What is the value of a dirty Cat-eye marble or a half melted toy army man? If you think Zero$$$ you could be right. Unless of course these items had a story projected on them by the one who possesses them. Their value may increase depending on where they are found or who owned them in the past. There is no shortage of trinkets, stones or bones so they can’t be more valued because of their rarity. Yet as family and friends we are compelled to collect such items and pile them in delicate and loving arraignments along road-sides across America.
When I was walking in the early spring I came across this sacred monument and was moved by its simple reverence.
Faces of toys and trusted friends that in the past had a comforting smile stitched on them, now were faded and drawn down by years of rain. To me these object represented extreme expense and were placed here by broken hearts and trembling hands. Here lies what was once a Dollar store toy to help a restless child make it to the next stop on a day of errands now stands guard over a Geo-location that staged an event which, for someone, changed the world.
I’ve been paying more attention to such places lately and now see them more often. Many are just a blur on the side of the road where they denote a spot where at once, time stood still and trails ended. Some are kept fresh like a celebrity grave-site and others fade rapidly. Few grow and expand into more.While I was speeding along traveling for an out-of-town job, something caught my eye. Brakes were activated and some gravel did spray. Looking out my window I could see what looked like a parade of colorful flags blowing back and forth, waving me to come closer. When my feet hit the gravel I noticed some coins mixed in and reached down to collect them, thinking it was my lucky day, I poked the coins into my pocket with my other change. I then climbed the small grade through the scrub brush and empty beer bottles.I was halted at the gate by a centennial that look me up and down before my entrance was granted. I was thrilled with its many trinkets and I started to see things that to someone, were once objects of great personal value.
Somehow this seemed to be more than a one-time memorial. This area is part of the great Yakima Nation. But now suffers the installment of a paved highway and speed limit signs that stoically holler their commands.
I’m not sure how much time I stood there and gazed at all the trinkets, stones and bones? I did notice more coins on the ground and as I bent to pick them up something spoke to my soul. I realized this is not a place where one comes and takes things, no it’s a place where things must be brought and left. I was genuinely moved and before I slipped through the barbed wire I reached into my pocket and pulled out all the money I had and tossed it back. In doing so I felt I had added to the validity of the place and moment. I hope this is more than a Native American marker and now belongs to all who seek it’s offerings. I considered asking the local people what this place is about, but I don’t think I really want to. I know what it means to me and think of it often, imagining fanciful reasons that had led to its establishment.
Today I was reminded of this place again. It happened when I was traveling through my old home town, The Dalles Oregon. When passing, I often like to drive through my old neighborhood. This time I had remembered that my brother Darrel suggested I stop and visit our old family friend and babysitter. Her name is Francis Lee and she had two boys. Bobby and Jimmy Lee. Jimmy Lee was Darrel’s best friend when we still lived there. Bobby and Jimmy both died way to young (Jimmy at age 19 passed due to complications of Muscular Dystrophy). Francis is a longtime widow and still lives in the same home. Because of Muscular Dystrophy Jimmy wore leg braces for a time and then was bound to a wheelchair. As kids we would take Jimmy into the back lot and spend hours setting up toy army men and wage battles with the carpenter ants as if they were an alien race from outer space.
Visiting was pleasant and I asked her about her new kitchen and if the laundry room was still downstairs. She said yes and joked about how she throws the dirty clothes down to the bottom of the stairs, when the pile builds up to a load she goes down and picks them up to be washed. She told me how she has a garden now in the back lot and she spends a good deal of time there during the growing season, and then she said something that pulled at my heart and clarified my thoughts on how seemingly unimportant objects can be a marker for the life of a loved one.
She said,”Every so often when I’m out in the garden turning the soil… …a marble or an army man will pop up.”
Once cheep toys to be trodden under foot, now trinkets of peace and comfort.
I didn’t ask to see the jar of her precious trinkets, but I knew she had it…
Coming Soon: “The Tree of Dash”