The farm stories are very loosely based on my growing up on a farm in rural Connecticut in the 50′s. I like to think of them as being more truthful than factual—but who can really tell as time has a way of altering what we remember—and remembering what we alter. While they may seem written for kids, they are hopefully relevant to the kid in us all.
Living just southeast of Lake Ontario, in a little town called Cato, New York, Jill and I, were used to the lake effect snows that could blast into town and dump 48 inches of snow in a few hours. These storms were an adrenaline producing adventure as valid as sport climbing or parapenting. While “getting used to them” is perhaps a bit preposterous, we did treat them with the respect, excitement and anticipation they deserved.
It was 90 degrees along with 90% humidity—it might as well have been raining.
It was August.
Henry and his cousin were drenched in sweat from the stifling heat and their hard work in the haymow. Hay chaff stuck to their sweaty skin like salty sand at the beach—stinging like nettles. Sweat whipped off Henry’s nose and hair as he tossed the bales of hay.
Henry loved the woods. It was springtime—-and everything was waking up—even Henry.
His journeys to the woods were a constant source of amusement, discovery and refuge.
Henry had not always lived in the country and the unfortunate circumstances that resulted in his coming to live in the country likely had a lot to do with his interest in the woods—at least initially. It was a place where, by its very nature, he could momentarily forget that he was not where he wanted to be. There was no way for him to comprehend the forces that seemed to be directing his life. The challenge and thrill of learning what the woods had to offer was more than a distraction—-it was a necessity. It was the sort of sustenance by which we all end up dancing to the beat of a different drummer—-if we are lucky. It was a way for him to exert some control and direction in his life. Not just a testament of where he had to be—but now where he wanted to be.
Old Daisy Mae was a Shetland pony and was about 138 years old when she died—well not “actually” but quite old for a pony—the quintessential “old nag.” She was so sway-backed her belly almost dragged on the ground and you could count every single rib. She had a back bone that would hurt a saddle. When riding her, there was only two possible ways to fall off— so no saddle was required. We rarely rode the ponies using saddles anyway. It was great fun to ride them bareback—using their mane to turn them in the direction you wanted to go. If you are going to play Cowboys and Indians you have to have a horse. If you were playing the Indian, a saddle was wrong anyway.
Henry and his brother and cousins liked to fight great battles for truth and justice in the woods. One day it would be Davy Crockett fighting against impossible odds at the Alamo—or Robin Hood outwitting the Sheriff of Nottingham forest—-another day it might be Zorro, or the Lone Ranger. Regardless it was never about “pretending” to be these heroes—they were them. They were invincible—even invisible if necessary.
One day as they were fighting desperate battles with enemies seen and unseen along the old logging road in the woods next to the farm, they came across something white sticking out of the leaves under a monstrous oak tree. They laid down their swords and cleared away some of the leaves, twigs and piles of acorn hats from around the object. They quickly realized it was a gigantic bone. And not just one bone—there were several bones—dinosaur bones!