In later years she lived in her memories. They encompassed the early years of settling this land that would soon cradle her old bones. Back then, the horse and buggy was the means of transport. Then came the gravel road and the model T Ford and the family could make the trip into the city in less than two days (the same trip I took today in one hour). “Yes,” she would say, “Times were different then”. Life for her was nestled in the stories of family and this land her descendants still worked. Her only adult child left, the last of the line, would have to be the story keeper now.
Walking through the old homestead, history leapt out through the pictures hanging in the hall as well as the objects scattered on the shelves. I’ve had the same sense of ancient life when I’ve wandered in museums, and wondered how many tears and joyful exclamations an object holds captive within its substance; and the same curiousness at an auction or garage sale when I score some treasure that no one else wants to keep, and ask “Why didn’t someone value this”?
I like to believe this lovely woman’s story will live a while longer, though her family line will perish soon enough. These once strong hands that helped so many, worked alongside her husband of 72 years, and forged a home and then a community from years of toil, will be remembered a while longer, even as they lay still and cool on her bed, already disappearing a little from this life.
The herd of elk, 150 head I’m told, arrives at this time of year to this part of the woods, avoiding the hunters. Today I watched in awe as they stood like sentinels in the field behind the room that she was laid out in… stalwart creatures paying homage to this early pioneer who didn’t quite reach her 100th year.