It shouldn’t have been there, but there it was, a nineteenth-century gravestone partly exposed at the edge of a rubbish pile back in the woods. He assumed some farmer had finally had his fill of always having to skirt an abandoned plot of graves that no one had tended for years. Perhaps he had struck a half-buried slab with his cultivator and broken a tine and, perhaps, after cursing and counting costs, he had hauled away every stone on the site and plowed it all under.
It had always been there, crowning the knoll for as long as the boy could remember and even longer than that, for as long as his father and even his old grandfather could quite recall. He had heard it said that the oak was already old when the first New Englanders and Kentuckians came to erect their cabins on Spoon River in the 1830s– and, earlier still, that bands of Pottawatomi hunters had stopped to rest in its shade, or so his grandfather claimed and, as certain proof, produced a small arrowhead from a drawer in his roll-top desk and related how he had found it tucked in the old oak’s roots when he was a lad himself. Which was proof enough for the boy, never mind how the father rolled his eyes.