Adjacent to my boyhood home, a grove of tall white-spruce trees stood on a neighbor's land, so I could step from our garden into Sherwood Forest and be Robin Hood. It was like going from chapter to chapter through the looking glass.
From the bright sunshine of our cucumber patch, I was instantly in forest shade. And a hundred yards down our secret trail was what we youngsters called "the fairy house," an open glade under a huge pasture pine, so-called because it had grown up alone and had spread out, uncrowded by other trees to make it grow tall. It had many stout limbs, so a bunch of kids could all climb up and perch together.
There was one limb like a throne, with a back and arms, and a footrest, and that was reserved for the fairy king or the fairy queen du jour, whichever got there first.
There was Hank and Kathryn, Louise and Ben, Stanley and Velma, Joe and Polly, Merle and Betty, and maybe some others. Where are they now? We'd meet at our fairy house and fantasize our adventures and eat our lunches.
We had a hopscotch pattern scratched into the woodland duff, and a beanbag rink with a "gool" that hung from a birch that was good for swinging.
It was fun to crumble a cookie and then climb into the pine and watch the chickadiddles come for lunch. We got gorbies, too, which are Canada jays and don't sing too well and aren't perky and chipper like the chickadees.
Then we'd talk about what we'd do when we got to be 10 or 12 and had grown up.
We had a stick with a star on the end that was the magic wand of the king or queen, and we could waft it and wish. Several times we all went to Neverland in a pea-green boat.
I tell the truth: One time Hank was fairy king and he wafted and he wished for a watermelon, and we looked over, and there was Lucy coming with a watermelon from her father's garden.
It was so, for every fall the mushrooms popped up in a ring around our pine tree, to show where real fairies had danced in the moonlight, and with evidence like that, who needs proof?
Our fairy throne would have made a dandy place to sit and do school homework, but the best days for the fairy throne were in summer vacation. Afterward, when at last I had the fairy house to myself, I'd go there on a Sunday afternoon with a book and climb up to the throne.
There was a book current at the time with the retold tales of Robin Hood, and I was aloft, quite alone in Sherwood Forest with the doughty outlaws.
I was just at that place where Friar Tuck was talking to himself and coaxing himself to have another helping of that delicious plover pastry, when over the top of the page I saw movement on the ground below.
I shifted my eyes, and a man had come along our secret trail and come to stand in our fairy house by the trunk of our enchanted pine tree. He did not know I was above, and had he looked, I would have been hidden in the limbs and thick pine needles.
He had a gunnysack, or grain bag, and it seemed well laden. He set it down and flexed his arm to ease a tired muscle. Then he just stood there, and it seemed to me he was expecting somebody to join him.
This was so, and within minutes a second man, with a second sack, came by our secret trail. He, too, set down his sack, flexed his arm, and they whispered and kept looking about furtively. Soon, two other men arrived with burlap bags.
I could not make out what they whispered, but I guessed right, as I learned later, that they were the robbers of Sherwood Forest and their bags held their booty. I was not acquainted with the four, but knew who they were. They were young men of town who did not, let us say, go to my Sunday school.
I did not make my presence known, and was careful not to sneeze or in any way attract attention. The four young gentlemen dumped their four sacks on the ground, divided the booty into four equal piles by variety and count, reloaded the four sacks. Then each man took a sack and went from my sight by our secret and enchanted fairyland trail.
It was not noticed that I was a bit late for supper. My mom and dad knew about our fairy house and how I'd go there with a book, and Mom just said, "Be quick and wash up, there's biscuits waitin' for you!"
I had to tell them about the men, and I did tell them who the men were. My father said he guessed we had a duty to perform, and after supper he rang the other sheriff, not the High Sheriff of Nottingham. He learned that four masked men had held up a market and taken four bags of stuff off the shelves. The men had just been caught, thanks just the same.
So the whole thing was just another fairy tale with the kids back in the past, about which we oldsters like to talk and make a nuisance of ourselves. That time the benevolent thieves didn't get to aid the needy poor.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society