The Stars Seemed Nearer
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by Frank Shortt
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Grandfather Samuel, known to everyone as Sam, built his cabin below a mountain's crest in Northern Montana near the Canadian border.
This great expanse was once called the Golden West. Now it is a safe haven for canola farms that provide the oil for millions of meals
throughout the world. One can drive mile after mile northward and see nothing but a sea of yellow.
As a lad, I would visit my Grandfather
as time and school would allow. I enjoyed helping with the roundup of strayed cattle that had plenty of room to roam before the barbed
wire fences were installed. Sometimes I would help with the plowing of the little garden plot that provided fresh vegetables for Grandfather's
table. Grandmother Essie was a very good cook and kept all her help amply fed.
After everyone else would go to bed I would wander
out to the little hillside behind the barn to reminisce about all good times past when times were simpler. The whip-poor-will would
begin his plaintiff cry just as dusk settled over the range.
Many burdens of life, regarding school and struggling to keep up the
grades, were suddenly lifted as I gazed heavenly to spot the first star of night. Suddenly, as if someone cast seed upon the landscape,
millions of shiny specks began to appear as far as the eye could possibly see. Had the denizens of the night been any closer I would
have picked some souvenirs.
After I graduated high school and went off to college, the times changed for me, as I no longer had
the desire to go back to Grandfathers little claim for the summer vacations. I began to enjoy the city lights and was drawn, as if
by a great magnet, to all that the city had to offer. Somehow, I always had an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I could not
somehow put my finger on the problem but later on I began to yearn for the simple life of Grandfather Sam's little place in Montana.
I longed to allow my life to go into arrears to where the stars are closer to be picked for souvenirs!
As I drove north from Great
Falls I wondered what I would find at Grandfather's old place. He had since gone on to his great reward as had Grandmother prior to
that. As I rounded the bend in the highway near to where the old homestead used to be, I was somehow disappointed to see that the
house and outbuildings were now being used for storage of huge farm equipment to raise the great demand for canola oil. I saw a farm
hand standing beside the barn and drove up as close as the dirt road would allow me. I told him who I was and, to my surprise, he
was Juan Hernandez whose father had owned the homestead further north from our place. He had gone on to college earning his degree
in farming techniques and had come back to run the large canola farming operations of his late father. He granted me permission to
go to the hillside back of the barn which I assayed to do as soon as possible. I laid down on my back in the dirt and looked heavenward
just as dusk fell. If the stars had been any nearer I would have taken some souvenirs with me back to Great falls.
Many a displaced
Yearns for that joyful day
To return to open spaces
And 'neath the night sky lay.
To where the air is crispy
If the stars were any closer
He'd pick some souvenirs.