This story is by Louisa Nufield and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Song of the Iron Blackbird
“Beware the Fisher Boy! Weasels are born crafty, they learn to steal, they die accomplished thieves. Boys are cute, arrogant, and oblivious to boundaries.”
April 25, 2024
Happy Birthday, Sweetie! Today is your sixteenth birthday. In ten years, Little Fox Forest will belong to you. On your 26th birthday, please go to the DoubleTree. I will meet you there!
Love you to the Stars and Back,
Grammy’s notebook (found by Honey on April 24, 2034, tucked into a tiny gnome house at the base of a tree of unknown age. The tree was really two trees. Two saplings, wedged into a crevice between rocks, were braided around each other at the base, grew together intertwined for a while, and then separated, growing toward the sun in different directions. This is the story Honey read that day)
April 25, 1957
Sixty-seven years ago, a Letter arrived at the old house that’s now under the highway. I was 8 years old. I will never forget the words. “By the power of eminent domain, your home is in the way of the proposed federal highway I-89. We regret to inform you of this matter. There will be a hearing.”
Four years later, our elegant 1750’s house was gone. I was 12 years old, and very sad. The kitchen spanned the width of the whole house. There were 9 bedrooms. One bathroom. The beam that held up the roof was a huge tree, bark still intact. Can you imagine? The Destruction Crews cut down my swinging tree, blasted my climbing rocks, ruined my river beach. Thank God they didn’t destroy my Beloved Forest. Even then, I knew that Nature Spirits were protecting this forest from Forces of Destruction.
Jordan Heep’s house, built sometime after 1898, was spared by the highway engineers. His house, as you know, stands on a tiny plot, a third of an acre, surrounded by our remaining forest on three sides. To the world passing by, my trees used to look like his trees. (Until I built the wildlife fence.) I remember his yard when it was pretty. I used to play with his sisters in his yard. Our moms were friends. In those days, only my dad’s thin barbed wire fence marked the boundary lines.
I guess Old Mr. Heep must have taught his kids that if “someone” abandons land, using their land is not stealing. I think he forgot to mention that if “someone” returns, the land is still theirs.
50 years later, 23 years ago, the deed to this 65-acre forest came to me. I named my inheritance “Little Fox Forest,” because the first night I slept in a tent there, a baby fox came and sniffed me in my tent. I am Home at last. But so were all my neighbors at home there. My beloved forest had become communal property for all the houses on its periphery. I was not welcomed back. I walked the boundary lines, touched every tree that wore remnants of Dad’s barbed wire fence, kissed every one of them. I began to haul out the trash left there by neighborly visitations.
17 years ago, Jordan Heep carved a new parking area out of my hillside. He parked an unregistered truck there. “Jordan, you know this is my land you are using to park this truck.” “No! I don’t know who owns this land. I don’t even know where the boundary line is.” His eyes were staring down at his running shoes. “Never accuse a liar of telling a lie,” I thought.
I built a tiny house. I could watch him from my new window. I see him fencing more forest, creating a fake boundary line. I keep records, take pictures. Jordan plants an Iron Blackbird in the hole in the ledge where the original boundary marker used to be. He tells me “I plan to cut down those trees in my back yard.” “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” I save up my money to pay a surveyor. Jordan is stealing. “Land Larceny.” I cry.
June, 2022. Cass Peggoty completes her survey work. Jordan did indeed plant the Iron Blackbird on the “point of the ledge” referred to in Jordan’s legal deed. My ownership is proven.
July 6 2022
You are illegally using land that belongs to me, and I can see that you are digging in and planning to keep it indefinitely. Is that true? I told you a year ago that I need my landing to be returned to me. I plan to build a new home here. Please remove the truck, your mailbox and the fencing.
July 7, 2022
Am I dealing with somebody who’s having some mental issues or just somebody who is misinformed? You are incorrect in your assumption that you currently own that part of my property!
I can legally claim it because I have been using it for over 15 years. What you are planning to do for living quarters makes absolutely no sense at your age. You should take into consideration the danger you are putting yourself in just to hang onto a chunk of worthless property. It would be a shame if something happens to you! God forbid where you pass away. The likelihood that if it happens in your dwelling and your dog is trapped inside, you may not be discovered for days if not weeks and that will kill your dog in a very unpleasant way. I mean you no harm, but I am at a loss in understanding why you are being so nasty to me.
Jordan claimed knowledge of a “new deed” that gave him the property. Land records don’t lie.
There was a time when Jordan asked me to look at a strange looking animal draped over a tree limb on a tree that overlooked his backyard. The animal looked dead. Its spine was folded in half, like you would throw a towel over a branch. “Fisher Cat” I told Jordan. “Come back in an hour, it won’t be there.” We returned in an hour. It wasn’t there anymore. I would never look a folded fisher cat in the eye, thinking it meant me ‘no harm’.
October 5, 2023
Charlie D. and “Jaws” arrive at last. I never thought I’d be happy to see destruction machinery like “Jaws” on my land again, but he’s transforming “No-Man’s Landing” into my new “Park and Hike” landing today.
October 6, 2023 Jordan called the Highway Supervisor. He wailed at her. “Why have you let that bitch Coppersworth put a new driveway on MY LAND?”
Jaws erased Jordan’s claim. Fake Stake, underground pipes, all gone. His stonewall is re-arranged. It’s beautiful. The new, official, legally deeded, boundary line marker is now right where it belongs. In the dead of that night, Jordan removed Iron Blackbird from “the point of the ledge…” Next day, a friend of Jordan’s stopped by to threaten me. “Stop. Screwing. My Friend.”
Halloween. A new boy has moved into the neighborhood. He is seven years old. I take him and his mom for a walk into the woods. He lights up and says, “I’m going to build a tipi here!!!!!!!! He did not ask, “May I have permission…?”
That night, I see Iron Blackbird again. He is perched on Jordan’s porch railing. “Beware the Fisher-Boy…”
Remember, Honey, Little Fox Forest is protected by Nature Spirits. The nature spirits have promised to set Iron Black Bird free when the right moment arises. Then its iron coat will evaporate, and Blackbird will sing us the truth from a branch of the DoubleTree.
April 24, 2034
I found the DoubleTree!!! I’ve read your notebook! I can’t wait to see you tomorrow, I have so much to tell you!
I went over to Jordan Heep’s house today. The fence is intact. The water in the koi pond has dried up. All the nearby trees in my forest stand tall, regal and healthy. No sign of the Iron Blackbird. Have you heard him sing yet? When did Jordan disappear?
April 25, 2034
“OH, Grammy, here you are! Guess What! I checked in town for gossip!
Everyone I ask stares at me blankly. “Who?” “Where did you say he lived?” “Are you quite sure?” I went inside the house. It is unlocked, and undusted. All that crap Jordan stored in every crevice is gone. I wonder who took all the trash out! Something weird, though. There is a small round table in the living room. There’s a black cashmere knitted neck gaiter lying on it, Grammy. Did you make that for him? There’s a notebook too, the only other thing on the table. Looks like a man’s handwriting. Did Jordan hate you?”
“I HATE HER.”
“If that witch wants her land back, she is going to PAY for it”.
Origins. 1957. A real Black Woman made the news headlines, in Little Rock. Arkansas
“Blackbird” by Sir Paul McCartney