Most of my boyhood was spent in the cedar breaks in North Texas. 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 boy’s paradise with wonderful places to explore. At night, when I was in bed on our screened-in-porch, I’d listen to the coyotes howl 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, long walks, 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 them 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 home. Though weary, I’d trudge 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 fill me with what Mole called “divine discontent and longing.” They make me think of another long and arduous journey—the one I’m making now. But I know that at the end of the trail there’s a caring Father and my eternal home. I'm a little weary these days, but it's the thought of going home that keeps me going.
As I look back on my life I must say that it has had its ups and downs. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, I’ve gone on “sometimes comfortably, sometimes sighingly,” but taken as a whole t's been a pretty good trip. One of these days, though, it’ll start to get dark and I’ll head for home. I’m expected there. The light is on and my Father is waiting for me. How did it go? He’ll ask, “Pretty good,” I’ll say. “But it sure is good to be home.”