Bird Creek Summer

I was five and able still to float slightly above the ground when I ran hard, especially downstream over the big rocks in “Cottonmouth Moccasin” Creek. He was the biggest man in the world, my Grand Father. Took me all over that wilderness farm to show me bugs, birch trees and bird song. Yes, you can see bird song, with your eyes shut so tight that the remembered sun looks purple.
Grandfather, still strong, stout and sturdy at seventy-four, taught me how to see, and saw again through my eyes too. We were a pair that summer. “It’s Bird Creek,” he told me. “Don’t exaggerate its name just because you saw one snake and asked me what it was and I told you.”
Going up Bird Creek we both took our shoes off; he carried them, and waded right up the middle, splashing well away from the banks where there had been but the one snake. “A little waterfall,” he said. I said it’s awfully big. “Just always hold on somewhere,” he said, and we climbed right up in no time, him right behind me, carrying our shoes and his hoe.
Trees, mostly hardwoods, some pine, no poison ivy here, and almost no sun: the creek banks a crawling crevice topped by — what? Too far up to see from here.
Hours passed! “One hour,” he told me. We climbed the lower ridge. Below us lay the orchard. I know where we are! “That’s good,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Ranging the rough ridge: much sun here, weeds, grass, a million bugs. “Perhaps,” he said. “Stay on the trail; I think I smell lunch.” I ran ahead then fell behind. I read a spider’s web. Grandfather trod, plodded on, the hoe in his right hand. We could almost see the cabin when his hoe stirred a nest of bees.
They swarmed up, yellow jackets circling looking for a villain just as I got caught up, caught first stings and squealed. Jumped high for someone twice my height and almost really flew down the ridge looking for sanctuary and Grandmother.
Many, many, many leaps further on, a few, I looked back for Grandfather. He stood there in the swarm, his warm denim overall jacket over-decorated with all the yellow jackets except those on his hands and face and hoe. Laughing a big laugh that scared birds, startled deer and made the creek rocks smile.
Still laughing, he helped me cross Bird Creek, put on my shoes and stop crying. “Stop that,” he said. I did. He was still laughing when Grandmother rushed out, hugged me, made a tobacco paste and put in on my stings. Still laughing at lunch.

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