At the foot of the lane, just inside the gate, protruded a long, rusty pipe embedded in the steep rock wall. From its spout gushed a cascade of sparkling cold spring water, into a square, moss-grown stone reservoir. Although this was intended for cattle, we children had discovered its real value. How delicious and cool it was to our parched throats after a rollicking game of “hide and seek” or “kick the can.” How soothing to the perspiring brow after a strenuous afternoon of exploring all the hills and valleys, and nooks and crannies afforded by a two-hundred-acre farm in southern Ontario.
Up a gradual, eastward slope the dirt lane followed the mossy stone wall, overgrown with clumps of grass and wildflowers, to our right. Beyond the barbed wire fence on our left was a grassy, rock-strewn pasture. Cows paused in their munching and lowing to eye us with mild interest, as my brother and I trudged past.
Down in the northeast corner of the pasture was a large grove of sturdy maples, oaks and elms. The boys and I had spent many a joyous, carefree hour swinging, shinnying, and climbing like monkeys among their profusion of thick, strong branches. Occasionally we were treated to the musical, rising “chur chur-lee chur-lee” of the chestnut-breasted eastern bluebird.
As the stone wall petered out at the top of the slope, the lane curved south. Straight ahead, a tumbledown machine shed housed an assortment of ancient farm implements, rusted and corroded beyond recognition.
To our left lay the crumbling ruin of what was once a wooden barn on a stone foundation. Still intact, a concrete silo towered fifty feet. Numerous times I had climbed the rusty iron rungs to the top. Orange hands, aching muscles and even blisters were well worth the breathtaking view from its lofty height. Stretching away fifteen miles to the west, north and east was a patchwork of hazy green, yellow and purple fields, dotted with rural villages gleaming in the summer sun.
To our right rose the L-shaped, two-storey, red brick farmhouse, situated comfortably on a one-acre, tree-lined plateau, above the stone wall and parallel to the lane. Adjacent to the house three more weathered, grey outbuildings gave silent testimony of days gone by. A gnarled, aging apple tree boasted a bountiful harvest of small green apples. Hanging from its stout lowest bough was a rope swing with a board seat. Pesky black houseflies tickled our ears, and a bumblebee buzzed lazily from one patch of clover to the next.
The air rang with joyful shouts and laughter from the far end of the yard, where a rousing game of “frozen tag” was in progress. My brother sprinted to join the game.
I sighed and entered the gloomy interior of the farmhouse. Our family, between homes, was living with another for the summer, and at thirteen, I was the eldest of all twelve children. Mom needed help with the babies.
© Willena Flewelling