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(c) Copyright Chuck Bealke, 1996 

Our farm had some neat geological quirks that were fairly common thereabouts. They were called sinkholes, and we had three of them close together. For those not familiar with these little marks on the land, they are like drains in a bathtub that rest in low spots. Water runs down into them, but they usually don't drain more that an acre or so. They are normally surrounded by brush or trees, and tractor drivers like me give the steep sides a wide berth when plowing. The holes used to be known for ensnaring overly adventuresome kids and dogs, and were one of the places you checked out if one of either was missing. They were not usually big enough to hold a two-story house. Some had small cavern-like openings at the bottom. Back in the days when the land was claimed from woods to make fields, all earth and everything else was moved by horse and arm muscle, so filling such natural depressions was more work that it was worth. If you were clearing land today, you would just get a big Cat with a blade and push dirt to close up the sinkholes and farm over them.

Invariably, sinkholes are great places to hunt rabbits or quail. Our biggest one served as kind of a metal refuse bin for the farm. Old washing machines, refrigerators, rusted out feed bins, etc, came to rest in the place. If we had ever got anywhere near to filling it up, I suppose we could have had bought a bulldozer in and pushed it in and covered it over. But in the twenty years I knew it, the farm throwaways never came close to even covering one side at the bottom of it. In this age, pitching metal in a hole in the earth would likely get you in big trouble with environmentalists and other public saviors, but back in the fifties, what you did with your sinkholes was your own business. When it came to cleanup, food leftovers went to hogs and chickens, paper and anything that would burn was, and metal castoffs smaller than cars went in the sinkhole.

Of course, any boy worth his salt is going to learn family history and basic mechanics by spending a fair amount of time crawling over leavings in such a place. As I recall, wasps, snakes, thorny vines and bushes, groundhogs, farm dogs and fixers looking for piece of metal to patch something were also common at such holes. And talk about a mother lode of targets for those itching to pop off some rifle bullets, ours abounded with tiny and can't miss plinking objects of varied sounds.

Like other overgrown places, sinkholes lose some mystery and romance when your legs grow longer and you cease to feel as happy crawling about on uneven slopes peppered with junk. But the trees growing out of them and wild things that live in them add character to a farm, and these quiet spots still attract me. 


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