Vol 13, Num 12 :: 2014.06.13 — 2014.06.26
I was hunting for black walnuts.
We would spread them out on a
sheet of plywood and walk the shucks off.
Daddy would pound them open
with a hammer, so
my sister and I could pick out the
nutmeats, the ones we didn’t slip into our
mouths when no one was looking.
Then Mama would chop them up and
stir them into the chocolate waffles
she baked and filled with chocolate frosting.
Anyway, I was looking for black walnuts
when I saw what looked like a saddle
slung over a downed tree.
An old saddle, the leather now blackened
and crackled by time, its stirrups
hung there, still intact, and I wondered
what became of the horse and his rider.
Had he been trying to reach the pool
of water at the bottom of the hill and
stopped for a rest?
Had Indians chased him into the dark wood
forcing him off his horse, to hide behind the log?
Or had he just made camp, placing the saddle there,
so his horse could rest, or maybe so he could
use the saddle blanket to cover himself
against the chill of the forest night?
And something so scared him and his horse,
a bear maybe, or those Indians,
that he ran away and couldn’t find his way back.
I looked around that day,
wondering if the cowboy
was still around, or whether maybe
I might bump into his bones,
a skull set on another downed tree,
a skeleton suspended from a
very high branch.
The autumn sun brought only
dim light to the forest floor, and it was hard
finding the walnuts, dark against the
mat of decaying leaves, especially
because now I was growing more
apprehensive by the minute.
So I grabbed blindly, the fresh
and decaying walnuts,
filling my bucket, but
leaving too many behind
in my hurry now,
to get out into the
warm golden sunshine and the
familiar dirt road back home.
I remember turning back, once
I got a ways away, and yelling, See ya!
just in case he’d been hiding behind some
tree, not knowing I wasn’t a bad guy.