Monday, February 28, 2011

The Field

For my creative writing class I had to turn in an essay that deals with some aspect of my hometown. Having just recently jotted down a few memories of my childhood I decided to take a couple of those and expand them into essay form. What here follows is the result:

I think that every little boy needs a field. I’ve heard people say that every little boy needs a dog, or a BB gun or rocketship pajamas, but I contend that if that little boy doesn’t have a field to call his own they all come to naught. Without a field those necessities are incapable of living up to their billing and the boy’s world will be nothing more than a gaping chasm of unrealized potential. As a boy I was lucky enough to have just such a field.

The field behind my house was the site of innumerable exotic adventures, historical recreations and sporting heroics the likes of which the world has never seen nor imagined. In that field I was Teddy Roosevelt as he stormed San Juan Hill and furthered the imperial ideals of America. It was back there that I along with David acquired the very knowledge about the use of a sling and stone needed in order to defeat Goliath. In that field crushed the longest home runs ever to roaring approval of my adoring fans and the jealous envy of Babe Ruth. That field played host to me, Tarzan’s son, as I became an even better vine-swinger than my father had ever dreamed of being. That field was the jungle scene where Sammy, the fearless explorer, discovered and captured with my bare hands the rare birds and other animals that made me famous as the most respected zoo keeper in the world. That field was the front lines of World War III where I, disregarding self and safety, army-crawled my way behind enemy lines, assassinated the terrifying great-grandson of Hitler, and saved America and the western world from certain destruction. It was there that I became convinced that I was destined for great things.

Though the trials and adventures I faced in that field were many and varied, and while they hold a prominent place in the formation of the man I am today, there was one particular experience in that field that stands out above the rest. And, interestingly, it was neither a daring rescue nor a sporting anomaly. It happened on a chillingly brisk afternoon in the late fall not long after Keesh, the fastest, lovingest, best dog in the history of the world, died.

First a word about Keese. Keesh was a dog. I say that in the way that people say that Steve McQeen was a man, a man who helped define in our cultural consciousness what it means to be a man. Manliness incarnate. If you look up the word “man” in a dictionary, you see a picture of Steve McQueen. If Steve McQueen, then, was a man, Keesh was a dog. He was everything a dog should be. As a small boy I spent hours chasing Keesh up and down the field. Once I’d exhausted both him and me, I would lay down with him in a heap of breathless ecstasy wondering if I'd ever be fast enough to keep up with him. I dreamed of being an Olympic-caliber runner who used the unorthodox training method of chasing my dog Keesh. It would be a world-wide breakthrough in running training and strategy. Other times I would ask Mom if it was okay if I tried to ride him. The answer was always no, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Pet cats came and went like Utah's seasons, but Keesh was a pillar of constancy in my young life. I could always depend on Keesh to be there. Keesh was as much a part of the family as I was. One late summer afternoon I took a bowl full of bones out to him, thrilled to see the look of excitement on his face when he saw the treat that I had for him. I found him lying motionless under the cherry tree. I realized he wasn’t going to wake up and I went back into the house to sob for hours. The world was never so dark, before or since.

As the carefree days of that summer turned to the scholastic doldrums of fall, I often found myself, while in class, daydreaming of the adventures I would have in the field when I got home. With the days growing shorter and colder, Mom wouldn’t let me stay out as long as I wanted. As such I had to make the best of the few hours of late afternoon sunlight that were afforded me. One particular afternoon in late October my sister Heather and I took a break from our regularly scheduled adventure programming and we walked over to the corner of the field where Keesh was buried. The burial site was over next to the Chinese elm tree—whose branches were filled with “those damned magpie nests”—that shaded the unused and somewhat dilapidated pig pen and the compost piles that smelled vaguely of grass clippings and chicken manure. This was the part of the field that bordered on Daryl’s pasture where he kept his cows and sheep. Daryl, the wrinkled and arthritic farmer who kept of a dead cat in his freezer, was always warning us to stay away from that part of our field because his cows might see us and get angry and jump over the fence that separated our property from his and attack us. So it was with some trepidation and full reverence that we approached the hallowed ground of Keesh’s final resting place.

Assured that the cows were far away from us, Heather and I stood there contemplating the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. We decided that Keesh needed a grave marker so we searched high and low for a sufficiently noble marker befitting a dog of Keesh’s character. We decided that a medium-sized piece of weather-worn barn wood that had fallen off of the chicken coop was perfect. We found a sharpish rock and Heather, who assured me that since her handwriting was better than mine it would better withstand the eraser of time, carved Keesh’s name into the bleached woodgrain. We placed the marker over where we guessed Keesh’s head was and, content with the homage we had paid, scrambled up onto the rail fence and sat awhile.

I sat there in my gray Member’s Only jacket next to Heather, my cheeks surely rosy from the biting wind and with a drop of snot clinging to my nose, and looked out over the world in its Bluffdale majesty. From that vantage point we could see across ours and all of our neighbors' pastures. The pasture grass, short and a dull green that in recent weeks was turning more and more brown due to the oncoming winter, stretched on seemingly forever. It was interrupted only by an occasional cow or sheep and the fences that marked property lines. The ditches were long since empty and the whole world was at peace. A flock of starlings with their complex and ever-changing formations flew by like a meticulously choreographed wind-born dance. We sat there for what seemed like hours without saying much to each other. I would say we were lost in our own thoughts, but I frankly don’t remember having any thoughts whatsoever. In that moment I simply was. It was a moment that was purely existential. In the growing dusk I was, more than at any other time in my life, in perfect harmony with everything around me. As the sun set, the sky exploded with color; pinks and oranges and yellows cast by the last rays of sunlight illuminated the few clouds in the sky. It was the most beautiful scene I’d ever witnessed. In that moment, as Mom called us in to dinner and we crawled down off of the fence, racing for home, I was happy.


  1. I find it interesting that the same field can conjure up such different memories. Although, that might be a result of there being sheep in that field and pigs in that sty until I was about 12 years old. However, I do have great memories of going over to the coop (the one that was torn down years ago) to see the newborn lambs.

  2. Nice job. Crazy how things change over the course of a few years. You wouldn't think there used to be a field there by looking at it now.

  3. This was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I love to remember the happy, carefree days of my children's youth. It brought me joy then . . . and now.

  4. I thought this was both lovely and poignant. Your blog delights me.

  5. That part of the fence was so cool, it was like a little bench. So many great memories of that field.