You’ve probably heard that old saying: “You can take the girl out of Buck Creek, but you can’t take Buck Creek out of the girl.” Something like that. Anyway, if you’ve heard it said, you probably heard it said about Rachel Lawrence Edwards-Ridder.
Rachel settled in Texas several years ago. Before that she lived in Indiana, Georgia, Utah, and even, Japan. And before she lived in any of those locations, she lived near Buck Creek in mid-western Barren County. A midwife assisted in her birth there on the first day of 1934. There were five brothers and sisters living in the home when she joined them and her parents Chesteen (“Teen”) and Fannie Lawrence.
These days, many miles and many years away from her old Barren County home, she says “That place holds so many wonderful memories. We were always very close to our parents, and I loved playing with my sisters and brothers. They were my best friends then, and they are my best friends today.”
The creative source of “place” often becomes important to writers and artists. Consider what Yoknapatawpha County was for William Faulkner and what the French countryside was for Claude Monet. When Rachel has written a poem or painted a picture, her place of inspiration has often been Buck Creek. Regardless of how far her travels have taken her, she’s taken along memories of her old homeplace.
She remembers it as a place where she “swung on grapevines where they piped in the sunshine.” Rachel laughs and pauses to pour herself a cup of hot tea and slice a loaf of banana nut bread. She’s having an afternoon snack, and says she’d like for me to join her. I can’t, though. We’re visiting by phone.
Rachel tells me she’s proud the local place is still owned by a family member. “I’ve always thought of that place as a piece of heaven.”
When Rachel was 9, her family moved to Georgia. She moved back during her high school years and remained here until going to business school in Nashville. Then after marriage to her first husband, the couple cultivated the land on a farm in the local area. By 1953, though, they moved on to Indianapolis. She explains, “My husband really didn’t like to farm.”
“Could we say,” I ask, “you’ve harvested many of your inspirations from your early years on Barren County land?”
“Absolutely – Buck Creek.”
“Thanks for sending me the bookmark that contained your poem, ‘Mama’s Hands’. Is that how you remember her?”
“Yes. Everything I write is how I remember them — home was always where Mom and Dad were.”
Rachel’s mother was also the subject for an art quilt. Several Lawrence family members are depicted in the work that highlights her mother in a flower garden.
“My canvas is fabric, my inspiration is life, and my joy is creating art,” Rachel says.
Since the 1980s, Rachel has worked in what she calls her “studio with house attached.” As she works intuitively, Rachel’s art takes on a life of its own — a wearable garment, a series of art quilts, even shoes. Vibrant colors, textures and beads find their way into a piece which she photographs and uses to create unusual note cards. Each has a poem, a story to tell.
She’s been quite successful in exhibiting and marketing her art. Mostly, though, she keeps busy creating works to share with family and friends — especially those from her days on Buck Creek.