Part 1 Hometown Series
One trait I am glad I inherited from my descendants is a sense of adventure. If someone says go, I ask when do you want to leave? I keep a bag packed and ready to go. I love travelling and exploring unique cultures.
Recently, when asked to name my favorite destination, I immediately knew this was a simple answer. On the surface, it seemed such a subjective question. I mean, for pure beauty, the sun rising on a crisp autumn morning in the foothills of the Ozarks, while listening to a babbling mountain stream after a fresh rain, is hard to match, and for me, evokes so many favorable memories. I have visited most of the fifty states and each one has many things to crow about. I swam in the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean. The Caribbean cannot be beat especially for scuba diving, however, watching a mama and daddy whale teach their young one to breach the Pacific waters off the coast of Maui, was special. To the chagrin of my beautiful lady, I serenaded her (superbly I thought) in a gondola while navigating the somewhat fishy smelling canals of Venice. I saw the changing of the guards at the Palace in Monaco, a country widely recognized for being one of the wealthiest places in the world.
So, you can see, I have seen enough of the world to have a few favorites. It may be hard for you to believe, but of all the places I have visited, they are all a distant second to my favorite destination. I have been to this place thousands of times, if not physically, then certainly in my heart and spirit. I have experienced every spectrum of emotion there. I have traveled to this destination from the north, south, east, and west. A long, winding curve guards each entrance, as if to let one know, you are about to experience a treat, and as you exit, it is as if she is letting you know things may not be so rosy out there.
Okay, now that I have piqued your interest, I guess it is time to let you in on my secret. So, my favorite destination is…..
My hometown, Hamburg, Arkansas.
I love my hometown and am extremely proud I was raised there.
Several tales have surfaced about the origin of the name, Hamburg. Some say an early settler killed a large deer with huge hams. Some say someone named it after Hamburg, Germany, which indirectly makes sense. The official story, and I will go with this one, is they named it after a town called Hamburg, South Carolina, where many of the earliest residents originated. They named the South Carolina town after Hamburg, Germany, the hometown of many of their founders.
Hamburg was incorporated in 1854 as the county seat of Ashley County, in southeast Arkansas.
One hundred years later, in November of 1954, an adventurous, spirited and fun-seeking boy was born to Alice and Donald Collins. His dad’s descendants were from the families of Collins and Kelly. His mom’s descendants were from the families of Riley and Higginbotham. And while their original treks to Hamburg, Arkansas started in Ireland, Scotland and England, their journey took them through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
So, you see, my roots run deep in this town of around 3,000 fantastic people, give or take a few hundred over the years. My hometown was a safe haven for eighteen fabulous and memorable years. She was my first. And she taught me well. She set the unbelievably lofty standard for all the others to live up to. She holds a special piece of my heart. Always!
I left Hamburg forty-seven years ago, at the ripe old age of eighteen. I never dreamed I would leave her. She had been so good to me. We grew up together and were best friends. She taught me so many wonderful things.
“You will regret this,” I heard in my head, as I navigated the long curve that led me out of her grasp. “The grass is not always greener over there, you know, “as I felt the tug and temptation to turn around.
“You are probably right. I will be back someday, I promise. Just let me chase my dream,” I said to her as I was leaving. My heart felt heavy. I was sad.
I was leaving my hometown.
“Hello world. Here I come!” I shouted as I traveled down my very own yellow brick road, determined to achieve all my dreams. I knew there would be tigers and lions and bears along the way. I was ready for them.
“They won’t stop me,” I boldly declared, half convinced and half trying to convince my young and dumb self.
Someone once said you can never go home again. For some, that may be true. For me, I guess a part of me never left. When we reunite, I always become a kid again, recalling the blessings given me by being raised in such a special place and all the role models I had to help shape me into who I am today.
Rest assured; I love her. I always will. And I can just feel deep down in my heart and soul; she loves me too. Someday I will come full circle and return for the last time as my resting place. Dreams fulfilled. But if one looks closely, they might see some lion, tiger, and bear scars.
To be continued…..
Note: This is the first story of a series called My Hometown.