The Circle Y became a part of our family about 1950, when my maternal grandparents, Fleet and Annie (Wittenburg) Young, purchased it. Since their last name was "Young," they named it the "Circle Y". It's located in Saline County, Arkansas, on the Pulaski County line.
My grandparents had farmed, run a dairy, and raised cattle all their lives. When I-30 went through their home farm on Baseline Road, on the outskirts of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, they were able to retire in their 50s, which, to them, meant finding a recreational farm out in the country, where they could make improvements and raise a few cows. They had worked hard all their life and weren't the kind of people to retire to a condo on the beach!
They kept the parts of their home farm that the freeway didn't take and continued to live there. They never lived at the farm; it was their getaway and project. At that time, it was really way out in the country, but the city and civilization have moved out and around to encircle it now.
My grandparents did a lot of work on the 140 acres of the Circle Y: cleaning it up, picking up piles of rocks, planting better grass, and clearing brush. It became one of the prettiest places in the area. They also tore down many of the old houses (more like shacks) on the farm, where families used to live in the early 1900s, and recycled much of the materials into building what our family has always called "the cabin."
They built barbed-wire fences around the farm, and cross-fences in various areas. They also had Annie's cousin come out with his bulldozer and dig a farm pond in a big draw between the ridges, and they stocked the pond with fish. I still remember my brother and I helping my grandfather throw corn into the water to fatten up those fish just about every day (when we were visiting or living in the area). Although both Fleet and Annie loved to fish, Annie was the most ardent about it.
The cabin was built over the old smokehouse cellar from the original owners of this property. Gus Lequieu, from France, had a house, a barn with his blacksmith shop, and two hand-dug wells. One of the well tops, formed with concrete, has the handprints of children impressed along the top, along with the date 1911--although it's become virtually unreadable over the years. Their original house is not longer in existence; when my grandparents bought this place, the only thing left was the old barn, the two wells, and the underground smokehouse. They built the cabin over the smokehouse; now the one-room cabin has outside steps leading down to the dirt-floor basement.
When Gus Lequieu died in the Flu Epidemic of 1918, his wife Mattie soon remarried; she and her LeQuieu children moved out west. But the daffodils and other plants with which Mattie had beautified her home place still remain, coming up every year to remind us of the history of this place.
My grandparents also built a fireplace onto the cabin. The story is that they traded one of their calves to a local man for the stone construction. They put in a dry sink, a simple table and chairs, a coffee pot and a few dishes, and a plain bed. They used the cabin to take breaks from their work on the farm. Usually they made coffee, using the fireplace, and fixed a simple lunch, and then took a nap before returning to their labors.
When my grandparents died, they left the farm to my brother and me. Now, because my brother has never lived in Arkansas since he was a child, it's my family who all live here. I gave each of my four children six acres of my part of the land, on which they all built houses. After I finished my Ph.D. at Rice University in Houston, I moved back and put in my own home. So all four of my children, their spouses, one ex-spouse and her new husband, eight grandchildren (and I) all live on the Circle Y.
It takes a lot of work to keep up 140 acres, but everybody pitches in. We also have a bull and 7 cows (all due to calve in February 2008). The Circle Y is completed enclosed in a 6' chainlink fence, with electric gates (and with eight dogs, most pit bulls, living here too), so we call it "the Billingsley Compound." The grandkids, ranging from age fourteen to the one who will be born tomorrow (21 November 2008), love to wander all over, play in the creeks, play house in the cabin, and observe all the deer, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, coyotes, armadillos, foxes, turkeys, and other assorted wildlife and a wide variety of birds. And, unfortunately (for me, since I hate the sound) most of the family have 4-wheelers they ride constantly, over hill and dale, through creeks and forests.
It's a beautiful place, made even more special to me because of the closeness of my family. I hope you can see, in the photos presented here, what a very special place it is..