By Julie Carter
I shared this story some years ago but it bears repeating in a world that seems to spin at warp speed and time is always in the future. We tend to stop and look back over our shoulder only long enough to see what we’ve lost, but fail to find the value in what we’ve gained. Sometimes, something tangible can take us back in an instant.
Told from the perspective of a lost pocket watch:
I lay deep in the dust, unseen and missing to the world. As the winds of time put layer upon layer of corral dirt over me, I slipped into history without notice. Quietly, I remained in my unintended grave, enduring the seasons that came and then left—the long deep winters of driving frost permeating the soils, the warming sun of spring that brought soft life-giving rains and the gentle warmth of summer that delivered the sustaining harvests.
I saw both ends of a family generation make their living off the land near where I rested. As the older ones faded from the horizon, they made way for the young as they too changed, grew, and moved on in one fashion or another.
The circle of life, fueled by a never-ending source of time, continued. This silent, stationary journey began when I fell from the pocket of a young cowboy easing into his teen years. The buck deer engraved on my cover was the reason his grandmother selected me as a gift for him. He was so proud, feeling rich and elevated in status to own such a fine item—a pocket watch.
He would often sit and just stare at this treasure of his, flipping the cover open, closing it again. There he scratched his name, laying an eternal claim to me with the “brand” given to him by his parents.
For the first couple years, we were inseparable. Then one day in the course of some of the usual cattle work that happened regularly in the family’s old pole corrals, fate parted us.
The punchy young cowboy was riding a newly acquired bronc his dad had brought home from the sale barn. While a little on the spooky side, the short-coupled sorrel, sporting one white sock on a hind leg, a snip of white on his nose and pig eyes that indicated some stubbornness, was the perfect horse for sorting in a corral.
Afternoon rain showers made the ground slick, and in the instant of a quick move by the sorrel to turn back a calf, all four hooves were simultaneously in the air. In a blur of motion, the horse fell hard to the ground, landing with a thud on the corral floor.
The cowboy’s quick instincts flashed a signal to his brain and he was able to kick loose from his saddle just in time. He hit the ground with a rush of air leaving his lungs that returned in short gasps as he pulled himself to his feet.
It wasn’t until a day later that he realized his pocket watch was missing. He returned to the corrals, kicked around in the area of the fall but he never saw me lying in the dirt where momentum had flung me.
A sadness for the loss stung in his heart. As years continued to tick away in the life of the cowboy, that day faded to a place that recorded a sweeter time in his life.
Some 25 years later, I was unearthed by another generation of the family who was cleaning the corrals. My face was still intact and my cover still had the name of the boy that scratched his mark there.
When he was told that I’d resurfaced, basically unscathed by the experience and the years, the cowboy retrieved the memories of that day as well as that time in his life. With me in his hand, that day long ago erupted in a bold color vision, accompanied by emotions now felt deeper by a wiser adult that had seen a lot of country, done a lot of living.
Time doesn’t stand still, but there is always a key that unlocks the vault of memories.
Julie and her memory vault can be reached for comment at email@example.com.