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Teachers Without Borders – global literacy

The Key

Beyond the house there was a path that seemed to lead the way to something we hadn’t discovered. Patty and I were young, probably 7 or 8 years old.  She lived in the country, actually most would say that everyone in Putnam County lived in the country, but she lived “out” in the country.  We were not having a “play date” as it would be called now, we were just playing together on her Grandma’s farm.  I lived on a farm as well, so I wasn’t really interested in all of the barn stuff.  The hogs and pigs drew attention because her sister, Erin, had told us how fun it was to ride them. Hogs are huge, round barrels of animals with skin that is tough and hairy.  Not soft and hairy, spikey hairy.  They can be mean, but at this point in my life I was unaware of that.  We pulled on some boots that had been left in the barn, not an easy task, but we managed to get them on.  There was no way that either of us were going into that pen without boots; mud and shit made a 6 in deep mix that carpeted the whole area.  

We jumped into the hog pen and Patty was able to grab the first pink and black, 200 lb. sow.  I was still wrangling around trying to catch a black sow.  Patty had more experience with this endeavor and I watched as she threw herself on top of her unwilling transport.  Before I knew it she was sitting high and mighty.  My efforts didn’t prove effective as I tried and tried to get on top of my beast. Giving it one last try I hurtled myself upward only to slide over the top of the sow and head-first into the muck.  Disgusting!  Spitting and flailing I rose from the slop and ran to the hose to rinse off.  Patty followed and rinsed off as well. Suddenly she said, “Hey, what is that shiny thing on your overalls?”  

I looked down, pulled it off, and said, “It’s a key! How would a key get stuck on me?” 

“Well, the only place we’ve been so far has been the pig pen, it must have been in there.” Patty decided.

“Ew,”  we scrubbed and scrubbed that key.

Seven or eight year olds have incredible imaginations and Patty and I had been trying to gain entrance to an abandoned stone building at the back of the farm. We immediately decided that this must be the key to the little building.  We ran with our dripping clothes and boots all the way to the back of the farm.

This little moss and vine covered building had been a curiosity to us for some time and we were buzzing with anticipation that we may have found the key for entry.  As we approached the building we slowed a bit. What might be in there? Snakes, racoons, mice, gypsies? (Yes, I am old enough that gypsies often showed up to camp on rural farms.)   

It was time to try the key. First try, nothing. Turn upside down, try again, nothing.  Jiggle the lock, try again…scrawk, screech, pop, it opened.  This door hadn’t been opened in a very, very long time.  

What did we find? Haltingly we stepped into an inside out garden! Garden fairies must have been hard at work in this dim light!   Vines and creepers and moss grew  throughout the damp, semi-dark enclosure.  The window had so many spider webs that it looked as if all of the soot frosted panes had been cracked.  A skittering noise led our eyes to a short counter where we saw lizards speeding  away from us.  There were rusty tools and seed canisters that looked to be hundreds of years old.  Cracked hoses  collaborated with vines to form a green canopy.  In the corner stood a watering can that appeared to be owned by a mouse family.  

We finally knew, after months of wonder, that our secret out building must have been a  gardening shed that fairies had presided over for many, many years.  Not wanting to disturb the precious space we backed slowly out of the inside out garden and locked the door.  We hid the key under a rock and left.

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