by John Sheirer
One evening when I was about thirteen, I took a walk down the dirt road that semi-circled our farm. I walked out on the railroad bridge, hoisted myself up onto the side, and let my feet dangle over the water of Little Wills Creek. There was something about the sound of the clear water flowing and the colors of the rocks rippling beneath in the dusky light that made me as peaceful and content as I'd ever been. I wasn't thinking about why girls didn't like me as much as I liked them, or whether I be a major league baseball player when I grew up, or why my mother insisted on making beef liver for dinner once a month.
This might have been as close to a meditative state as I've ever been, as close to nature and myself. So it was quite a shock when the moment was broken by one of the Lord boys yelling out, "What the hell you doin' there!?" I nearly fell into the water.
It was Baron Lord, a twenty-year-old grandson of our neighboring family's patriarch. The Lords had purchased much of their property from my grandparents decades before, then erected fences and became small-scale xenophobes who were obsessed with keeping people off their property. "Lord Land," we called it, as much for the irony as acknowledgment of ownership. At one time, there was probably a good reason the Lords discouraged trespassers. They had valuable equipment that could have been stolen or vandalized. But by the time I came along, their farm had been shut down for so long that the stuff over there had little more than museum value.
I had seen Baron at church and in town and probably never exchanged more than a "hi" with him. He walked to the edge of the railroad bridge and stared at me. I just stared back at him for a few seconds, not understanding why he had yelled at me. Then I noticed the rifle he held across his chest, not pointed at me exactly-but not down at his side either.
"I'm just sitting here," I said.
"What do you mean, just sitting there?" he asked, looking suspicious.
"I'm just sitting here," I repeated. "Thinking. Looking at the water. Just sitting here."
"You were on our property," he said, less an accusation that a statement of what he considered fact.
"No," I replied.
"You weren't over there?" he said, gesturing with the barrel of his rifle.
"No," I said. "I never go over there. That's your property. I was just sitting on the bridge. It belongs to the railroad."
Baron puzzled over this for a minute. Then he lowered the rifle and walked out to where I sat in the middle of the bridge. He peered down into the water.
"How long you been sitting here?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said. "Half an hour maybe."
"Your parents know where you are?" he asked, trying to sound grown up, even though he had just a few thin blonde whiskers on his chin.
"They know I'm out for a walk. I'm not a baby," I replied.
"You know anybody who's been over on our property?" Baron asked.
"No," I replied. It was a white lie. A school friend two miles down the road told me he kept animal traps on Lord property, but I had no way of knowing for sure.
"It is nice up here on the bridge," he said, gazing down into the hypnotic water. "You just sit here thinking, do you?"
"What do you think about?" he wondered.
"Nothing, I guess." This was a hard question to answer. "It's nice not to have to think about anything."
"Nothing." he repeated. "You're a deep little guy, aren't you."
I shrugged my shoulders. We shared a few moments of quiet, listening to the creek and looking out into the woods.
"If you hear of anybody being on our property, you'll tell me, won't you?" he said.
"Sure," I replied.
"You take it easy then, Mr. Thinker." He walked back the way he came, then down the hill to where his care was parked along the road. I hadn't even heard him drive up. Then he drove off with a wave.
Looking back on it now, that was the longest conversation I'd ever had with a Lord. If I could return to that moment, I'd ask him why his family was so obsessed with trespassing.
About the author:
John Sheirer teaches public speaking, writing, and literature at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut. His writing has been published widely in print and on the internet, and his most recent books are Saying My Name: Selected Poems, 1982-2002, and Free Chairs (essays). He is currently completing a memoir, Growing Up Mostly Normal in the Middle of Nowhere.