It was a day of pure beauty. I sat beneath a pine tree chewing on a dead pine needle. The sun was framed in a blue sky with light wispy clouds being pushed by a soft breeze. I thought of my mother. I could still hear hear voice loud and clear from the porch where she always churned her butter.
"George, don't chew on those needles. You don't know what animal has peed on them"!
My father's voice followed, "Oh, for Pete's sake woman. Let the boy grow up. A little animal pee will make him healthy."
I watched the clouds and pictured my parents. I didn't remember whether I spit out the pine needles back the but I guessed not. I was always chewing on something. What ever was handy, grass, straw or even reeds from the old marsh we used to live by.
That day it was the pine needles and I pictured a big old 12-point buck stopping by the tree just tp pee on just very needle I had in my mouth.
"It's a boy or a man thing," I said to the sky. "I guess it's sort of like an Indian Brave eating the raw heart of an animal he has just killed."
I always talked to the sky when it was soft and beautiful because I knew that then my mother was there to listen. I never talked to my father. I thought it was because we never talked when he was alive and maybe it was also a man thing. Real men didn't show emotion and I would get kind of emotional when I thought of them.
I scooped up a hand full of the pine needles and put them in my pocket thinking it would be fun to make some "Buck-pee" tea and headed back for my camp.
About a mile before I reached my camp my nose picked up the scent of a camp fire so I wandered in the direction of the scent. I walked into an open clearing and I could see the fire and a make shift brush lean-to poked backed in the brush on the other side of clearing.
I called out but no one answered. I walked towards the fire and called again. I thought it strange for someone to leave and unattended fire in the woods so I continued on to check it out. When I reached the fire I called again and still no one answered so I began putting the fire out.
I stopped when I heard the sound of a vehicle approaching the camp. I waited until an old rickety pickup drove into view. It had a makeshift camper shell on the back. A man and a woman got out, both shabbily dress and two young boys hopped out of the back. They reminded me of the beggar boys I had seen on the streets of London when I visited there as a young man.
The man approached me and asked what I wanted. I explained about the unattended fire.
"It was not unattended." he claimed. "My daughter Marial is watching it."
He yelled for the girl. A young girl maybe nine or ten came out of the trees and slowly walked toward us. She had a chain attached to her ankle. The other end was tied around a tree. She was only deressed in what appeared to be boys underwear.
"You been watchin this fire like you-uns were told."
She bowed her head and replied, "Yes poppa".
"There, it's just like I said. She was taken care of it. Now you go on and git the hell out of here."
"Why is chained to that tree?" I asked.
The woman took the girl by the shoulders and turned her around. She had several nasty burn scars on her back.
"Her, ain't to smart and if we don't watch her or keep her tied up when were not here, she'll play in the fire."
"That ain't none of his Goddamned business," the man said. "Now, do as I said and git your ass out of our camp."
I could see that it was useless of me to protest so I left. When I got to camp I took my truck and went to town to report the abuse to the sheriff. When I returned to my camp it had been ransacked and anything of any value was gone. I was sure who was responsible but I just packed up what I had left and reported it to the sheriff on the way back home.
I never bothered to go passed where they had been camping because I was sure they wouldn't be there.
Every now and then, when the sky is dark and stormy, I see the girl and then I beg for her forgiveness.
gsbatty/July 2013...written for "Two Shoes Tuesday"
Posted by George S Batty