Many warm summer evenings my mother, grandmother, father and I sat in rocking chairs on the front porch looking through the trees down the hill to our main road, enjoying the quiet darkness. A baby crow that my dad had rescued twice after it fell out of its nest, was grown now but often came to visit him and even tried to be chummy with our two cats – not too successfully, even with the black one. At night when we sat on the porch the crow often flew down from the trees, lit on my father’s shoulder and talked to him in twitter language. They seemed to understand each other quite well.
My dad had forfeited his career in the United States Forest Service to come back to Michigan and rescue our family farm left to his mother. He replaced fences, ditches and water pumps a hired man had neglected, a very expensive process. At that moment in history the Great Depression took away our family’s savings. The Forest Service was firing, not hiring. We survived because we ate whatever food could be grown on our farm and wore our clothes until they were threadbare.
We sold strawberries to the village store where they cost 32 cents a quart. One hot day while I was picking in our garden patch I looked up and saw my dad walking down our lane which led past the garden toward the barn, pasture and beyond a creek into some woods at the edge of our property. A big stray dog, lanky and thin, had chosen our house for now and walked close to my dad who was petting and talking to him. My father was carrying a gun, which I thought was quite unusual. He never went hunting. I remember exactly as if I were there now picking strawberries. The hot sand and the way the dog and man walked so close together and how their eyes seemed to smile at each other.
A year later a girl friend and I took a long walk down our lane and into the woods. At our feet, half hidden under branches, dead brush and weeds, we stumbled onto some old whitened bones. We raced back to the house wondering who had been killed in our woods. My mother explained reluctantly. We hardly had enough to eat ourselves, let alone the stray dog’s big mouth to feed. It had been a very difficult decision. Now I understood the look on my father’s face as he walked toward the woods.
I love you daddy. Many years between are blurred, but I can still see the strawberry patch clearly. Like yesterday.