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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)

TITLE: The Next Best Thing To Sherwood Forest
By Lynda Schultz


I have returned to the fields and forests of Locksley. No, I’m not Robin Hood. You remember him, Robin of Locksley of Sherwood Forest fame and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s nemesis. But there is a maid in this story—me, but I’m no Marian. And, there is church, but no Friar Tuck.

No, I’ve come back to what used to be Locksley Evangelical United Brethren Church in Locksley, Ontario. Never heard of it? I’d be surprised if you had. The church sits locked in solitary silence, just beside one of the endless side roads that crisscross the farming country of the Ottawa Valley and, typical of many of its generation, comes complete with its own cemetery.

This is “gid’day” country, a throwback to simpler times when a man’s word and his handshake were his bond, and no one thought to lock their doors. A local reporter documented the coming of early settlers to this part of the country. They were mostly German and Irish. The book was called Harvest of Stones, very appropriate considering the endless frustrations of generations of farmers who picked rocks from the fields in the fall only to have the frost spit them up again in the spring. Every year without fail another crop of rocks would have to be gathered before planting could be done. Long before “recycle” was in the dictionary, the valley farmers fenced their lands with—you guessed it—stones.

In spite of all the people who have lived and died in Locksley since the settlers came here to farm more than a century ago, there aren’t more than a dozen graves here in the Locksley graveyard. The graveyard is fenced, but there is no lock on the gate. There is nothing to appeal to even a thief down on his luck.

This is my father’s country. He grew up in this little church. He was born on the farm across the road, one of nine children. His home is long since gone, replaced by a more modern structure trying hard to look like it belongs. His bachelor brothers, George and Alfred, are buried here, as are grandma and grandpa.

The “boys” stayed on the farm until grandma and grandpa passed on. But even after they moved into town, Uncle George was, until his dying day, the official gravedigger for Locksley EUB. Now my cousin Manfred has that honor, though they use a back hoe now and not a shovel to dig the holes. There are seven more places reserved for our family in the cemetery. No one has ever wanted them. Over time, all the brothers, sisters and cousins moved away; lived, died and were buried elsewhere. Manfred is also chief elder in the little white church, and I made him solemnly promise with all the tongue-in-cheek seriousness I could muster, to save me a place in the Locksley cemetery. After all, we can’t have those last remaining pieces of valuable family property go to waste.

But it’s funny that I should be drawn back here. Neither of my parents is buried here. Like all the others they moved away. We lived all our lives hundreds of miles to the north and came back rarely. My parents died in the north and there we committed their souls to God and their “ragged tents” to the ground.

But there is something about the Locksley churchyard that appeals to me. I have no idea what it is. You see, I have never set foot on the farm across the road. I never knew my grandparents on my father’s side of the family. They died before I was born. The farm passed out of the family’s hands when George and Alfred moved into town. That part of my history is locked away in someone else’s memory. But I always thought it would be hilarious to be buried beside the grandparents I never knew, across from the farmhouse I was never in, beside the church that I never attended. There is something about resting in a spot where time stands still, where no one locks the gate, where crickets and cows are the only travelers passing through. Perhaps the pull I feel is a response to something I’ve always yearned to do. Somewhere inside of me a farmer is locked, yearning for cow patty on her boots and an egg basket on her arm. Perhaps my little piece of land in the Locksley graveyard is as close as I’ll ever get.

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This article has been read 1166 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dave Wagner03/13/06
Excellent. This piece is definitely in the right category. Very well written. Some of my favorite lines:

>> ...there is a maid in this story — me, but I’m no Marian.<<
>>...a more modern structure trying hard to look like it belongs.<<
>>...committed their souls to God and their “ragged tents” to the ground.<<

Thanks for posting - this one is terrific.
janet rubin03/14/06
I loved this, mainly because I loved your writing- great phrases in there. I'm pressed for time and only pausing to read and comment on the ones that I think are GOOD and yours is one of them!
Kate Wells03/15/06
There is a similar spot in Alabama where I've never been, that draws me to grandparents I never knew. I didn't think anyone would understand until I read this!
Thanks... I really liked it.
Jan Ackerson 03/16/06
Very good--an interesting combination of serenity and wit. Unique writing style, refreshing to read.
Jessica Schmit03/16/06
I really enjoyed your story (no just because I'm Canadian) you made some valid points and I liked how you used the topic.
Helen Paynter03/16/06
I liked this. You hae a very engaging style.
Cassie Memmer03/17/06
You have made even a cemetery sound inviting! LOL! I especially loved this line - There is something about resting in a spot where time stands still, where no one locks the gate, where crickets and cows are the only travelers passing through. Great writing!

Shari Armstrong 03/17/06
A wonderful twist on the topic -well done!
Rachel Rudd 03/17/06
Very nice! I had a problem getting into at first (with the first paragraph), but was able to get into and liked the wit and ideas you presented. Well-written!
T. F. Chezum03/17/06
I like it. I could see the graveyard, smell the fresh air and feel the cow pie stuck to my shoe ... Good story.
Amanda D'costa03/18/06
I must agree that this is great writing. I've experienced the grace of knowing all four grandparents and also a great grand ma...and now my kids have their grand parents and three great grandparents too... that I never thought of wishing I were somewhere where I've never been with some one close yet never knew. A new idea to ponder upon. Good writing..... Keep on...
Suzanne R03/19/06
I agree - this is EXCELLENT!

As far as the challenge goes, 'lock' stars in many different ways, and they're all so beautifully expressed.

As far as life outside the challenge goes, I think this would be lovely to share with relatives. I don't know if I'm game to write this next suggestion, and it won't be relevant for a great many years yet anyway. But I think it would be beautiful to have printed on the order of service at your funeral. I know, I know ... it is a weird comment for a challenge article ... but your article is full of peace about eternity and the passage of time, and reflects you, who has also journeyed far away.

Just a thought! Maybe just share it with the relatives!