Farthington was slowly coming back to life. She worked for weeks, dusting and cleaning and for the first time in many years, she felt as if she was “at home.”
She decided to leave the original light fixtures which were a simple pull chain light bulb in the center of the ceiling. As a little girl, she used to swat them back and forth and would occasionally pull the strings too hard and break them off. Her grandpa would get after her but he never raised his voice.
A door off of the kitchen led to the basement. It was dark and musty and there were no walls. It was sort of just a hole under the house. She decided to go down there and she found the usual things, which were old doors, broken rocking chairs and shards of flower pots.
She thought she saw what looked like a shoe that had been buried. When she uncovered it, she was surprised to find that it was indeed a childs’ shoe but she didn’t recognize it as one of hers. The more she dug, the more shoes she found. There were different styles and different sizes. She was fascinated.
Why was there a shoe graveyard under her grandparents’ house and who did they belong to? Altogether, she found twenty-eight shoes and none of them were pairs. Maybe that’s what folks did back then. When you lost a shoe, you just buried the mate in your basement. Although intrigued by the shoes, clearing the land was beckoning.
The grounds were completely overgrown with weeds and vines. One of the few things she had brought from her previous life was her John Deere riding lawn mower, which she had named “Doe.” Her children used to laugh at her when she referred to it as “Doe the Deere, the female Deere.” Even with Doe, she had a daunting task ahead.
She started by clearing a path to the old outhouse, which still stood. As she reached it, she paused and thought about how many times she had trekked up that path. The door with the crescent moon cut into it, looked like a sideways smile, saying “I know why you’re here.”
When she opened the door, she saw the bench with the hole cut into it and she was surprised to find the remnants of an old telephone book which had been used for wiping.
Outside, she found rusted snuff cans that had belonged to her grandpa and old glass medicine bottles that ranged in color from clear to amber. The labels had long since worn off and she wondered what magic elixirs they might have held.
Having cleared the way to the outhouse, it was time to clear a path to the shed. The shed was where her grandpa kept all of his tools. He had built it himself when he was a young man. What would she find inside? As she opened the large double door, just one brief glimpse reflected what an organized, meticulous man her grandpa had been. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.
As she walked in, she immediately noticed something in the corner. It was the old dinner bell that grandma used to ring to let grandpa know that supper was ready. The last vestiges of red paint still clung to its sides. Sometimes she got to ring it but now and then, she would get carried away. Her grandma would come out and say “we’re going to have every cow from the next county straggling over here, thinking they’re going to get fed if you don’t stop ringing that bell.”
She marveled as she took stock of all the tools. There were hand saws, chisels, screwdrivers, pliers and every conceivable size of nails. There were claw-hammers, sledge hammers, ball-peen hammers and mallets.
A wooden barrel housed rakes, shovels and hoes but what caught her eye was a scythe. She could make quick haste of the weeds with that, she thought.
Day after day, week after week, she worked clearing the land until she made it to the “back five.” Her grandpa had always referred to his land as the “front five” and the “back five.”
She had never been allowed to go on the back five and she had never seen her grandpa go there. When she asked him why she couldn’t go, he cupped her chin with his hand and said “some land just needs to belong to nature.”
A barbed-wire fence divided the fives but her grandpa had never put in a gate. Her curiosity was peaked and not having a gate was no deterrent. Being somewhat resourceful, she got two of her grandpas’ wooden step-ladders out of the shed. She placed one against a post and carefully lowered the other across the fence. An old blanket covered the barbed-wire and she traversed the fence with ease.
Even though she now owned the land, as soon as she stepped onto the ground, she suddenly felt as if she was trespassing. She tried to dismiss the feeling and started walking, although she still felt uneasy. Every few steps, she would glance backward so as to not lose sight of the fence. After all, she had never been on that side before.
The land was full of tall trees and they had obviously been there for many years. They formed a sort of canopy that only allowed the tiniest bit of sun to peep through, which made the ground below look as if it had been sprinkled with fireflies.