I was reading a Zane Gray novel recently and the cowboy’s partner had been killed. There was no way he could dig a grave for him in the rocky territory they were riding through and there were wolves everywhere. He decided he would protect the body from the beasts by piling on rocks that they couldn’t move.
I was taken back many years to a time in my life when my brother and I were the Lewis and Clark of Bradshaw in the wild and wooly state of Maryland. A great portion of the farm where Henry and I were born and spent most of our early childhood is now part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park and I often wonder if any explorer has ever come upon our discovery.
It was the first day of September in 1936 when we saw it. Summer had already begun to fade, leaves were giving up their bright green color and some were falling, making that crunching sound when we went walking in the woods.
The squirrels were gathering acorns and hickory nuts, and storing them in their dens along the hillside. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was noisily banging on a dead oak tree, trying to get some termites and ants to come join him in his next meal. We knew school would be starting soon and excursions along the river would be limited to weekends at best so we I did our usual chores that morning and then told Mom we were going to explore.
It was a short walk to our special area along the Gunpowder and soon we were poking among the rocks looking for arrowheads, one of our favorite treasures. We found a few as we wandered aimlessly along the boulder-strewn banks of the river. With no general direction in mind, we followed paths that cut back and forth from the ridge to the river until Henry said we had better start back.
The sun was just about to go down behind the hill and darkness came quickly in the dense woods. As we neared the path to home we saw a pile of rocks about 6 feet long, two feet wide and almost 2 feet high. It was hidden among the larger boulders and covered with many years growth of Honeysuckle vines and large ferns. We knew darkness would soon be upon us but we had to stop a moment to investigate.
I had seen something like this in an old Western novel that Dad was reading and it was a grave. The rocks protected the remains from animals and scavengers. It looked like it had been there for a very long time and we thought it could wait for a few more days until we had more daylight. We decided on the way back not to tell anyone about the grave, or whatever it was, until we had more time to investigate. The next day was Saturday but we had already made plans with Dad to help the neighbors butcher a steer.
My brother and I shared the same bed and we talked late into the night about our find, speculating on what was under that pile of rocks. We knew about the longboats that came up the river years before when the waters ran high and the rocks were covered. Maybe it was a sailor who died on one of the trips up here and they just covered him with rocks. Or maybe pirates came up there before that and buried a chest full of gold to be picked up later and then were lost at sea. It could be an Indian burial site. We fell asleep that night having great dreams of pirates, gold, Indians and ghosts…
Sunday was spent going to church at St Stephen and in the afternoon, relatives from the city came up, bringing food and ice. Mom even made some of her famous ice cream. Thoughts of the grave were put aside for the day.
It was hard to concentrate on school when I got on that bus on Monday morning. I kept thinking of that rock pile. On Wednesday of that week our thoughts of adventure were overshadowed by a family emergency – Dad’s appendix had ruptured, he was rushed to the hospital. It was a close call, but he survived the ordeal and spent the next two weeks in that hospital and 4 weeks at Ft. Howard Hospital.
We could hardly wait for spring that year so we could get back to the hillside along the Gunpowder and search for “the grave”. There was still some snow left in the shaded recesses in the woods when we headed for the trail. The entire afternoon was spent looking for some signs of where we had been the year before. It was as if the grave had disappeared with the snowfall.
We searched in vain for the next few months, then our minds were taken up by the big events of 1937, the arrival of electricity and the birth of the twins. Our attention was diverted from our quest and then in 1939 we moved from the farm.
It has been over 75 years since the exciting day when we discovered that pile of rocks. I still think with great fondness of our adventures along the Gunpowder and hope that some day someone will stumble across our pile of rocks or gravesite or whatever it is and reveal its contents.
Don LangrehrAre you receiving your free digital subscription to The Zone Magazine? If not, click here!