“You know where that curve is? Well, if you go straight
right there at that curve, up that little gully there, that used to be
About a mile up in the woods, there was a house. There are still some
foundation stones if you know where to look. That's where Grover
his blue eyes twinkled a smile as he told the story.
“He didn’t have
much of a house, really. But, he always had
a good garden. Something about the soil up in that part of the woods, I
The clearing was just big enough to let the right amount of sunlight
You can barely even tell there was a clearing there now,” he said,
things the way he liked them a little better.
“Grover had the
best rocking chair I’ve ever seen. He made
it himself out of a hickory that blew over into his garden one year.
to be 50 years ago” his forehead furrowed a bit as he tried to do the
without having the numbers. “Maybe more.”
“He used to let
me hunt squirrels if I didn’t get too close
to the house. I always let him have a couple of young gray squirrels.
that gamy taste of a gray. Lots of old folks do. I usually killed ten
That was before there were limits on how many you could kill.”
A cool summer
breeze blew across the porch and the wind chimes
answered with a quiet song. The air carried the smell of someone’s
hay. He leaned forward and took a deep breath to enjoy its aroma. He
me and nodded, “That’s about as good as it gets.”
I couldn’t argue
with him on this point. There are few
things better than the smell of cut hay drying in a field. Blooming
honeysuckle, perfuming heavy evening air as it cools for the night, is
close. Neither lasts long enough.
“On up beyond
Grover’s another half mile or so, there was a
barn with a pond. It was more like a big shed with the doors missing.
didn’t know whose barn it was. It had just always sorta ‘been there’,
“What do you
mean he didn’t know whose barn it was?” I
“Well, it wasn’t
on his property, really. Grover’s
grandfather settled that ridge not long after the government took the
the Indians. Well, bought it, I guess.
And, back then, nobody was really sure where property lines were
there were no property lines. And, there
weren’t any roads that far in the woods. And, nobody really cared,
anyway. So, Grover’s family, the Ooleys, just sorta
stayed to themselves and didn’t bother anyone. And, nobody bothered
said, rocking chair creaking on the porch floor.
“So, I’d get off
work on Saturday night…I was working for
the C’s then. And, we didn’t have to work Sundays. They didn’t like for
leave camp, but I always snuck home anyway to get my rifle…”
“You worked for
‘the C’s’? What’s that?” I interrupted.
Civilian Conservation Corps. I lied about my age
to get in because I was too young. I had to. I needed a job.” He went
explain how he had worked in various camps around southern Indiana. “We’d build
roads for a few months. Then,
plant trees where the timber had been clear-cut. We built levees along
We just did whatever needed to be done.”
I could tell he
had fond memories of his time in ‘The C’s’.
He knew that being in a camp was the difference between surviving and
not. A hard day’s work and hot evening’s meal
wasn’t guaranteed to anyone during the dismal ‘Great Depression’.
Those that had a chance for both didn’t pass
in the kitchen and we could hear parts of
one side of a conversation through the screened window over the sink.
“Then bring me two,” June yelled down the
basement stairs. The smell of ‘sweet
rolls’ being baked mingled with the fragrance of drying hay, and the
happy to have the mix.
“So, after work
on Saturday,” he continued with his story, “I’d
get a hitch home and get my rifle and head to the barn on the hill
Grover’s house. That’s where I’d sleep so I could be in the woods at
If you’re in the woods when it gets light, squirrels don’t know you’re
Then, it’s easier to get a shot when they start moving around.”
He told of
leaving his shoes, the only pair he owned, in the
barn while he hunted barefoot. Sneaking up on a feisty gray squirrel
enough in the August forest, and dry leaves and brittle sticks were
forgiving to a shoeless foot.
He’d hunt from
the first light of the day until or .
Then, with ten or twelve squirrels, hanging by their tails from his
head to Grover’s for leftover biscuits and gravy and whatever game had
Grover’s meal the night before.
“I’d clean a
couple squirrels for him and he’d bring a big
plate of food out for me. We’d sit on the porch and talk. Other than
made the best biscuits I’ve ever had. He had it made back there.
Some people would be lonely, go crazy, living
like that. Not Grover. He’d go months and months without going into
everything he needed and wanted. I’m pretty sure if
it hadn’t been for me, he’d not see a person for weeks at a time. And,
the only reason he went to town was to see Bea, his daughter. She
didn’t come out much after her mom died.
Not that she didn’t want to. I think it just turned out that way.
You know how it is?”
The sound of
struggling machinery was getting louder to our
left. Warren Dyer, driving his old Allis-Chalmers tractor with a wagon
of hay in
tow, rounded the curve and stuck his hand in the air as he passed. Dust
the gravel road followed him as he slowed to make a left turn at the
“If we don’t get
some rain soon, there’s not gonna be any
corn,” Peb said, watching the dust cloud drift across the lawn.
“I’m glad I’ve got all my hay up already. I
should have enough to get through winter.”
“I’m not doing a
wash ‘til tomorrow. You’ll have to wear
those,” came through the window. Not long after, a horsefly bounced off
screen and landed on its back on the porch, spinning like a top.
“So, one day I
was hunting quail in a thicket along Raccoon
Creek, just below Grover’s house. It was getting late and I was
hadn’t even got a shot off. I knew I was
running out of time, so I headed up stream to Sammy Ooley’s field. He
picked his corn, and I knew if I was going to get Grover a bird, it had
“Sure enough, I
hadn’t even stepped in the field yet and a
covey got up. I cracked down on ‘em and saw two birds go down with one
thought about trying to get ‘em up again, but it was getting dark and
was good enough. So, I stuck ‘em in my pouch and headed to Grover’s. He
a bird for Sunday dinner and I had him one.” “If he hadn’t
had a kerosene lantern burning on the porch, I
wouldn’t have been able to see his house. He didn’t have electricity
and it was
always dark in the woods. He was sitting
in his rocking chair as I walked up the steps. I said ‘I gotcha one,
he was dead.”
“When he didn’t
say anything back, I knew it was bad. So, I
touched his hand and it was cold. It was still clamped on to the arm of
chair right here,” he said, showing where Grover’s hand had been when
“I sat on the step and cried like a baby.”