I remember sitting in the tall grass of our unmown lawn, while the neighbor’s horse named Bill came near the fence and reached under the strand of wire with his huge head. I looked up to see his big lips wrap around the grass, pull it into his yellow stained teeth and chew noisily. Perhaps this was my first look at the reality of the phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The photograph just makes me happy to recall how things seemed carefree at the time. As a child, I didn’t realize I was poor. I was being kept warm and evidently well fed in a simple place called home. Other than my baby book, my words are the only documentation to color in the memories I carried all this way. To give them life, I am putting them down on the page and pressing them together between the covers formed by the green mountains.
My environment was enveloped in nature. My father was a respected hunter and fisherman, and his special skills fit in well with the preparation for my anticipated birth. He was working for Montany’s coal delivery business, located in Chester Vermont, while I was prominently displayed as my Mother’s growing belly. In those days the hospital required a hundred dollar down payment to have a baby born there. One November day, Dad was driving through the town of Ludlow, and as he glanced up on the hillside behind the high school, he saw a rather large white-tailed buck with a doe headed into the woods. He pulled the truck over to the side and pulled his rifle out from the front seat and discreetly scurried up to the area where he last saw the deer. He stalked his way to find their trail and came upon them in mating stance. They were more attentive to each other than their surroundings and Dad shot the 8 point buck. That must have put the doe right out of the mood. With my pending birth on his mind, he sold the prize to an out of state hunter who wanted a trophy more than he wanted a hundred dollars, and thus made available the down payment for my arrival on the planet in proper surroundings. He always smiled while telling the details of that story. The best buck he ever got and he didn’t get to eat a single steak from it or even keep the rack to hang on the wall.
Living where we did, we could walk out the door and see the interactions between animals and the landscape. Fish, venison and partridges as well as grey squirrels became the main menu items of our daily meals. Squirrel pie was one of my favorites. Dad would often come home after a hard day’s work and trek off to the woods or the stream to add to the inventory in the freezer. It’s hard for most people to understand being happy seeing the food come in on the fender of a car or carried into the house all feathers or fur with no packaging.
My early life was chronicled with more photos than I remembered there being. Who ever thought of putting a one year old on the back of that same work horse named Bill, along with a kitten named Skipper. It was a nice pose. The photograph makes me happy to recall how things seemed carefree at the time. I can imagine my mother waiting to catch me if Bill or I moved. The rest of my life should have been that way. Time went forward but there wasn’t always someone there to catch me, though often times there should’ve been. Standing in front of a mirror reminds me of the phrase, “lucky to be alive”, and I am happy to be.