by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
This morning, I woke to find the world sparkling in a fresh coat of dew. I quickly filled my mug with coffee, grabbed a bucket, and headed down the driveway to check on the persimmons. The tall, dry grass was burnished yellow-gold in the morning light and fragile wisps of glowing spider’s silk drifted on a breath of air. I cut through the meadow, following the long, narrow deer trail that leads past the ancient oak tree whose massive branches nearly swallow the morning sky. My jeans were quickly drenched to the knee.
I stopped for a moment to take in the beauty of the meadow. Beside me, flattened patches of dew-free grass mark where the does and fawns bed down last night. Their silvery hoof prints in the shimmering grass trail off towards the persimmon patch and I follow the ghostly prints to the thicket. As I had suspected, the persimmons aren’t ripe yet. But I’m not ready to give up this beautiful morning to chores, just yet. I suddenly have a mind to walk over and say hello to the old Granddaddy tree over yonder.
I often admire this tree from the chigger-free confines of my front yard or from the kitchen window. It is especially beautiful at sunset, when its massive form stands dark and sculptural against the backdrop of a garishly painted sky. Yet, despite my deep admiration for this tree, I rarely ever take the time to come out here and just sit in the embrace of its branches. But right now seems like the perfect time.
I search the tall grass and bramble for the driest path to the Granddaddy tree and finally settle on a deer trail that looks promising, only to find myself winding further away instead of closer. Since I am already soaked through to the knees, I forge ahead, breaking a trail through several hundred yards of waist-high grass.
Underneath ol’ Granddaddy’s protective branches, the grass is short and wiry. I sit on a large, flat stone wedged into the earth near the massive flaring trunk. I gaze up into the vastness of the nearly bare branches. A smile warms in my heart. The width and breadth of this immense tree is amazing and I am suddenly and completely in awe.
This tree has been here for the better part of three hundred years and I can only imagine the history has passed right by it, the people that have rested in its shade, and all of the amazing things that have happened in the world during the course of its lifetime. I stand up and wrap my arms around as much of its girth as I can. Any tree this old certainly deserves a hug now and then.
Just off to one side of the giant tree lies the footprint of the original old homestead. This land actually used to belong to our neighbor and dear friend, Lindsey Clements. He used to tell us stories of his youth and how he built this farm from and with nothing. A few years back, he told me about the day he bulldozed the hundred-year-old house that once stood here. He said he’d been raising goats at the time and they would often take shelter inside the old two-story house.
For a number of years, the ramshackle house served as a goat barn. He boarded up the stairway to keep them on the first floor. But one day, one of the nannies made it past the barrier and fell right through the rotting floorboards. Amazingly, the goat was not hurt, but it made Lindsey realized how decrepit the place had really become.
That very afternoon he knocked the house down with his dozer and pushed most of it into an old pond across the way, covering up the remains with dirt. All that is left of the house now are a few large rectangular stones that once served as part of the foundation and an old rock-lined cistern or well, whose gaping mouth is now covered with several sheets of rusting tin roofing pinned down by a large rock.
I have heard stories about people who make a sport of searching for old wells and cisterns and rappelling down into them or digging them up to search for hidden treasure. It has been said that during the Civil War, families would often throw valuable items such as money, silver and jewelry down the well to avoid having them stolen by roving bands of militia and bushwhackers. With the long history of famous gangsters using these secluded hills and hollers as hideouts, who knows where the loot might turn up?
See you next week for Part II of Granddaddy Trees and Old Cisterns!
© 2014 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Filled to the brim with colorful stories, wild walks, botanical musings, and a just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor A personal and inspiring tale of homesteading in the Ozark backwoods by noted author, naturalist and plant organic gardener, Jill Henderson.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.