If I squinted, the farm looked pretty much the same as it had when I left, 9 years ago, blinking back tears. The pond had shrunk; the bluegrass had grown longer and gone to seed. The fence lay halfway down.
Frost bleached the roof, yet no smoke rose from the chimney of our farmhouse on the knoll. The front field that the goats used to clear was now overgrown with larkspur, ragwort and blackberry. No sign of livestock, chicken or ducks. The horse barn was leaning at an odd angle, as though reeling from a strong wind. Between the cow barn and the house, the dust seemed as untracked as the snow-powdered mountainsides of the Rockies I had just seen day before yesterday from the train.
I walked over to the corner of the cow barn. The tall splints Pa and I had fashioned were still in place, still straight.
I remembered the young black bull, Napoleon, no higher than Pa’s shoulder, in a sudden burst charging at the big Hereford bull that was temporarily sharing his pen. When the other bull leapt out of the way, Napoleon’s amazing forehead had cracked the eight-inch square post that formed the corner of the barn up to the hayloft; hence the splint.