Preface: This week’s prompt is “Long Line.” At 4 AM the morning I wrote this, I remembered it as “Long.” Once again, my memory failed me; however, I am satisfied with how things turned out.

The McGee Schoolhouse, Coffins Grove Township, Delaware County, Iowa

In the spring of 2019, I got a wild hair and jumped on my electric trike and went for a ride. I went all the way out to the McGee Schoolhouse, where my father, his father, and several other ancestors of mine attended. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that my trike could make it there and back on one battery charge, and to visit an old farmstead where my ancestors lived. Well, both of us made it back alive…shaken, but alive. I hadn’t ridden a bike, or trike for that matter, on gravel roads since I was a kid. I had forgotten what a rough ride it can be!!

A screenshot of what Google Earth shows yet today. It’s actually gone now.

On the way out to the McGee Schoolhouse, there was a driveway on the Northside of the road just East of the schoolhouse. It was a turnout to an old farmstead. All that was left at that point was a big Red Cedar tree, a large Pink Granite Rock broken in half, and 4 concrete pads where some grain bins used to be. This land used to belong to the Baileys. My Great Great Grandfather Ed Cook rented this place from the Baileys for about 3 years just before moving to The Oak Grove Farm. My Great Great Aunt Luella, his daughter, was about 5 at the time. She attended the McGee Brick School just down the road. I had discovered this place as I transcribed one of her stories. She described it in such detail that I knew it was the place.

The granite rock, the land owner in the background.

I spent about half the day just “being” there, taking in the smells and sounds. I was alone the entire time except for a visit from the current owner of the property, who was just checking to see what I was up to. He mentioned what a lovely tree it was standing there and that he thought it was Red Cedar. He left me there to myself. I appreciated that.

Alone again, I tuned into my surroundings. I felt the breeze as it went past my face on that warm spring day. I imagined little Luella and possibly her little brother, Great Grandpa Howard, playing in the yard under the tall Cedar tree. I wondered if that large granite rock was there when they were there. Could some of the plants underneath my feet be the descendants of their mother, Mary Josephine (Ellis) Cook’s gardens that she so skillfully planted? I talked to the old tree and photographed its bark and the mosses and lichens on it. I finally decided it was time to make the trip back to my home in Manchester. Before I left, I grabbed some of the tiny pinecones that the old tree had dropped, and a white deer leg bone that I found. These things are displayed in my home now.

Howard LeRoy, Mary Josephine (Ellis), And Luella Ellis Cook, at the time they lived at the Bailey place.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

My brother came to visit, and as usual, we went for a ride around to look at some of the old ancestral places. When we drove past the old Bailey place where my ancestors lived, it was gone! It had been plowed under and was now just part of the surrounding field. I could barely tell where it had been. I literally felt sick to my stomach.

I am glad I spent the time there that I did. I cannot go back there now. It seems uncanny that I chose to visit it when I did, just before it was torn down. I took action and just went there and got there before it was too late. I didn’t wait too long, without knowing it.

I have waited too long to do so many other things in my life. I waited too long to talk to my mother. I waited too long to ask my father so many questions that I have now. This past summer my cousin, the eldest of the eldest of the eldest in the DeLancey line, passed away. I wanted to interview him but I waited too long. He’s gone now.

This makes me think of my own mortality and of those around me. Time passes by so quickly, and before you know it our loved ones are gone. I decided to do this family tree thing after realizing all of a sudden that my parents weren’t there to ask questions of anymore. I will never be able to hear their stories. I want to preserve the memories and honor the people who make up me, both physically and emotionally, and who have made it possible for me to live the life that I do.

I just can’t wait too long to do it.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Kokomo

    Eric, my father loved stones, a good thing since he owned two gravel quarries full of fossils. College professors often brought their classes out to look for fossils., the only payback being that he wanted to see what they were taking and then have an explanation of what they were. The “other” half of the pink granite was donated by him (I’m sure he got permission from Eleanor Mcgee Mortimer’s niece) to the Josh Fuller family, who had it engraved and placed at their family homestead in Nebraska. The details are in my genealogy things and I will forward it all later this year. It is unknown whether it was a boulder found on that quarter section or if it was something that he found somewhere else and dumped there. I’ll ask my sister if she remembers it We would’ve spent time playing on it.

    • ericcook

      Oh my gosh, Dennis! I am just now reading this. I apologize. I Loved that big piece of pink granite, the “other half” that I presume was the remainder of the half that went to Nebraska. I took several shots of it. I can send them to you if you wish. I wonder where it is now? Tomorrow I intend to begin the process of harvesting the seed from the pinecones I collected from the tree that was standing there when I visited. I hope I can get something to grow. If so, I will, of course, give it to you! I so enjoyed our visit!

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