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Whence I Came...

Randi Rae Fair Photography Seminar May 2013

This book is dedicated to my Uncle Dave. May he keep truckin’ on long enough for my son to know how great he is.

Let me set ya straight; I am not “from” Rosston, AR. Although I have spent some time here, I was born and raised in West Texas. But the people I came from, came from here, so it’s a part of me. These people are my grandmother, my mother, and my three aunts, Sonja, Rhonda and Taun’a. My younger sister, although born and raised in West Texas like me, also lives here now with her new husband and three kids.

Though I make sure to visit my sister, parents and Aunt Taun’a and Uncle Dave twice a year, there are people in my family whom I have not seen in 15 years, even though they live just a “stone’s throw” away. This winter I decided to change that. I made an effort to see as many kin as would see me. Some would not. I reconnected with people whom I thought I couldn’t connect with. I even had some fun in the process.

Down Here...

The Homestead...

So, if my sister and I are from West Texas, how did she and my parents end up back here? It’s a long story. To make it shorter, my mother got cancer and lost her job and our house got foreclosed on. Then the father of my sister’s kids became violent and physically attacked everyone so they just split to Arkansas. My sister and I have never been country people and she vowed to be out of there in a year. That was in 2004. My parents, sister, husband and three kids all live in a small, single-wide trailer on my Aunt Taun’a’s property.

This is the reason I come to visit: these folks. My nephew Jake is smart and sensitive, Madison (Mouse) is clever and tough and Morgan (Mo) is goofy and loves to cuddle. But my sister, Misti, is tops. She’s my friend, my confidant, my ride or die chick.

Mouse has been plagued with migraines for several months. I went with her as she was having a CAT scan performed. I thought it was interesting that the machine was located in a portable building. I suppose that’s the best way to get these tests to low-income areas.

There is a little pond on my aunt and uncle’s property that my Uncle Dave keeps stocked with fish so the kids can have something to do.

During my visit, my sister mentioned that the kids had never been bowling. I just couldn’t abide by that! The nearest bowling alley is 45 minutes away in Texarkana. We had a blast! It cost me over $80. Suddenly, I understood why they had never been bowling.

This is my mother, Millie. She is a survivor of Stage 4 breast cancer and had a full mastectomy. The photo on the facing page was taken in New York City during her deployment as a FEMA administrative specialist for Hurricane Sandy.

My father, Mike, has a contract position for the post office. Every day he loads the mail in the neighboring town of Prescott and delivers it to the post office in Rosston, where he sorts it.

Wayde Land has been in our family for about two years now. He and my sister got married in May 2012 after being together for a year. When they met, he was a chicken catcher at the local Tyson chicken plant.

My nephew and nieces are crazy about him and he seems to have completely accepted them as his own.

226 Steps Down a Gravel Driveway...

My Aunt Taun’a and Uncle Dave retired to Rosston about a decade ago. They love the isolation, the quiet and the small-town feel. They bought several acres of land and built a house with a porch which has become my favorite spot in all of the south. There is always a pot of coffee brewing and plenty of new gossip to hear! After being retired for a few years, my aunt decided to go to school to become a hospice nurse. She is now an RN and was voted Best Nurse in Arkansas by the readers of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

My Uncle Dave has congenital heart failure and diabetes. He is on an aggressive medication regimen and his life has been saved by my aunt on more than one occasion. His prognosis has not convinced him to alter his diet and still shares powdered doughnuts every morning with his dog, Merle.

Mornings with my aunt and uncle are the best. Taun’a prepares her patient list for the day and laments at how this patient or that patient “won’t be with us long.” She is one of the most compassionate people in the world. Dave’s wit is still sharp as a tack and he is quick to dispense some country wisdom. He offers me eggs when he knows I don’t eat them. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Evenings are just as routine and just as nice. My aunt curls up in a blanket with Chihuahuas Spot and Merle while Dave and Sugar, the ancient and grumpy Chihuahua share crackers and watch Fox News.

The Outliers...

My Aunt Sonja keeps chickens for fresh eggs. She feeds them leftovers.

You can see cows from her kitchen window. This is her daughter, Laura.

She does administration for a trucking company.

My Aunt Sonja apparantly, takes no bullshit.

Batterin’ up some fresh deer meat for supper.

The kiddos eat together in the living room.

A quiet country meal with my grandma, sister, my cousin Laura and Laura’s boyfriend, Dane. My grandma and a neighbor.

My cousin, Laura, is a lot of fun. Her kids, Logan and Jessie Jo are great and really get along with Brooks. When I visited, Laura and I went to gather some snacks and firewood to build a fire in her front yard. We ate hot dogs (veggie dogs for me), and s’mores. It was a good time, although riding right next to a gun made me a little uneasy. She thought that was pretty silly.

My cousin, Shane, lives here with his four kids and his wife, Marcia.

They heat their house with a wood-burning oven.

Lylah, Judy and Roman.

Shane finds a crawdaddy crawling outside.

Shane has been logging as long as he has been able to work.

While their dad works, the kids hunt for arrowheads.

The kids enjoy coming out and exploring.

This is some of their arrowhead collection.

This is Shane’s mother, my Aunt Rhonda. Her other son, Jimmy, lives with her and helps her take care of two monkeys, Gypsy and Devin.

This was my grandmother’s old trailer. It burned down but the foundation is still standing.

Dean was killed last year when he crashed his Harley into a tree. My grandmother now lives with my Aunt Sonja. I remember playing in this trailer as a little girl. One vivid memory I have is when my cousins, sister and I found a baby alligator and decided to taunt him with sticks to make him lunge and growl. My biological father ran out and shot him and we all ate alligator that night.

Y’all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Whence I Came  

My family in Rosston, AR