I am now the owner of a slice of the farm where I grew up seventy eyars ago. This slice is bound on the east by a creek that divides the farm and on the west by the neighboring farm. There is a considerable difference in elevation between the creek and the neighboring farm, maybe thirty or more feet. From the creek, the land rises sharply, in some places the rise is so steep it cannot be climbed without ropes or other equipment. It is a cliff really. The rest is steep, but climbable on foot with some effort.

This continuous hillside is thickly wooded with underbrush. When I was a boy, the undergrowth consisted of a kind of bush about two feet high. You could easily see over them and walk through them. I much prefer them to the new ones. A new kind of bush has invaded over the past thrity years. These bushes can grow twelve feet tall, with thickly enter-twined branches. They were imported to North America as an ornamental, and they are attractive in early winter. They do not freeze with the first frosts that kill the native plants, and they have bright red berries. Unfortunately, the berries contain little or no nutrition for any creature on this continent, so few if any of the seeds are consumed and broken down. Multitudes of them grow and each bush produces thousands!

At the top of this hillside the land is gently rolling prairie. I think it is grassland that has never been plowed. The soil is only inches deep, if that, and in many places, bedrock is exposed. Large stones that would damage farm equipment have been removed, and I have removed more.

This edge of the original farm is opposite the location of the house and barn and spaces where we spent most of our time when I was growing up. It was the most difficult prt of the farm to get to. Access to this part of the farm was awkward. There was one spot, on the south boundary, were the creek banks were worn from crossing. The hillside there was about a 45 degree angle, steep and scary, but drivable. I’ve driving up as a teenager on a tractor and later in other vehicles. There was another spot on the north edge of the property, along the road, but the hillside was steeper and not drivable, so you couldn’t get very far.

One day, when I was walking up the hill from to creek to the top, I came to a sort of shelf. This was a surprise. Then, I looked carefully at the angle of the hill below me and slope ahead of me. Downhill, it was much steeper than above. That was curious.

Then, I began to walk along this “ledge” which was surprisingly even and level. It continued all along the side of the hill. Then I came to a gull,y, or valley where water had eroded deeply into the side of the hill creating the appearance of two hills. The level “shelf” continued on the other side. There could be only one thing that I had found: an abandon, overgrown farm road!

This was a shock because my father had never mentioned such a road to me. He had obviously not used it because trees older than him had grown up in it! From them, I concluded that he had not known about it. I could not ask, because he had been killed forty years before, but I think he would have mentioned it if he had known about it.

Considering that, this was my own special discovery!

My father could easily not have known because the owner before us had stopped farming twenty or so years before my parents bought the farm and that was plenty of time for it to become overgrown and, therefore, hidden.

WOW!!

I cleared a path along the “shelf,” but it quickly become overgrown and did not lead up to the top to the meadow land where I needed to go, so I did not keep it cleared. Still, I know it’s there: my little discovery on land I thought I knew.

One thought on “Surprise in the Woods by Duane L Herrmann

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