The stone stairs tumbled down the breach dug into the side of the hillock, steep and uneven. Grass burst from the spaces between the slabs, moss clung to their faces. The tumble poured into the earth, down a shaft that ended at a rough hewn door, a vertical plank of wood that seemed carved in place, as if from the taproot of some massive oak tree that had once stood on the mound.
Nature had long ago curled her tendrils around the head and jambs of the door’s timber frame, trying hard to pull it deeper into the hummock, the door appearing to meet directly with earth. A rough wooden dowel poked from a horizontal slot cut in the left side of the slab, and to the right four rusted carriage bolts signaled the iron straps that held a slide bolt to the inside of the door.
The season’s prairie grasses stood tall around the opening to the stairs, all but hiding it from casual view. It seemed just a grass covered mound in a field of grass, nothing extraordinary, except the slight darkening in the grassy cover where the stairs began their journey.
Behind the mound was the bare skeleton of an old windmill, long rusted solid, the few remaining blades bent and broken. The grass around the windmill grew tall and hid the spot where the drop pipe ran through the stuffing box and into the earth. The livestock tank had long ago crumbled into a rust red mound.
Just beyond the windmill’s skeleton, nearly consumed by the prairie grasses and creeping vines, stood the sadly sagging remains of a once noble barn, slowly yielding to time and nature. Cupped and silvered wood plank siding, with random flecks of red iron oxide paint still clinging resolutely to their purpose. The shake covered roof, long past watertight, melted down into the structure, like cheese baked onto a bowl of French onion soup. The interior timbers, once strong and straight, had begun their inexorable, unending swoon back to nature.
Beyond, set well away from the rest, a lonely sentinel of red clay brick, rising from the grasses, marked the long abandoned hearth of the homestead. The house had long ago vanished, but the chimney stood as a stark testament to what once had been there.
As with all structures crafted by any creature, once the tenant flees, nature slowly reclaims what was once hers, until the scars are hidden, and the memories are erased.