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Land of Jotunheim

Robbie L. Rogers

As sleepy as I was, I clung to my Papaw's hand like a young calf clings to the nourishment of its mother. His hands were hard and calloused from the years of hard farm work they had endured. Nevertheless, they were as gentle as my mom's when she kissed away my tears.

Crispy cold lapped at exposed parts of my neck which had worked free from the tight confines of my mother's packings. Smells of cedar from my sweaters and scarf ascended greeting my red nose. Pulled out of shape over my cowlicked brown hair was a scratchy tattered wool cap, with its moth eaten holes. Gradually it crept up until it bunched high on the top of my proud head, threatening to fall off.

I tottered beside Papaw down the little gravel road over the hill. Mother nature covered the hillside with the last breath of color she had left to give. It was as if it were a flower crocheted blanket before the first snow. Crunch, crunch went the loose gravel in the still morning air. I steadfastly held in my other hand a special treasure, a common stone Papaw had selected from the thousands we walked upon.

We crossed over the old fallen log bridge at Jesse's Creek. I smelled the fog rising from gurgling sounds beneath us as we swirled through the fog. We crept up Blue Berry Hill. Papaw stopped, relighting his old pipe, bitten almost in to by his constant smoking. Smoke from his pipe rolled around his head and stayed. He waved his hand about his face as if to command it to go away.

Papaw had a smile that gave your heart an extra thump when he looked at you. You could sense he loved you more than life itself. He had a name for all things and a story to fit all occasions. He often told stories filled with magic and laughter. The Land Of Jotunheim was my favorite and his also. He promised to take me there on this glorious morning.

"Don't go there," he would say, "that's where the little people live." You must be positively quiet when approaching. The slightest sound might scare the creatures you were surely to encounter there.

Pooka is their leader, a little person, a wizard of all kinds of tricks. Pooka and his people love to cause trouble, but are just about three feet tall no matter how old they get and they can't really hurt you. They love to ride goats and sheep, making a hens crow instead of roosters, all kinds of tomfoolery. Any farmer knows full well if their animals look tired in the morning that Pooka's little people were busy with their tricks.

They run around and around so much that they wear out their shoes, then sit down to mend them. That's the time to be as quiet as a mouse, grabbing them yelling "Give me your gold! But, Pooka using his wizards' tricks in a second is suddenly out of sight. No one ever found their gold. That's why Papaw always said, "Don't go to the Land of Jotunheim without me, the little people there have lots of tricks."

Papaw stopped and peered across the meadow full of dew. He puffed on his pipe blowing an occasional ring. I watched it rise into the sky. It was as if he were making the clouds which the bashful fall sun hid behind. The glisten in his eyes matched the touch of morning sunshine piercing the sky.

"There it is!" Papaw said and pointed towards a regular clump of trees.

"That's where we'll find all those happy creatures.

"If we're quiet enough, maybe we'll see a little person.

"From now on walk real slow and quiet like," he said. We sneaked up on those creatures so silent like I almost forgot to breathe. Misty fog seemed to be coming out from the place itself. Papaw hoisted me up into his big arms.

"Do you see that little fella over there eating grass and wiggling his nose at you? Why that could be Old Brer' Rabbit himself," he whispered.

I nodded my head in full agreement.

Many years later... what a day it was. I walked beside my granddaughter. I heard myself say, "You see that clump of trees over there? Why I bet that's the famous Land Of Jotunheim. Some morning we'll have to get up real early. I bet we can find some magical little persons living there."