Joys without Toys

Joys without Toys

by Angeline Brown, Guest Author

Where they lived, just within the city limits of Olean, New York, all they had to do was cross the road, walk through Ward’s meadow, trudge across Rusnick’s apple orchard, and “presto”, they were in the woods. The children would often go this way to pick Violets, Trilliums and May Apples in the Spring. Later in the growing season, they often stopped to pick a handful of Choke Cherries. A few would do, because the mouth puckered and felt shrunken from the slightly toxic taste.

They climbed the first hill, which brought them to the stone quarry. It was time now to sit down and throw pebbles to the bottom of the rocks. They made a pleasant echoing sound in the stillness of the woods as they careened from rock to rock on their way down. After a momentary rest, the children continued up the tower line.

This way lead on up, higher and higher. At this point, they stayed alert. Bears were seen here a time or two. Reaching the top provided a wonderful vantage point for observation. From there, they could view much of Olean. They picked out streets and buildings in the city, studying and surveying the whole scene all at once. They were always amazed at the vastness of this view, from the north hill all the way around to the southern boundary of the city.

The children explored the area, wandering to the East and to the West, stopping to make a dam in the pure, running brook. It trickled slowly over stones, making a wide channel to walk across and cool their bare feet. They found crabs (crawdads) under rocks and frogs waiting to catch insects. There were also many other interesting things in the woods: ferns that grew knee high, fragrant honeysuckle bushes, and mosses that looked like green velvet. Vines twisted around tall trees, high out of sight, and many hemlock evergreens held tiny, baby cones that were being rocked to-and-fro on the branches by a gentle breeze.

Going to the other side of the hill, they found the remains of a dwelling: just the shallow cellar with part of the wall intact. Later they learned it was a home that had burned down about a hundred years before. Also visible nearby were some rotting fence posts and a dilapidated gate, which probably kept a horse or cow enclosed.

Walking down to a point near the bottom of the hill, they found an overgrown path and a water hole with water still trickling in from a spring higher up. Continuing down the facsimile of a path, they saw flying squirrels leaping from tree to tree and chattering noisily, warning others about the intruders.

On towards the road, they encountered an elderly gentleman working in a large garden. He was dressed in blue overalls and a straw hat, and pushed a cultivator. He stopped and mopped his brow. “Hello,” he called. “Hello, Mr. Curtiss” replied the children. They recognized the man; he often walked along the road to the garden. They visited for a few moments, and then walked to the road towards home.

This way proved to be a lot longer than the shortcut they had taken earlier. Along the way, the children noticed a herd of Holsteins in Malone’s pasture and the large, unpainted barn that housed them, plus a couple of dogs that gave them a friendly greeting.

Passing a few more country homes, they reached their own road. As they caught sight of their house, they could almost smell the cabbage rolls that were cooking on Mom’s stove. Home at last, after a long afternoon. With a surge of fresh energy, the youngest child bolted through the door, yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!”

(For more short stories by Angeline Brown, click HERE)

Friends

Friends

By Angie Brown, Guest Author

I was finishing after-supper chores one day, when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a little girl, about nine years old, with an impish grin on her face. “Can I use your phone?” she asked. “Sure,” I replied, realizing that she was one of the children who had recently moved in next door. The next day, about the same time, she came again. This time, she said, “I came to visit.” After explaining that I couldn’t visit right then, she left. This did not discourage her. The third time, she came to use the phone again. I sensed this was going to be a daily routine, so I said, “only in emergencies.”

A few days later, she burst into the kitchen without knocking. Holding up her hand, she said, “An emergency; do you have a band-aid?” I promptly got one, as I could see a small trickle of red oozing out of the palm of her hand. I fastened the band-aid on the cut. She thanked me, gave me a slight hug and left. Her conversations were always short and sweet.

I didn’t see her again until several days later. She was on her way to our back door, but before I could get there, I saw her mother following and taking her by the hand, and ushering her back home. That told me she was coming over without permission. She was like a puppy or kitten, always returning after interruptions in between. By this time, I had much love and compassion for Daisy. It was the quiet way she had of appearing out of nowhere, plus the smile on her, usually soiled, face that got to me.

We were having our evening meal on the porch one day, when she emerged again, this time with a gray and white kitten to show us. I asked her how many they had. She said, “Tons and tons.” Skipping away, she came back with a dish of ice cream and a spoon and sat down at the table to eat it. Believing that she wanted to eat with us, I offered her a muffin, which she gladly accepted. Upon finishing that and her ice cream, she left.

Later, while I was in the garden, she called me to come over and see her kittens. Her two sisters and three brothers were also waiting as I walked over. They directed me to an unused vehicle in the yard. There, on the inside, were many cats. “Tons,” as she said, of all shapes and sizes. That explained why I was seeing so many cats in the neighborhood lately! They were climbing over the seats and the instruments. The children were having the joy that only an animal pet can bring. Babbling all at once, the children proceeded to tell me which kittens belonged to which mothers.

A few months later, when I told Daisy we were moving, she seemed disappointed. She sat quietly for a moment, and I knew she was thinking. Then off she scampered. As she returned and handed me a single, pink rosebud, the loving expression on her face revealed it all: “Thank you for being my friend.”

(For more  short stories by Angie Brown, click HERE)