Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did we find a tunnel?

Let me begin with stating that there is disagreement as to whether this actually happened or if it was a vivid dream.I remember everything as I will relate it shortly. One of my brothers claims it never happened. The other remembers some version resembling this and we have lost contact with the friend in the story so we cannot get his take on it. Regardless, it was and is real to me.
I wanted to relate this story to you in order to convey the magic that can be found in the world we all know even without questions of the supernatural. The magic in this story was that the setting has returned to me many times in my writing and in my dreams. It is what led me to love secret passages and hidden places. I still get a thrill when I find holes, caves and tunnels. You never know where they will lead....

I was early on in grade school and it was before the Witch had died so I would guess I was between seven and ten.. The exact time and age is lost to me.
Previously, I mentioned that the property surrounding the Witch's house was littered with barns and other structures. One item could be found in the filed adjacent to her home and just to the South. It was a filed typically planted with corn. The dark green ,high reaching corn with fat ears of golden yellow corn. Once in the field you disappeared from view after only a couple steps.

In the middle of this field there stood a small copse of trees. It was actually one large tree with branches stretching all around from the ground level and up. It created a woody, leafed dome and in the Fall, its gnarled fingers hid its secret except to those who ventured inside the protective space created by the branches. More than once I climbed in during the snowy winters to escape the wind before continuing home.

Once inside the enclosure of branches, no easy feat due to how tightly woven the branches grew, there was a small mound. If you took the time to twine through the branches, you would come to a squared concrete slab. A bit further around and you would be greeted with a sloped opening, leaves and dirt filled up a good portion of the front but slide through and you were surrounded on three sides with sturdy concrete of about seven feet across and five feet tall. The back was a slab that had a piece missing and was cracked all across into four nearly even sections.

On this particular day, I was exploring with my two brothers and their friend. We went directly to the tree and the concrete slabs. We had a couple of shovels and a crowbar or something similar to it. We tossed them into the hole first. The three older boys climbed inside and I was told to sit outside and keep an eye open for Mr. Samples in case he decided to come and check on the field. I'm not sure if he even owned the place but it was enough of a warning to keep me engaged in my duties as the guard.

I heard a lot of cursing and banging coming from inside the enclosure. Not too long later, at least it seems that way now, I was called down into the hole. I scooted my way through the dead leaves and fresh dirt.
I stood up and was amazed to see an entire tunnel with bracings and everything.

The air was warm and damp that came from the new opening.
"I told you it was part of the old mines!" One of the older boys yelled out.
"Are we going in?" I asked.
My oldest brother said, "Yep. As long as the flashlights work."
One flashlight and one mine-light clicked to life. We started through the tunnel.
One of my brothers marked the walls with a piece of chalk and an arrow pointing the way we were walking. The slope went steadily down at an easily managed slope.

In the tunnel or mine shaft, we found old cans, lunch pails, tools and not much else. There was an occasional skeleton of one small animal or another long ago stripped of all flesh. The shaft turned one in a while and did a quick jag back in the original direction. There were passages to the left and right periodically but we had decided not to take any turns so we wouldn't get lost.

I'm not sure how long we walked but eventually the slope started going upwards. We came to a wall of wood and planks. They took a few swings with the heavy bar and broke through. We emerged into the afternoon sun blinking and covered in black dirt.
We looked about and saw we were surrounded by old gob piles. gob is what used to be left over aft a mine had processed all the usable coal. We were in the middle of an abandoned coal mine.
We got our bearings and headed home. Along the way we passed a poison lack the color of deep rust or blood rimmed in the light tan of heavily creamed coffee.

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