It was a dirt path; actually as much shell as dirt, and it was dissected by a long row of jointed grass that was able to survive and even thrive between the tire tracks on either side. It was no more than two hundred feet from the paved road to Ole' Pas' house where his body was to lay until his burial the next morning. Our house was at the edge of the road, and then there was the home of my Uncle Louie, whom everyone called Big Buddy, and finally the big white house that Ole' Pa had built for Aggie, my grandmother and his first wife, when finally they moved from the Banks in December of 1900.
Then, just where Big Buddy's fence ended, and Ole' Pa's place began, there was the tall oak tree that had been the main landmark of the site since long before Ole' Pa even thought about building right beside it. My daddy used to tell me that he had heard that when Ole' Pa's house was being built, the workers would shade under its branches while they rested from their labors. Now, more than half a century later it still dominated the landscape so that the silver maples that ran almost from its roots to the shoreline were dwarfed by its stature.
That giant old oak, and the big white house that sat just to it's southwest had marked a gathering place for more than three generations of Hancocks and their relatives, especially the Willises, Guthries and Moores. Together, within sight of both the oak and the roof of Ole' Pa's house they had established a neighborhood of homes and families that was so closely connected by blood and the everyday routines of life that most of us didn't even bother to acknowledge what our blood relation really was. All of us, especially the young ones, just knew that somehow we were kin to everyone else, and that what affected one of us mattered to all of us. And for as long as anyone living could remember, nothing and no one else mattered more than Ole’ Pa.