Running through those old Ozark hills.
As a kid in the Ozarks, I had a springtime checklist for roaming around the farm.
1. Check the ties on the fences along the paths.
2. Make note of cattle paths.
3. Check for newly rotten boards in the barn.
4. Beware of venomous or snapping critters.
Over time, posts rot, and the wires become lose. I can recall the gut sinking feeling of straddling the fence and the wire in which I’d placed all my weight gave way. Second hand Levi’s Jeans are no competition for rust old barbed wire. (Back home it’s pronounced “Bob” wire).
Most of the undergrowth disappears during the cold months. In what only seems like two days, all of the brush, weeds, and thorn bushes overtake the ground. Even a decade old cattle path can be too hidden to safely navigate at full seven year old speeds.
The hay barn is the best staging area for any adventure on the farm. Every year, new boards would give up the ghost. Hay is fun to fall into, when you’re in control of the circumstances. Fact is, any given place on the farm could have an old rust hunk of machinery buried within. Grandma and grandpa lived through the Great Depression. They never threw anything away.
I hate snakes. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.
I once unearthed a very groggy alligator snapping turtle. It was less than pleased but luckily was too out of it to react. They’re impressive creatures but unnerving as hell to encounter in the water.
Spring calves are awfully cute. Learning to use your legs isn’t always easy when the terrain is rocky and inclined. Coyotes become more adventurous. They get so bold that their howls sound like they’re coming from the garden. The little ecosystem in the ponds erupt with activity and the fishing gets good.
The highlight of the summer was when my cousins from Oklahoma came to the farm. It was a rare but welcomed interruption to my solitude on the farm. We got into lots of trouble. We would roam beyond the borders we were allowed. Often we would push it the last minute of daylight just before getting wrath for being late.
Each year the creek was a little different. Gravel bars disappeared. New ones surfaced. Tree roots would give way as the creek cut swaths of earth from under them.
The old Travers Mill foundation still existed on our property, as did the ruins of the dam used to divert the water to the mill. Hellgrammites and crawdads thrived in the large stone formations in the water. Rock bass, Small mouth, and the occasional large mouth waited patiently for our bait to move with the current before striking.
In the Ozarks, the creeks are filled with sand and gravel so the water remains clear. With the correct angle and the appropriate intensity of the sun, you watch a thousand different critters go about their business in the creek.
Traveling back home these days doesn’t allow wandering time on the old farmstead. One of these days I’m going make time. I’m going to sleep on that ground again. I’m going to capture every little detail I can. Maybe stay out after dark and sing the creek to sleep.