Growing up in the 1940s and ’50s with people who came of age on the battlefields of World War II or by working on the homefront in support of the war effort, I thought my life in the one-square-block village of Bellair, with a general store out in the middle of nowhere, was really dull and boring after what they’d gone through in life.

Oh, I roamed the countryside freely with the other boys from around the square and had a great time. But I couldn’t wait to get away and start having adventures of my own, and I did right after high school graduation by joining the Marine Corps. Through the years, though, I always went back home as long as my parents were there, and I still consider it home. It’s where I’m from.

Now that my parents are gone, however, I don’t often travel the 90 or so miles there. But I recently took a couple of days to go back and look around. A hundred memories flashed through my mind as I drove around Bellair, which looks nothing like it did when I was a kid any more than it resembled the way it looked years prior to that during a minor oil boom in the area.

I remembered the old men on the general-store porch telling stories about how things were back in what I thought of as “the old days.” There was the time when a local farmer first bought a Model T Ford car and drove up to the store porch and hollered, “Whoa, whoa, there,” as he headed into the store porch like he was still in a horse and buggy. Rather than hitting the brakes, he hit the porch, scattering the men about as he came to an abrupt stop.

And there was the time when Abraham Lincoln’s family headed northwest from Kentucky in the 1830s and stopped at a trading post on the corner a half a block north of where I grew up and played as a kid. Amazing to hear that Lincoln had stopped in Bellair. I loved those stories.

I also recalled the anecdotal pieces of earlier life, like when a Halloween prank by boys around town somehow got a buggy on top of the two-story pitched roof of the store; or when the bank that used to be there was robbed and the teller stuck his fingers in the key hole in the safe so the door wouldn’t lock after the robbers shut everybody in the vault, grabbed a .22 rifle, ran to the door and fired some shots after the fleeing robbers, hitting the house at the end of the road but missing the robbers and narrowly missing the woman standing at the door.

Those are just vague memories I have from having listened to the old men who lived in the area since they were born during or just after the Civil War. They said old Doc Ferguson, who had lived on the hill in the largest house in town, was in that war. And Mort Edmunds was a freed slave about 12 years old when a local Union soldier on his way home after the war had found the young boy wandering in the woods, brought him home and raised him. Our next-door neighbor was his daughter and was like another grandmother to my sisters and me. Lots of stories.

Of course, I don’t know how many of them are totally true, but I choose to believe them and believe that the Lincoln party did stop in Bellair. Getting “moon burgers” at the Moonshine store with a couple of friends, walking through the area cemeteries and noting the names of people who lived in and around Bellair when I was growing up brought to mind still more memories from those days.

So, in a way, you can go home again, sorta. I’ve always liked Thomas Wolfe’s novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” and understand why he felt he couldn’t go home again after his realistic portrayal of the characters from his home in his novel “Look Homeward Angel.” That would be unsettling.

After extensive travel and coming to grips about the state of the world, Wolfe’s character, novelist George Webber, comes to the conclusion that you can never fully “go back to your family, back to the home of your childhood ... away from all the strife and conflict of the world ... back home to the old forms and systems which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time.”

Undoubtedly. But most of the people I knew were good, honest and likable. We never locked our doors, we left the keys in our vehicles, and we helped anyone when they needed it. That was home back then. And being able to go back and still catch a glimpse of that home after leaving so long ago makes me realize that those days weren’t really as “dull and boring” as I thought back then.

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