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Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Collection of Rare Circles

“First, you got to find the right size. And look for the smoothest, flattest kind.”

I nodded my head and listened closely as he searched the ground with his toes until he found exactly what he wanted.

“Then curl your finger around the edges like this. Make sure it fits in there tight.”

I looked over his hand to see what he meant.

“Now bend down just a little, see, and then sight out yonder along the horizon.”

He leaned at the waist, and then Gary drew an arm back.

In a flash, he let go and sent the stone spinning as it flew through the air.

We both watched as it skipped magically across the surface of the water. How far would this one go?

The rock landed once and bounced twice, but it didn’t stop there. Seconds later, six widening circles told the story.

I let out a loud cheer.

“That one went six times!”

Gary blew the most admirable spit bubble before he turned to grin at me.

“See how you supposed to do it now?”

My older cousin knew the most amazing sorts of things. He had already taught me how to put together a first-class sling-shot, using real rubber straps from an old inner tube he found. He even attached the leather pad that held the rock in place, which he cut from the tongue of a worn-out shoe. At the end, he used a leather shoe lace to tie everything together, but after soaking the long strip in water first (it would stretch tight once it dried -- something an Indian had told him how to do, he confided).

He also let me in on his secret style of whistling, which made the sound of a rain crow’s mournful cry, and which he did with ease.

He once made a toy tractor out of an empty wooden spool of thread. Later, I made one just like it, and then powered mine the same way, using a button, a wound-up rubber band and a match stick.

But skipping stones across the millpond like he did was not an easy thing to learn; even using his precise instructions did little to help me. That is, until the day I stumbled across a box filled with flawless objects which looked perfectly suited for the job.

I don’t know why ma kept the little golden box in her bedroom, hidden away in a back corner of a bottom dresser drawer. It looked too nice and so fancy. And why did she bury the pretty box under silky piles of her perfumed clothing?

I quietly opened the lid to see what might be inside.

How smooth these feel -- and how bright they look! Each one has heft, too. All are circular, yet not a one is too thick. On one side of the biggest one, a raised picture of a woman with a crown in her hair; on the other, an angry-looking bird spreads his wings.

Gary had already told me that the best rocks to use would be thin and rounded: here I had an ample cache of more than I could count. I kept the little box tucked tightly under one arm until I reached the far end of the dam, where I sat it carefully on the ground.

Then ignoring the abundant pebbles underfoot, and with only a lone horsefly for an audience, each disc was held just so, and then one after another, hurled with studied accuracy far out across the deep water.

The last and the largest of them skipped a record number of eight times before it sank and disappeared.

Then I sat on the ground and crossed my legs, and for awhile, I quietly held the empty box in my lap. A great sadness began to overtake me as I raised and shut its small lid, thinking how my older cousin Gary had missed being there to see just how good I did.

14 Comments:

Blogger James said...

I'm just thankful they didn't break ALL of your fingers to never be able to throw out the jewels you have shared with us all.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Janus Torrell said...

Oh no Harry, tell me that was just a work of fiction. The most important rule of stone skipping, make sure they are just river stones.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way...Ev,here..skipping stones is an art, taught to me by my father,in which i passed it on to my kids..but have you ever skipped baby sand toads? Not only will they skip(or skim) the water but the unique thing is they always,always swim back to you..i swear it's the truth!=)

12:49 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I am thinking I am supposed to have lurked here long enough to get whether the bird reference is Austria, or Nazi Germany?
Nice story!

5:17 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

No fingers were ever harmed during the making of this story, James.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

I wish I could lie and say it was, Janus. However, my nephew James has an amazing camera in outer space, which due to amazing technical tricks, might possibly be able to locate exactly where the coins are buried.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Sand toads are a new one to me, Ev. Are they Australian, or am I thinking of the boomerang frogs?

We did have sail rabbits we used to find laying on the road, tho -- the first Frisbees, I am told.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thanks for lurking, Cheryl. America had some lovely silver dollars at one time in its history, but I confess to being ignorant about coins of the two places you mentioned. Would they happen to both be in France?

10:42 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Hey, I bet you had more enjoyment out of those coins, skimming them across the water like that, than anyone else was going to have with them! Eight jumps is pretty good, you know. :D

2:18 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I probably did, Gone.

And eight is a fair number for sure, but as we age we become wiser...or do we?

(I still picture how easily coins, when thrown right, skim across water, while at the same time, I canna help but wonder if maybe a dozen bounces are within reach)

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way..no, sand toads are indigenous to ohio, not australia(at least i don't think they are in australia)and i haven't seen any west of there.Sailing rabbits,alias road kill alias frisbees? I be thinking a shovel has to be a must for carry-on luggage=).Or at least a trowel...wherever there's a rabbit,be on look-out for tortises and field mice and trix.Ev.

5:06 PM  
Blogger James said...

My mistake. I took the box to contain precious jewels. Smooth colored flat rocks.Thus the play on words in my first comment.

No wonder I was puzzled by the angry bird on one item...duh it was on a coin not a jewel.

Not sure my version of www.googleearth.com could catch a glint of a silver coin.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

No worries, James.
But if a GPS was somehow integrated with a high-powered metal detector...

11:08 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

. o O (Ohio...must be in western Australia)

11:10 AM  

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