A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Exotic Flora of Mama and Daddy's Yard

Lucky, Tom, and me, under the mimosa tree.
I've written before about the house itself, that little house on the corner of East 7th and Pine.  But out in the yard, and especially the field next to the house, that's where I spent my time on hot summer afternoons, and beautiful, wind-swept autumn days.  This is about some of my favorite places there.

In the corner next to the road, my absolute favorite tree; a pretty little mimosa.  The mimosa tree had expansive branches that made a wonderful shade to play under, and it's beautiful pink flowers were a sight to see.  But the mimosa was custom made for climbing.  It had two main trunks that grew farther apart the higher you climbed, which wasn't actually very high, but when you're little, even a small tree seems big.  We kept the grass wore down under the tree, we spent so much time there.  After we grew too big to climb trees, the mimosa became a favorite of my nieces and nephews, particularly with the installation of a swing under one of its branches.

Just west of the mimosa was a mulberry tree.  I haven't seen a mulberry tree in a long time, but ours always bore fruit.  Mulberries, to the best of my recollection, looked like raspberries.  Ours, unfortunately, almost always had a little white worm inside them.  But that didn't stop an occasional visitor to the mulberry tree, though - the neighborhood monkey.  Yes, we had a monkey on Pine Street.  Well, actually, he belonged to our neighbors, George and Beuna Hawkins.  They had somehow gotten a little monkey for their kids, Steven and Johnny.  The monkey was a bit of an escape artist, and whenever he found himself free he would make a bee line for our mulberry tree.  That's where he would be recaptured, happily munching on the tasty fruit.  I don't know what eventually happened to the monkey, but I guess he must have escaped one too many times, and was sent on to other mulberry trees.

West of the mulberry and on the other side of our driveway, at the end of our hedge, was a sweetgum tree.  At least I think that's what was there; I may just be mixed up because that's also where we put out the garbage to be picked up, and I remember that there was a kindly old man who drove the garbage truck who always gave us sticks of Juicy Fruit gum.  You see, in early 1960s Waldron, the weekly arrival of the garbage man was an event worth of attending, so my sister and I made it a point to be standing there, I guess by the sweetgum tree, whenever it was garbage day. 

Halfway up the driveway, in the middle of the hedge, was what Daddy identified as a possum grape vine.  I'm not sure what a possum grape looks like, because Daddy's possum grape vine never bore any grapes.  But year after year, it put on green leaves and acted like it had full intentions of producing a crop.  But, with the capable guidance of my older brothers, I did manage to pick up the skill of smoking grape vine.  A little piece of possum grape vine, lit at one end, and inhaled until it burned your tongue so badly you had to toss it away.

Another one of Daddy's projects was found at the upper end of the hedge.  This was his Indian peach tree.  The Indian peach tree did in fact produce peaches; tiny, dark, dried-out looking peaches that didn't look like anything you'd want to eat.

There was one tree in Mama and Daddy's yard that towered above all others.  It was Mama's magnolia tree.  It was located in the back yard, and was big enough to shade almost that entire part of the yard.  Daddy recalls that he bought the magnolia tree from a man who came around selling little sapling magnolia trees for a dollar and a half.  We have an old photo of my Uncle Paul, Aunt Addie, my brothers Gary and Gene, and an unidentified person who could possibly be a young Johnny Cash (kidding)  (My sister has informed me that it's our cousin John Elliot) standing next to the tiny little magnolia tree not long after it was planted.  The magnolia was Mama's pride and joy.  She never allowed anyone to trim it, and it's lower branches swept down to the ground and eventually took over most of the back yard.  Climbing in the magnolia was prohibited, but I did occasionally break that rule, since it's close branches made it so very easy to climb.  The magnolia stays green year-round, and in May it produces breathtakingly beautiful huge white flowers, that last only a few days before turning brown and ugly. 

Google Maps image of Mama's magnolia tree today.
If you drive by the little house where I grew up, you won't see any sign of the beautiful mimosa in the front yard, or any of the other trees I mentioned, except for one.  Mama's magnolia tree is still there, standing guard over the little house, towering above any other tree in the neighborhood.  It's never been trimmed.


  1. You've actually helped me with something here. I've read "Tom Sawyer" many times (usually once a summer, since age 13 or so) and there is one part where Tom and Joe Harper smoke pipes for the first time (with seasoned pro Huck Finn) and mention is made of their having smoked grapevine before. In an abstract sense, I knew it was supposed to be something not quite as adult as smoking a pipe of tobacco, but I had never heard it mentioned anywhere else and really had no more clue about it. Now I have a fuller idea of just what it was and how it was accomplished. Yay!

  2. Mimosa is a beautiful fern-like fragrant tree with pink flowers.There are different varieties of mimosa, but the most common mimosa flower is full pink to white.So, Its a great article on mimosa tree.