Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Treasure. And Vegetables.

The Old Garage.
Look out below . . .
Under the floor of the old garage was a dark, mysterious, magical stronghold. A place of adventure. Of devious deeds and dead bodies long kept hidden. Where pirates, coming down the Milk River in ships, hid their treasures. And their secrets.
A place of adventure. Of wonder.
And vegetables.
Accessed only through a solid, well-camouflaged wooden door, this place was known only to the best and brightest . . . and bravest . . . that the ranch had to offer.
Me.
Okay, I admit that I had to wait until one of my larger, stronger minions actually grasped the great iron ring and pulled the door up on its protesting hinges to grant me entry, but from that point . . . I. Was. In. Charge.
Yes, okay, so they also had to reach up to the single hanging bulb and pull the string because it was too far up for me, but from then on . . .
Geeze.
I spent hours there.
Or at least as long as it took my mom to collect her baskets of vegetables and start back up the stairs.
At that point, I would abandon whatever scheme I had launched and scamper up behind her.
I could conquer worlds. Defeat any foe. Accept any challenge.
I just had a bit of a problem with being left in the dark.
The heavy door would be lowered into place with a theatrical thud, and the hideout's secrets would once more be hidden.
Entombed. Quietly, patiently waiting until the next time the sunlight briefly, piteously exposed them.
I loved the root cellar. I loved its mystery. 
Its possibilities.
But I should probably mention here that the south fork of the Milk River never, ever could have floated anything larger than a rowboat.
Well, except, maybe during the flood of '64. But a pirate raid then would, of necessity, have to be brief.
And very, very fast.
So, my stone-walled, dirt-floored stronghold probably never concealed a treasure. Or a body.
I think a cat got mistakenly shut in once for a few hours, but as it emerged unconcerned and completely unscathed, I don't think that counts.
I don't know if that particular root cellar still exists. It had been years since I was back there. But my memories of it are still sharp and clear.
The damp, cool air. The 'heavy' feel of the stone walls and dirt floor. The . . . fuzzy-looking boards that formed the staircase.
But most especially the smells. Earth. Fresh vegetables. Wet, aged wood. Things growing. Things crumbling back into earth.

There is a addendum.
My husband and I have spent many hours travelling on the underground in London, England. It is a remarkably run, efficient system.
But in the deepest tunnels, we met with an unexpected bonus.
Stepping off the escalator, I took a deep breath.
Earth. Old timbers. The natural smells of molder and decay.
I smiled.
It smelled like memories.

18 comments:

  1. Oh you had me grinning here. At first, I thought you were visiting the root cellar as a adult. And I admired you for wanting to linger there. For so long. Then as you filled in the bits it all became clear. Clever. And your ending? Made me wish I was with you. I have a similar reaction to the scent of new wood. It whips me right back to when I was five and exploring the new addition to a neighbor's house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kelly, for remembering with me! Isn't it amazing how the sense of smell can send you back?!

      Delete
  2. We had a root cellar at the house I grew up with but we only used it when tornadoes were near. I hated that space it was damp and full of spiders. I hated it. You should visit Mammoth Caves in KY or Carter Caves (smaller on the Eastern side of the state). Lots of caves to explore. I'm claustrophobic you can have them all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brings a whole new meaning to, "Is this cave all underground?"

      Delete
  3. We had a lovely cellar in the first house I can remember...one half with a cement floor the other half with the spade marks still in it. On wall was lined with shelves filled with preserves. The grading and candling table was there as well. The smell....yes indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So yours held eggs as well! Watching the candling would make it better. A little light in the darkness . . .

      Delete
  4. Isn't it wonderful how a smell can bring back so many memories? I'm still not very brave in the dark :)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't tell anyone, Lana, but me neither!

      Delete
  5. I love your turn of phrase! You rock!
    Love,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my, I can relate to this one. We had a potato farm with a potato pit and I spent many hours there and on the farm playing cowboys and Indians with my brother. I always wanted to be Annie Oakley.
    Loved this one that brought back some sweet memories. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! I wanted to be Annie Oakley as well! I even had the lunch box!

      Delete
  7. Smells are such a strong memory-retriever, aren't they!

    Beautiful flower bed beside the garage in the picture. Did your mother grow that along with the hundred million other things she did?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's all my Mom's work. Wasn't she amazing?! I think you could count on one hand the hours she slept in a lifetime . . .

      Delete
  8. It sounds like a wonderful place for an imaginative small child.
    Not for me though, I'm allergic to moulds, spending more than a couple of minutes in such a place would have me coughing up a lung.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear about that! You'll just have to settle for the stories, River! :)

      Delete
  9. The magic of smells. I knew I was fated to buy the house we now own because the garage smelled exactly like my grandfather's in Tulsa, and one of the kitchen cupboards had the odor of my grandmother's that was lined in oil cloth and was where her giant blue tin of chocolate chip cookies lived.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can just smell them! And I totally understand! :)

      Delete

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