The Horse's Grave
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 ...space... “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.