920 Memories

Cherished Memories — Changing Landscapes

Just off a gravel road on the outskirts of Sheridan, Wyoming sits a plain white house on a 3-acre plot. If I close my eyes, I can see my granny’s flower garden, abuzz with giddy bees, and the row of deep purple pansies in the shade of the garage. Pansies always make me think of her. Just beyond the garage is the chicken coop, where we kids helped gather eggs every morning, against the wishes of some very cranky hens. Outside the coop, we worked a hand pump to supply the cranky hens with water, and just beyond that was the pasture. The neighbors’ horses called it home — a gentle white mare, a high-strung sorrel (my favorite), and a particularly nasty Shetland pony who was so short my lanky sister’s feet dragged the ground as she attempted to ride. On the other side of the garage, individual pens held several prize roosters whose crows competed each morning to split the pre-dawn stillness and rouse us to a glorious new day. Outside my bedroom window was a giant tree just begging to be climbed. Many a morning, a lemon-breasted meadowlark trilled from the fencepost, startling deer who would glide over the fence and away. I can almost feel the warm sun on my back, even though it’s been 50 years.

A few years ago, I found the house again and stared in disbelief. It looked nothing like I remembered. As we drove away, I silently thanked the house for all the happy memories. It may be sad and shabby today, but the love it held forever shaped me, and I’m grateful that the years can never change that.

Fifty years has taken a similar toll on the houses in the “920” area of our Cookson Hills campus. Most of these houses are vacant now, replaced by the beautiful, energy-efficient new homes at the top of the hill. Our water system needs extensive repair, and to minimize costs, we need to reduce the campus footprint as much as possible. To that end, the old houses on the “920” are slated for demolition early this spring.  

It’s a decision we don’t take lightly. A lot of life happened within these walls. There are adults across this country who recall vivid memories — some happy, some painful — of the life they shared with their Cookson families in these homes. Reluctantly, we must turn the page. Before our volunteer work crews begin the demolition, however, we will encircle each home for a time of prayer. We will thank our Good Father for each memory and petition his blessing on each of you who share those memories.

“I lived in the house on the 920 from 1984 to 1990. It was six years of laughter, tears, frustration, excitement, joy, and sadness. The community I labored with were some of the best people I have ever known. We all had one heart – to love kids that needed what only God could give. It is a little sorrowful to think of the houses being gone, but only a little – the truth is that it wasn’t about the houses, it was about the relationships God created between the co-laborers and the children He entrusted us with. So, life goes on and material things come and go but friendships and love stretch on into eternity.”

Susan Smith, Housemom

“I could not help but shed a few tears as a flood of memories come to my mind about all the special times we spent there. Susan is so right though; it is not about the houses but all the special relationships with the kids, their families, and the wonderful, dedicated, Christian people that have shared in the ministry at Cookson Hills. We were certainly blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this ministry. Yes, it is a little sad. But with time, change must take place. It is awesome to see God continuing to work through new staff and new circumstances to help hurting kids and their families. We will continue to pray for the leaders and all the people at Cookson Hills.”

Diana Reeves, Housemom

Please don’t hesitate to stop by your old stomping grounds whenever you’re in the area. Your old house may be gone, but a warm welcome remains. We will be so happy to see you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Aileen Gronewald, Board Chair and former Cookson Hills houseparent, is from Joplin, Missouri. She delights in her family and calls her grandchildren the “frosting of life.” She’s an avid reader, an aspiring writer, loves fashion, fishing, and Fantasy Football.