Last Fall, Ranger and I were cruising the back-roads near his childhood Home. We’d visited the actual house he, his parents, and 10 siblings lived in. I saw the window Ranger peed out of, onto his Father’s head, and then foolishly answered “Yes Dad ?” when his Father shouted his name. He could’ve just shut the Hell up and let his Dad choose from any number of his other sons to blame. But that’s the Ranger. An honest, good man, and yes I’ve told him so. I saw the one room schoolhouse he attended until grade 9 took him into town and a multi-room high-school (that’s right, and the Ranger’s only 66 years old). We walked the “soon to be demolished” bridge he walked along the hand-rails of as a child. Upon looking down, he remarked on how much further away, the riverbed seemed than in his childhood. I guess as you dodge age bullets, past death possibilities become … more apparent. We visited the old abandoned ski hill where Ranger ran the lift. He pointed out the cable towers overgrown with vines now. ‘Course, we also visited the cemetery. I realized I was just along for the ride on a trip down memory lane for Ranger, and that was OK with me.
Then, I met a living memory. Don was poking about his farm cart full of Fall harvest squashes on the roadside. A hand-made sign stated the prices of the fresh produce, and another warned tourists “Do Not Touch the Fence”. I could see the tell-tale insulators and having watched a childhood friend of mine pee on an electric fence, I knew why.
Ranger called out to Don and stated his own name as I’d heard him do on numerous occasions with other old acquaintances. This time, instead of staring confusedly at him until a few more names were dropped, Don’s face lit up and he shoved his hand out to the Ranger. I knew right there I was gonna like this guy. Don remembered the Ranger just fine. I was introduced, and Don stuck-out his hand to me as well, with a “Nice to meet you” attached. Ranger said there was a derelict homestead somewhere on Don’s property. There were stories of how a spinster lived there in Ranger’s childhood. There were odd goings-on, strange activities, monkey baby-sitting, mysterious daughters from distant lands, and even buried treasure. Best of all, there was a foundation and a collapsed old house left over … maybe. We figured we should go find it. Don remembered the woman and the house. He gave us his best idea as to the location, and gave us directions (and permission) to drive up an old farm tractor road on his property and park at the “old guy’s tree house”. From there we could walk into the property. But first … “old guy’s tree house?” we asked. “Well, you’ll see what I mean when you get there” Don explained. The “tree house” was a cleverly designed shack on the crest of a hill with a spectacular view ! A tree house easily accessed by old guys.
We searched for the foundation, but to no avail. The walking was very difficult with the grasses clutching at our legs, as there was no trail, just a general direction and a half century old memory for orientation. We walked for what seemed hours, but I’m sure was less than one, before returning to the old guy’s tree house, and driving back down the hill to Don’s cart. Don was surprised to see us so soon as he explained the old house would’ve been quite a distance further than we could’ve covered in the time we took. Then he offered to show us from the height of land, where to find it. Have you ever seen those cornstalk covered hills rising halfway to heaven while searching for Autumn leaf photo ops ? Have you ever wondered what the view is like from atop one of those hills ? Well, it’s kinda like this :
You feel like you’re on top of the World up there. Cornstalks have some of the best views of Southern Ontario. I could feel the gentle breeze wafting up from the long sweeping valley to the South. I saw a dried corn leaf gently drift skyward on that breeze, and I watched as it rose higher, and higher, until it floated right up beyond my range of vision. At first, I was concerned we were a bother to Don. The man’s a farmer with better things to do with his time than entertain some guy he used to know, and some stranger. But as he showed us how to tell the difference between raccoon and deer foraging damage to corn crops, I began to think differently. I think Don appreciated a couple of guys dropping by who were interested in what knowledge he had to share. We drove my truck across his fields with careless abandon. I thought about the times, while stuck on Hwy 401 I’d considered the option of throwing her into 4 wheel and takin’ it across a field. Having really done it now, I realized how unlikely an option that would’ve been. It looks a whole lot easier than it is.
We spent a lot more time with Don than I’d expected. Most the afternoon was gone and I can’t think of many better ways to have spent that time. I think Don felt it too as he gave us his unlisted number and an invitation to drop by any time. As we drove away, I suggested to Ranger that we might well enjoy a hot lunch on a cold Autumn day up in the Old Guy’s Tree House with Don. This Autumn’s starting to cool rapidly. Might be getting time to call Don, with an invitation to lunch.