Along about sunset, birds would fly to their nocturnal roosts in silent occupation as bullfrogs serenaded with loquacious love songs. T he lightning bug’s evening ballet glittered like yellow snowflakes, and crickets resonated with their evening regale down on Sugar Creek. The scent of fresh loam and fragrant pollen filled the air as the broad creek burbled along its coarse bed, causing dark ripples to flow over branches and rocks. In this mosaic sanctuary of natural beauty, my world paused to celebrate the treasure and passing of a glorious day. A long summer day in the woodland wilds of Middle Tennessee was gracefully ending for a young boy. The spirit of discovering, the sense of goodness, and the passion of tranquility coursed about my soul.

The setting sun painted the western sky rich royal colors with ribbons of precious golden bullion. It was remarkably peaceful, reassuring a young lad that tomorrow, another magnificent day, was to follow. In a child’s tender life, tomorrows create the joy to inspire, nurture, learn and cheerily welcome more enchanting encounters. All I could see along the creek at that moment was far from the worrisome challenges of hurrying through life on northern city streets jammed with masses of humankind back home in Gary, IN.

As I turned towards the east, the brow of a whole moon rose above the hilltop, precisely resting a moment on the tips of an ancient forest of oak trees laden with rich, full leaves. The stunning lunar sphere continued its ascendant arc of the night toward the heavens. It turned brilliant white, laying down a sheet of shimmering, silvery cloth on the bubbling creek, winding its way through a woodland of stout, plentiful Sugar Maple trees. God’s creatures and nature’s abundance were taking time out under the glow of a brilliant shadow-casting bountiful moon. It was time to be swooped up in my age-old feather bed in the nearby simple-fashioned gray house. The unpainted clapboard home was where exciting dreams and aspirations of the magical annual summertime vacation with Uncle Tyne and Aunt Edna tottered through my imagination down on Sugar Creek.

My southern relatives from the hills and hollers of Tennessee taught me a vital lifetime standard each time I visited: responsibility. If I were responsible, my promise, my word, and my bond held true, and I understood and accepted the consequences of my actions, new rousing trials would come my way. I learned to ride a horse bareback, shoot a 22 rifle safely and accurately, and drive an archaic tractor by the time I was 10. There was also that thing about properly adding a bag of Tom’s salted peanuts into an ice-cold bottle of RC Cola.

When I promised responsibly to be home by noon after scouting deep in the woods all morning, I would be there early, helping Aunt Edna set the table. Then I could ring the old dinner bell outside for all in the fields to come to the table. Of course, Uncle Tyne had lent me the cherished pocket watch he always carried in the chest pocket of his washed-out bib overalls.

Once a week, we would go to a place called Spot, which consisted of two general stores across from each other along a rutted red gravel road. Baptists owned one store. We spent our money in the other—the reason why was never explained to me. Our store had a post office where catalogs from mail-order outfits were delivered. Catalogs were necessary down along the creek, where privies stood beyond each house. Our old gray house had no plumbing or electricity when my summertime journeys south began. That changed over time. My boyhood sabbaticals to Sugar Creek ended five-years later. By then, Tyne and Edna could occasionally receive two TV channels from Nashville.

Now that I am old, seared with life’s experiences, and trying to hold back the years, my mind often performs tricks on me. But I remember this storyline well, longing to compose in words its majestic beauty before my life’s separation. Down on Sugar Creek in a Middle Tennessee holler, far from northern schoolyards, is where I embraced my seminal years. The grandeur and attraction of things a child cherishes and remembers remain within the heart forever, regardless of time or distance.

The 1880 home saved from urban renewal 50 years ago is in need of repair.

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Jerry Wilkerson is a former press secretary for two U.S. members of Congress, a prior CBS Chicago WBBM NewsRadio correspondent, and the Northwest IN correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He is a retired police commissioner and Navy veteran living in SaddleBrooke.