved folks are gone now, much too soon, but we have the memories that they shared with us that day, and all of the other days, and we are blessed!
This wonderful old place now stands in ruin. Not so many people want to live that far out in the country anymore. It has been for sale for many years. Various of my cousins and I have, at times, wistfully discussed buying the old place and making a bed and breakfast or at least a place we could come and "get-away" for a while, but the task would be overwhelming, I'm afraid. The porches are all falling in, the roof is almost non-existent. The grass is overgrown and the barns are falling in on themselves. There is a tree growing out of the well that cared for so many.
I'm too young (believe it or not) to have been able to share in all those special days at 'the Park,' but I have descended from that heritage and that love. I know the stories, I know the people, and I'm proud to say they're my stories, my people. They laid a strong foundation for me and the rest of my family that we can stand on and pass to the next generations. The house will be gone, but the love will go on...from that spot that I love full well.