Nothing like a special place to take one far away.

Posted in Featured, Stories

Choosing my steps carefully, I walked barefoot down the old dirt path filled with rocks and ruts. One hand held a library book; the other clutched a bag of Cheetos. Usually my dog, Tramp, followed me, but today he was nowhere to be found.

Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I walked, while purple martins caught mosquitoes in the blue sky. The air was filled with the tang of freshly turned soil from the fields on both sides of me.

A cottonwood tree stood alone like a lighthouse near the creek south of Storm Lake, but the tree wasn’t my destination. It took my 9-year-old footsteps about 20 minutes to reach a large, sun-drenched rock lodged in the middle of the creek, downstream from the cottonwood’s shadow. I perched there for most of the afternoon, splashing my feet in the cool water while reading the latest “Encyclopedia Brown” mystery or “Little House on the Prairie” episode. Red-winged blackbirds called to one another, while clouds occasionally provided shade from the Iowa summer heat. Minnows brushed up against my feet or snapped at the stray Cheeto that fell from the bag.

An orange explosion was created with each crunching bite. Sometimes I tried to let one melt in my mouth, but I rarely succeeded, just like I had never been able to lick my way to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

I easily got lost in reading, but when I took a break after an hour or so, I realized the creek was as busy as the characters in my book!

Closing my eyes, I could hear the breeze rustling through the cottonwood branches and feel it brush back the bangs of my pixie haircut. If I was lucky, I could hear the subtle movement made by a beaver or muskrat out for a swim.

Opening my eyes, I saw the tall grass sway in the breeze like dancers moving to a tune only they could hear. Glancing down, I noticed the colored pebbles made smooth by the constantly running water. On the shoreline were dens dug by fox, turtle and probably a few skunks. The beaver slide was visible if you knew where to look.

Returning to my book, I realized my orange fingertips had created a unique bookmark. I read a few more pages, but soon my skin began to cool, a sign that it was time to head for home. Rinsing my orange hands in the water caused me to shiver, but I had learned to wait until my feet were dry before returning to the dirt path.

That’s my special place. What’s yours?