A walk with the kid starts with the kid asking for it, big hopeful eyes trained on something out the window. Can we go a really long way, can we go now?
Sure, Kid, let's go.
There's only one road. We follow it, going West. Who knows where it goes? I know, but the Kid doesn't. He sticks by, wary of wild parsnip shoots and untamed horses, excited about everything. Horses we find and he feeds them, his eyes bright with joy. The mare trots by the crooked fence when we go to leave, pounding a hollow limestone earth with her hooves, so the Kid picks more grass, more juicy clover, and hands it to her eager teeth. The Kid loves this horse, he just knows it. He reaches with his small arms, hugs her head. She lets him. I tell the Kid to be careful, but he trusts her with all his little heart.
We walk farther, spot another mare, bigger than the first. We feed her, too. Until she decides she's done with us. She curls her lip and butts the Kid in the face. He falls backwards, lands on his butt in the wet grass, starts to cry. There's no blood, no scrapes, no bruises, but the Kid's heart hurts. He's lost his surety, maybe his trust. I have to make sure it's not irreversible. Some horses are like that, Kid, I tell him. You gotta be careful. But some horses aren't. You just can't know it on the outside. Like people. It's good to love 'em all, but be careful nonetheless. Don't let it hurt your heart. But don't let it take all your trust either. It's complicated.
The Kid dusts himself off, makes mental reckoning of everything that was and heads West again, always ten paces ahead. Looking for finds. He wants 'something to discover', that's what he knows. What are we going to find here, Kid, I ask him. There's nothing but grey road and rust-red brush. Nothing but fallen leaves and moss. A bit of mist. Asphalt, crumbling at the road's edges, giving way to wild. That's all. A ragged barn with broken windows.
No, he says. There's gotta be something. He's dead certain, on the sharp edge of disappointment. Acorns, I suggest. We can look for acorns. He knows how to spot an oak. Except the squirrels have wiped the earth clean. We can turn over every dead leaf and never find an acorn this time of year.
We pass fields of power lines, suspended in the sky on behemoth stick-men, alien metal towers that hiss and hum with voltage. He spots the birds meeting at the towers' very tops and wonders how. I tell him what I know of electricity, conscious of my own limitations. Physics was my favourite subject when I was 18, but fell out of favour shortly after. The birds only touch one wire. That keeps them safe. There's no alternate way for the current to go, so it flows through the wire. Easier than through the bird.
We walk on. In a ditch between some trees, we find a rock. It's bigger than the Kid's head and shaped like a prism. I tell him it's too big, but he bends down and pries it out of the soil. It's orange like the trees, with specks of white and black. A smaller piece breaks off, and he examines both, wonders what they might be. The previous day, he'd taken his small collection of rocks to a rock expert. He now knows of calcite, amphibole, and phlogopite mica. I tell him that this rock looks like none of those. He's not convinced, but we take it with us. We take turns carrying it.
The Kid has a hard time quitting. Each time I ask if he wants to turn back, he says no. He says it's up to me. When I feel blisters from the rubber boots, I tell him we should head home. We've got to walk back all that way. I don't have the time, but we've been gone an hour, I guess. He agrees. We find a slug on the road, and the Kid wants to rescue it, but he's too afraid to pick it up. Don't look at me, Kid. I hate slugs. We walk on.
We see the horses - the bully one, too - we see the rotting apples, and we see the cows that signal we're close to home. They stare at us wisely, not moving an inch. We finally see the house. It's nearly dark. When we're inside, I see we've been gone close to three house. It was a good walk. I'm sure the Kid would agree. He's examining his rock. His trust in finds has never wavered.
EDITOR'S NOTE 1: A walk actually starts with the Kid helping me cull a 3-hour family shoot worth of photos, pressing the #5 key on the keyboard whenever I tell him to press it, and holding off the rest of the time. His judgment of what makes a 'good' photograph makes my heart swell.
EDITOR'S NOTE 2: the horses weren't really wild.