In the early mornings
Of those early years
I walked through the forest to school.
The worn path wound beneath beeches, hickory and oak
And came out at the back of old man Cowl’s field.
There was no other way.
Mr. Cowl hated children, we were told
And would run them off of his land.
I would never have ventured near the place
Except that this was my only way to school
And I walked along the boundary of his land
Far away from his house as I could get
Thinking and hoping that I was too early for him.
But one morning in spring I saw him there
He was waist deep in a ditch on the other side of the field
He wore a wide-brimmed hat of another generation
And swung a mattock
I walked faster and kept to the very edge
Fighting the impulse to run
But before I made it off his land
He looked up from the ditch
Wiped his brow with a red rag
And waved to me.