Notes from the carriage-room, #5

We have already explored the carriage-room as a symbol of where old meets new, past meets present, archaic meets modern. It is all that. That is not all it is. It is also where indoor meets outdoor. This is about the outdoors.

It is about a doe and her twin fawns, white spots mostly faded now, watching us as we watched her. If you can believe it, under her gaze, I managed to sneak up to the car, open the door, extract the camera and hand it to my wife to start snapping photos.

It is about a flock of wild turkeys in the soybeans down near the creek, great big things.

It is about a box turtle on the highway as we drove back to the ranch. Those turtles have got to learn not to do that. But it tells you something that they think they will survive that crossing. Evidently it’s not the first time.

It is about a cottontail in the chokecherries, freezing and hoping no one would notice it.

That was a day’s wildlife haul, not counting grackles, vultures, hawks, scissortails and the pigeons we scared up in the middle barn.

It is about the carven inscription of the stonemason who worked on the first barn, dated 1896, who evidently could not spell his own last name. To judge by the status of the barn, that didn’t impact his masonry skill. We are still using it, and he must be over half a century dead. When he chiseled his name and the year in that limestone block, Victoria was Queen of England, there was a country called Austria-Hungary, Teddy Roosevelt had not yet done his thing in the Span-Am War, and the Titanic‘s keel had not yet even been laid down.

It is about the gate my grandfather and I installed in the corral, still standing.

It is about the elm tree that split in the ice storm, which I got partly cleaned up on one visit, and still need to finish up sometime if it’s still here when I show up ready to work.

It is about everything you can’t see from I-70 or the Turnpike. In the words of my Aunt Jaque: “You have to walk the prairie to see what is in the grass.” Our ancestors had to understand the land and its creatures, a matter of life and death for them. No matter what metropolis you live in, that is still inside you, in your wiring. Food does not originate at Whole Foods, Safeway or Wal-Mart. This is where it comes from. To understand it, to touch it, is to touch what is deep inside you, even if you live in Lake Oswego and make your own mayonnaise (and it’s stellar). No matter how urbanized you are, here is where you touch on your sustenance, your very roots as a human woman or man.

In the carriage-room, you can see and feel that.

This is also the final installment from the carriage-room. To those of you who have sat with me here, well, thank you. It has been a pleasure.


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