Farms and Flashlight Stories

An Abandoned Farmhouse in Northwest Iowa
© 2013 Don Graham, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Past the garden and orchard, across the pasture, I can see just the top corner of the Lohr farmhouse.  A chimney, a tin roof, the upper quarter of a second-story window.  If I was in a a certain sort of mood, I might think of hauntings where movie families take up residence in long-empty farm houses.

But today, I’m quieter, less amped up and not needing to release that voltage through safe fear.  Today, I’m thinking of thunderstorms and summer nights and the children who looked out that window for all the years of their young days.


A days’ old calf just trotted up by our orchard fence, grazing his equally-green side while his herd mate barrels her way beneath a cedar branch to get at the sweet honeysuckle vines.

A bit further into my foreground, a purple martin dives and gathers from the garden. He is grabbing soil, insects, uprooted weeds? to carry to his lady in our martin house in the pasture.

Our dogs have just returned from a jaunt in the hayfield. They are slicked with last night’s rain and now scent the air with their sour perfume.  I love it.

I glance back over to that farmhouse window, imagine a young boy with a flashlight signaling to Ms. Tucker, the old woman who lived alone in this house for her whole life.  I wonder if he needed a playmate on a stormy night, if he was a bit withdrawn, as our neighbor Glen, who grew up in that house is still.  Ms. Tucker takes her flashlight and signals back – three long shines, another long with a flicker and then a final dash of light.  “OK.”

Neither of them will speak of this tomorrow as they walk down opposite sides of the country road to the two-room school that edges on their land.


I am busy with goodness these days.  Too busy in fact.  The joy of having the life I dream of lost sometimes in “too much to do.”  But today, in this dog and honeysuckle-scented morning, I am breathing in, watching, letting my ear canals open to the sounds of the country – bird song and the husk of cows tugging up grass.  I’m marveling in the broad leaves of the squash now just visible from my office chair.

I’m letting the stories of this land soak in, letting them shape me, flashlights of time reaching me above the busy. I’m watching the tales unfold.

May I offer a suggestion for you today? Take 15 minutes and sit somewhere that you can see birds or animals or green, living things.  Put your phone away.  Lay your pen aside.  Push the swirl of lists to the back of your mind.  See.  Hear.  Watch.  Maybe a squirrel will bring you a story.