Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Horse's Grave - Part Five

The Horse's Grave
Part Five

            Did I go in at night?
            Would you?
            And what DID happen to ...all of this.
            It all came tumbling down.  First some ... (high school age) “children” from the Academy “broke in” through the front porch and a front window to begin having high school style séances in this haunted house.  They sat in a circle on the chairs and the floor of the front parlor.  They drank beer and wine and smoked cigarettes.  They did not “pick-up” when they left.  I quickly noticed their first visit and watched with horror as it continued and expanded.  I was powerless to do anything.  I did “latch” the window they used ...but that failed for they, having no need to consider this blockage to be anything other then an isolated calamity, reopened it once they “got in” “again”.  The circle of séance grew larger, the expended refuse was pushed into piles and... much to my surprise... no one ever seemed to ever go anywhere else in the house.
            After these parties had gotten out of hand they were noticed.  Citizens “heard noise” and “saw lighted matches” in the “night” “in there”.  The party children were “caught in the act”.  As the house was... “abandoned”, initially no one knew what to do or how to be involved for... no one had a history of what to do; what precedent to ...follow to do... “something”.  The “town” became involved.  The police “went in” (through the window for... everything was locked).  IF, as at the time I feared, my ...obvious to me... entry way was noticed... and I doubt it was... nothing was ever done.  I was afraid to do anything to conceal it for that would require changing it... and that could be noticed.  I left a hole in the wood pile for all to see.  No one noticed it.  All of this action was verbalized as local public forum so I had no trouble knowing the “latest” status at anytime for ... “everyone” “knew”.

             The town, who had no complaints about the property for... its “taxes are paid”... back trailed the ownership through a trust department of a Boston bank and, right along, “some people” “who own it” “came up” “to see” “it”.  They did not stay there.  They broke the padlock on the side door into the kitchen and went in.  They sealed up the front window.  They put a new lock on the side door.  They left.
            Two months later, in the middle of August, they “came back”.  It was made public by word of mouth... that they were “going to clean out the house” for the town said it was a “fire danger”.  They planned to take the “good things” out themselves but were a loss... to know how to “get rid of” the “rest of the junk you can’t believe how full the barn is”.
            I went to my grandmother and... in a panic... told her “everything”  My mother was enlightened forthwith after the disclosure with “He’s been in the house”.  Aside from the “cute” crawling foundation hole - Horse’s Grave saga... I received no attention (good or bad) for my... accomplishment.  It became very obvious to me that both of these parents had already spent quite a bit of time... scheming as to how THEY could “get in”.  With my fantastic affirmation as to the extent of the accumulation hidden from view... these two crones met and muttered above my head to decide that a direct overture offering both money and the “clean it out” “now” service would be... “the approach”.
            They were not first.  Another antique dealer had ALREADY “offered” “on it”.  The good fortune of “no one” being “allowed in” merged with my inventory of contents abilities to such a marked degree... that... my grandmother had the insider insight to be able to “offer” “a lot” up front; “thousands”.  That, combined with their displaying me as “willing to help you (the owners) move what ever you want out TOO” sealed, with a two thousand dollar local bank check (final balance due after “we” “see and agree” “on it”) “the deal”.

            I began to “clean out” the next morning.  It took three weeks, from seven until five, each and everyday INCLUDING the “owners” repeatedly driving “loads back” to Boston (I guess).  The final money mechanics were completed very briskly that first morning.  My grandmother and mother, in that correct order of hierarchy, “bought” “the rest” and this formed a three tier disbursement that I was very strictly informed to follow.  The first tier was the “things they (the owners) want” that were to be separated and moved by them, with me helping, to... that was THEIR PROBLEM; a problem that they resolved by loading directly into their station wagon and... driving “back” to where ever they came from... sometimes leaving “someone” or, as things went along... to leaving ME to “work” “in there” “alone”.  “Would that bother you?”
            The second tier was “our stuff”; the things my grandmother and mother “bought”.  These, I was AGAIN carefully informed, were to be moved “along” to “the house”:  “Don’t take TOO much at once but be sure to get the (fill in blank with a specific object they denoted to me EACH MORNING when they “visited” “me” “at work”).
            The third tier was “the rubbish” “to be thrown out”.  Everyone, on the surface, agreed and expostulated about “how much” “trash” “there is”.  This was my first full fledged introduction to “what” and “how” “people” “throw out” “stuff”.  I was shocked to a panic at first... BUT... with the very delicate management of my grandmother I LEARNED very well a lasting lesson.  SHE would blandly, blindly and BRISKLY stand by while... “GREAT STUFF!” was delegated to be “THROWN OUT”.  My first unspoken panic did create an interesting account in my behalf.  At the first moments of “piling” “junk” I ... as a physical response... handled too personally… a few items in this RAPIDLY growing pile THAT FIRST MORNING.  Seeing this, the owner said, that ... for my help... I was “welcome” (a word I remember very concisely) to “anything” I “wanted” as a “pay” for my work.  I made a few... TOO FEW... selections and... slumped around in disbelief that... “all that” was “going to be thrown out”.
            It was not.  Before mid morning one of my grandmother’s “men” suddenly appeared with a truck and backed it up to the pile I was forming by instruction... “back by the barn”.  He walked away and returned in ANOTHER TRUCK that he parked at the head of the yard with it’s empty payload poised right beside the screen door on the side of the porch.  He opened this door and... filled the truck rapidly with... bag after ... garbage bag... of the “trash” the family was “bagging up” to “go to the dump”.  Then, with the truck full, he drove away.
            And came back.

            I knew that he was gone by far to short a time to have... driven the ten mile round trip to... the dump.  But I said nothing.  WE loaded the second truck and he pulled out, first pulling the other truck “to be filled” in behind and... drove away again.  Before I had brought out “anything else” he was back, parked by the screen door again.  At “lunch”; a “half hour” for me and ever long “they” “want” for the owners... I was clarified as to the destination of the rubbish and ..., well...:  “The Abbott’s barn” “is empty” and my grandmother “secured it’s use” so... “not to worry”, “don’t say anything”, “we can’t bring it here (my grandmother’s barn) because they can’t find out” and “Just throw out what ever they tell you to”.
            “OK” and that’s what I did... for three weeks.  DAY after day, truck load after truck load.  Because of the “filth”, “the heat”, the grind of the labor... AND the growing disinterest in the “stuff” after they “get what we want” “out”, the hand of “throw it out” waved ever more often then the “I want that” utterance until, eventually ... as we entered the barn, whole days were spent by alone... “throwing out”... what they told me to each day.  Usually the woman in charge would wave her hand at a whole REGION of the barn and say something like “get as much of that today as you can”.  Then leave ... me there... all alone... until AFTER lunch... when she’d return “to see” “if” I had “found anything”.  “We’ve already taken SIX loads to the DUMP” I’d dutifully report to which she’d say something like “WE’RE GETTING THERE!”.  Every ...rarely... now and then she’d “want that” but ... it was half hearted and she... tended to let it sit around the end of the barn for days and then, well, I got rid of it.
            Room by room, the house was “gone through”, “emptied” and “cleaned”.  I did not assist in this last.  “Gone through” was put in trash bags on the porch and PROMPTLY removed.  Over and over the family expressed “What a fine job!” we were doing with “getting it cleaned out”.  “Emptied” required the removal of the “We want that” and the ... “few things” my grandmother “spoke for” to their designated site of departure.  The family’s station wagon went “away” more at first then later and... the male who drove this; evidently the head of household... seem to “not like doing this”.  SOON it was “several days” between his drives and they were prefixed with “Are you SURE you want that” and “WHERE are we going to PUT IT?”.  This was a great assistance and ...many items in a room to be emptied were “offered” to my grandmother “after all”.
            “Yes.  I’d be interested if it’s not too dear”.
            I add another educational tempest my grandmother inflicted on me.  It was a tempest because I ... well... didn’t get it first.  Once a room had been “emptied” but before it was “cleaned”; a period of less then one day... my grandmother would show up alone while I was working alone... and “make me” go with her to this “empty” room.  There, with astounding regularity, I would find myself running up and down the stairs with “more stuff” she “found”.  “Throw it on the (trash) pile” would be ARM LOADS of ...stuff that... “was still left”.  BACKS of cupboard shelves, “down-in-under” spaces, closet “overheads”, corners behind doors, “On the hooks”, “On the window sill” and... “under that bed”... STILL “had stuff” that... with a knowing eye that TRAINED ME like a fox cub... in this very delicate (and highly profitable) exercise of “MAKING SURE” “EVERYTHING” is “out”; IS TAKEN; every piece of paper... every nail, piece of “what is it” and every.... “even this?”:  “YES!  Take it.  That’s part of the (fill in with an object like [Victorian carved walnut] “what-not shelf”)”.  I DID tempest this education and... to this day be sure to get... “all of it” “out”.

            Then it was over.  Or, more precisely, “empty”.  We even “threw out” the “old firewood” in the bin.  I, stick by stick, opened the space of my former tunnel until I stood on the dry, bark and wood chip covered floor looking up at the ceiling of the wood shed.  I even found some old boxes with printed end boards for “DAVIS’ PAIN KILLER” and “ATWOOD’S BITTERS” buried at the bottom of the pile.  “Worthless” then, I later sold them for twenty dollars apiece and now, could triple the money on that easily.  “Underneath the barn” I had free range for I was simply instructed to “get out as much as you can”.  I did:  “It’s empty” including the old mowing machine that I stored in the yard behind my grandmother’s barn until a man bought it and put it in his front yard as “decoration”.
            The barn was closed up and locked.  The house was closed up and locked.  The people left.  The house stood still.
            I could still get in.  I went past The Horse’s Grave to the back of the barn and turned the stick on the board door.  I crawled through the hole in the foundation and stood up in the vast expanse of the empty wood bin.  The door to the barn was still open.  The closed door to the house was not locked.  The barn was empty.  So was the house.  I only went in again for old time’s sake, I guess.  I remember standing up on the second barn floor where I had originally heard “a noise”; where the newspapers (now all stored as “MINE” upstairs in my grandmothers barn) had been.  I looked out over the vast empty space.  There was nothing there anymore.  My grandmother had even made me take the “old floor boards” that had lain across an open space.  These were “old” too; taken from the front room when it was “done over” “after the Civil War”.  “They match the mantel” my grandmother said, referring to a particularly decorative fan carved fireplace mantel that ...did have the same worn blue paint as the ends of the floor boards.  It was another ten years before I fundamentally understood how ... well my grandmother understood “old things” she “found in houses”.

            The people who owned the house “tried to rent it” I heard.  No one would because... it “isn’t modern” meaning... it ... had no lights and toilets that flushed (I took all the little pictures and calendars tacked up to the inside of the outhouse at the back of the ...wood shed).  It sat dormant for a couple of years.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, one of the family’s children “move in to it” with “his girlfriend” and were going to “fix it up”.  As this was the moment of social movement known now as the post- 60’s “back to the land” period of “hippie” going “underground” of the early 1970’s... the community stared as the field around The Horse’s Grave was mowed and the yard of the home “cut down” to expose the front of the house and... not much else.  I assume they looked at The Horse’s Grave but they never did anything to it for the clumps of Lilacs remained “untouched” by this “work”.  The house was “painted”, a “new roof”, “electrified” and “a kitchen put in”.
            Then disaster struck.  Apparently they started to “tear out” the old summer kitchen between the main kitchen and the woodshed.  Something, in the night, caught fire.  The summer kitchen, the woodshed and... the barn... “burned flat” that night.  Everyone looked at the “ruins” the next day and commented on how they “saved the house”.  After a while the young couple moved out and the house was “rented”.
            Then sold to the renters.
            They put aluminum siding on the home, tore down the chimneys, filled in the barn foundation and made a large lawn that ...I would see the father of the family upon... riding on a lawn tractor... around and around in a circle.  Evidently they did not buy “the field” with The Horse’s Grave.  It remains, to this day, an over grown tangle of weeds that, at mid summer, bend over on to the sidewalk on the street.  Stopping there on the street... and looking... way off, one may see a clump of Lilacs that, if one knows, is where one still may find frogs... sitting in the shade of... The Horse’s Grave.

The End

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Horse's Grave - Part Four

The Horse's Grave
Part Four

            Nothing happened.
            I knew where I’d been.  I knew I could tell no one.  I knew it was wrong.
            I knew I could not go there again because... it was wrong?  This became a subject of mental debate.  I talked to myself in lengthy adolescent oration about the ...moral hygienics of ... “what had happened” and... this extraordinary subterranean passage to antiquarian daylight that... defied any comparison ...available in ... any form.  WHY was such an environment such an obsessive draw to me?  Why was the haunted consciousness of “wrong” that should destroy as terror my desire “to go”... “in there”... in fact... an actual lure to me?  Why was my tactility so absolutely ...smoldering... with a moist ground fire of desire to range in this burial ground of dead, dirty and dark happenstance accessed from below ground?
            When one is young, one has the quaint advantage of not answering healthy queries and, like all who fail to answer when called, simply to go on acting... without a care.  Back I went.  Back and back and BACK I went.  For years
            I had not return but one more time before... I discovered that, by turning the OTHER way at the head of the wood bin hole... I came to the rear door of the house and... this simply opened... to “inside”.
            Inside one went through the summer kitchen to the main kitchen onward down a small hall with a... bedroom off to one’s right to enter a parlor on the left that followed into a front parlor OR... if one did not turn left, follow a hall to the front door, with it’s ascending formal front staircase going...“up” and a “front room” to one’s right.  All had stopped in time ...decades ago.  In fact, even today, I cannot precisely say when any one room, excepting the odd bedroom off the kitchen and this kitchen were, as is said; “last used”.  Today I can give one a hindsight timeline that suggests that it would be difficult to prove that the upstairs saw any use after 1900.  The barn was layered in such a way as to document that by the mid-nineteenth century it was “full” by normal standards and that “stow-away” was thereafter simply buried with cast upon accumulations.  The front rooms; approaching the front door (with this enclosure caged within a rusted, rotting, sagging Victorian “screened in” “porch” butted across it and further blocked by seventy years of neglected growth between it and... the street...) proved that IF these rooms saw use in the 20th Century, it was merely a human mingling amongst vestiges of a 19th Century decor that traveled a timeline BACK to ...the late 18th Century.  It was several years before my knowledge of “good” was ...good enough... to notice that the ...maple Chippendale desk (in it’s original finish and retaining it’s original & dainty bat wing hardware) with it’s 19th Century custom glass paned door “secretary top” was ...better then the “obvious” Sheraton tambour desk that... anyone... would know is “good”.  Colonial and Federal looking glasses were tucked in corners while Victorian mirrors and framed... paintings ... of local landscapes... hung in evidence but I had to learn that the odd paneled door cabinet of “old pine” painted a darkest blood red was hundred years older... then the pristine “one drawer blanket chest” “in old red” “dated 1828” on it’s ...rear.

            “I had to learn”.
            This is such an amusingly hind sighted way to phrase what happened to me in this... old home.  While many of you who are reading this may be contracting with a gracious horror about such trivial... manners... of moral behavior... I promise you that these old adages of YOUR conscription had no effect on ME.  I became an (and sole) intimate of this...home:  I was the one who ...lived there.
            I simply crawled in... when ever I felt like it.  To assure those who will wonder:  NO...I did not take anything ever.  I never really even thought of doing that... for two reasons.  First:  That would be stealing.  The rule was that... abandoned truck (household debris), such as one found in the open or cast away under barns and ... of ... BACK THEN... comparatively little or any value... was fair game.  Something “inside” a “home” was, obviously, not up for grabs.
            The second reason was more a sensation to me.  It was, first, an overwhelming sense of abundance; there was a, to me, inconceivable amount of “old” “things” inside this home:  TOO MUCH stuff.  Secondly, it was, to my eye, “arranged”; that is, it seemed in its own way to be accounted for.  I mean that if, as up in the barn, one finds at least fifty years of mid 19th century newspaper all neatly bundled and stacked by someone one hundred years dead, does not this mean that this evidence of work was... and remained... an active effort by this person that should be... acknowledged and respected.  I mean... if someone has the hair brained notion to save corn cobs in boxes... does not this mean that this was their intention?  Therefore it’s THEIR property, properly stored?
            Well it did to me and this established a line in the cobwebs of ...responsible action on my part that is pretty well defined as... look... touch... handle... but replace as one found it and never disturb it’s original eloquence of placement.  “Huh.” was uttered by me... to myself... time and time again as I wandered, over and over, “around” the home, peering, poking, pulling open, privately peeking at and ...personally pondering... “everything”.  IF I spent an hour with each old peanut tin, fruit jar, pottery “redware” milk pan and “old red” trencher in the basement cupboard, the NEXT time I would spend this same length of time captivated by the “It has H & L hinges” cupboard that held these former intrigues and would open, close, look up, look down, touch, move, stand back and view... “it” alone.
            A pile of scrapbooks filled with carefully glued collage of 19th Century school girl pastings would end at it’s bottom with a portfolio of late 18th Century engravings and early 19th Century “prints”.  I studied each print.  Learned each margin.  Discovered American Colonial engraving... by myself, all alone in an... abandoned house.  A bookcase would have a bound set or two then pester off to single volumes only to be held in place by a 19th Century Stevens Plains (Westbrook, Maine) tole decorated tin document box... filled with manuscript iota and it’s precious little lock and key tied by a faded green string preserved in the bottom... right... rear... corner.
            It is too much to describe without ...boring... even the most logger-headed antiquarian... but I, as the ...curator of the ...collection ...was entertained by complete immersion... for years.  This was because of my highly sensitive focus upon each “thing” and the deep mental requiem of “discovery” of each of these antiquarian arts furthered by the nuances of the fabrication of these arts.  Superimposed upon this study of object was the three dimensional (six sensual) setting that mystified it all.  Would that others I now must negotiate with had crawled through a black hole to “be exposed” to their first “set of polychrome Delft dinner plates”.

            This is the very validity of this Horse’s Grave:  I fell in.  I fell in and squirmed in it’s muck for years.  Alone, with no guide, with no commentary, with no one... ever knowing I... squirmed through the black hole in the foundation and ... attended a... symposium of antiquarian... well... I suppose today they would call it a “virtual reality” or... “living museum” or a combination of both blanketed by the term “STUDY CENTER” or such.  It is hard to place an actual reality such as this for it was, I know now, a unique educational experience with antiquarian directives that I “had” and, as far as I can tell... no one else has... ever even... come close.
            The formula of study... was, obviously, three dimensional but encapsulated within an entire environment that was furthered by subdivisions into totally original and historically proper (!) environments (“the barn”, “the summer kitchen”, “the buttery”, etc.) undisturbed and... unregulated (no “do not touch” here).  This was a sort of “surround sound” study center of object in place and space.  The way it generally worked was ... something more off then not caught my eye OUTSIDE of the home in another setting.  For example, redware milk pans; those large pottery, lead glazed on the inside in a light brown or mottled moss green while showing off their bare earthenware on the exterior with, generally always, the slightly smudged glaze fingerprints of the potter tapped into the edge of the outside of this... “dish”... would be “noticed” by me for the “first time” in an... antique shop as a single specimen with a fifty dollar price tag on it and....:  I would recall “how” there were “a lot” of “those” “on the shelf” in the buttery and... “the next time” I would... spend a whole (and wholesome) HOUR handling each one and “putting it back” and, well, a whole lot of mental “Huh.” too.

            Did I learn anything?  I learned... more then most ...antique affectionates ... are ever going to learn... did I not?  While one may ponder the “it” of this precocious experience, I have only the memories; very precise memories, of... “stuff” “in there”.  I remember what it “was” and where it “was”... to this day.  Like the chinks of the daylight in that foundation, I have regular glints of light on similar objects STILL... that I ...studied ...long ago... in an “abandon house”.  “Like the one on the shelf” or “I have seen one of those once” travel on down the trail of antiquarian virtues to remind myself that when I ... first discovered “ironstone commode pots” (“piss pots”)... their white souls were neatly tucked under the beds in bedrooms where... no one had been since they... last peed in them.  Objects placed in space and... covered with cobwebs in a... haunting DAY LIGHTED silence; hot in summer, cool in the fall, moist in the spring.  Dim in the morning, dusty at noon and the Devil’s haunting hand the dark.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Horse's Grave - Part Three

The  Horse's Grave
Part Three

What happened next involved two features of my expanding childhood and ...about three years of time.  The secondary of the two features was that I was growing older and therefore more assured in my world vision, a vision that seemed quite substantial in its day.  Perhaps the reader remembers their own “I UNDERSTAND THIS” utopia of adolescence philosophical development.  I was becoming one with this great (and short lived) understanding of ... all that be.  CONFIDENCE, is the energy this gives and turned to action it goes along way to explain why one... finds oneself “doing” “this”; blanket terms to cover an array of “to see” sorts of actions that later are referred to as “amazed I’m alive” in the compassionate company of fellow travelers.
            The principal feature was on a different, more focused level.  I had become interested in and was beginning to actively pursue “antiques”.  This term was vaguely defined as applying to “old stuff” that “my mother and grandmother like”.  That extended to vagaries of “other people like them and SELL them”; “other people like them and BUY them”; “you can FIND THEM because my mother and grandmother are always FINDING THEM” and the newest revelations of “I know where some are” and “I found it”.
            It took the passage of several years after that board opened inward before these last adumbration’s were applied by me... to the dark, dank “full of stuff” under the barn of that ...dilapidated Federal home.
            Slowly, just as the starlight cracks slowly illuminated it, I recognized various “good things” amongst the “full of stuff” and... took them.  At this time (1965-67) in the development of the antiquarian tastes of popular collectibles and the... average American, most objects under old barns were... “NOT GOOD”, a term meaning that they were not “worth any money”.  BUT I LIKED THEM.  SO... when today... after the words “STORE ADVERTISING”, “COUNTRY THINGS”, “PRIMITIVES” and ... “What am I bid?” as a blanket superlative over those and... many other now fully established terms for these... desirable American decorative arts... are taken as a norm, one must remind one’s self that once... they were “NOT GOOD”. 

BUT I LIKED “THEM”; these odd objects that today people pay “a fortune” for.  I took them home.  ONE by one things I “liked” I took home and was told to “KEEP IT IN THE BARN” even though I “fit” the occasional object de art into “MY ROOM”:  “CLEAN THAT OFF!”.  To grace the reader with an example, I astutely gathered up ALL the wooden boxes that were used to store... not very much other then OTHER old boxes and metal boxes and cans... each having the... today... “BEAUTIFUL” “COLOR” “LABELS” on them.  The majority of the bigger boxes were the Portland, Maine “Goudy & Kent” “biscuit boxes” with the light blue, dark blue and red label showing the 19th Century sailor boy waving a biscuit in the air.  I stacked these up (from floor to ceiling) “in the barn” and, eventually “sold all of them” a few years later “to a dealer”.  Today I am confident each and every ONE of those boxes is “It’s not for sale:  I’m keeping that”.
            Anyway, that was a start and this black hole extending from The Horse’s Grave was not much different from ANY old Maine barn so... I didn’t have to “GO THERE” “NOW” especially since I received mostly cautious indifference to what I “found” “there”.  Having two antiquarians in one’s home pass judgment on one’s “stuff” has a detrimental influence if... they... “know” “good stuff” from ... “old stuff”.  The dribs and drabs of the years went by with a rather simple “don’t come home empty handed” style of “cleaning out” “under there” being the actual action I took.  “Huh” explained most of my finds to myself personally and... “IN THE BARN” explained them to me when it was “got home”.
            By and by, I had done a good job of “cleaning out” “under there”.  No cobwebs re-formed to block the ever more open space.  No bulging mound of “old boxes” blocked my view.  The mired in the muck stoneware vessels had each, including the broken specimens, “been taken”.  Glass fruit jars from within the boxes had been “washed” and... well:  Most of them could not be “sold” back then because they, THEN were ... “no good”.  Today?  Why... they’d FILL your wallet with ... “green”.
            Each time I visited... and I remind that these were not conspired visits but simply chance to be going by with time and the mood sojourns... I ranged further around and... around the dark, wet space.  I came to know even it’s corners.  I walked the very edges of the walls of the foundations for... I denoted, “things” had been “put there” and... these things I “liked”.
            ONE day... as I scoured the far and blackest wall... I came suddenly, about half way down it’s stacked stone arrangement, upon a black HOLE just above my eye level.  A hole in this wall; a black, empty hole that, as my hand reached into to it... went away into an inky blackness that was... not as cool as where I stood.  I quickly found a stepping box and faced this darkness.  It wasn’t quite as dark to my face when I directly peered into it.  Warm air rushed from the hole around my head.  I could “see light” “in there”.

As I stood on the box, I discerned that I had “discovered” a “whole other room” “under the barn” that... I’d never seen before.  I stared into the room.  It was smaller, had a much lower “ceiling” allowing only, perhaps, three feet of “head room” and was, evidently, very dry, unlike the space I was in.  The hole in the foundation was small but not too small... so that... with an upward trust and scramble I was soon pulling myself through the hole and on to the floor of this new dark space.  Chinks and cracks provided my light.  The far wall of this new space had the chinks; in a stone foundation.  The cracks of light came from... above.  I rested in a sitting position on the floor of the new space, surveying, in the dim light, “where I was”.
            I was on a ...dry, wood and bark chip covered floor.  Although “dark”, I soon could distinguish my surroundings.  To my back and left side were “walls” of stone with the “hole” behind me.  These were only three feet “or so” “high”.  Before me was a large mass of... quickly becoming visible... firewood.  This... mass filled at least two-thirds of this room.  Beyond this wood and... behind it... were two other walls but most of these were blocked by this wood that extended from the floor... right on up THROUGH the CEILING of this room.  Yes:  The chinks at the far wall showed that the CRACKS of light came from... cracks in the firewood at the ceiling... and this firewood kept going right on up through that ceiling to ...where that light came from.
            “WHERE did this light come from?”  “From... inside... the barn!”  My mind flashed cognition with a clattering precision that I still know well right to the moment of my writing this down for you.  I squirmed across the open space around the wood pile and... looked up.  LIGHT came from “up there”.  After a moment, I began to remove pieces of this firewood in an increasingly more vigorous motion of casting them to the side while scrambling upward on the pile to... VERY QUICKLY understand that... IF I continued to remove this wood I would soon form a... HOLE through the ceiling and be... able to STAND UP... in the light... above... and, evidently be “inside” the barn.  Clump, clop, bump, chuck and... cascade down... around me... the firewood was moved.  Chucks fell away and in it’s place came open lighted space.  UP that staircase of loose firewood I climbed.  I stood up and there I was... waist high within ... a firewood bin... in... the barn?  No... I quickly realized I was in a smaller building attached between the barn and the main house; the... woodshed.  I was “in” this bin with the retaining wall blocking a level view of my surroundings.  UP I went and over this wall to find myself, rather suddenly, standing in a once heavily traveled path between the back door of the house and... the barn.

The door to the barn was open.  I walked into the barn.  I will never forget... and can precisely remember... the sensation of what I beheld.  This is because it was, truly, the first time I had entered such a large, virgin antiquarian space alone and with a “knowing eye” (being conscious of it; this, an old barn... being a repository of “stuff”; lots of stuff; lots of “good stuff”).
            Before me rose... in a dim light, that I have, for the rest of my life, become intimately familiar as a light offering ...antiquarian riches... rose four floors of a large Federal barn absolutely jammed full, from floor to ceiling, floor after floor, of ...stuff.  MERE foot paths entwined in a maze like pattern away into dark, cool, indistinguishable antique TREASURE.  Staring upward, my eye gazed past the protective open space to the far away of unapproachable high spots of distant floors overhanging their edges with stuff.  I stood dumbfounded.  Never before had I been alone in such a massive piling enclosed and secured in such a quiet peaceful manner.
            Although quiet permeated my air, I was quickly notified that not all was silent for I... could hear my heart beating like a marching drum just below my neck.  I touched my shirt and ...this noise did not stop.  I glance around.  Nothing, at all, happened.  I slowly walked down one of the paths.  It wound toward a room and this room pierced the rest of the barn with light from it’s cracks.  “That’s the chicken room.” I said for I recalled its screen windows along the outside of the barn, visible from The Horse’s Grave.  I did not open the door to this room.

Directly across from it, a trail reversed and began an assent within an enclosed staircase.  Dark black at its central steps, upward foot placement was further hampered by the abundant accumulations stacked to either side of these steps leaving but one foothold in the center of each riser.  Up I went.
            At the top of the stairs the paths divided with one bending toward the rear of the barn, one toward the front and a third hooking around the boxed stairs to travel across the barn.  I walked to the front.  Along the edge of the floor space that otherwise would have allowed a free fall to the floor below was stacked a head high ridge of... old stuff.  I did not fear a fall but, actually, had to strain upward to see over this wall; out to the beyond of the barn’s spaces all, floor after floor, equally full.  I stopped at the far end and tried to take in what was an overload for my small being amongst so vast a debris gathering.  Around my feet and, I observed, retreating ever higher up the walls and to the back corner in the darkness, were bound stacks of old newspapers.  “Old” was dated in front as 1880’s but... as I pushed through the overgrown pillage bordering this monstrous stacking of old newsprint, it turned to Civil War era bundles only faintly discernible by peering down at the top of a dirt covered bundle.  My hand brushed the soil from the surface of a bundle to show it’s title, date and, as I recall, the tiny slip of browned-pink paper addressing the paper to it’s subscriber.  Upon this mound was piled even more, yet lighter in weight, rubbish ranging in form from cardboard boxes of ...corn cobs… to... wooden boxes filled with old cigar boxes... to… rolled wall maps... to, as a crown, an over turned sleigh (reminiscent of the Currier & Ives’ classic portrayal).  It was too much for me.  I became giddy just staring at what was before me.  To look out at the mass distanced by open space that profiled every edge of every space on every floor was a relief to my eye although this held these eyes but for seconds for all too quickly they ran their focus on to something too clearly delineated to be ignored even though it was “way” “over there”.
            “Clunk”.  I heard.  That is, I thought I heard.  Then it was silent.  My mind raced to that oblivion that... someone... was in the barn.  Did I hear someone?  Was there someone?  My whole body gripped my mind and threw it into this catacomb of internal passage that rapidly reached panic.  Before a sense of the micro time could be even noticed, I was standing back inside the firewood bin, descending rather hastily “out” “of the barn”.
            I had to pull myself out through the hole in the foundation like a worm so fell (actually sagged downward) head first on to the muck floor of the “under the barn”.  Then I escaped to the closing board door.  There, as no one had found me out and all I could hear was the thunder of my heart... I did manage to ...carefully... and with much more extreme observation then had become my usual habit... “check” “outside” before “leaving”.  Therewith I disappeared up the paths; past The Horse’s Grave, through the cat graves garden and... on to the street of a mid afternoon New England town where, aside from me being covered head to toe with dust, dirt and muck that... I didn’t notice myself but DID announce in sandwich board fashion that I “had been crawling” in “somewhere” I... made my escape.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Horse's Grave - Part Two

The Horse's Grave
Part Two

            Like any who thinks he’s a young man, it was not long before I felt I no longer needed to be protected at or guided to The Horse’s Grave.  I don’t recall the specific day of my first private visit but I do recall that it was within a very short time and at a still young age when I, in pantomime of my grandmother, became the one to choose the stepping places in the parted grasses and to know, precisely, when to take the last step.  At this moment, counting frogs ceased, throwing things at them became precision and nobody... knew or cared.
            From this elementary beginning, my travels along the footpath escalated.  The Horse’s Grave became a mere landmark to be bypassed while in pursuit of other schemes.  The range of the abandoned Victorian garden gone wild did not falter to my mind’s eye.  Its system of footpaths was so sure that it became a supreme crossroads for me and my accelerating cross village travels.
            The footpath to The Horse’s Grave led from the main street of the village through the front yard of the Victorian mansion to the far corner of its rose garden.  Here, behind an attached carriage house belonging to the tenement building and beneath a very large old maple tree, one opened a gate to this rose garden.  One then followed a straight path through the roses and past, on one’s left against the far edge of this garden, a circle of carved grave stones marking the burial sites (“Tortee, July 7th, 1868, At six years. By an arrow.”) of one hundred years of ...buried cats... that had “lived in the house” (the Victorian Mansion).  Originally identified by my grandmother, they were invariably of great fascination to me (particularly the one recording death by arrow) but even these diminished in intrigue as I grew older and... bolder.
            At the far corner of the rose garden, through another gate and beneath another large old maple tree, one entered “the field” (the former Victorian garden gone wild) hiding The Horse’s Grave.  This had once been the garden to the dilapidated Federal home that lay ahead on the path in the distance.  As this maple tree was out in the open between the buildings, a vigorous leaf canopy of shade beautified and sequestered this corner of the garden in addition to acting to mark the junction of the three properties.  Closing the gate behind me, I crossed the footpath through the wild weeds to The Horse’s Grave and then... beyond.
            Thirty feet past The Horse’s Grave the footpath divided in a Y shape, with one having come up the base of the Y’s stem.  To the left, the footpath twisted away in a slow arch to approach the kitchen door of the Federal home and continue on up it’s now viperously overgrown driveway (“from the barn”) to a... “the street”.  To the right, another footpath configured through the tall weeds and grass along the side of this large barn attached to the Federal home straight toward the rear of another barn and carriage house of... another Victorian mansion that lay past the first, “cat graves” Victorian mansion.  As one sped down this path, the rear of the barn attached to this first mansion lay, at a modest weed ensnared distance, to one’s right.  Here grew another, yet younger, large maple tree shading the rear of this barn.
            Just when one was sure that this path lead only to rear of these mansions another intersection appeared with the two right side alternatives leading, respectively, to the rear kitchen doors of each mansion while… with blind suddenness… the main path turned a full left to cross behind the Federal home’s barn.  This path, after crossing the trickle that was becoming the stream from The Horse’s Grave …on a single, thick and old wooden plank… continued, just out of the shade of this barn and within the dense growth of head high fiddlehead ferns running along the path’s moist right side, well past the rear of the Federal barn onward and behind the barn… of another Federal home neighboring this first derelict.
            Again a junction appeared and this was at the opening upon a larger field that began past the corner of the second Federal home’s barn.  The stream and a footpath turned right and... ran off down hill... “to the street” where, after much research, I affirmed that this stream DID go under the street “there” and WAS “the water from The Horse’s Grave”.  The path’s left alternative rose behind the barn of the other Federal home to a fence row of more large and ancient maple trees that acted as the upper boundary of this field  This field was called “The Academy Field” to distinguish it from all others although it was, in fact, simply a lost hay field behind the homes and at a considerable distance from “the academy” but the name remains succinct to this day:  “I saw a Bluebird in the Academy Field this morning”  “Oh.  I haven’t been there this year”.

            The point of all of this path delineation is to prove that if one was a young boy going in this direction, one, by traveling these paths, could appear at a spot in the village well ahead of anyone who chose to travel along the streets to that same spot.  I became so familiar with these paths that before long... rapid travel even in the dark of a summer evening was normal for me[1].  Understandably, I was not the only user of these footpaths but... it was very rare that one actually encountered anyone on them and when one did, each party usually was aware well in advance of this oncoming encounter so could, should one wish to, step off up a side path to avoid this.  Usually most travelers moved so rapidly and silently along the paths that the actual travel time on them was momentary to their missions.  It was I that was probably the most idle of travelers for not only did I know the secret of The Horse’s Grave but I liked the seclusion of the network of footpaths and their various partitions of assured privacy.
            The darkest passage was behind the barn of the dilapidated Federal home and this space becomes the feature of my tale.  Here the rogue garden changes it’s growth formula as it transitions toward the larger Academy Field for it is altered by the shade of the barns and the tall dense fern covered wetness along the stream.  This area was also the borderlands of the two Victorian mansion’s properties and they, to protect the rear of their yards, had let each of their “line” “grow up” meaning that a snarl of young trees and plump bushes enveloped tiny gates into each yard and kept the Victorian garden gone wild “out”.  The footpath went right down the middle of an “open area” behind the old barn.
            I always looked at the back of this barn.  My grandmother had told me that “They kept sheep under there” meaning that the old and tightly closed doorway to the “under the barn” had been the entrance to the sheep’s home.  I paid little attention to this timeless utterance until after I’d ...grown up and was... traveling alone... for then, without my notice, all of the former utterances of my grandmother became my utterances and were... to be depended on as fact.  To get to this barn door was not agreeable for it was “entirely overgrown back there” so to reach it required “going into that”.  The spot on the path opposite the closed door was the exact center of the footpath between the fields and each Victorian mansion’s “line” “grown up”.  It was further enclosed by the fern lined stream that formed a dark and centered backdrop right there.  This darkness traveled into a similar forested extension that rushed as overgrowth from between the two Federal barns ahead on the path.  Looking back up the path to The Horse’s Grave, one saw, if one knew to see it, the guardian Lilac bush clump in the distance.  Over powering that on this uphill horizon line was the corner-of-the-properties maple tree and the roof line of the tenement building. These were visible just before they were blocked from view by the upper end of the “cat’s graves” Victorian Mansion’s barn.  Standing on the path before the sheep’s barn door one stood at the center of the most obscure point of all the footpaths through the field.
            It was not long before I picked my way to this door and tried to open it.  It did not open.  I did nothing more... except to, for no particular reason, return occasionally and “try it again”... for years.  Nothing changed; the door never moved and I soon moved on.

            One day, something changed.  With my visits to the closed door being perpetually stopped at it’s closure, my confidence in testing this barrier had grown so that to think logically and “try” different assessments derived from these thinkings was ...normal.  One day I was concentrating my deductive reasoning on the left side, the “where it is locked on the inside” side of the door, pushing in and pulling to the right with no particular plan except endeavoring “to see”[2] when, to support my efforts, I grabbed a short stick that was nailed to the boards next to the edge of the door.  Pushing on this stick I pulled on the door.  The door held but the stick turned on it’s single nail to a straight vertical position.  When it did that, the board on the barn’s side that it was nailed to suddenly open inward.  An eight inch wide black hole from the ground upward open to my startled stance offering a darkness that contrasted greatly from the shaded head high weeds (“pucker-brush”) in which I stood.  It was... the door... to get under the barn and there be able to... open the big door.  “Logical” was not my assessment at the time, nor the word “obvious”.  I would have been lucky to have proffered “Cool” but, frankly, I was too enthralled even for that.  HERE had opened a darkness I had sought to enter “for years” in a most magical and accidental way!  I ...closed the door and twisted the stick.  The blackness disappeared and all was as before.  I opened the... board... again.  It swung softly and easily “in”.  I stepped inside.  I closed the door behind me.  It would not stay shut.  I spied a large eye hook on the rear of the board at my eye level.  It fit neatly into a catch between the board door and the sheep’s door.  The door remained closed.  I stood in inky blackness sensing moist silence around me and quickly denoting starlights of the outside sun shooting through cracks scattered here & there about the boards and stones of the barn’s walls.
            Without moving I stood looking at these rays until they became secondary to the dimmer illuminated shapes that surrounded them.  As I stood motionless, the former blackness became alarmingly “light”.  I could see everything; way to the back of the barn; even to the farthest corner where no light came from any crack.  In fact, no light came at all from the far side of the barn and from most of the side that was known to me to be “the front” of the barn.  Enough light came from the field side cracks to light the whole “under the barn” space and this space, I quickly discovered, was “full of stuff”.  This moment; the entering of the “under the barn” and the observation of it “being full” was a crossroads in my life on the footpaths to “The Horse’s Grave” forever past through.  No motion or thought of The Horse’s Grave would ever be the same although at the time I was too enthralled by my discovery to realize this.

[2]:  This grand and vague utterance forms the pleasing laboratory term I developed (perhaps the reader did... too) as the raison d’être for many (any?) youthful experiments.  Perhaps one has been as fortunate as I and retained this explanation for many actions taken... well into adulthood?

[1]:  I add here that these footpaths were... NOT cleared during the winter so were used for only three seasons of a year unless... a young boy “went on an adventure” “to see” “if The Horse’s Grave was frozen”.  It... never froze solid for it always had a little hole and soft spot to the left center “even in the coldest weather”.