The anticipation that grew as we drove through the countryside on the way there cannot be forgotten. As we would exit the monotony of the state highway we entered a winding track of back-country roads that signaled we were reaching our safe haven. Through the rolling hills and the calm valleys between them we went. Those tight corridors, surrounded by trees and undergrowth of all kinds, would expand and open their limbs, as if to say, “Hello. Welcome back.”
Each landmark we passed stood sentry and silently wished us well as we passed on into your warm embrace. The fire station with its glistening and polished trucks standing out in the summer sun, the funny rodeo club right across the street, the junkyard where great metal beasts of all shapes and sizes went to rest, the cozy cottage built into the hill and the softball field across the street, and the little church sitting high up on the promontory overlooking it all.
Among all of these friendly faces I most remember the stables, the horses, and the cool Kentucky bluegrass they resided on. There is something hallowed about these places in this state, something so basic that even a child can immediately appreciate. Some kind of spirit roams in those fields, a product of the close harmony created by man, horse, and the land they live off of. When I saw those tall, strong, graceful, creatures, I knew we had arrived.
No summer vacation to a distant island paradise will ever compare to that feeling of my foot hitting gravel, hearing your voice, and looking up to see you sitting on the porch with your hound. No amount of beach debauchery can top driving laps around the house in that off-white cub cadet mower, all the while blissfully unaware that it wasn’t me doing the driving but you. No big city museum will ever inspire the same awe as wandering in your barn admiring the wild array of tools, wood, and unfinished projects as the sawdust swayed heavy in the air.
I try to recapture it, but I know it is gone. I drive down that same road and it tells me a different story. Some things remain unchanged. The fire station still sits at ready. The church still watches over me, though I gaze back with doubt. The junkyard remains, but the cars are familiar scraps, not beings of every color and contour. The stone cottage stands, weathered yet resilient, but the field sits dilapidated, with rust and vines obscuring the galvanized steel I remember from my youth. Your house stands, a testament to the hands which built it. The barn remains, but the mystical powers that it contained have escaped.
Most of all, you are gone. Those horses, those sweet majestic thoroughbreds still graze across the street. I just want to ride away and find it all over again.