Monday afternoon I was wearying of driving. I needed a break. I rounded a curve on a little-traveled gravel road and came upon a curved bottomland field of corn stubble, a small field just barely large enough to be worth a modern farmer’s time. One curved side was bordered by a tiny intermittent creek, while the other side was bounded by the arc of the road: lenticular agriculture!
A small pedantic voice in the back of my head, one of many (quiet down, back there!) muttered etymologically:
“Lenticular, lens, lentil, convex, convexus, vault, volta, volts, electricity….”
I ignored the voice — that one can go on indefinitely!
I got out of the car and stretched my back, taking in the quiet rural scene. The breeze had died down and the sky was overcast. A roadside walnut tree caught my eye. Only a few yellowed compound leaves remained, interspersed with the round black silhouettes of nuts which hadn’t fallen into the road. The walnut looked to be about eighty years old, its dark flaky bark interrupted by a small rectangle about six feet from the ground, evidence of past human activity:
Evidently the rectangle, about the size of an index card, was a sign of some sort. The sign was merely a weathered piece of pine with nary a trace of lettering. So small for a sign, with barely room enough for an inscription. No Trespassing wouldn’t have fit and No Hunting might have, just barely, but the letters would have been so small — they would not have been very noticeable, seemingly defeating whatever purpose the nailer of the sign might have had in mind. Perhaps the painted inscription had been a terse all-purpose NO: no hunting, trespassing, parking, fun, talking to me, spooning, existing…
I examined the cryptic sign more closely:
Notice the yellowing poison ivy leaves towards the left; the vine was fat and bristly, its tendrils clinging to the rough bark of the tree.
The person who had nailed that sign up seems to have had a bit of trouble with his nailing. A nail too close to the upper right-hand corner had split the board; I can imagine a farmer saying, “Damn splitty old board! ‘Bout fucked that up! Closer to the middle, I guess…”
A galvanized nail near the top still retained its zinc coating, while in the center were three eight-penny nails close together, an example of hammering overkill. The farmer again, “That oughta hold ‘er!”
I could just barely detect faint traces of lettering and the pattern-recognition part of my mind struggled to find letters — but I was several years too late, and whoever was responsible for the sign is either dead or mentally compromised by this time. Yet another landscape mystery!