I can imagine how it once had been.
July 18, 2014
A VG Serial: Jory Sherman’s Hills of Eden
There are a couple of apple trees in the front yard. We went there, my wife and I, one day to gather the apples. We had been watching the trees for a long time, waiting for the fruit to ripen. There was no reason to let those apples go to waste. When they started to fall from the trees, we went down the road to the Gibson place the following day to pick the apples. It was time. In fact, it was just past time.
When we drove up, the trees were full of blackbirds and crows. They perched on the branches in drunken stupors, gorged on ripe apples.
Every apple on the trees was gone. Eaten up by the birds. Of course, there’s no telling how long those birds had been coming to the Gibson place to eat the ripe apples. Or overripe apples. Some of the apples must have fermented, turned their juices to a kind of simple wine.
Behind the place, up a steep hill, on a level, there were berry bushes, thick, tangly. And, near the creek there was another field full of blackberries. One summer we watched these ripen. We walked there every day to be sure the birds didn’t beat us to the harvest. The vines were sagging with luscious ripe blackberries. The vines were so thick you would have had to chop a path through them with a machete.
The day came when we got our tin buckets and walked down the road to the Gibson place to pick blackberries. It was a glorious morning. We came to the field and stood there in shock. There wasn’t a berry bush in sight. Someone, we never found out who, had come by and brushhogged the whole field. I guess they must have chopped them down and loaded them up in a truck. We asked around and none of our neighbors knew anything about it. What was once a field full of berry bushes was only an empty chopped field. We looked up at the two houses and behind them. The brushhoggers had been there, too. The ground was as clean as a hen’s egg.
We scrambled up the hill to the level behind the empty houses. Berries were hard to find, but we found some. Our buckets weren’t full, but we had enough to show for our efforts. There weren’t enough for a pie, but enough for a sprinkling on our cereal the next morning.
There just isn’t anything to pick there anymore. Between the birds and the brushhoggers, there just isn’t any use trying to get something for free. The wild winged creatures know the right day to come. We’re always a day late.
I used to hunt quail back of the Gibson place. And rabbits. One young man I know sometimes sits up in a tree and watches for the deer to cross the upper field.
We saw a wild turkey hen there one day. She was beautiful, very regal. Now, though, I don’t even see any game there on autumn afternoons. Once my dog got stuck under the garage and it took me almost an hour to free him. He had been hunting with me and he disappeared. I was walking down the road when I heard his pitiful cries. It took me ten minutes to find out where he was. He had gone inside the garage and fallen through some rotted boards. I had to take out part of a sideboard to pull him out of his trap. He won’t go near the place now.
There are a lot of abandoned farms down this way. I think they call them hard-scrabble farms. People die. They move away. They never come back. Everything just falls apart. Nobody seems to want these farms. Maybe they’re jinxed, like the Gibson place seems to be. I don’t know. I still go over there once in a while. I stand out there on the road by the mailbox that’s a nest for rats and look at the houses, the work shed, the garage, the two old cars.
It’s very peaceful there and I can imagine how it must have been once. If I close my eyes for a moment, I can hear the people laughing and talking. I can hear Bob White piping on the hill, see the deer nibbling the apples. I can hear someone calling me to supper and I can smell the aroma of blackberry pie cooling, sweet and sassy, on the summer window sill.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.