I studied the straight lines of the newly sprouted oat plants beside the cow lane as I walked. Barb, my neighborhood cousin jolted me out of my reverie by exclaiming, “Kathy! Watch out!”
A quick glance down…and I made a few hopscotch leaps over several small fresh cow pies. “Whoo! That was close!” I crowed. We were at the farthest end of the cow lane now, so I turned to Barb and her sisters, Donna and Alice to ask, “Which way? Do you want to go to the woods the long way…easy but boring over the culvert…or through the low ground where we cross the crick by stepping on rocks?”
I definitely preferred the jumping from rock to rock route, but I had to ask. Barb, Donna, and Alice were company. Donna, who was in the same grade with me at school said, “Sister said we should say, ‘creek’…instead of ‘crick’.
Snorting impolitely, I exclaimed, “I KNOW that! ‘Roof’ instead of ‘ruf’, and ‘Creek’ instead of ‘crick’…but do you know what? ‘Roof’ and ‘creek’ don’t SOUND right!”
Eyeing the clumps of razor-sharp, blades of swamp grass between where we stood, and my favorite short-cut to the woods, Alice suggested, “Let’s go over the culvert.”
Wanting my own way, I quickly pointed out, “It’s not as bad as it looks! If you follow me, we can be there in no time at all!” As I spoke, I took off through the weeds, which were so nasty that our cows wouldn’t even attempt eating them.
My hapless cousins fell in line behind me. As I plowed ahead toward my destination, weeds called ‘devil’s shoelaces’, scratched my bare legs, and caught on the laces of my tennis shoes. The day was unseasonable warm. With few breezes to move the air around, the lowland acres heated up like a sauna. Stubbornly, I kept going, keeping my eyes on the huge rock pile next to the crossing.
The rock pile stood on a small knob of higher ground. Grass around it was grazed as smooth as a lawn. The cows found it sweet and tender compared to the swamp grass. Reaching our destination, I flopped down on the cool grass. Alice carefully settled like a little bird on a rock, and complained, “That was horrible! The grass cut my legs!”
With little sympathy for her discomfort, I stated matter-of-factly, “Well, it didn’t take long…and we’re here how!” The four of us fell silent…looking around at what “here” looked like.
The rock pile was huge. Daddy was still used it. Ruts from his tractor tires ran beside it, through the creek, and towards another field next to the woods. One of my sisters once told me that there were as many rocks pushed down under ground here, as there were heaped above.
Closer to the creek crusty cow pies were scattered on the ground. In the softer areas, the cows left post-hole hoof prints filled with brown water. Wicked looking blue-green dragonflies hovered over the water and then zipped away faster than I could follow. The shaded woods were a couple hundred feet beyond. We could feel its moist, cool, sweet breath.
From around the edge of the rock pile, several vines grew up onto the rocks. Last fall these vines were covered with beautiful red berries. When I told my brother about them, he said that they were poisonous. We stepped on them, and the air filled with a nasty, poisonous smell.
Spotting a red rock on top of the pile, I went after it. “Look how smooth and pretty this one is!” Something white sticking out of the backside of the mound caught my eye. Skittering over tumbling rocks to it, I gasped, “Girls! Come and look at THIS!” Under several rocks laid a heap of bones…bleached white by the sun.
This was quite a find! By the size of the leg bones, we decided they had belonged to a calf. Our discovery and deductions made us feel smart and grown-up. A search began in earnest for other signs of past life. We uncovered more bones…smaller this time. One of us said, “It was a dog! Look at all the teeth on the jawbone.”
On the far end of the pile we found coils of rusty barbed wire covered with the poisonous vines. We also found a chipped blue and white speckled enamel coffeepot. Had our grandparents shared cups of coffee made in it with friends and neighbors?
As we stood admiring the old coffee pot, something very much alive and from the present time intruded on our archaeological moment. “Eck! Snake!” Donna squealed. All four of us tumbled off the pile. Several gray stones followed us down to the tractor ruts.
The charm that captivated us during the past hour had evaporated. I looked around and asked, “Anyone still want to go to the woods?” No. Going home sounded just as good to Barb, Donna, and Alice, as it did to me.
Heading back towards home through the field of swamp grass with blades as sharp as any knife…I called out, “Maybe Mom can make us some Kool-Aid!”