The story below is all true or I’m the son of a goat.
Miles south of Pistol River, we owned several acres of forest hillside that opened onto a meadow. Our land below was separated from our house by a wire fence, because it was dark in the forest, and sort of of primeval, and everyone knows that faeries cannot abide the touch of cold iron. To reach the meadow, there was no direct route. We had to climb the fence (or crawl under it, carefully bending it back up), in order to explore every inch of the woods. It was always shady there, with the rays of the sun seldom touching any point amongst the trees. Needles were strewn about like hay in a barn, and waist-high mounds of sticks pocked the land, where packrats built their homes. Lori and I stacked up the fattest branches we could find, making shelters and lean-tos in the natural gullies that ran down the hillside like the clawmarks some gigantic beast. In that forest, I was Bilbo Baggins, and the dens of the pack rats (I never actually saw one) were the homes of the giant spiders. I jabbed at them with wooden Sting, swearing vengeance on behalf of the dwarves.
Lori and I had worn a path to the meadow below. It twisted through the thick darkness of the forest. We had even made up a singsong rhyme to run through the trees. “Motorboat, motorboat,” we chanted. “Go so slow… Step on the gas, and then go …. FAST!” And then we would hit the slalom of trees at a diagonal, zipping through the firs as fast as our legs would carry us, faster, faster until we slowed our pace, or sometimes sprawled, panting, onto the meadow below.
Once the firs cleared, the sun could filter weakly through the green of alders, hazelnuts and willows, while all the growth reached upward for the sunlight at the edge of the darkness. The land was wet and spongy for twenty more yards, due to an elfin spring bubbling out at the forest’s edge. A huge standing stone marked the end of the firs, and the start of the change of greenery, and farther down, a bona fide creek formed from the runoff. Years before, an old road had been pushed through for the logging crews to reach the trees in the Burnt Hill Creek valley, but by the era when Lori and I played there, it was mostly overgrown by grasses and ferns, wild roses and blackberry brambles; completely unrecognizable as a place that had ever been touched by humans.
If you kept walking, you passed through the veil. An old, twisted bigleaf maple tree formed a gateway to the meadow itself. It lay along the ground, blocking access to the field like an enormous snake. At three different points along it serpentine body, the maple shot up, spearlike a spearlike sentinel.
The Faerie tree is where Lori and I played together, hours at a time, next to the tansy-filled meadow, and safely protected from the creek, and guarded by the menhir from the giant-spider forest, like dryads from another era.
And it was in this tree, like some feral puck right out of the Greek myths, that I tied a noose around the neck of Snowball the sheep and hung her from a high branch.
(I’ll continue this story tomorrow)…