Thursday, February 14, 2013


The two days in the woods, thick with briars and vines encircling large hardwoods and small saplings, had a special purpose.  It was not hunting game, nor taking an afternoon stroll.   At the start of the outing on a Friday morning, the woods were wet from a slow but steady morning rain.  Though the rain had stopped, the sky was still overcast with a smooth blanket of gray. My two brothers and I went up the dirt road from our mother’s house to the edge of a neighbor’s property off of County Road 21.  

The weather was a consideration during the early morning.  It resulted in a decision to postpone our adventure until after lunch.  To take advantage of the collective manpower we three provided, Mike, Ricky and I spent the rainy morning under cover of our daddy’s tractor and tool shed.  Daddy had left the contents of the shed to all four of his children at his death in April 2012.  For the most part, the shed was as Daddy had left it, except for one small area, which Mother and I had cleaned during a recent visit. 

It was good to have we three brothers together.  It is a rare occurrence when we are visiting at the same time the home of our childhood.  Those rare visits usually come for a holiday or a special occasion.  This visit had a different purpose.  There was work that needed to be done and we had a limited time in which to do it.   Not to waste our time because of the weather, we cleaned up the shed, and discarded old paint cans, cardboard boxes, old car engine parts, along with other assorted things that were of no use.  Metal objects were kept, with a plan to take them at some later time to a salvage company in Jasper. 

It was a fruitful morning.  By lunchtime, we were able to actually see the top of some storage cabinets against the wall of the unit.  Eight large bags of trash were taken up to the garbage stand on County Road 21 for the Nauvoo community garbage truck to pick up.  Mother had lunch ready by 11:30 am.  We had hamburgers, chips, and slaw.  It was a satisfying lunch topped off with some of mother’s fried apple pies.  The rain stopped while we ate lunch.

Clothing was a consideration for our afternoon trek through the woods, not because of the wet weather, but because our purpose would be a messy one.  Mike wore some nice high-top wading boots, along with what he called some old clothes. Ricky wore jeans, a nice-looking shirt-jacket over a shirt, and some brown leather boots.  I wore some really old clothes-- jeans with holes and multiple paint splatters from previous projects, an old flannel shirt also paint-stained, and tennis shoes covered with paint mixed with brown dirt stains.  These clothes had seen many a messy project before, and I knew they were adequate for the mission at hand.  For further protection, I wore some disposable coveralls over my clothing which my brother, Ricky had brought. 

Setting off into the woods, we each had in hand a bucket of red pigment boundary line paint and a large paintbrush.   Our work began easily enough, as we marked over the fainted paint previously marked three years prior.  Daddy had the land surveyed some time ago, knowing that his plan was to divide the one hundred and seven acres among us children.  He had already marked the boundary lines, and in fact, three years ago he walked with each of us as we helped him mark the lines again over the fainted paint he had placed on the trees from the original survey.

On the outer borders of Daddy’s property, there were yellow markings on the trees indicating land owned by the state of Alabama.  Our land adjoined the state “school” land, sharing the same boundary line.   It was evident that Daddy honored the yellow boundary lines because there were no red line markings on the outer border where our land and the state land joined.  It was important for us to make sure all our boundary lines were well marked as soon as possible.  The state of Alabama and the private forestry corporation land nearby had both relinquished their mineral rights to the Birmingham Coal and Coke Company for coal strip mining.  Also, the state of Alabama had put out bids for the timber to be purchased during this month of February 2013.  The timber is to be totally removed prior to the onset of the strip mining.   

In marking the landline, the trees are painted on the side of the trunk closest to where the actual line is located on the inside or the outside of the tree trunk. The trees are marked with three big dots of paint.  The color yellow is the boundary line color indicating state owned land.  The color red is the boundary line color indicating individually private owned land.  We painted the same trees hat had a yellow mark on them with our fresh red paint to indicate a common border.  Sometimes a sapling may fall on the line.  If so, the small trunk is painted all the way around.  At the corner of the land is a round metal stake indicating the actual corner point of the property line.  It is from that point that the boundary runs in a straight line to the next corner marker.  These stakes too are painted yellow and/or red. 

On the first day of our painting the landlines, we finished the property willed to my brother, Mike, to my sister, Rebecca, and to me.  It was getting late and we could not finish it all on one afternoon.  The next day the weather was, according to the weather forecast, to be a sunny day, making for an ideal time to go back into the woods to finish our project.  After a terrific breakfast of homemade biscuits, sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs, we brothers got back into our old clothes, ready to finish the task at hand.  All we lacked was Ricky’s land next to the state of Alabama land. 

 We began in the corner off the dirt road and into the woods behind the Lawson place, not far from Mother’s house.  When we were kids, we had our pigpen down in the hollow near that corner.  Today that section of land is thick with briars and vines nestled among the trees.  It was not an easy task to find the marked trees indicating the boundary line in that section.  But eventually, as we went farther along the line, the land’s underbrush thinned.  We soon came across a fire lane, which was parallel to the boundary, speeding up the process, as well as making for an easier walk through the woods.  We would see a blue ribbon occasionally on a small sapling that was also painted with the red boundary paint.  We speculated that the blue ribbon was there to help indicate where the line was when the timber cutting begins on the state land.

As we continued marking the trees with our three red dots, we eventually came to a corner stake.  From that stake, Daddy and Ricky had marked the line three years prior on the backside of the property.  Eventually, way down in a hollow, we came to the next corner of the property.  From that corner, we could see yellow and red boundary lines and a blue painted line converge.  The color blue is used to indicate private company or forestry corporation owned land.  At this corner all three meet—the Kilgore land, the state of Alabama land, and the company’s land.  From that same corner, Daddy never did paint forward to County Road 21 because he just honored the yellow line the state had painted.  We thought to clear up any confusion, we would continue to mark the same trees with red as we did the day before on Mike’s property.

It was evident that in the past, there had been confusion. We found a deer stand on a yellow marked tree on our property.  We were sure who ever put the stand there thought they were on state land.  In actuality, the stand was on our property.  It was all in knowing that it was private land on the inside of those three yellow dots of paint.  We added our three red markings to the trees, and in that way, a stranger would know that it was the boundary line for both properties.

The boundary lines for all four sections of Daddy’s property had been marked by the middle of the second day.  But the trees were not the only things painted with red paint. There was our clothes, our shoes, and our  bodies, especially our hands!  Cleanup though was easy.  Some mineral spirits would get all that red off our hands.  We just threw the brushes away.  All in all it was a rewarding job.  It was also a time to appreciate the land of our childhood.  The woods are timeless and beautiful. It was also a time for us brothers to be together.  In Ricky’s words, “We’re bonding.”       

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