(Moved over from previous faculty website; originally written about 1999)
Memories of Growing Up in Morgantown - by Louis F. Morgan
This morning I rested under the shade of a tree and listened to the sounds of nature while gentle breezes swept through the air. I watched as two squirrels ran across the branches of a nearby tree and a few children raced their bicycles down a narrow road. It was quite refreshing to be back in the country village of Morgantown on this Saturday morning and enjoying God’s creation following a busy week of the city’s fast pace. As I sat and watched the things transpiring around me, I was carried back to only a few years ago (because I am still a youngster!) during my childhood in Morgantown. Scenes of the not-so-distant past raced through my mind as I recalled special times shared with my family and friends in a small village that is still so much a part of me, even though I now live and work almost 500 miles away.
Despite my present distance of separation from Morgantown, I often find myself deeply interwoven with the memories of growing up there. The strong sense of faith and family values that were instilled in me ever reminds me of what should be my boundaries and goals. Remembering the many who have cared for me and sacrificed to help me as a friend encourages me to do the same for others. Whether I am at work on the job, enjoying a fishing trip, working in the yard, or spending time with friends, there is always a silent understanding that who I am and what I am becoming has been shaped by my childhood in Marion County and the many days of youthful freedom spent roaming the streets of a quiet neighborhood.
Each day after school I would immediately run to my great-grandmother’s house where I would have a nice snack awaiting me. Granny and I would share a laugh or two as she told me about long ago and I learned a few things about life. Some days I’d join a few friends and we would build forts in the woods near the railroad tracks, go swimming at the creek, and play outside until it was time for “supper.” I’d also visit with my other great-grandparents. I will always remember how “Big-O-Mama” could make you feel special as love constantly radiated through her. She possessed a meek spirit and quiet personality, and the Christ-life was evident in her words and actions. Often she would whistle a tune of praise that I could recognize as a “church song.” I also remember how she and “Big-O-Daddy” waited on my father to get home from his week-long work shift in the Gulf. Big-O-Mama would stand in the doorway and watch for his truck to pull into the drive.
My other grandparents would occasionally visit in our home as well. My grandfather Fortenberry, or “Grandpa Rosebud” as I called him, always had a joke to tell and something to say to bring you laughter. Grandma Odie taught me how to play dominoes and was a wonderful cook. Grandma and Grandpa Lee always encouraged me in my faith and seemed to appreciate any achievement that I obtained.
Weekends were always exciting times, too. My bicycle carried me several miles as I made visits to the store, homes of my relatives and neighbors, and the creek. I also found time to walk the railroad, many times being forced to hide under the trestle until a coming train had passed. My weekend ritual began early Saturday morning as I watched cartoons on television. Then I usually ran barefoot through the grass and across the road to my grandfather’s country store. Sitting on an old church pew holding a bottle full of Coca-Cola and peanuts, I listened intently as older men and women discussed the weather, politics and religion. You see, shortly before ten o’clock every Saturday morning my grandfather, who was also the community postmaster, began filling the mailboxes that were located in the family’s country store. Before my grandfather’s task was completed a large crowd had generally filled the store, and sometimes they even erupted into “heated” debates over differing opinions of the day’s topic.
When the excitement subsided and I grew tired of the store, I would ride my bike down the few streets in the community—often stopping to visit with people along the way. I always enjoyed sitting and talking with my neighbors, especially those who offered me things like ice cream, lemonade, cookies and a laugh or two. I learned much from listening to people talk about their life’s experiences.
I remember riding into the field with my grandparents as we checked on the cows or spent time working in the yard, as they lived next door. And how could I ever forget the experience I had when my father first taught me to drive a tractor or when my mother taught me to plant a flower.
I have only recently grown into adulthood, but I have matured enough to really appreciate my family. The relationships with my mother and father have strengthened during the recent years and the little things (time spent together, laughs, and just sharing expressions of gratitude) now have irreplaceable value.
Life seems to take me many places and many changes occur as I continue to mature and travel on this upward path to Heaven. Yet, it has been my faith in Jesus Christ and intimacy with the Holy Spirit that have constantly guided me. Moving away from Morgantown has taught me to appreciate the sense of community there. The world is quite different now from even ten years ago. The simple things—no matter how sincere—are too often overlooked and maybe even shunned. Yet, despite the change in the world, God is still the same and His blessings are ever among us.
Yes, times change. People grow and mature, things once so important no longer matter, and life brings new responsibilities. Disappoints occur and expectations and duties tend to weigh one down. Yet, when life seems to be passing me by I pause and think of the events and people who have meant so much to me. I then know that I have been blessed with two wonderful gifts: faith and family both so closely intertwined in one community.
Maybe one day I will have a family of my own and my children too can enjoy the peaceful, caring environment of Morgantown. But until the day that I am overcome by that deep, inner drawing back to my roots, I will continue to take a part of Morgantown with me where ever I go.
I am a professor, author, librarian, historian, and speaker living in beautiful Cleveland, Tennessee-- but I will always call Mississippi "home." I enjoy my work at Lee University and my hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, fishing, gardening, writing, reading, and movies.