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Roads Of Morning
by [?]

Yet the very core of this valley in days past was a certain depth of water at a turn of the stream. There was a clay bank above it and on it small naked boys stood and daubed themselves. One of them put a band of clay about himself by way of decoration. Another, by a more general smudge, made himself a Hottentot and thereby gave his manners a wider scope and license. But by daubing yourself entire you became an Indian and might vent yourself in hideous yells, for it was amazing how the lungs grew stouter when the clay was laid on thick. Then you tapped your flattened palm rapidly against your mouth and released an intermittent uproar in order that the valley might he warned of the deviltry to come. You circled round and round and beat upon the ground in the likeness of a war dance. But at last, sated with scalps, off you dived into the pool and came up a white man. Finally, you stood on one leg and jounced the water from your ear, or pulled a bloodsucker from your toes before he sapped your life–for this tiny creature of the rocks was credited with the gift of prodigious inflation, and might inhale you, blood, sinews, suspenders and all, if left to his ugly purpose.

Farms should not be too precisely located; at least this is true of farms which, like my grandfather’s, hang in a mist of memory. I read once of a wonderful spot–quite inferior, doubtless, to my grandfather’s farm–which was located by evil directions intentionally to throw a seeker off. Munchausen, you will recall, in the placing of his magic countries, was not above this agreeable villainy. Robinson Crusoe was loose and vague in the placing of his island. It is said that Izaak Walton waved a hand obscurely toward the stream where he had made a catch, but could not be cornered to a nice direction, lest his pool be overrun. In early youth, I myself went, on a mischievous hint, to explore a remote region which I was told lay in the dark behind the kindling pile. But because I moved in a fearful darkness, quite beyond the pale light from the furnace room, I lost the path. It did not lead me to the peaks and the roaring waters.

But the farm was reached by more open methods. Dolly and the phaeton were the chief instruments. First–if you were so sunk in ignorance as not to know the road–you inquired of everybody for the chewing gum factory, to be known by its smell of peppermint. Then you sought the high bridge over the railroad tracks. Beyond was Kamm’s Corners. Here, at a turn of the road, was a general store whose shelves sampled the produce of this whole fair world and the factories thereof. One might have thought that the proprietor emulated Noah at the flood by bidding two of each created things to find a place inside.

Beyond Kamm’s Corners you came to the great valley. When almost down the hill you passed a house with broken windows and unkept grass. This house, by report, was haunted, but you could laugh at such tales while the morning sun was up. At the bottom of the hill a bridge crossed the river, with loose planking that rattled as though the man who made nails was dead.

Beyond the bridge, at the first rise of ground, the horse stopped–for I assume that you drove a sagacious animal–by way of hint that every one of sound limb get out and walk to the top of the hill. A suspicious horse turned his head now and again and cast his eye upon the buggy to be sure that no one climbed in again.

Presently you came to the toll-gate at the top and paid its keeper five cents, or whatever large sum he demanded. Then your grandfather–if by fortunate chance you happened to have one–asked after his wife and children, and had they missed the croup; then told him his corn was looking well.