It’s funny how some things just stick with you. When I was a kid, there was this farm. It was just down the road from my grandparent’s house. My dad helped Chris Robertson, whose family owned the farm, with some of the chores. They sheered sheep with what looked to me like long handled scissors and I remember wondering if it hurt them. I’d watch as the sheep would run back into the field, secure behind the electric fences. My dad helped haul the hay and chop fire wood. I even helped sling wood into the back of a pickup truck.
The farm buildings were split in two by a dirt road that ran through them. The farm house and the carriage house sat up on a little hill, they were pale yellow with white trim. The paint was chipping after years and years of sun beating down on it and the tall grass seemed always in need of mowing. The front steps were made of giant slabs of granite, plentiful in the state of New Hampshire. Brown Eyed Susan’s smiled up from the edges. There was a bent metal tube in the shape of a hand railing that I would hang upside-down on and pretend I was a gymnast.
The large farmer’s porch was an open expanse of floor, dotted with a couple of old chairs among piles of split wood and kindling. The front door opened onto a landing that had a door to the left and a door to the right and a flight of stairs going up to the second floor. The door to the left led into the home’s kitchen. A large black cast iron wood burning cook stove sat at the back of the room and across from it, in front of two small windows, sat a small kitchen table, strewn with napkins and playing cards.My dad made beef stew on that stove, allowing me the pleasure of throwing wood and pieces of cardboard into the holes that were the burners, in order to keep the heat steady.
Straight into what looked like a closet were a kitchen sink and the open cabinetry that held the dishes and pots and pans. There was a window above the sink that looked onto the back yard, where you could see sheets and pillow cases swaying in the breeze on a clothes line perched above tiny yellow and orange hawkweed flowers.
To the right of the small refrigerator was the doorway to the living room. A piano sat in the corner of the room, sheet music propped up waiting for someone to play. Beside the large couch was an end table piled high with magazines and newspapers, promising to topple at any moment. Another wood burning stove warmed this room in the cold New England winters. A tiny bathroom; containing a toilet and sink were lit by a single light bulb overhead, I remembering having to stand on my tip toes to reach the string that turned the light on and off.
Two other doorways led from the living room into the formal dining room and into the hallway that led to the stairs. The dining room held an oversize table and a chandelier hung from the ceiling. There were some missing crystal pieces and a few light bulbs were out but it was probably once breathtaking. A hutch most likely held antique china and heirloom silverware. The stairs led from the hallway to the many bedrooms. The floorboards creaked and the old rugs along the hallways were heavy with dirt.
Down a different flight of stairs was the landing that led back to the kitchen. Through the other door on the landing was the carriage house. What remained of what once held horse drawn carriages was a massive expanse of area full of old equipment and gadgets. It was two stories plus a cupola. The stairs were rickety and not at all safe. The barn and much of the farm’s land could be seen from it.
I roamed around that farm, into rooms that seemed to have been deserted. It was like my very own flea market. I found all kinds of things in the drawers of old dressers and tables, like skeleton keys and old glasses. I remember climbing up to the cupola and sitting in the sweltering heat, watching the birds gracefully land in the nearby pine trees. While in the barn, I would jump down into the hay bales, bouncing around as if they were trampolines and I’d walk along the stone walls of the property for hours.
I can picture my dad biting into a juicy tomato from the garden as if it were an apple, his eyes smiling with absolute joy. After the chores were completed we’d stop at a convenience store where he’d buy me a giant pickle (my favorite snack food) and then we’d head for home.
Thank you Dad for giving me that time to wander, time to simply breathe fresh air and study the natural world around me. Thank you for showing me how to swing an ax and how to drive a motorcycle. You’ve taught me more than you know and I am forever grateful. I love you Dad.