Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine Fifteen: Phil's Backyard

Phil's Backyard
Paleo Playground

     Old Phil Stine ran past the leavings from the morning hog feeding. His dog Tuesday, a yellow dog of indeterminate age and breeding, kept pace on his left flank. Running easily past the clearing, they cut left through a dense thicket of scrub pine and palmetto and broke clear into the vista that was Phil's backyard. While Phil's old family holdings were a mere one hundred or so acres, they were acres that backed up onto a vast wetlands of both public and private holdings, many square miles of untouched land except for the cattle that roamed throughout and the handful of men who rode the fence line and also the occasional hunters who illegally found their way onto the place.

     Approaching a mud bog that could have been inches deep or bottomless, Phil increased his speed, bounding forward and leaping onto an old swimming pool diving board that he had cemented firmly in place there, gaining no small amount of height and speed and throwing him physically clear of the bog, as Tuesday ran around and over with a small leap of her own. They were moving fast now, dodging and leaping and cutting through small openings that would have been invisible to someone who did not know how to see them. Blasting forth into yet another small clearing, there stood a magnificent old Florida live oak, its huge branches spreading out and commanding and sheltering the clearing with a kind of patriarchal presence. 
     Beneath the tree was an ancient Reo Speedwagon Fire Truck, abandoned there by Phil's grandfather many years before. Phil and his dog leaped into the rear of the truck, then onto the roof and from there he climbed into the lowest branch, a broad, sturdy limb that served as a night time highway for all manner of wild nocturnal creatures who were also aware of these wild domestic creatures; for Old Phil and Tuesday sometimes made this run at night, when an August full moon lighted the area in a misty benevolent glow that brought forth all the many creatures of the swamp, and yes, it also would at times bring forth Old Phil Stine.

     With Tuesday waiting on the roof of the antique truck below Phil scrambled into a wide spot in the tree two dozen feet off the ground. Stashed there were a handmade bow and some roughly hewn arrows, their points hand carved from flint, perhaps crafted by some New Age artisan who was fond of old things and old ways; but these were not. These weapons were hundreds of years old. Where they came from was anybody's guess, perhaps relics of the tribal Timacuan from so long ago, when all of this was a primordial place; but again, no. Old Phil Stine knew where they came from. Old Phil Stine knew how to use them. 
    Notching an arrow, he let fly with one rapid movement, and the shaft buried itself into a small, five inch circle that had been blazed into the side of a burned stump, a reminder of the vast fires that sometimes raged through the place. The dog Tuesday, leaping from the roof of the truck, dashed forward and struck a tense pose a yard from the target. These arrows did not always find their mark in a stump, you see, and yet Phil never missed. But had this stump instead been some animal, say, that had spent the winter eating free corn and molasses and table scraps, then the dog Tuesday would have been ready to delay the creature's escape with an iron clamp of her doggy jaws.

     Phil replaced the the bow in its hiding place. He loosened an old rope from a small branch, and swung easily down to the stump and his dog. Tuesday and master embraced joyously, then dashed off once again into brush and swamp that could be deadly to anything tame. There were other stone-age weapons hidden throughout their course, knives and spears and also herbs, strange concoctions that could ward off insects and heal small wounds. Old Phil Stine knew these things, he learned them from his grandfather, who learned them from his...this place, this old Florida place, remained primordial; it always was a place of power and danger and life. This now half-wild man and his dog were romping free and happy in an ancient place. Their dance of life was at one with the place, and the creatures of the wetlands glorified in their presence and felt ennobled by their passing.

     In this way Old Phil Stine and his animal Tuesday were gods, they were the stuff of myth and yet...oh, they were real. Very real and very ready. Trouble was coming.


  1. I so want to be out there in the clearing , under that great live oak. Definitely a mystical, magical place.

    Uh oh on the trouble brewing...

    Waiting with baited breath for the next installment. :)


  2. Wow I think that was the best one yet - loved the sense of place you wove, I would love to sit with my back to a tree like that, my black lab at my feet, and ponder life's mysteries......

  3. Can I negotiate the movie rights for you on this, TJ? This is turning out better than my already too high hopes!

  4. Thanks guys. I really appreciate it. I wrote the ending last night. It made me cry.


  5. TJ,

    Good stuff. Love the atmosphere of the place - I can almost smell it.

    Steve Z

  6. Good. Got the dog in this one.

    Nice imagery and flow. Like it.