From the novel HAVENWOOD TALES Beginnings by Author, D.J. Houston
“Be sure you’re back before suppertime, please, Trudie Beth.”
Mama’s gentle reminder faded behind me into the lines of thirsty sassafras and yellow-blooming poplar trees on the north shore of Silver Bear Lake.
I was off to meet my destiny.
Drawn by the gift of instinct and trails of friendly bellflowers smiling at me from their delicate, bending stems, I trekked waist-deep through a grassy field and found myself in a vast wildflower meadow, spread around me like the fragrance of wonderland . . .
Along the meadow’s perimeter, bird calls echoed from tree to tree, signaling my presence to little hidden creatures on the ground, and sent them skittering to the woods ahead when a lone hawk dived from the cloudless sky, to emerge with an empty beak. And soon the clicking, rasping insects would grow quiet, almost reverent, as a hot sun captured the sky.
From the lake behind me, the lazy groan of a bullfrog rumbled faintly through the thick, loam-scented air, stirring memories of an earlier summer when I was five.
“Watch this, Aunt Millie!” I’d cried, and showed the ignorant woman who kept me while Mama worked during the war how I could leap from lily pad to lily pad across the pond I made-believe in her backyard.
“What in the Sam Hill do you think yer doin’ there, you naughty girl, jumpin’ around like a crazy?”
She just folded her fat arms across her bosom and frowned down on me with a murderous look, like she wanted to drop the hatchet blade on a chicken’s neck.
“That imagination a’ yours’ll git you in more trouble than you’re worth, smarty britches. Now git yerself in the house before I fetch the switch! Willful child, ain’t never seen the likes a’ you!”
Well, I’d already learned the hard way there were lots of things most grownups couldn’t see. So I promptly appointed a wriggly black snake and a fierce army of baby snapping turtles to guard my pond from the likes of her. I picked babies because I knew they could sneak up on her better. I noticed she didn’t go near it after that.
When Mama came to get me, she pooh-poohed old Millie’s silly judgment to her face. My mother valued my imagination utterly, of course; she even had one of her own.
Nature’s Secrets . . .
She was quick to reassure me, “That woman hasn’t got the sense God gave a goose, Trudie. She’s let bitterness into her heart. But from the way you handled her, I’d say you’re old enough to take care of yourself now. Clever enough, for sure,” Mama winked.
“Helen offered to let you stay at her house in town when Timmy goes back to school, if the war’s not over by then. She could use your help. She’d be close by at her café if you needed anything.”
And those memories helped to fortify my confidence and build resolve, as I hiked along in my own bright world the day of the picnic. I began to hum a happy tune some singing raccoons in their little red vests had performed on our doorstep when I was a toddler, chanting “Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”
By the time I reached the narrow path that led into the woods, I felt keen and alert — quite the explorer, stoked with possibility –
even when I found out the entrance was barred by an overgrown patch of stinky, toxic pokeweed. I maneuvered around it gingerly, only to face a tangled wall of bramble thorns that stretched along the tree line for thirty yards in each direction.
But the friendly bellflowers had beckoned me here. And the sounds of shy rabbits and ground squirrels rushing through the grasses to safety had led me to this very place.
All my senses told me to persist.
I scoured the ground for signs, spotted a footpath in the undergrowth and tracked it around the bramble wall to a dense grove of cottonwood trees. Then keeping low, I crept my way on weightless feet as silently as any scout worth her salt.
On the other side of the cottonwood grove, sheltered behind a final barricade of towering pines, I discovered the clearing.
And there across the glade — as if Nature herself had woven it into the landscape — was Mister Walling’s cabin, set like a secret high on stilts above the banks of a slow-running creek.
Continued in the coming novel HAVENWOOD TALES Beginnings
by D.J. Houston
Copyright©2006, 2013 D.J. Houston. All Rights Reserved.
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