Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

THROUGH THE WOODS: Childhood freedom

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BEING CONFINED has always been difficult for me. I am not sure how I would handle the present norm of being tied to the internet and parents afraid to let one out of their sight. Our Covid-19 epidemic has been a time to reflect on this and I hope we conquer this pandemic soon with a life of freedom returning.

Looking back on those 1950s childhood years there was loose supervision, maybe because my farming parents were too busy to worry about us every minute. I heard my father, and his sisters were raised like this. We always had horses and Tiger was my first horse ridden at age 5. I could ride to my grandparents farm a mile away and not have to beg for someone to drive me. My grandmother worried about me and tried to know where I was wandering on family farms. Gradually she got resigned to it as I grew older and survived, only noting and patching my perpetually cut, scratched and bruised state.

Butterfly on knapweed. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

My Uncle Harold understood and said my mother was always sitting around with her nose in a book. He liked a life of adventure too and taught many useful things and loaned or gave me his camping, boating, fishing gear he no longer used. I mowed a lot of lawns and worked hard to get horse gear improvements and worked with neighbors to train and ride different horses.

Our area farm kids were few and we often rode our horses together over summer vacations, even after we learned to drive and got licensed. You haven’t lived until you have eaten a warm, squashed baked bean sandwich tied to a saddle. My current home is located on part of one of our dairy farms. I will not be able to ride horseback again, so now drive around to places I rode my horse and enjoy the view of the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

One of my Ockawamick Central School classmates lived on a farm in Claverack, and I could see her place from my Austerlitz hill. Now that farm has trees that block the view. I still know where it is and keep my place open enough to see it. My brother-in-law kindly cut a path around my field, and I drove around it today. The monarda, the wild lavender bee balm, was widespread and being enjoyed by butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds. I turned off the motor and sat with open windows and sunroof, binoculars in hand. A nice 8-point buck in velvet jumped up and trotted into the woods.

Swallows were flying over catching the fat dragon flies. The beautiful little yellow goldfinches were stuffing themselves with abundant thistle seed. The layers of grass were full of flowers with three kinds of clover, birdsfoot trefoil, daisy fleabane and purple knapweed. Monarch butterflies were scarce with only a few visiting their host plants, the patches of milkweed, to lay their eggs.

It was a happy day enjoying nature and remembering the wonderful freedom and places of my childhood.

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