Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Out Standing in His Field


Like clockwork, every day after school, I would walk through the fields and woods behind our house. There was the red barn and the lower barn. The horse pasture was behind the lower barn. The lower barn was grey and weathered, and the former hayloft was now home to mud wasps and barn swallows. There was a large swinging gate, constructed of scraps of lumber, from around the farm. It had to be patched when our beef steer, Charlie Brown, plowed through it. That's when my dad decided to butcher Charlie Brown. Our pony was probably glad to see him go.

Once through the gate and past the barn, I walked over a level section and then down a hill. There were two old dumps on the right. The first of the two dumps was filled with large rusty appliances, washing machines, stoves, and so forth. The larger dump towards the bottom of the hill was a miasma of all kinds of trash, but nothing burnable, or that would blow away. Just old scraps from living on a farm. This is what folks did before the town landfill opened up. I periodically crawled through that large dump heap, looking for tarnished treasures. It's a good thing that I stayed current on my tetanus (lockjaw) shots.

The field was partly bordered by Great Cedar Swamp. It was there that I found tadpoles for show and tell. It was there that our dogs wandered into the water, up to their necks to escape the heat and bugs. We tried out our second hand hockey skates on that small patch of water.  I never did get the hang of that whole ice-skating thing. Up the hill there was a tree, with a limb stump off the trunk that must have been just the right height for our pony to scratch her back. The nub of the broken limb became smooth and polished from all the times she rubbed her flank against the tree.

The horse pasture is also where I first got stoned. Of course, my friend and I didn't realize we were stoned until we stood up. And then, once standing, I had to deal with my angry father, who had just marched down the hill. Earlier in the afternoon we had been throwing rotten vegetables from the garden at the boys from next door. It was a water fight that we took to the next level. Just boys being boys. We then became familiar with the paranoia that often accompanies smoking weed. We walked in circles through the fields, wondering if my dad could tell that we had just smoked the evil cannabis. It was unlikely since my dad could only smell apple pie and gasoline, or so he claimed.

The fields also provided tea-berry leaves for snacks. Golden seal root for curing my re-occurring canker sores. Once in a while I'd scare a rabbit out of the brush, or spot a fat groundhog on the path ahead. These were the same woods where the Wampanoags evaded the bloodthirsty and double-crossing colonists, who were exercising their manifest destiny with firepower. I was walking in their footsteps, oblivious to the screams and cries of hunger that once echoed through these swamp-lands in Rehoboth.

Now there are houses and cul de sacs in that field. When I was a toddler, there wasn't a house north of us on Dean street. It wasn't long before our street was paved, and houses and duplexes were lining the street. I continued to find solace in the fields and woods behind our property until I grew restless and joined the air force at age seventeen, but that desperation move is a blog post for another time. When I glance on Google earth and see the homestead as it is now, I ache for the comfort of those natural surroundings. It's a nostalgic ache that I cannot afford to cultivate.

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