A Picture Worth a Thousand Words.

We have all heard the saying, and I am assuming when I say that we all understand its meaning. For today’s writing prompt I decided to do exactly that. One picture that I took, and one thousand words that I write. Here goes.20170630_202000

When I was on a recent trip to Idaho, we stayed on a family owned ranch along the Salmon River near Clayton. The area itself is full of history. As with many small towns scattered across the west, there is gold in them thar hills. Silver and gold to be more precise. Prospectors and miners panned the stream beds and tunneled deep underground in search of precious metals. While I was out fishing, I came upon an old settler’s cabin. The sun was resting just above the horizon, sharing its last bit of warmth of the day. The cabin lay nestled in a grove of trees. A small pond stretched between the cabin and myself like the moat of a castle.

With amphibians croaking, insects taking flight, I took a minute to really look at what was in front of me. It wasn’t just an old historic cabin. This was once somebody’s home. The more I looked, the story of once was, became apparent. I could clearly see the faint rise of smoke drifting from the chimney as mother was finishing up supper for her soon to be home husband. To keep them from getting underfoot, the children had been sent outside to chase emerging fireflies in the late afternoon air. Minutes pass before a man, worn and dirty could be seen walking the lane towards home. The labor of the day was evident in his weary stride. It was father. A man still young in years, but aged beyond from the harsh conditions of the twelve-hour workdays in the mine.

He stops by the edge of the small pond to wash. Near to him, tied between a giant oak tree and a smaller sapling, there is a freshly laundered shirt and a threadbare towel that have been hung to dry above the fragrant sage brush and wild flowers. The children wait eagerly to welcome him home, yet they remain at a distant.  A routine they are familiar with. They watch in quiet respect as he eases of his suspenders and removes his shirt. The oldest child, a young girl of eleven steps forward handing her dad a wooden pail then retreats. The father nods his appreciation then goes about his washing. He leans over the bank and splashes great handfuls of water on his grizzled face. The grime of the days works soon peels off in small rivulets dripping from his ears and nose. He fills the bucket twice scrubbing his fingers through his matted scalp. He shakes his head, much the same as a dog, drops of water flinging from his head and beard cause the kids to giggle as they are struck. He towels dry and dons his clean shirt. This is what the children have been waiting for. Gone is that man with the hunched shoulders, washed away with the filthy water. The man now stands tall and proud as he welcomes his children to him, hugging each of them in turn and listening to a blather of stories as they all talk at once.

A boy of eight retrieves his father’s dirty shirt, carrying it with one hand like it was full of the plague. The eldest girl fetches the bucket. Together they walk to the small cottage. Mother can be seen standing on the small veranda. Hands clasped together in front. A welcoming smile brightens her face. Small in stature, she does her best to block the door, shooing the children towards the wash basin before entering the house. She takes her husband’s hat, placing it on a rusty nail set out from the wall. A warm embrace follows. Daily small talk ensues as she begins pulling out table settings and linens. A loaf of bread, still warm from the oven is placed in the center of the table by a small pot of stew. Heads bowed, hands together they say grace. A special thanks for the bounty before them, and the safe return of their father.

The evening air is cool. Outside on the porch, mother is adding patches to father’s breaches, while the children settle around for a story. Father takes a pipe from the sill of the window. Taking his time, he stuffs it with tobacco, little pinches at a time. The striking match illuminates their faces. Soon a small puffing noise could be heard matching the orange glow of his pipe. The trailing smoke had a sweet fragrance to it. He puffs on the pipe, rocking back and forth in an old rocker he had built with his own hands. His deep voice cuts through the night as he tells them the story of Vehria The Greenthumb. A goddess with the power of nature. He told his children how Vehria had taken one seed, and with it created the plants of the world, including the forests that they lived in. The children listen with awed faces. He concludes his story and silence ensues. The crickets serenade them while the younger ones try to wipe the sleep away from their eyes. Father pics up the youngest, a four-year-old daughter, brown hair and eyes, just like her mother. He continues to rock in his chair, stars beginning to push through the dark. He shares a mile with mother as his daughter nuzzles in close.

No I didn’t write this on the spot. I was however thinking of something similar. I was supposed to be fishing, with on a normal day usually takes precedence. But not on that day. That day as I looked at the old cabin, I wondered about the stories that remain locked away inside. It was at this time I snapped this picture. And as I first stated, a picture is worth a thousand words. To the hundreds of thousands of people who pass by that very same cabin every year, I wonder how many of them see the story hidden beneath its weathered roof.  Look for the story. It is there waiting, if only you dig deep enough.

D.B. Flint

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