The Woods

The wooded lot on the south side of my house is filling up with leaves again. At one time it separated our yard from my mother’s. After her passing, I inherited an additional plot, so this shady spot now belongs to me. It’s been a place of pleasure for all my years.

During the earliest times of our lives, this tree-covered place served more as a catch-all. Our house was heated with a coal stove first and a coal furnace a few years later. The cinders from the expended chunks of coal were shoveled into buckets. Then my brother Dal had to lug those loads to the woods and dump them. Over time, large piles rose in the area. A fall across them meant painful scratches to any exposed flesh. A ditch of sorts ran along the west side of the lot. Daddy burned the garbage in a fifty gallon drum, and he disposed of cans that once held vegetables in that ditch. They cans have since disappeared after being covered by earth or rusting.

As kids, Jim and I played in this wooded place. We gathered small pine logs and built ourselves a cabin. The two of us also dragged pine limbs on the site to erect a lean-to. Many battles took place between us and evil Japanese or German forces. Cool fall days were spent at our fort. One time we caught a bat and kept it in a cage for a few days. It wasn’t the smartest or safest thing we’d ever done.

When Amy and I first built our house in 1978, Mother said the wooded area was a buffer between us. One stipulation she made for giving us ground on the back of her property was that we not wear a trail to her door. Amy and I kept our word. In 1981, Lacey was born. By the time she was walking, that warned-against path existed. Mother made it with numerous trips to see her granddaughter. Later+ she would stand at edge of the woods and watch as Lacey ambled down that barren strip of ground.

At some point Mother said she wanted the area cleared of undergrowth. I took my axe, shovel, rake, and clippers and began the process. It wasn’t easy. The first chore to complete to build a house here was clearing a spot. The briars and honey suckle and poison ivy runners were so thick that I had to crawl on hands and knees to the place where the house would sit. Clearing the rest of the land for Mother a few years later wasn’t much easier.

These days, a screened porch along the end of the house overlooks that wooded plot. Although the ground is no more than 100 feet in length, looking upon it is much the same as gazing at the national forest in the mountains. Amy and I find peace as we sit in the swing and watch the squirrels play in the tops of the trees and the birds swoop to the ground. Sometimes the neighborhood hawk cries out as it makes a pass over the tree tops.

The rains have washed away plenty of soil this year. I must find some kind of grass that will take root in the shady place to prevent more run off. That labor, however, is a small price to pay to have such a wonderful area on which to look. I’m a lucky man.

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