Rebekka Boyer Bishop | Pam Casey
The valley was old when the rains fell. The waters cut through the soil and the soft sandstone, and the stream was born.
Deer and foxes and coyotes and quail lived in the valley. The red man came to hunt them, leaving no trace in their wake.
Then the white man came. They took the stones from the field and laid them on top of each other, one by one.
They felled one of the great oaks, sawed it and planed it and made frames for fancy glass windows, and a frame for the heavy oak door. From it they made a roof for the house they had built from the stones of the field.
Then they went away.
One returned, with a woman he had pledged to love and cherish, and together they had two children in the house of stone.
The man and the woman owned a mule, a cow, two pigs, and some chickens. The man harnessed the mule to a single plow and tilled the field to grow food for the woman and the children and the cow and the pigs and the chickens, and maybe enough to sell in town.
One sad day, the woman stood in the doorway of her fine stone house, her newborn daughter in her arms, her young son at her side, clutching the folds of her long skirt.
The man waved goodbye and walked down the narrow path to the mud road and disappeared over the crest of a small hill.
The letters he sent were few and far between, and the woman cherished them, reading them time after time. The last one came from Gettysburg. The man had been killed.
The children grew up and the woman grew old. The boy became a man, and the girl grew to a young woman, married and moved away.
The boy who was now a man, married too. He and his wife had three children of their own in the stone house.
The woman who had borne the two children passed away, but the boy who was now a man stayed in the stone house until he too grew old.
His three children grew and moved away too. The old man’s wife died and left him alone in the old stone house, until in time, the old man died too.
The stone house was alone.
All the new houses in the valley had fancy indoor plumbing and electric lights, and nobody wanted the old stone house now.
Empty months turned to lonely years.
Rain and wind buffeted the old house, and stones fell from the great walls. The summer sun baked down on it and snows lay thick and heavy on the roof and the timbers groaned.
Another storm, another stone. Another snow, another crack in the heavy oak. Another summer, another fall, year after forgotten year.
The footpath was now lost in tall green grass and the mud road was now gravelled. People drove cars and trucks instead of horse-drawn wagons.
Bright lights dotted the countryside, once inky-black at night. Not even the stars could compete.
The old stone house where families once lived is now home to mice and ground squirrels. Termites and centipedes live in the once great timbers, lying rotting on the ground. Garter snakes slither their way through the stones, and cows nip the green grass that once was the garden. One of them stands in the crumbled doorway, where once a woman waved a last goodbye to a man who went to war and never returned.
The woman’s voice is now the lilt of the Meadowlark, the bright chatter of squirrels the children’s laughter, and long-ago lullabies, the hushed whisper of wind in the trees.