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By Staff | Feb 5, 2016

One Sunday morning when I was a youngster, we came home from church to discover that there was a lost boy somewhere out in our farmstead’s grove.

It was early April and we were experiencing one of the first truly warm, sunny days after the long slog of winter.

The grimy carcasses of old snowdrifts were swiftly rotting into the earth and a balmy breeze whispered sweet nothings about the dawn of a new season.

Upon arriving home from church, my siblings and I piled noisily out of our family’s station wagon. Sunday!

This meant a chicken dinner (made from chickens that we apprehended, executed and repurposed for the pot that morning) and an afternoon that was free of obligations until 5 p.m., when it would be time to start evening milking.

Instead of rushing into the house with the rest of our siblings that fateful day, my sister Di and I opted to stay outdoors and play while Mom got dinner on the table.

And that’s when we found out about the lost boy.

From someplace out in our grove, there came a lonesome, echoing cry of, “Ca! Ca!”

Di and I froze, immediately suspending our epic game of tag. “Did you hear that?” we asked one another.

We agreed that we had and that it sounded like a little kid. We held our breaths, straining our ears to see if he would call again.

“Ca! Ca!” yelled the little kid from deep within the dense tangle of our trees.

There could be no doubt about it. Some hapless little boy had somehow become lost in our grove.

Di and I excitedly discussed the situation and soon concocted a theory. The lost boy was very young, perhaps 2 or 3 years old.

He had naughtily disobeyed his parents’ admonishments about playing with the car door handle and had fallen out of their vehicle as they motored past our grove.

His childish vocabulary was limited to only a few words and among them was “car.”

He was yelling “Car! Car!” in a desperate attempt to summon back the family sedan that had so heartlessly continued on its journey without him.

“Ca! Ca!”

It sounded like he was getting closer. “We’re here!” we shouted in the general direction of the lost little boy. “Come here! Follow our voices!”

Under normal circumstances, Di and I would have clambered off into the trees and quickly found the lost tot. After endless hours of playing in our farm’s grove, we knew its layout better than the wrinkles on our knuckles.

But we were still wearing our Sunday clothes and knew that getting them dirty would have been a mortal sin.

We went to the edge of the trees and continued to listen anxiously. The boy called yet again.

We continued to holler back at him, hoping that he would eventually follow the sound of our voices.

“I think he’s out near that one big tree,” I said, trying to sound authoritative in the face of this unparalleled predicament.

“You know, that ash tree with the twisted branch halfway up. The one where we found those baby birds.”

“I think he’s closer to the tree fort,” replied Di with equal authority. “Not the old fort that we built on the ground out of dead branches. The new fort that we made out of rotten old boards from the lumber pile.” As we waited to hear more from the lost boy, I began to imagine what might happen in the aftermath of this incident.

Would we be lauded for the dramatic rescue of the wayward ragamuffin who seemed doggedly determined to remain unfound?

Would there be newspaper headlines that read “Locals Locate Lost Lad! Tickertape Tribute Thrown!”?

Then a new thought arose.

“Can I keep him?” I asked Di. “He can’t be very big. I bet he could fit under my bed. And with eight kids, Mom and Dad wouldn’t notice an extra one.”

“Don’t be a dope!” Di replied tactfully. “I’m the oldest. If anyone gets to keep him, it’s me!”

Mom came to the back door and said, “What’s wrong with you kids? You’re making enough racket to wake the dead!”

Di and I excitedly explained that there was a lost little boy out in the trees and that we were trying to guide him into the farmstead.

“Ca! Ca!”

“See!” we exclaimed. “He’s looking for his mom and dad’s car!”

“That’s just a crow,” said Mom. “Now come in and eat before the chicken gets cold.”

To this day, I’m not totally convinced that it was a crow. After all, why on earth would a stupid bird be looking for a car?

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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