When I was a little boy, I followed my big brother everywhere. Because he was older than me, and had his own friends, I just tagged along. Sometimes, I couldn’t keep up. Sometimes, nobody knew I was even trying to keep up. Sometimes, I got left behind. Whatever they did, I tried to do.
We lived at the edge of town, and we found our own special places to play. We gave our own special places special names like Huckleberry Marsh, the Hollow, Blue Lake and Cober Creek. These special places changed with every season. In late winter, Huckleberry Marsh filled with water and froze over so you could skate just about anywhere. Later, after the ice melted and the spring rains came, you could float a boat or build a raft. In summer, it dried up and the willows sprouted up, so tall you could get lost in Huckleberry Marsh. In late summer, you could pick blueberries and come home with blue tongue, blue lips and blue fingers. Everybody could tell at a glance where you had been. When the snows of winter came, rabbit and fox tracks could be found all over Huckleberry Marsh. At Christmas time, we would search for the perfect spruce tree to take home and decorate.
One summer day, Joe, my older brother and his friends hiked to Huckleberry Marsh to catch butterflies. He was making a collection of native butterflies with names like the tiger swallowtail. giant swallowtail, monarch, viceroy, admiral, mourning cloak and moths with names like luna, sphinx and cecropia. I loved to learn about nature so I was determined to keep up.
To get into the Huckleberry Marsh, you have to climb a fence made of four strands of barbed wire. Each strand sagged with every step which meant the next step was even higher. To manage this, you tried to climb close to a fence post. It helped a little, but the wire still sagged.
Carefully hanging on to the third strand close to the fence post, I put my left foot on the first strand. Slowly, I raise my right leg and step on the the second strand. Then I raise my left leg to step on the second strand as well. The barbed wire wobbles erratically as I stand up, careful not to catch my shirt on the barbs in front of me. Two more wires to climb. Now I raise my left leg to step on the third stand and quickly my right leg and step on the third stand as well. At this point, holding the top of the fence point, I don’t stand upright. Instead, I plan to step over the top wire, onto the third wire with my left foot, then bring the right leg over and jump to the ground, In this moment of contemplation, the third stand gives way. I start to fall, stright down. Events like this happen in milliseconds. Ouch! I fall back on the grass. Instinctively, I get up and look for the hurt. A long gash on my leg. Ouch. This hurts.
My butterfly chase comes to an abrupt end. Somehow, I make my way home and to the doctor. I get a needle for tetanus and six stitches to repair the wound.
As for the butterfly, a majestic, mysterious creature that comes in many colours, shapes and sizes, and worthy of pursuing, to catch not with a net, but with a camera. But do be careful of fences.