Our small house rested in a clearing surrounded by 37 acres of tall stretching woods, bisected only by the narrow country road that led to the rest of the world. A push reel mower trimmed the small yard of more weeds than grass that buffered the house on three sides. Grandma’s trailer, the garden and dad’s sawmill claimed a larger cleared area on the other. The woods provided the livelihood that delivered warmth and shelter to our family of five. I did not venture into those woods alone beyond solid sight of the house. Courage only crept a few yards deeper with my brothers by my side. Unknowns lurking in the leafy shade and scrambled underbrush kept my feet poised for flight. Vague and threatening images barred all paths of further exploration.
The labor on the land provided for meals of meat and potatoes with sides of corn and green beans – fresh in the summer and by way of Ball canning jars in winter. A saucer piled high with store bought white bread next to a stick of oleo was mandatory at each meal, along with a container of cottage cheese – my father’s favorite. Each day mom packed sandwiches of bologna and cheese striped with bright yellow mustard, along with an apple and homemade oatmeal cookies, into a domed black metal lunch pail. Dad loaded his lunch along with a mason jar of well water and a battered metal thermos of sweetened coffee onto his tractor as he prepared for his daily commute along rough cut trails deep into the woods. Although my brothers rode with him regularly I don’t ever recall accompanying him into the depths.