A short anecdote from my childhood

My Father's Hatchet
 
One afternoon, in the patchy sun of a Nova Scotian autumn, my father and I took an impromptu day trip into the woods. He hitched our little white Trillium camper to his brown Dodge Ram, and we headed to the area where the hippies lived (according to Aunt Lillis and Uncle Junior). We followed the dirt road from Greenland to Victory, not far from Bear River. That was Dad's old stomping grounds, just minutes from his childhood home; he owned a small woodlot in Victory. 
 
I was young at that time, maybe 11 years old. I don't even really remember why we were there that day. Maybe he just wanted to survey his property. Maybe he was noting which trees he would cut to stoke his little black pot-belly stove that winter. I don't recall. 
 
I do remember that we built a very small fire (well, more like a patch of smoking embers). I also remember that I was wearing my favourite jeans, the ones Aunt Kathleen gave me from her clothing store in Barrington Passage. They had the word "Grease" embroidered in red and yellow on the back pocket (movie merchandise from 1979). I had Dad's hatchet in my hand, pretending to chop wood. Knowing me, I probably tried to carve my name in the bark of a white birch tree. 
 
Suddenly, Dad noticed that there was a little plume of smoke rising from the hem of my jeans. My pants were on fire! I had unknowingly stepped into the edge of our tiny fire. The damage was minimal, just a small patch of material burned. But in the surprise of the moment, I had dropped the hatchet on the ground. I swear, it was RIGHT THERE. Only when I went to retrieve it, it wasn't. The forest floor, covered by a tapestry of fall-coloured leaves, had somehow reclaimed the hatchet, hiding it from my view. 
 
We searched for a long time. I had only been in a small area near the camper the whole time, but somehow, the hatchet was gone. Dad wasn't happy about it, but he replaced the hatchet and didn't bring up the subject again. I, however, never forgot that I lost Dad's hatchet. 
 
The woodlot was sold decades later when Dad was too old to care about it anymore. I often wonder if the new owners ever found Dad's old hatchet. To them, it would be a serendipitous discovery, a rusty artifact; to me, it would be a lost and found memory of that day.
 
June 7, 2020


Submitted: June 07, 2020

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