Dad's ashes are out there - a few steps from the front door, mixed with the roots of a new, red Hawthorne tree. On quiet mornings, his ghost, cut from soft, gray silk, floats above the trees near the biggest pond.
On summer nights I left my blood in the bellies of mosquitoes that found me inside the RV. I made runs to Taco Bell for tortillas and burritos, my chest marinating in the juices as I ate them, while watchingCanadian television with feeble rabbit ears on the seven-inch screen.
RoseMary The Wonder Dog was with me during that summer, sleeping quietly on the concrete apron of the driveway. Her wide, black lips still, and stuck to the cool cement. Once in a while, her head lifted when she heard a sound in the tall grass or when a hawk or deer passed near.
That was a solitary summer. No one around, no visitors.
I explored the hand-dug ponds, and played with the water that followed the land from the top to the bottom of the hill. I made dams, diversions, catch boxes, and directed the water through wire and rock filters to the bank of the pond and the ditch below.
Trails and paths were made from old wood palettes. They lay over the mud and around the ponds. I cut low branches, planted and moved pines, hacked the weeds, mowed the meadows, made more paths and lanes and hideaways while RoseMary sniffed out, and dispatched the voles in the pear orchard.
When I mowed, I drove once through the tall grass with the blade still, then again with the blade moving to avoid killing gopher snakes. I made boxes for wrens and swallows from weathered cedar, saved from fences and old buildings the spare shakes from my shed. I made a house, tall, with two compartments and a narrow slot at the bottom, for the bats. I hung it from the roof peak.
The day I brought home a steel barrel to use to burn paper, I had to make holes in the bottom for air flow. I used my long-barreled, .22 revolver. My cowboy gun. It made me laugh at what I was doing, and the neighbors yelled, wondering what battle was on, as I shot six, neat holes in the oil drum.