Well, again no Time Machine per se, so I thought I’d do post number two in my “old Indiana home” series. But first, I have to share with you a scam e-mail, mainly because it’s been so long since I got one. Anyway, this is one of those “I love you so much, so I sent you an e-card” deals from someone not remotely close to anyone I know. But at the end, this little bon mot was appended:
Quote of the Day
them to the benefit of public as well as private life, which was
uncertain light, seemed longer and sharper than they had been in the morning.
Yeah, I think George Washington said that, right after finishing off all the Hessians’ booze at Trenton.
Okay, so we are still out in the northeast corner of the back yard. Along the property line running N/S on the east side, we had a set of gardens. The one back here was mainly flowers and strawberries. Mom was a veteran canner, and the many rows of garden produced many jars of tomatoes, juice, beets, sauerkraut, peppers, and jams, among others. But the back yard was a strawberry garden; years later, Dad scammed a cherry tree from somewhere, but it ended up kinda stunted and not real productive. I remember one afternoon- it was after Pete got married and left me as the “only child,” so I must have been about ten- we were hurrying a strawberry picking expedition as a storm was rumbling in the swift-approaching background. Then came a bolt of lightning, which ended up being a) the first time I had experienced simultaneous thunder and lightning; b) the closest I’ve ever personally been to a lightning strike; and c) I’m guessing the fastest I ever ran. By the time I hit the back door instants later, Mom and Dad were about halfway across the yard steaming in my direction, and I’m sure we were all mentally checking our underwear.
It seems to me, that despite prevailing currents, the worst storms back then ran east to west. I remember when I was 3 or four, me and Pete were fending for ourselves when we spotted a dust storm- an honest to God dust storm in Indiana- rolling across the road at the other side of the hayfield. We ran inside and slammed the windows shut just in time to keep most of the dust out. Now mind you, this isn’t the “the day turned to night and drifts piled up” type you see on PBS shows about the Dustbowl; but it was a lot more than a “that wind is sure kicking shit up” too. Never have seen another like it, even during tornadoes.
Along that strawberry patch in the back was our clothes line, suspended from wrought-iron poles that looked like little telephone poles. I thought they were the most permanent things we had; but one day, when I was in high school, the one at the north end finally fell over, rusted out at the concrete base. The other one remained as a lonely monument to the past for about 10 years, until I and some of my marijuana-enhanced crew took it upon ourselves to bring it down. A lot heavier with the concrete still attached, let me assure you.
Long before that, the strawberry patch had become yard- with the exception of a row of asparagus that Dad planted near the trash burner. After Dad passed, I took great delight in mowing that crap over year after year until it finally gave up.
When we were ree-little, Mom and Dad got us a swingset. It started with a slide, which Mom would give us wax paper to rub it down so we could really “fly”. Then came I think two swings, followed by one of those two seaters that was a cross between a swing, a hobby horse, and a teeter-totter. On the other end was a four seater gondola. We were way proud when we could rock it enough to pick a leg of the set off the ground. Among other things, this is where I and my 2 nieces had a big debate over whether “darn” or “damn” was the worse bad word. I was trying to figure the timeline on that one the other night. Now I’m thinking that it was the summer after a New Years eve party at my sister Sue’s first house on the corner of Lortie and Paulding Roads (AKA the corner of Bucksnort and BFE). I’m thinking that nephew Troy (of beer caps in the boots fame) was about 2 1/2, because we kids spent a fair amount of that night teaching Troy, in his high chair, how to say another cuss word:
US: “Say it again!”
US: “Say it again…”
So that timeline would have put me and Robin at 6 and Raine at 5.
Geez, I still haven’t made it to the tree! When I say this was a big tree, it would have taken four of us kids, fingertip to finger tip, to reach around the trunk ( I think we once measure it at 12-14 feet). It seemed to climb forever into the sky, like an oaken Yggdrasil. It wasn’t a climber; the first branches were a good six and a half to 7 feet up, and if an adult lifted you up onto one, the next one was two feet out from you and head-high. Not to mention the bark was rough and deeply furrowed. One side was covered with that blue, scaly moss. The lowest branch ran east-west for maybe thirty or forty feet; and it was up against the tree trunk that Dad hung the porch swing from it. You knew it was spring when he put it up; you knew autumn was about to become winter when it returned to the shed. Then the chains became “Tarzan vines”, even if the attire was switching to Nanook of the north. Even after Mom and Dad passed, I still put it up a few times before one spring the branch finally gave way. Twenty years of service, just in MY lifetime.
Dad had also, much later, hung a swing from a much higher branch.
That tree and I went through a lot together. A goal when I was small enough that the back yard seemed a mile across; a mountain for little plastic superheroes to climb, a hiding place when fighting Indians, an effective hide-and-seek spot, a base for tag, and the best outdoor bathroom in the yard. Of all the things from the old house, I think I miss it the most.
Behind it, running east-west along the field, Dad had a row of raspberries. As this was a spot constantly eroding into the field (Al plowed right to the line) Dad had put a series of posts along it in the raspberries, tying them together with thick fence wire. Next time, I will explain how the combination of the burning pile, the tree, and the wire can prove to you that a man can fly.