Wood Stains

This  old empty barn …

Wolfer Diggs
True story, 1922

Standing in front of the big doors to this  old empty barn, these big doors  and  all that lies of memory within the wood stains of the old planked, three inch thick hemlock floor boards and the all-knowing memory  of  past  lives,  I feel small.  And yet as the story goes, when my father was just one day short of  his eighth birthday  his own small  life took on a turn that would change all of his days forevermore.   I reach up and grab the rusted iron latch of the door on the right  and lift,   pulling the dragging, squeaky hinged door open with much effort,  I watch as the daylight magically invades the darkness and so, too, the forgotten memories of the past. Maybe this is why I just love old barns.

In the clicking noises of the warming tin roof  over the  old grey sheathing boards,  instantly  a flock  of barn swallows  take flight,  all of them  moving in choreographed movement of flight and fearsome  beating wings towards the wide open loft windows. They exit out into the cool autumn air to evade my searching presence or whatever fear that lays in their instincts.   I move forward in the returning silence, up from the end of the “high drive,” a ramp  outside of the old barn doors and into the silent darkened and cooler shade within. Allowing a moment for my searching eye’s to adjust, my vision begins to  reveal  the farming implements of those olden days.

My mind also travels  back  in time,  ………and the year 1922,   a dark January afternoon,  a seven year old  curly dark  haired boy walking into this same  barn with a double barreled 12 gauge shotgun  in his arms.  I can hear the wagon and horses  outside, too, as the horses hooves and the carriage wheels creak and squeal on the ice covered driveway as the neighboring  farmer drives his wagon away,   just after handing the boy  the loaned out shotgun to ……….”  Take this down to the barn and  give it  to your father son  ……,”  as I stand here and  think about  certain  moments in time,   I am in awe of how one moment can change a family’s  entire history, a life, a death, one small moment.

I see a boy,  a   very young boy, my father,  walked through this very  same door that I just did,  across from the front of the old farm wagon that his father had just unhooked the team of draught horses,  big tall black and beautiful Belgian work horses that he was so proud of and  was hanging the heavy leather work harness’ on their respective  wall racks, and just as the young boy rounded the wagon tree at his feet  he spoke up ,………

“Dad  , Henry just brought back  our  shotgun “……………and as he stepped over that  wagon tree that  he remembered looking down on to make sure he didn’t trip over it , the shotgun that he was holding  loud blast, knocked him clean off from his feet , the noise instantly deafened him  hurting his head, his hands hurt, his shoulders   and as the  two big draught horses jumped backwards  and reared up together,  for what seemed like a whole hour  nothing happened, he was frozen in time  and yet as the boys senses began to return , as he remembered  his eyes staring at the feet of the horses shifting back and forth on the floor in front of his eye’s  settling down in the ensuing silence , hoping they wouldn’t step on him,  his eye’s began to move slowly, his  senses slowly returning  ……..he realized that the shotgun must have gone off  and  he wondered why would Henry have left it loaded ?

As he slowly moved his legs and came to his senses, as he  raised up to a  sitting position he was half wondering  why his father had not come over to help him up and soothe the pain  that he felt, or why at least  he wasn’t yelling at him for shooting the gun off in the barn and scaring the horses ?   He reached to the back of his head  and felt the bump there already rising  from hitting the wagon tree,  he looked down  at his hand and saw the blood on it,   his eyes began to refocus and make their way timidly towards where his father was standing  knowing he would have his hands on his hips glaring at him, but  he wasn’t standing there , …….his father was bent over or so he thought …….as his eye’s focused he realized that his fathers back was covered in something wet,   that he was slowing sinking down the railing  to the floor,   he had  accidentally shot his own father in the back ! …………………………….

……………..His father died that very evening, sometime long after midnight, after his mother had harnessed the horses  up again to the wagon and  ran them the six miles to the hospital in town without a coat on and where the doctor had worked and tried to save him for hours , where they had waited  for long silent hours of the darkest night that they would ever live through ………..his father at thirty nine years old , was dead.

Today, almost seventy years later, after my father, that little seven year old boy  died at seventy -nine  years old himself,  I returned to the barn  where it all happened,  where so many spirits have drawn me  finally, at times unwillingly,   I can feel the presence of them here and now  and I realize,   although our loved ones will come and go in this life,    if we listen hard enough , if we try hard enough, if we stand and look down at the wood stains on the old floor ….. we can stand right next to those that we loved   and know that they often live on forever .

I love you dad  and you, too, grandfather.

EdF

Sometime in my life, I started to write about my life journey, in poetry, in story perhaps to sort them out and enter them into a place of safekeeping. The soul of the writer is perhaps best described in their words, emotions and thoughts. If these poems or stories touch something inside you then maybe I have succeeded in sharing. I will not write about my self in profile, because self isn't so important in writing. Only the journey in words and the sharing are important. Why would we say "Now about me!"... I'd rather write about life, nature, serenity ...

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EdF

Sometime in my life, I started to write about my life journey, in poetry, in story perhaps to sort them out and enter them into a place of safekeeping. The soul of the writer is perhaps best described in their words, emotions and thoughts. If these poems or stories touch something inside you then maybe I have succeeded in sharing. I will not write about my self in profile, because self isn't so important in writing. Only the journey in words and the sharing are important. Why would we say "Now about me!"... I'd rather write about life, nature, serenity ...

12 thoughts on “Wood Stains

  • November 29, 2016 at 12:16 PM
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    My gosh, Ed, such a sad memory. Your father, that little boy, must have been beyond devastated. All his life that stayed with him. May he rest in peace. Now he is back together with his father. May they both rest in peace. You did quite well on writing all this down, it must ave been very painful for you to do this, bless your heart. You dearly love your father and grandfather, it is such a special love. May you find peace and healing. Great work.

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  • November 29, 2016 at 1:12 PM
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    hi Phyllis, a true story that weighed heavy on my fathers life . It’s one that just needed telling ! Thank you as always !

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  • November 29, 2016 at 6:26 PM
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    I am so glad Ed they allow true stories here now so you could tell this one. What a life your father must have lived with that guilt every day of his life but I know you know as well as I do that they are back together once more and there should be no more sorrow over this….ever more.
    So pleased you shared this with us.

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  • November 29, 2016 at 6:34 PM
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    Very sad tale indeed

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  • November 30, 2016 at 12:08 AM
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    A sad tale well told Ed and such memories never leave us, but linger and add to who we are, the trials and emotions of our ancestry ever-present. Thanks for sharing my friend.

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  • November 30, 2016 at 5:26 AM
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    Hi Jackie , my father “lived ” with this for all of his years , He never told us kids until we were adults about this tragedy , in truth I hadn’t ever set foot in that barn nearby but imagined so , I am never far from the realization of how fragile a life is . Thank you .

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  • November 30, 2016 at 5:27 AM
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    Hello Kurt , I’m glad you are with us ! Keep up your awesome writing !

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  • November 30, 2016 at 5:27 AM
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    Tony ! They do add to us incredibly ! Thank you !

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  • December 1, 2016 at 9:27 AM
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    Ed, you are an amazing writer. This is a heartbreaking story, but you have managed to capture the true spirit of it through the eyes of your own heart. Incredible details, I could feel the life of the barn, and the timelessness of unexpected loss. Very well done.

    Best,
    Mel

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  • December 1, 2016 at 11:01 AM
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    Nothing short of amazing – both in it’s content and how you’ve written it. So much emotion is captured by your words. It’s an honor to read it.

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  • December 1, 2016 at 11:22 AM
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    Mel ! , Thank you so much , it was a story that needed telling , I had written poetry about this and maybe a short story but the truth is that my father did this and lived with it for all of his life . I can only imagine the true cost of that and he was an incredible man . Sad part is things llike this happen to children even now .

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  • December 1, 2016 at 11:24 AM
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    RJ , Thank you kind sir , truth is I don’t even know where that barn is or if it even still exists . I sure would like to step into it just one time though. I think I would hear echoes !

    Reply

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