The Still Woods

With a title like the above, you would think of a calm stand of pine and oak, maybe some poplars, an understory of dogwoods, laurels and wild azalea. But there was a different meaning for the section of woods my father acquired.

Already our place called Pinedale had a six foot woven wire fence around most of the perimeter. Dad’s intention was to keep a wildlife sanctuary where no hunting was allowed. From time to time over the years he added to the place when more acres became available

I was next to youngest of Mom and Dad’s ten children and knew little about why we could now go through a gate to previously prohibited woods. Dad called the added acreage simply The New Woods. My brothers called it The Still Woods.

One day while performing a task Dad had set us to (“Pile brush into heaps,” he said, “and nip sprouts from stumps”) the boys let my sister and me in on why they called this place The Still Woods. They showed us the remains of an old still. Whisky had been made there, they explained in ominous tones. There was a wide pit, some twists of copper tubing, broken shards of glass. The boys said the sheriff had caught the men operating the still and they were probably rotting in jail.

Suddenly those woods became a place of evil and danger to me. What if the criminals came back and started up their still again? My Dad would be furious if this were to happen. I knew he hated whisky with a passion. I could picture bearded, rough talking men sneaking in at night to do their dastardly deed. My imagination was working overtime!

From then on, when we walked through that gate into The Still Woods, a certain dread filled my heart. Even though my brothers, I knew, would defend us valiantly, what if they couldn’t overcome the sneering outlaws determined to make their wicked liquor? Trees seemed to hide something sinister. And why were there no squirrels in those trees? They knew it was haunted land!

When we went back through the gate and closed it behind us, I felt safe. The evil was on the other side of the fence. Here, in our beloved woods near the Indian Spring and our little schoolhouse cabin, the rocky brook and the beech tree scarred with initials of our brothers’ girl friends–here we were safe. The ghosts of The Still Woods would not haunt me here!

Thinking about The Still Woods and the childish horror I endured as my brothers told their tall tales, I’m reminded of how the world’s wickedness surrounds us. But always we can go through the Gate, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be safe.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in him will I trust. Psalms 91:2

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