By the following autumn, we had bought the Reynold Bloom farm in Olanta and were packing up the little house on Filbert Street. I don’t have any memories of leaving town, but I do recall the first time we walked into the empty farm house and how the smell of paneled wood steeped in the smoky gauze of coal dust filtered through my nostrils. I remember running through the lower field and pulling the dried seeds off the ragweed stalks and marveling that as far as my eyes could see, there wasn’t another house in view. I recall walking into the attic for the first time and thinking that I was going to be swallowed up into the deep dark corners that seemed to press around me like towering curtains of black velvet. So many memories of those earliest days on the farm, but all tales for other tellings.
Uncle John reminded me recently about Chippy’s first day on the farm and how we almost lost him. In the bustle of packing up the house, someone had set the hamster cage to the side, out of the way, but in the direct sunlight. For hours, Chippy baked in the late August heat and by the time Grammy realized what had happened, he was limp and unconscious. Fervent prayers and a series of dunks in a bowl of cool water brought him around and he survived to climb another couch. How many rodents can boast of being saved not once, but twice, in their lives?
Perhaps it was the onset of old age or maybe an incipient disease provoked the change in behavior, but around the fifth year, we began to notice that he was shunning interaction and was turning his tiny claws and teeth against us with purpose. Eventually he became too difficult to handle and the decision was made that we would take him to a place where he had the best chance of living out the life he would have known, had I not saved him from the stone wall all those years before.