One of the many things I love about my native New England is all the stone walls. Get off the beaten path; take a walk in the woods. Bring your imagination and a walking stick. It matters not where you go; soon you will come to a stone wall. It may run straight and true or it may meander awkwardly to and fro. Chances are many of the stones have tumbled a bit from where they were originally laid. The summer sun and the winter snow have had their way with the rocks during the two hundred years or more they have been standing there patiently defining a property line or offering support for a barn or home that’s no longer anywhere in sight.
Find a fallen tree that’s just right. Sit; have a snack and let your imagination run. You have been walking for two hours in the woods without seeing a building or even a new mown field. It’s plain to see no one lives here. No one ever did. Ah, but yes someone did! That tree you are sitting on is just the right height because it fell across a row of stones. The line goes down the hill and then it turns to the right. Someone put those stones there. Big stones, small stones, tan stones and black rocks turned green by the elements. Mixed in you find a few samples of red granite sitting here and there just to pique your interest.
Either side of the wall there are trees, big and small, short and tall, mostly deciduous hardwood trees on land that was original covered only with soft conifers. The hardwood trees are a clue; the stone wall is the proof; you are a welcome trespasser on sacred ground. Not holy ground, but land prepared by horse and hand and hard labor to make a home. Sacred ground because of the love and lives that once lived and toiled here.
It’s time to sit quietly on your fallen tree and listen to your imagination as you munch a snack. The young couple had a 9 year old work horse, 2 cats and a dog named Digger. There were more chickens than an ordinary person could count and a big wooden bucket filled with pickling salt in the root cellar. One spring they planted orange seeds they had dried just for fun. There were pumpkin and some squash seeds too. No orange tree ever showed a leaf but some of the pumpkin grew, and the squash and zucchini, oh my! Most of it was shared with Caleb’s sow down the road, so much grew that year.
It was David and Mary who cleared the land. After Digger came Digger Too. Digger’s job had been to play in the mud while his masters worked the garden soil. Digger Too’s job was to provide love and companionship for his now aging couple and to chase an occasional squirrel of course. David went first. The men usually did in those days. He was 3 score and 4. That’s two more than the time assigned to man. Life had been hard but it was good. With David gone, Mary did the best she could.
Caleb came up when there was something she couldn’t handle, which wasn’t very often. The horse was long gone but Mary liked to sit in the kitchen and look out at that old barn; it held so many memories. It filled her soul with thoughts of youth and times of shared love and chores. One late October day Caleb heard Mary say the doors wouldn’t hang like that if David were still around. The very next morning Caleb came with his son and they put new hinges on those doors. It was just 2 days after Thanksgiving when they found Mary. Her head was bowed; her breath was gone. But she was erect in the kitchen chair where she had been looking for the last time at those barn doors. That was 1749.
I stood up poked around where I thought the old barn might have been. I shuffled some leaves with a boot and sure enough, I picked up one half of an old rusty hinge. I laid it back exactly as I found it, picked up my pack and walked on, a little more reverently then when I had walked in.
by Bob B
Bob, I somehow missed this when it was first posted. After reading it, I had that feeling one has just after they realized they were “that” close to have missed seeing a beautiful object.
This story is a masterpiece. In the days of The Saturday Evening Post, it would have been added to the classics. Well done!!!!
I enjoyed it so much that I forwarded it to 63 friends and aquaintences. I hope others do the same.