Many Ouachita Mountain Families have one or more. They sit unattended for years at a time. Though they are prized possessions, they gather dust in attics and other storage places. Normally they are stored in as dry of a place as is possible, because they are made from wood, steele and fabric. These priceless family heirlooms often contain items that were of value to the person that had passed it down to another family member. These items might be black and white photos of days gone by, or of family events from years past. Possibly a prized apron or a sunbonnet, but, many contain the simple artifacts accumilated during the course of daily events. A post card, a letter, a certificate, a poem or family bible.
Recently on a rainy day, I ventured into such a storage place. It didn’t take long to find it, though it had been covered with other storage items. Those items left their outline in the accumilated dust of years as I removed them for a look inside. The sight of it brought back many memories that were from the days of World War two. This old steamer trunk was one of several that went to Hawaii right after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It went over on the hospital ship Benevolence and came back on the Hospital Ship Hope. This had been a military deployment and the trunk was in general storage in the hold of the ship during transit. Another trunk that had been on top of it had worn a grove in the top, during the rough Pacific ocean crossing. Mother had lamented the damage to the trunk that had been borrowed from Gran’Ma. Now that damage was in it’s self, a family heirloom. That groove in the trunk top caused me to remember the rough crossing and my first bout with sea sickness. One post card, sent back home to the Ouachitas, talked about hearing the “Lum and Abner” radio show and how nice it was to be in a far away place and hear familiar names from back home.
Soon I was engrossed totally in the excavation of family history. The rain had ceased and the sun had popped out, and I had not noticed it at all. While examining a set of vehicle registration slips that were in sequence from 1938 to 1942, on a 1931 Chevrolet coupe, I heard her call me back to the present. “Honey do you still have plans to mow the yard ?”
During hard times, many of our Mountain families would travel to distant locations to make a living. Some would return every Fall, to winter up in the heart of the Ouachitas and participate in various hunting seasons. Ever nick and scrape on these old trunks that carried the families clothing and so forth is a point in time that is marked plainly for future generations to remember.
For many families the Month of May is the time to remember at Decoration day and Memorial day and Mother’s Day.
There is no “Dig into the trunk in your attic day” on the calendar. Maybe there should be.