Home Before Dark
Most of my boyhood in Texas was spent in the cedar breaks south of Dallas. The countryside is built up now, but back then it was mostly ranchland—rolling chalk hills redolent with cedar trees and junipers. The woods were a small boy’s paradise with wonderful places to explore and pretend. At night, when I was in bed on our screened-in-porch, I’d listen to the coyotes howl and other noises in the woods and exult in the fact that I was home rather than out in the dark where the wild things were.
One of my favorite daytime pastimes was walking the creek. It was a special stream, an oasis in a dry land. The brook ran clear most of the year and supported lush stands of cottonwoods and willows. When I think about that creek today, I think of deep shade, solitude and friendly dogs. I have memories of leaving home early in the morning with my yellow hound, my single-shot .410, a bag lunch that my mother made, and walking to the springhead or downstream to where the creek emptied into the lake.
Those hikes were high adventure for me—at least I made it adventure. There were rocks to skip, birds to watch, dams to build, tracks to follow, squirrels to flush along the way. And then if I made it to the mouth of the creek, my dog and I would sit and share our lunch while we watched the biplanes land across the lake.
We’d linger as long as we could, but only so long, for my father wanted me home before the sun went down. The shadows grew long and the hollows got dark fast in the cedar breaks. I’d be wishing along the way that I was already home. Though weary, I’d hurry on. It was the hope of going home that kept me going.
Our house sat on a hill behind some trees, but I could always see the light on the porch as I made my way through the woods in the gathering dusk. The light was always on until all the family was in. Often my father would be sitting on the back porch, reading the newspaper, waiting for me. “How did it go?” he’d ask. “Pretty good,” I’d say. “But it sure is good to be home.”
It’s been a long time since I walked that creek, but the memories live on and they fill me with what Mole in called “divine discontent and longing” (The Wind and the Willows ).They make me think of another long and sometimes difficult journey, the one I’m making now. But I know that at the end there’s a caring Father and my eternal home. It’s the thought of going home that keeps me going. It sure will be good to get there.
As I look back on my life I must say that it’s been a good journey, though it’s had its ups and downs. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, I’ve gone on “sometimes comfortably, sometimes sighingly,” but taken as a whole my journey has been a pretty good trip. One of these days, though, it’ll start to get dark and then I’ll head for home. I’m expected there. The light is on and the Father is waiting for me. I suppose He’ll ask, just like my father used to, “How did it go?” “Pretty good,” I’ll say. “But it sure is good to be home.”
From Strength of a Man