My Harding Place (republished after it was actually completed in spite of fat fingers)

Last night, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and this was published. Sara Yahola queried me about whether this was to be continued. The answer is yes, sort of. i will leave it here as is until i finish it and republish. Thanks, Sara.

i have finished for now. You see, Maureen has called and supper is ready. Henry would understand. i will put the link on Facebook and rename it for a second, completed run in my emails.

No, no, not Nashville’s Harding Place that wanders a dozen miles south of Murfreesboro Park to Belle Meade. if i remember correctly, that Harding Place was named after the kin of the folks i’m writing about here. i’m talking about MY Harding place.

It’s still there. Perhaps i should call it My Arnold place. That’s the way it got started. Moved off a farm, Grandpap Arnold’s farm, once again if i remembered correctly, the move including Grandpap and Maude.

When i got to know Harding place, Grandpap and Maude lived in the back room on the southside of Harding Place.

218 South Tarver.

Memories. Good people. Really good people.

i spent a great deal of my Lebanon life at my Harding place. It was my second home.

The primary reason was this black haired kid named Henry. George Henry Harding, V. to be more precise. “Henry” seemed to fit. Still does. But more about him later.

Because he was only a year younger, Beetle was nearly always involved in our shenanigans as well. James (Jim) A. Harding. i’m pretty sure the “A.” is for Arnold. More about him later as well.

When i visited, Grandpap and Maude seemed like visitors from an another planet of long ago. Lebanon history. Country folk, caring, with the scent of history. They were old then, but they were nice.

The grounds of my Harding place were about a half-acre i would guess. Across from Cumberland University, the yard ran from South Tarver back to the Tarver Branch of Barton’s Creek, which further to the southwest, i shared some more adventures with the Harding boys of my Harding place.

The Harding Place was freedom. There were about four outbuildings in the back. The furthest from the road was a comfortable one-room living space. An older relative lived there, an uncle as i recall. If Henry or Beetle were to say his name, i would remember. The relative whittled, but back then, there were a whole bunch of older Lebanon men who whittled. i don’t know if this relative chewed tobacco but most of the men who whittled also chewed tobacco. i’m convinced all of the old men who whittled on the court house steps in the square whittled, chewed, and spit on the sidewalk with some thought of perhaps getting someone walking by to slip and fall on his backside, preferably someone all duded up in a suit and tie.

This relative had a Ben Franklin stove in the back of his living space (the front of his living space faced the branch at the back of the lot).

The other buildings had equipment, all kinds of equipment, really interesting stuff to Lebanon boys. But the building on the north side, the other end of the living space was magic, pure magic. There were all sorts of enchanted, broken of course or at least in need of significant repair, pieces of stuff. Like the old pinball machine. This stuff could hold a young boy’s attention for a couple of hours. Easy.

And we would walk by the side of Tarver Branch north until we ran into the back of my relative’s backyard on West Spring. Burton Wilson was the son of my great aunt Ida Webster Wilson, the sister of my grandmother Katherine “Granny” Webster Prichard. Burton worked at the Woolen Mill, just like most folks it seems. He also was the choir director at the First Methodist Church. Mignon, his wife, doted on their children. Betty Burke Wilson was a beautiful blonde. i think i might have been in love with her but she was older and always out and about, i think perhaps in school, and boys my age then had illusory infatuations that left as quickly as they struck.

Dan was younger, but he liked to play with us and the Wilson large, screened in porch on  the east side had a ping pong table and the back yard was large enough for football and baseball games.

George, the patriarch of Harding place was well known throughout town. A staunch and active Democrat and Kiwanian, he was dapper, especially for a town like Lebanon and outspoken. Yeh, outspoken. He remained that way for all of his life. The boys, including George, would tape barbershop songs in the front room of Harding Place, singing with all of our might. He also had a sizable collection of LP albums, party albums, and comedy routines, even Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. Of course, they were not something we were supposed to be listening to, but many a Sunday night, i would spend with Henry in the front room. There was a big radio and record player in the corner, and when we thought we wouldn’t get caught, Henry would go into George’s stash, and we would listen. If we thought we would get caught, there were late Sunday night gospel songfests we would find on the radio.

George and i, often with Virginia, became closer when high school football rolled around.  i rode with them in the black Mercury to every game not conflicting with my Castle Heights game schedule. George would give me his philosophy on all things great and small. i admired him.

Beetle and i had our own ventures together. We did many things with Henry, the three amigos, or perhaps the three stooges, but we had fun. Beetle and i started working for the Lebanon’s Public Works the same day. We collected a dead dog and took it to the dump. Then we had the wreck when i bounced Wilson Denny’s gas golf cart on the railroad tracks and into the fire hydrant outside Henderson’s Florist shop. We rode in the hospital in the same ambulance, laughing until it hurt…and beyond. We found each other in Vietnam, a fairly difficult thing to do when i was on a ship carrying Korean troops to and from Quinhon and Nha Trang and he was an army medivac officer on helos. And how, Mr. James Harding did you get the garbage truck duty while went to the waterworks and on to grave digging?

And then there was Virginia. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring, she was tolerant of our antics, and she made the only tacos and chile rellenos this side of the Mississippi. She and my aunt were my other two mothers and both let me get away with a lot more than mother would. i loved Virginia.

When she passed away way too early, i was in my spring semester at Vanderbilt. i remember running, the first time i just ran with no real place to go. Not a jog but a full out run in my regular clothes in the street. In a driving spring rain. Running until my lungs and my legs would carry me no further. I stopped somewhere on West Spring on my route to my Harding place i had walked so many, many times before. i cried all the way. And when i stopped, i bent over gasping and cried until i cried no more and walked back home. i will always miss her.

And then there is Henry. We took up running together sometime around first grade. i’m sure we got hooked up at the First Methodist Church Sunday School. But in fact, we met long before. We were Christened together along with Sharry Baird Hager  on VE Day in 1945 in the church’s sanctuary. i could tell you about 787,602 stories about Henry and me. Henry went to Lebanon High School.  i went to Castle Heights. Henry went to UT. i went to Vanderbilt. Henry went into the army. i went into the Navy. Henry stayed in Lebanon. i wandered around a whole bunch of this earth. We see each other rarely. We talk to each other once, maybe twice a year. We may exchange three or four emails a year.

He remains my brother. Our conversation is continuous. i admire his life, sometimes i am even envious he is the one who stayed and i am the one who left.

He and Brenda have made a lot of improvements to my Harding place, all good. It is a comfortable home with a comfortable couple living there.

They make me smile.

Sure would like to go back to my Harding place and spend a little time talking. Just talking.

2 thoughts on “My Harding Place (republished after it was actually completed in spite of fat fingers)

  1. Jim, you could have told about the time you and Henry came to Lebanon High and sang during one of our weekly student body assemblies in the auditorium. Both of you must have been 8th graders at what was then known as Lebanon Junior High. Seems like your teacher was Mrs Gwaltney and the two of you sang “Catch A Falling Star and Put It In Your Pocket”, a song made popular at the time by Perry Como.
    Several years later I had the privilege of working in radio with you and being friends with Henry at the Kiwanis Little League Concession Stand and the Leb Housing Authority.

  2. Ah! Enjoyed “the rest of the story”. Is George still alive? I really don’t hear much about Lebanon except through you. Some of my family still live there but they don’t remember those good ole people. They are all younger except for my sister Margaret.

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