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Backyard pastoral

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Although I never knew its measurements, I'd say our backyard lot was twenty feet by forty, or thereabouts, but it stretched as far as the mind could see if you'd read enough ''Bomba, The Jungle Boy,'' ''Green Mansions,'' ''Kidnapped,'' and ''Huckleberry Finn,'' or even ''Wuthering Heights'' and ''Gone With The Wind.'' Put that on top of Hans Christian Andersen and the tales of the brothers Grimm, and you've got a very large and crowded backyard lot. For jungle or forest we had a thicket hedge, a bush, a tree, and a vine - don't ask what kind; they were the only ones I'd ever seen. For mountains there was a hardened mound of cement, left from a pouring of no-one-remembered-what. For swamps and moors - whatever they were - grass, and mud (lots of that,) and for beanstalks, a sunflower plant, high as the sky - a giant trap for sure, if you were Jack. And Long John Silver had a clothesline pole with iron spikes to climb to a crow's nest top. Here, lookouts searched the tenemented seas for masts that flew the skull and crossbones flag, while drying clothes flapped madly in the breeze. Our caves and tunnels were basements, dank and dim, and filled with abandoned furniture that took the shapes of monsters, dragons, or ghosts, or, overturned, a mysterious chamber behind the secret panel, behind the hidden wall, behind the fake-front bookcase that swiveled when we said the magic word. Now, I've sailed those seas and walked those woods, seen mountains, deserts, and most of what I've read, but nothing so vast, or grand, or just plain good as that backyard lot I keep in my head.


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