In his book The Shepherd of the Hills, Harold Bell Wright referred to “the trail that is no one knows how old”. Growing up in the Ozarks myself, this passage spoke volumes to me because I had spent my life following trails.
I whiled away many hours in the woods as a child and young adult — squirrel hunting, rock collecting, or just rambling. And I usually followed a well worn trail when I did so. The trails were often made by either our cows, or some sort of wild life. Though as a child I pretended they were Indian trails.
There had been actual Indian trails through our woods many years ago. I found arrow heads to prove it. My Daddy talked often of following trails when he went hunting that had supposedly been made by Indians. Of course, he himself made trails through the woods when hunting, or going visiting. Roads were pretty rough in those days, and it was usually easier and faster to follow a trail through the woods either on foot or horseback to go from one house to another. Folks around here didn’t mind back then if you rambled down a clear cut path across their woods. Everyone did it.
Right across our field is the remains of what I’ve been told is an old wagon road. Daddy kept to this road when driving to the barn, or feeding hay during the winter which added to the deep ruts. When we moved over here, we kept using the road for our drive way, and to reach the gate at the opposite end of the field.
When the state put a road through, they ran it parallel to this old wagon trail, and the paved highway is still in use today.
The other morning on the way home from the barn, I discovered that the sheep have begun to make trails of their own. The Suffolk sheep we had were truly flock animals and traveled in a V shape with the lead ewe at the center. Hair sheep, on the other hand, travel single file following their lead creating a well worn path as they go. They have a path directly to the barn, and others through the field where they find the best grazing.
Even the dogs, cats, and chickens leave their mark on the lawn following a path around the house that leads to the water bowl and best shade trees.
We humans also leave trails, but we usually cover them with cement or rocks to form a sidewalk.
And then, there are the trails that no one can see. These are secret trails left by visitors in the night. But Hucky’s hound dog nose can always find them and follow them to the maker. They say that life in general is full of roads and trails. But the best ones are always found in the country.