Harley's Woodlot


Seth Harley had the closest farm to my hometown, back in the fifties.
It was a dairy farm that milked maybe eighty cows and sat on about a hundred acres.
The town boundaries had not changed, in a formal sense, for almost two hundred years, but the area was still growing and the good farming land closest to the town was worth more to a builder than what most farmers could ignore.
To the North and South and East, all the ground that bordered the town had gone over to the house builders. On the Western boundary, which was where Seth's land was, his neighbors on either side of him had already sold out - but Seth still held on.
Aunt Jessie Harley (she was called that by both young and old, for as long as anyone could remember) had borne Seth three daughters and two sons. Charlie, the oldest, lost his life on an atoll in the South Pacific in 1944, and his younger brother, Michael, met the same fate on Christmas Day of the same year, during a famous battle in Belgium. Aunt Jessie kept the stars in her window until the day she passed.
The children of the town were much enamored of the Harley property, as you can imagine, and old Mr. Seth never had a harsh word for any child that crossed his ground. We would ride our bikes along the road that went next to his orchard, and sometimes took an apple or two, without fear of consequences.
Our favorite place to gather was his woodlot.
It was called, "Harley's Woodlot", but it was more like a park than any park in the town.
It described an area of about two acres and held the most marvelous trees in it. There were oaks, both red and white, walnuts and butternuts (which we locals called black and white walnut), sycamores, and maples, both hard and soft. It is probably where I fell in love with wood.
My favorite, and I was not alone in this, was the single huge beech tree, which sat in a clearing in the middle of the lot. As wide as it was tall this, above all others, was the tree that gave rise to our childish fantasies. In Summer it was a cave, with heavy leafed branches hanging to the ground, and all manner of mysteries encompassed in its folds. In late Fall it was the climbing tree, the tree that tested you and your brethren, and who could climb to the highest part.
It was often the case that Mr. Seth would stop on the hill above the woodlot and watch us at our games. He would wave. We would wave.
To see the place would give you pause, as there was not a twig on the ground, neither was there any tree with split and hinging branches - it was a place of nature but also of order. You see, Mr. Seth allowed any of the poorer families in town to come and take away the deadwood, so that they might have a few more warm nights, when they could not pay the coal man.
Mr. Seth passed away, in his bed, on a Sunday morning in the Spring of 1959.
None of his daughters had husbands who were farmers by nature. One was a schoolteacher. Another was a carpenter. The third was not spoken of within the hearing of children.
The farm was put up for sale and everyone figured that pretty soon the houses would start going up.
Well, they did, but it turns out that there was a part of Mr. Seth's will that dealt specifically with the woodlot. Mr. Seth had left the woodlot to the children of our town, with the proviso that the town would enlarge its boundaries to include it, and would not use its own efforts to clear away the deadwood.
For the first time in about two hundred years the town petitioned to change its boundaries. The Township to the West gave its blessing without hesitation.
To this day it is the best park in town, and the cleanest.
And the plaque at the entrance does not say, "Harley Park", it says, in large wooden letters, touched by the merest hint of gilt:
"Harley's Woodlot".
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 (webpage)
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... snip

The stuff of kid's memories
.. snip

Thanks Tom.
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ The absence of accidents does not mean the presence of safety Army General Richard Cody +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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wrote:

sniffle, snort, where are the tissues?
'Nuther keeper Tom.
--
Nahmie
Those on the cutting edge bleed a lot.
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Tom Watson wrote:

Darn it Tom now you've got my wife looking at me and wondering why I'm crying. Thanks. Dave in Fairfax
--
Dave Leader
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Wonderful.
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As always. <sniff> Tom

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On Sun, 13 Feb 2005 16:51:32 -0500, the inscrutable Tom Watson

Another sniffler, fer sher, Tawm.
Kudos.
-- Vidi, Vici, Veni --- http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
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Great story.....and it sounds ideall. I'd love to visit it. Thanks! bill

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Thank you Tom. Took me back to my days of exploring, playing, imagining, observing and discovering the "woods" behind our house in N. Virginia back in the '60s.
--
Owen Lowe and his Fly-by-Night Copper Company
____

"Sure we'll have fascism in America, but it'll come disguised
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Thanks to those who enjoyed the story.
It is true - in its own way.
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1 (webpage)
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On Tue, 15 Feb 2005 20:06:31 -0500, the inscrutable Tom Watson

Fracking fiction? How COULD you? ;)
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On Wed, 16 Feb 2005 07:15:29 -0800, Larry Jaques

What, you didn't recognize that? Just like most reporters or columnists, do you really think all of those things that they embellish childhood with happened in the childhood of those who write?

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ The absence of accidents does not mean the presence of safety Army General Richard Cody +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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On Wed, 16 Feb 2005 21:17:36 -0700, the inscrutable Mark & Juanita

Hey, I read it on the Internet. It HAS to be true, doesn't it? <bseg>
--
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than Christianity has made them good." --H. L. Mencken
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