The Young Boy scurried to and fro as he played with imaginary friends in the meadow near the old farmhouse.  Ma was hanging clothes on the line, two other young children were under foot.  Pa was in the field, plowing ground with his oxen.  Hoping to plant soon to raise a living wage for his young family.  Ma kept one eye on the Young Boy, all the while tending to house chores that daunted her day.

The meadow was beautiful, full of splendor with wildflowers, crickets and butterflies.  The long grass came up to the Young Boy’s shoulders and he thought it fun to dip below the horizon line to blend in with the surroundings.  He pretended he was a lion, ready to pounce on the unexpecting prey.  He often played in the meadow, knowing his boundaries that Ma and Pa marked out for him, but always one to push the boundaries a bit to explore just a tad more.  He knew that he couldn’t go just beyond the hill because Ma couldn’t see him.  So, he’d stand at the top and survey the area, seeing miles of forests, fields, and unexplored adventures.  Off in the distance, he could also see his Pa plowing rows for corn.

On this particular summer’s day, as he scanned the horizon on top of the hill, he noticed a darker gray just beyond where his Pa was working.  A storm he surmised, but Pa would be fine, he’d set in for home soon.  Off the Young Boy went to continue to play some more in the vast meadow.  Knowing a storm was coming, he’d assumed he’d be hearing Pa and the jingle of the oxen’s reins arriving soon on the path from the field to the barn that split the meadow in two.  Instead, all that sounded was the whistling of the wind through the stems and flowers.  The Young Boy decided to head back up to the hill to see what was delaying Pa.

As his eyes peaked over the top of the hill, he squinted to capture the landscape where his Pa was plowing.  It was close enough that he could make out the figures, but far enough that he couldn’t quite determine what was happening.  The oxen were still, and, upon squinting farther, he could make out something lying on the ground…it was Pa!  Something was wrong, but the Young Boy knew he wasn’t supposed to go past the hill.  Gazing back at the farmhouse, he didn’t see Ma or the other children.  In a split second, he chose to make a run for the field, knowing something bad had happened to Pa…knowing the storm was fast approaching…knowing he had to run fast to help.

The distance between the hill and the scene was farther than the Young Boy had anticipated.  Panting hard from running, his little legs couldn’t turn over fast enough.  As he drew within shouting distance, the Young Boy began to call out “Pa!”  “Pa!”  The noise drew the heads of the oxen to look his way, but didn’t jolt his father in any way.  Finally, he reached him.  Pa was lying on his stomach, eyes closed, arms stretched outward, and legs crossed at the ankle.  Shaking him, the Young Boy yelled “Pa! Pa!  Are you ok?  Pa!  What’s wrong?!”  Pa didn’t wake up.  He began to regret his decision to come, he should’ve gotten Ma instead.  What was he to do?  Pa wasn’t responding and the Young Boy wasn’t strong enough to carry him.  Upon lifting his head to the west, the gray had now turned a deep bluish black as the early summer storm approached.

Suddenly, the Young Boy heard a jingle of reins and the pounding of horse hooves approaching.  Turning to look over the shoulders of the oxen, he saw a wagon approaching down the path.  Sprinting to the path, he waived his arms and hollered for help.  The Young Boy hoped beyond all hope that it’d be a friendly person.  He imagined the worst that it’d be a robber that would plunder the scene and leave the Boy and Pa more helpless than before.  But as the driver of the wagon came into focus, the Young Boy realized it was Old Man Otto!  Old Man Otto was their neighbor to the West who lived just up the valley a bit.

“What’s wrong Young Boy?  What happened?” Old Man Otto yelled upon his approach.

“I don’t know!  Pa, he won’t wake up, I don’t know what to do!” The Young Boy responded.

Old Man Otto jumped down from his wagon and rushed to the scene.  “Young Boy, I saw you running towards your Pa as I was heading in from the field.  I came just as quick as I could to help.  Let’s take a look.”  Old Man Otto knelt beside Pa.  “Hmmm.  I don’t know, looks to me like we need to get him to the doctor quick!”

Carrying Pa in his arms, Old Man Otto set him in the covered wagon, helped the Young Boy to the seat and yelled to his horses to giddy up.  The storm was upon them, and they needed to get to Doc quickly.  Fortunately, the path to town went right past the Young Boy’s farmhouse.  Upon quickly explaining the situation to Ma, Old Man Otto and the Young Boy continued their short journey into town as thunder cracked and sheets of rain started to fall.  Ma would stay back to care for the children.  While the Young Boy would help attend to Pa.

Arriving at Doc’s doorstep, Old Man Otto carried Pa inside while the Young Boy recounted the story to the doctor so he could better assess the situation.

“Think we better try to get him to drink.” Doc said.  “Might‘ve fallen victim to dehydration in the hot sun this afternoon.”

Sure enough, after getting some water, Pa became alert and responsive.

“What happened?” Pa asked.

The Young Boy and Old Man Otto looked at each other and smiled.

“It’s a long story.  Tell you on the ride back home.” The Young Boy said.

The story began…“So, earlier this afternoon, I was playing in the meadow like I usually do.  I looked over the top of the hill, you know, the one that I’m not allowed to go past?  And I saw you lying there.  And I saw darkness in the distance…”