Full Circle – A Homecoming Story

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story

A favorite place from childhood memory can stay with you for life.

Will it be the same as you remember when you return years later?

This article was originally published to the When Life Goes Full Circle blog on September 26, 2020

The Back Story

This homecoming story begins deep in the rural back country of Jackson County Missouri. About 10 miles south of the small town of Oak Grove is a little known place of peace and quiet called Lake Paradise, where there are five lakes and hundreds of camp sites. Families and outdoor types have enjoyed this wonderful place of natural beauty for generations.

According to their Web site, Lake Paradise was originally called “The Ramada Club” when they opened in 1976. But this homecoming story goes a bit further back, to a time when Lake Paradise was little more than wilderness.

It was 1973 when my dad and his good friend Hoyt first walked the property formerly known as “Carolika Lakes“. The men had a grand idea of building a bible camp there. This included turning the grounds into a camping spot for families and fishing.

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My dad told me the place was a mess. It was wildly overgrown. No one had mowed it for a long time. Garbage, beer cans, and paper were everywhere. It was run down and needed a lot of clean up to get it ready for business. That was exactly the kind of thing my dad needed at that point in his life. It would help him move forward from a very tragic life event that had recently occurred.

My dad went all-in on the project. He spent hundreds of hours of hard labor cleaning-up the land, chopping, shoveling, and raking. Dad also enlisted the aid of a local Boy Scout Troop. They negotiated an arrangement where the Scouts could enjoy free camping and fishing in exchange for clean-up labor.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
An original Rockwood Acres marketing pamphlet from 1975.

He placed two mobile homes on the property, one for his mother and grandmother, and the other for his family.

The place opened under the name of Rockwood Acres in 1973.

I was barely 5 years old when we moved in, but I distinctly remember how the place made me feel. I fell in love with it immediately. With acres of wild country all around me it was as if I had my own little kingdom to explore.

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Wildlife was abundant. Deer, ducks, geese, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, foxes, coyotes, and of course, fish, were an everyday thing. I not only got to see these wonderful creatures almost daily, but many were on the menu regularly! We dined on fish and game like a frontier family and I loved every minute of it.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
My dad showing off one of his many catches. Nice fish!

My dad has always been an avid hunter and fisherman, consistently bringing home the catch.

I spent many hours in the field with him in the early 1970’s and greatly cherish those times.

The memories of that place will forever be in my heart. Some of my best days were lived there. Despite leaving the place in only a couple of years, I still consider it to be my childhood home.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
Rockwood Acres, 1973. Left to right – Steve (me), David, Tom, Becky

When I recall the happy days of my youth, my mind’s eye almost always takes me back to Rockwood Acres.

The Full Circle Moment

Thirty years later, in 2003, I was living in a south Kansas City suburb. It was a big home in a nice neighborhood. My kids had many friends and the commute to work was an easy 15 minutes.

All the amenities of city life were conveniently within reach, but something was missing. I felt crowded, constricted, and always had an urge to wander in the open country surrounded by nature.

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It eventually became clear to me that my Rockwood Acres days were still alive deep in my soul. This drove me to begin searching for acreage of my own. After many months of house tours and property walks I finally found the one. Three acres with a small patch of woods and a creek running through it about 45 minutes away from work. It was near the tiny town of Lone Jack, Missouri (population about 1000 at that time).

It felt like home because of the undeveloped land all around me that distinctly resembled the terrain of Rockwood Acres. So I sold the city house and moved out to the country to start a new life chapter.

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It wasn’t very long after settling into my new home that I decided to take a walk. I wanted to explore an old gravel road nearby that lead north into the hills. As I rounded a particular corner and topped a ridge I felt a strange sense of familiarity. I had seen this valley before. Searching my memory, I couldn’t quite place it.

I continued on, sloping down into the valley and rising back up again to the next ridge. With each step up the hill the place become more familiar to me. When I crested the ridge to see the next valley before me, a flood of memories filled my mind. With a childish grin, I knew right away what I was gazing upon. It was the most favorite of all my childhood homes, Rockwood Acres. So it began, my homecoming story. A Full Circle Moment.

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I spoke to the gate attendant and told her my story. She allowed me to have a look around. I spent the next hour wandering the Lake Paradise property remembering so many wonderful times.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
Becky and Steve, 1974.

Standing on the hilltop where the mobile homes once stood, I gazed out over the lake.

With a smile, I remembered snow sledding down that very slope so many years ago with my little sister.

With more wandering I found the old hunting spot. It was a grassy slope hidden behind tall cattails on the upper lake. Dad and I once hunted ducks and geese there. I also found the old fishing hole on the main lake where we had caught dozens of bass, crappie, and catfish.

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Much was changed from the days when I once lived there, but so much was still the same. It was indeed a good day. The sense of belonging I felt with my little three acres nearby were amplified exponentially when I realized I was living within walking distance of my old stomping grounds. A homecoming for sure.

The Meaning

It’s amazing to me how I ended up so close to the old property. I sure wasn’t trying to be. I only wanted a reminder of it, but ended up nearly returning there.

It was as if God had heard the yearning of my heart and guided my path to what I wanted. It felt like the gentle reassurance of my father’s hand on my shoulder telling me not to worry.

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I think the meaning extends far beyond what the full circle moment did for me. It was for my dad too. It wasn’t long after that experience when he came over for a house-warming visit.

As we sat outside on the deck I told him about my pleasant surprise. He was clearly moved by the realization and wanted to see for himself. We hopped in the truck and drove down the old road. Sure enough, as we crested the hilltop he knew exactly what he was looking at.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
Lake Paradise. Jackson County, Missouri.

Before him were the lakes and the gatehouse entry, now marked “Lake Paradise“.

His old neighbor’s family home was still there, but now a bait shop.

The old road still lead up to a hilltop overlooking the lakes where two mobile homes had once stood.

The homecoming story was now alive in his heart too.

We walked along the shore of the lake sharing old memories. As we stood there taking it all in, dad shared his thoughts with me. Those hard hours of labor spent working the land were therapeutic for him.

Full Circle - A Homecoming Story
The best places in life are often the natural wonders we return to time and again.

Each drop of sweat, shovel of dirt, and swing of the pickaxe lessened the burden of his tragic loss.

He grinned with satisfaction as he noticed many of his improvements were still visible after 30 years.

Psalm 90:17

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A Homecoming Story” is the re-telling of a full circle moment originally published in the book TOM.

Get the book to read the full context of this story and learn about Tom’s tragic loss in 1969. You won’t be disappointed!

I’m In Search Of stories like this to share with my readers. If you have experienced a Full Circle Moment would you consider sharing it?

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author avatar
Steve Coryell