There were things about being a child on a farm in the 1960s that felt almost magical. Maybe a big part of that magic is owed to my three big sisters who helped to make it so.
Exploring the big woods, filled with something new each time we played there, was like a drawing card. Only fools would have missed out on that adventure. I remember my great disappointment when my sisters went without me once in awhile.
I can still envision the ancient meeting tree, that smooth, hollow, unique tree near the opening of the woods which was often where we met up after exploring in different directions. I was always assigned to a sister so I wouldn’t get lost, and I have a hunch that’s why I was left at home whenever possible.
We learned to read tracks and felt like native explorers as we grew in knowledge over the years.
“The woods is never really ours, but we are lucky to borrow it,” Dad used to say, his outlook on everything he owned. He taught us, in all things, to leave it better than we found it.
Because of this, we knew we could play there anytime we wanted, but we weren’t to disturb the peacefulness that existed there for the wildlife that truly called it home.
We climbed trees, endlessly, and we hiked through the wide, smooth swath that was magically carved through the center of that grand old woods just for us. We pretended to be whoever our hero of the moment happened to be.
We were always on the lookout for bad guys as the story of the day spun along. Sometimes we wore holsters with cap guns tucked inside. Other times we were peaceful pilgrims, or native Americans, searching for our next meal.
We carried a thermos of cold or hot drink along, depending on the season. Mom might send cookies or something as simple as saltine crackers, and we would feast on it as if enjoying a gourmet meal.
The most delectable days involved finding mushrooms in that great woods. I remember the day I was sent running to the house to ask for pillow cases because the bounty was that enormous. Mom thought my imagination had run wild, and only sent a paper sack back with me.
I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me, as if those mushrooms might disappear in a poof. I was instantly chastised for not getting it right. “Pillowcases, we said!”
After we filled the paper sack, my wise sisters improvised, each holding the hem of their shirt out, while we filled it with mushrooms of every size. My big sisters were true farmers already, knowing how to whip up a solution out of nothing.
We ate like royalty, enjoying the bounty of that wonderful woods. Finding berries there was another treat. Red raspberries grew wild within it, and elderberries could always be found on its edges. Though they took forever to pick, it was still a joyful job, knowing our dear dad would be so thrilled with our harvest. Elderberry pie was one of his very favorites.
The ancient junk pile, added to over the generations by those who lived on the farm before us, was a paradise for my sister who still considers herself a “junker” to this day. She might find an old spoon, curious items we could not identify, cracked or broken items once treasured.
My mind wandered, and so did my feet. I preferred exploring in the moment, singing a made-up tune as I marched through the colorful woods.
Springtime brought us more blooms than a florist shop, and autumn gave us some of the most beautiful assortment of leaves from abundant sugar maples growing there.
We knew to watch the time, for the chores endlessly needing to be done. It was always hard to leave, but in our way of thinking it would be there for us forever.
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