The farm was owned by my mama’s mama who inherited it from her daddy who was named Dard, a real nice name.
I never knew my great-granddaddy. He died before my time.
There was just one surviving photo of Dard after a house fire — a previous home out in the sticks — consumed most everything.
The photo was taken about 1900 in the yard of the later house, which still stands today, the place where I lived.
Dard was standing next to a white-speckled horse, but with his face hidden by the horse’s neck, and atop the horse sat a baby, Iverson, who would be an uncle of my mama’s down the road.
When Iverson was a far older man, and I was a kid, he enjoyed stroking my earlobes. That’s about all I remember of Iverson, getting my earlobes stroked. A child’s earlobes are very soft and appealing things.
Dard was a farmer, but a sharp one who became quite rich and owned a sizable share of the county, which was named Worth County, an irony.
My mama’s mama told me she remembered him paying field hands in cash, which he took from a steamer trunk filled with greenbacks.
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Dard, whose face I have never seen because it was behind the white-speckled horse’s neck, built that house in the late 1800s. I lived there in the late 1940s. About six years, as I’ve already mentioned.
The kitchen was at the rear of the house. It was a good-sized kitchen with a brick fireplace where I got warm on cold winter mornings waiting for breakfast.
There was a screened porch off the kitchen, a window over the sink providing a view of a pasture for the dishwasher, and another window, larger, next to where the big table sat by the fridge, which was the first thing you got to after entering from the dining room.
Around 1960, my mama’s mama began telling us by telephone that she was hearing music through that window some nights, just that kitchen window by the big table. Nowhere else.
I imagine we thought that living alone in the country was having its effects on the old woman. Not just music, she said. It was harp music, the chosen instrument of angels.
My mama’s mama was a widow at that time and lived alone in that big house with a .32-caliber chrome revolver and a pooch named Pepper. I got that gun after she died because we Crackers like to stay armed.
My parents, sister and I left the farm about a decade earlier and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, but we returned to visit a lot. My mother was an only child, so you get that picture.
* * * *
A while after her harp reports, I was sitting with her at that table in the kitchen one summer night, and the window was open. In came the harp music, crystal clear, not soft, not loud, but unmistakable.
We were the only two people there that night half a century ago. I was visiting solo. After a minute or two, it stopped. It took a spell longer for my heart to stop pounding.
A few days later I returned to Florida. I don’t recall if she ever mentioned the music again.
It wasn’t that the angels were calling her because she did not die for another six years. And she did it while visiting us in New Orleans where we had moved. If she heard music there, it would have been Dixieland.
Clarinets, trumpets and tubas. There are no harps in New Orleans.