Friday, November 20, 2009

Walking with Dad

Every year about this time, I head for the mountain for a week with my family and doing a little hunting. My Dad and I traipse all over the old farm where I grew up, supposedly looking for our furred quarry. Often times we just look over the old place and remember.

We inevitably work our way over to the far corner of the farm, where the crows alight in the tree's and notify all creatures great and small of our presence there. We don't mind, we like the crows and watch their antics with awe. The far corner of the farm is the most inaccessible part of the property, and it is here that unwary passersby report strange happenings. People witness everything from Ol' Fon, the goat man, to catching a fleeting glimpse of a mountain lion. Dad and I usually see sign of the big, lumbering bear which makes its home in this part of the farm.

To get to the far corner of the farm, we walk through the enormous open fields, long ago cleared of rocks. These rocks were hand-picked by countless hands. Gigantic piles of rocks can be found at regular intervals throughout the fields. We remember our great-grandfathers, Fon Lawrence and Alfred Kile, who worked this land. We know that their hands toiled this farm into prosperity. It is good to remember.

In between the fields there is a low place, an almost holler that hasn't quite made it there. In this sheltered spot, an apple orchard was planted generations ago. Here, the fierce mountain winds don't reach, and it is noticably warmer than on the hilltops on each side of the almost holler. The apple orchard still produces though it has been years since it has been tended to, only now the deer and other wildlife enjoy the harvest. We still find a few late season heritage apples still clinging to the tree, which we pick and eat. The apple have a wonderful flavor and we comment how these apple taste so much better than those old hybrid things that we are forced to purchase in the grocery store these days. We recall some of the old ways and try to remember more.

Further up on the mountain, in the highest meadows, just below the jutting out of the North Mountain rocks, there is a little glen too far above the frost line to produce agriculturally but still fertile. It is here that the tree's grow to enormous heights, and it gives the impression that you are walking through forests of yesteryear, before they were logged off to fill the coffers of some far-off corporation. Probably only the inaccessibility of these forest giants saved them from the axe. They are quite a sight to see, some of these behemoths would take 7 or 8 men, linking hands with arms outstretched, to reach around them. Dad and I talk about what a terrific crash this forest giant must have made when it fell to the ground. We wonder if it was old age or a great storm that brought down this King from his forest crown. It must have been huge, because the tree's around it still haven't managed to reach the size of other tree's nearby, undoubtedly their growth was suppressed by the massive crown of the giant. We try to remember when all of the forest in these hills rivaled these remnants of history.

Finally, as we start to walk off the mountain, we see this lone tree stump in a grown over meadow. Apparently cut down a few years back, this hollow stump is now the home of a tree gnome. What? You don't believe in tree gnomes? haven't you heard, the hills of my home are magical! All we have to do is remember.


Bob said...


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

It is just like I am there with you. What a beautiful telling and wonderful phrasing.

Janet, said...

Enjoyed your walk over the old farm. Tell your dad and the tree gnome hi for me.

Jason Burns said...

And before you can see the gnomes, you have to believe. You have to believe it before you can see it.

ausurfer said...

Fantastic -- even if you had no photos, your writing would be enough to enable me to experience the time you spent there.
As always Matthew, a well written piece.