Saturday, April 8, 2017

Singleton visits old log house, makes observations on the play of life

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “A sojourn into the past of a withered log cabin” was originally published in the April 6, 1972 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

The front door of the small vacant log house stood open as though it was expecting someone to return from the fields in time to start the evening meal. The rock chimney was cold because no wood burned in the fire place. The board plank floor was covered with the dust of loneliness. The people who had lived here had either died or gone away.

The one and only room still held a homemade table and chair. Only the bed was missing. On the mantel over the fireplace sat the remains of an old kerosene lamp; the wick rotted and dry for the want of coal oil to fill its innards. The only window shutter swung drunkenly on one hinge when the wind blew down the corn rows leading up to the house.

When I stepped up the one step from the field into the cabin, it was as if I had entered a totally and completely different era. I looked at the walls which were partially covered with old cardboard that had been nailed over the cracks to try and keep out the cold winter winds that swept across the fields from the north. I saw the faded picture calendar with the fine portrait of a beautiful lady stepping gracefully from a carriage that was drawn by two handsome horses. And across the room, beside a broken piece of mirror, was the aged and faded words of the 23rd Psalm:

“The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”

The green pastures did not exist around the cabin; only the misery and heartbreak once prevalent in the room could be felt and seen through the evening shadows.

I leaned on the mantel over the fireplace and looked down onto the hearth made of small stones and mud. I wondered how many times someone had leaned in that spot and looked into the fire and wondered about the morrow. I thought of the cold winter nights here beside the fire, imagined the family sitting by the fire to keep warm because of the lack of beds and warm clothing. I thought of the sickness and sorrow and the anxiety of waiting. I turned and looked beside the broken mirror again and resumed reading:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

I thought too, of the good times that must have been a small part of this scene from the play that we call life. I could imagine the soft patter of a slow rain on a warm spring night; the smell of fresh cut greens emanating from the fire place; and the satisfaction of a day’s work done while viewing the growing corn and cotton from a place by the window.

The shadows lengthened and with the coming of darkness I knew I must take leave from this era and return once again to the present and my ever changing role, small though it may be, in the great play of life and the world which is its setting.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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