Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)
TITLE: The Next Best Thing To Sherwood Forest
By Lynda Schultz
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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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