Here is a fresh installment in a story I began this past summer but haven’t hit a lick on in a long time, till now. It’s a story about a father and son in a family that moves from the city to the country
One morning in November, the first of the cold mornings, the two of them, father and son, walked again across the meadows and to the woods. The last cutting of hay had been weeks before and the meadow was now stubble, crisp in the cold, and piled here and there with brush that the farmer had bush-hogged from the edges where the forest had encroached. The soil was soft underfoot and the loose mounds of saplings and weeds threw speckled shadows across the mown field in the low sun of daybreak.
“You know where the birds are? Which of those piles of brush has birds in it?” The father asked. “I mean game birds.”
The boy surveyed the field before answering. He waited, as if for his father to speak again. “I don’t. All of them could. Maybe none of them. I don’t know. They’re all the same.”
“They’re not all the same.”
“They look it to me. Just piles of brush.”
“They don’t all lay the same way. You look. Some of them are turned into the sun and some are crosswise with it. Some are closer to the edge of the woods than others. Some are higher. Some are wider. There’s different kinds of brush in every one. Sassafras, some of them. Some of them are mostly vines. That one there.”
“So, do you know where the birds are? Which pile?”
“I think so. I’d say that one.” He pointed ahead. “But we’ll rattle all of them on our way up there, just to see. “ The father nodded to the boy and looked at the nearest pile and the boy stepped toward it, waiting, and then pulled on the fat end of a stacked sapling and shook the empty pile. He then ran ahead to the next pile and did the same.
When he came to the pile that his father had pointed out he began to circle it but with his first step two grouse flushed like the sound of many waters and stopped him in his tracks, his heart pounding.
“How did you know?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I can’t put it into words. I just knew.”
“Was it any of those things you said?”
“Yes. All of them.”
“But you can’t tell me what I should look for.”
“No. But you’ll learn. If you’re around them long enough and you pay attention, you’ll learn. You’ll just know. It’s the same with a river. The same with fish.”