During one late summer, I took a trip where the native grasses grew as high as the flanks of my grandfather's buckskin, the one with the dark line of equine heritage down its spine. He used him then as a pleasure horse ridden when he had time, but he hardly ever did, especially once his brood started to grow. That's when he hooked up his horse to a plow, that turned the rich soil so that he could plant crops, to start in with helping to feed them all.
My grandfather had two broods actually. The first was five children with his wife Marie who all died in the pandemic of '18. The second was five more with his final wife. The union lived long, and they all lived long lives, with Grandfather living a century.
Longevity brings so many changes, uprooting and moving many times over. Nothing stays the same, even when you want it to. It never stays young, only memories do.
After journey by plane, by train, then by car, I made my way through the bread basket of a nation that fed us, and stayed on to rebuild when tornadoes ravaged and tested the steadfastness of farmers and their families.
I came to a piece of land a fraction the size of what it used to be eighty years before, where an old house sat square in the middle. I slowly approached and crossed the threshold where Grandfather carried his bride Catherine, and their first-born on that first day to their new home.
As my sight got used to the darkness within, I saw a beauty I'd never known, in spite of, because of, the stained wallpaper, emotive in silence of deepening shadows. The layers of dust-settled outlining frames of tobacco smoke where once pictures had hung, and aromas from generations ago.
How many chicken dinners, and rhubarb pies with golden flaky crusts made of lard, passed through the wood burning stove in a land few trees grew. And appetites after a long day of raising kids and corn and cows and crops and chickens, coming from a kitchen, with its threadbare bone of porcelain, and curled-back linoleum floors. This once-proud home, arthritic & asthmatic, with listing second-floor railings of gingerbread and sagging eves, eyed me suspiciously.
I listened to the distant whine of a windmill being buffeted by frequent breezes' moan, signals that the last of summer was upon us. The frantic thrashing of a blue bottle fly, captured between a window pane and its screen. The journey I'd taken in very few steps brought other sounds I'd never heard until then.
The phantom barking of the family Spaniel who had gone blind from cataracts by then. And the shouts of children dressed for church spilling onto the covered porch, running across weedy grass to where smoke belched and backfired from the exhaust of their dad's fliver.
The steeple, pointing towards the striking blue of afternoon, of the church three miles south; its windows and doors boarded up from the prairie's reclamation of its original faith, began to sound a bell that called the sheep to come and worship; its peal was clear and humbling as the thunder, when it would warn them that it was time to start the trek homeward.