Friday, March 10, 2017

The Ghost of Wildcat Creek

From the back porch, where I sit with a cup of coffee on the rail and a notebook on my lap, I can see the dog-hobble covered bank of Wildcat Creek. As mundane as this place might seem to some people, it is a place where I draw a great deal of inspiration from. Mornings seem to be the most productive time for me, as I straddle the line between conscience and unconscious-- with one foot still in the dream world, I suppose. I've written pages upon pages here (mostly crap) just trying to figure out exactly what it is that I think.

It is in the evenings, though, that my mind begins to wander, and I find myself distracted with any sound or smell that reminds me of the past. This is usually when I catch a glimpse of him.
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Laying cross-ways on a Persimmon tree that leans across a deep pool is a boy, no more than seven years old. His tattered  jeans rolled up to his knees and his T-shirt covered in silt and mud. He is looking for minnows or crawfish, and when he sees one, he stabs at the water like one of the herons that he saw, stalking the edge for fish or frogs.

He slides back down the tree to the bank, where he wades through the vegetation and jumps down onto a sandbar. He picks up a stick and throws it into the pool, and after the splash, he makes the sound of a stick of dynamite going off. The boy reaches down and takes a handful of sand and pebbles, looking for gold nuggets or some sort of gemstone.

He has a minnow trap that he baits with tiny balls of Sunbeam bread or broken pieces of chunk dog food. He checks the trap and discovers that a crawfish has been captured. Reaching in carefully, he squeezes the critter behind the head and claws and brings it out of the basket. The crawfish somehow reaches around and pinches the side of his thumb, and the boy squeals and drops it into the water, where it disappears in a cloud of mud.

The boy wishes he knew the names of all the plants and songbirds he sees as he explores the creek bottom. He wants to know because he loves this place, and he loves everything in it, even the spiders and the snakes and the crawfish that usually get the best of him.

The creatures here expect nothing of him, and he always feels accepted. This is the only place that he can find peace. He can use his imagination to make up stories and pretend he's somebody else: an explorer or a soldier or an Indian. None of the worries or fears that he has exist out here.
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I've put my notebook aside and now I'm walking the path along the creek bank, with just enough light to find my way. I push through the saplings and laurel and stand on the bank above a deep pool where a tree once leaned across. The last reflections of trees overhead are still on the water's surface.

As for the boy, he still haunts this place. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him as I walk these woods.

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading here. I enjoyed being treated to your childhood. It's going to get warm so, during your walks by the water, watch out for those cottonmouths.

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    1. Thank you so much, David. I'm glad you enjoy it. And the cottonmouths have a way of showing up when least expected.

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  2. Again, Josh, as we've come to expect from your musings, there is great imagery. We feel the coolness of the creek water between our toes and whisper an uncontrolled "Dang it" as we are outsmarted by the crwwfish along with your nature boy. Your tales are far from simple, yet offer a wonderful simplicity of thought and emotion as your words flow. You're a writer that I can read every day.

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    1. Thank you so much, Dean. I wish that it was possible to put into words all of the vivid details in my mind of this great landscape that we live in.

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