The Trees Remember Kingston
It’s odd, but many of the things we believed as children we later ridicule as adults. I remember the summers around Silver Lake in Kingston. It’s the place where the child in me grew old.
When I was five I believed that Silver Lake had gotten its name after a vast hoard of pirate treasure had been lost when an old steam ship had blown-up and sunk at the turn of the last century.
How I came upon this belief remains a mystery. It was, however reinforced one June day when I found a silver walking liberty half-dollar in the sand along the shore. There at my feet lay gleaming proof that the bottom of the lake was lined with silver!
One summer day after another I watched with growing excitement as water levels dropped. Brought on, my Grandmother said, by the drought. But, I knew better.
No Great New England Drought was drying up my Lake. This was the work of treasure thieves! My Grandmother had once spoken of, “bailing out the ocean with a spoon.” Even to my young mind it seemed like it would take a long time to empty an ocean with a tool from the dining room table.
But, it seemed very possible that really determined treasure thieves could drain a tiny thing like a lake if they were using buckets.
By mid-August the water level in the Lake had dropped at least two dozen feet. New islands had risen to the surface. Vast expanses of lake bottom lay baking in the hot sun ~ cracked and broken like old dinner plates. But there was no sign of pirate treasure. As I walked out over the crumbling ground I realized where the treasure had gone. When the steam ship blew-up it had shattered the lake bottom like glass as it blasted a hole clear through to the center of the earth.
I rested easy knowing that not even treasure thieves would be able to recover it. At least I still had the silver coin which must have been blown clear as the ship sank and the earth opened up.
As a boy I was fascinated by trees and Indian arrowheads. My Grandmother had a collection of hundreds of arrowheads and spear points gathered over the years and passed down through the generations. She was an old yankee who took great pride in being a direct decendent of Gov. Bradford of the Mayflower.
Listening to her, one would think that the Pilgrims had just landed a few years ago. She even told of how her great-grandmother had once found an arrowhead in a log of an old tree being split for firewood.
After hearing my Grandmother’s story I examined almost every tree I passed while walking in the woods. I was looking for a little piece of stone sticking out through the bark that would mark that tree as an Indian tree.
I was selective in my search. I only inspected big trees – the ones which must have been around during the times of the Indians and Pilgrims. I never found any arrowheads but I did discover a lot of rusty nails.
“Why so many nails?” I wondered. Then I realized that it must have been because the Pilgrims were so poor that they couldn’t afford bullets. I had visions of our Pilgrim fathers fighting it out in the back woods with nothing but nails and gun powder.
It seemed perfectly obvious. In the movies, when the good guy shot the bad guy, he usually said, “Well, I nailed that hombre.”
It also explained why the Pilgrims built so many log cabins. After shooting all those nails at the Indians they had nothing left-over to hold their houses together. Yes! They had to use logs.
I had a set of Lincoln Logs and I could build a perfectly adequate log cabin without a single nail.
Somewhere around this time I also acquired the belief that trees remembered everything they heard. And, when the trees didn’t think anyone was around, they would whisper secrets to each other as the wind blew.
I would lie for hours in the pine grove behind my Grandfather’s house and listen to the talking trees. If I listened really hard I could hear the voices of the Pilgrims and Indians. The pine trees talked the most because they had so many needles with which to hear and whisper.
Pine trees seemed to be very sad. They always sounded like they were sighing. They even cried pine-pitch tears. It was because they were so old and remembered so much. They missed their Indian friends. Even the Pilgrims had gone.
Near the talking trees, on the other side of a stone wall, there was an open field with grass so tall that when the wind blew it looked like waves on the water. Scattered about the field were islands of baby evergreens. When I played and walked through the grass I was careful not to trample the young trees. I figured that they would think well of my kindness and speak good of me when they grew tall and strong.
Several summers later my Grandfather died. I moved away, finished grammar school and then high school. I entered the service, saw the war, got discharged and went on to college. And then another dozen or so years came and went before I returned again to that field.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The ocean of grass was gone. On the other side of the wall there now grew a forest of tall pine trees. I was staggered and just sat on the jumbled stones in utter amazement.
“It can’t be. It just can’t be,” I said to myself as I looked around at the towering trees. “I’m just a young man. I can’t be as old as a forest. It doesn’t happen that way. Forests and trees take forever to grow.”
“No we don’t,” whispered the trees.