“From mud comes blessins.” That homily was uttered by my Grandma Olive, when I was just a tadpole. She meant fruits and vegetables and roots from her and Grandpa Floyd’s truck farm: grapes, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, beets, sassafras (oh, the smell of the root cellar!), potatoes, squash, thick stalks of rhubarb.

Mud has brought me much treasure. In 1985, I was walking barefoot in a creek, hunting for Indian artifacts. I stepped into a mud bank and sank to my knees. When I hit bottom, I felt searing pain in my right foot. I finally extricated the foot, which was leaking a stream of blood from a four inch vertical gash below the toes. I got on my belly and fished around in the mud hole and came up with a fluted Clovis spear point, 14,000 years old, the rarest of spear points in North America. The Clovis point’s last gashee might have been a woolly mammoth. The foot hurts me to this day. Read more…

Two days ago, I was on the last leg of the Genehouse walk. I had passed Farmer Orville’s place, taking a shortcut across the parking lot of a long-abandoned gas station. The lot was a sea of mud. Four wheelers had circled the white brick building and cut deep ruts. Something in one of the ruts caught my eye. It was a sandstone wheel, four inches in circumference and an inch and a half thick—a thousand year old carved biscuit discoidal, thought to be used by the Cahokian Indians as game stones. It weighed two pounds. Discoidal finds are quite rare; even rarer are they found in parking lots. It must have burped up from deep in the ground, aided by slight tremors in the New Madrid Fault.

I doubled back to Orville’s farm, to show him the piece. Reba the sheep dog greeted me in the back yard. She was caked with dried, smelly mud. In the kitchen, Quilt Queen—she had had right knee replacement surgery two weeks ago—was quite comfortable sitting at the kitchen table, munching Keebler chocolate chip cookies. She and Orville ooh’d and ah’d at my find, bits of sandstone falling to the table’s surface.

“Reba let me pet her,” I said. She’s all muddy.” “That ain’t mud,” Orville said, grinning. “I put up a big pile of cow shit by the barn. She jumped in it and rolled.” This led to some feverish hand washing and laughter.

“I am too old for shovelin cow manure,” Orville moaned. “He’s been sayin how old he is since winter,” Quilt Queen said, and to her husband, “If you think you are old, you are old.” “Oh, I think a lot of things,” Orville replied. “I think on so many things you don’t even know about.”

He said this deadpan and winked at me, his left eye unseen by his wife. The wink might have had lascivious meaning; it might have been philosophy—it’s not for me to say.

“I had a cousin,” Quilt Queen said, “well, muh cousin’s husband, which makes him—made him—a cousin, all in the family, I think of him that way, kind of extended family. They found him muddied and dead in a trunk.”

Orville rolled his eyes at this cryptic response. Was his wife warning that men came to no good ends?

I walked back to Genehouse. My doe, which had been illegally shot three days ago, lay below the driveway. A man from the Department of Natural Resources had come out and investigated. The carcass had been pierced by vultures and the smell was of sweet rot. The man told me the deer was my responsibility. And so I have watched her body change for days. The biggest change occurred last night. A coyote pack had torn the torso in two, taking the back half away to their lair, leaving two front legs and a head in a miasma of mud and wet leaves and paw prints and wild onions and maple bark and smashed acorns. Crocuses dotted the hill.

“From mud comes blessins.”

And spring. And death. And life.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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