CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The morning began at 5:30 for me. My granddad roused me out and let me know that I was to plow the Tolbert flat with the team and the turning plow. Big deal for a teenager.
I rounded up the horses. They knew what was to come and thus they delayed my commands until they knew it was time to get serious about the day and then they would come and trot into their respective stalls. Like people who sit at table the same place, so do horses go to the same stall.
I harnessed them. Small me throwing heavy harness onto animals 10 times my size. But they allowed it and never made a threatening move except for their ears. When I did something that offended their space, their ears would turn back. It was a signal to watch out.
Harnessed and ready, I hitched them to the sled with the turning plow on it and went to the Tolbert flat. It was one of those places on my grandfather's land that was flat and absent of rocks, more or less. So, I went about the business of turning the earth. I circled around the acreage from outside to the middle. When finished there was a field of waves of earth, all the weeds, leaves and all else covered; and the earth with its potential of organic life and the stuff of life exposed in uniform to the sun and rain. Then it was ready for more cultivation and the planting of the seeds to make for the grains and plants of life.
Now the sun announced that noon was here. Noon on the farm was a blessed event. It was a time to unhitch, to put aside hoe and gather with the family at table, but only after the horses had had their relief from the morning's efforts and had their most important relief at the pond.
I would unhitch the horses and mount Old Dick, the more accommodating of the team, and ride him while holding the reins of the other horse. It was a joyous and hurried ride. Both horses and plowman were ready for a break and for food and drink.
The trot was to the pond and the trot never slowed. The pond was far from the Tolbert flat but soon we were there. Here was a pond fed by a spring in sylvan setting. Huge trees canopied the spring. It was cool and the pond was clear with water from the earth. One has never enjoyed the sound of the relief of drink until he has heard the suck of hot horses at pond after a morning of pulling a plow. A glass of water is nothing to the gallon that is consumed by that great drinking of the horses.
On approach, the frogs sensed trouble, jumped in and went to the bottom to stir the sediment to hide themselves. The horses waded in. Their hooves sunk into the muck, and when they stepped there was a great sucking sound. In a moment or two a frog would emerge with quizzical eyes. Soon there more eyes wondering what was going on.
There was always the dance and theatrics of the dragonflies and another creature that always captured my attention, a creature as delicate as a creature can be and live on the stage of the living. It strived and skated about the pond with legs of spider dimensions and had pontoons for feet that allowed it to skate on the surface tension of the pond un-wet. It seemed to skate about with a joyousness, driven to strive about on the water. A strider, I called it.